From rebellion to revolution in Orissa chess

June 22nd, 2009 - 12:11 pm ICT by IANS  

By Byomakesh Biswal
Bhubaneshwar, June 22 (IANS) In a cricket crazy nation, other sports often rue the lack of spectator support. But the scene at the inaugural SCS International Open GM Chess Tournament here was quite different.

A milling crowd eager to know the results, parents waiting with bated breath for hours to see their children playing was a common sight at the tournament hall last week.

There was an unprecedented groundswell of excitement as 22 Grand Masters, three women Grandmasters, 30 International Masters, three women International Masters, 15 FIDE Masters, 70 foreign players from eight countries and more than a hundred chess players from the state battled it out for the top slot for the first time in 50 years of Orissa’s chess history.

The week-long tournament was a golden opportunity for Indian players to improve their ratings, gain norms and secure title, especially a whopping number of players from the state.

As GM tournaments in the country are few and far between, players often seek shores overseas to improve their ratings. But playing abroad is an expensive proposition and only a few can afford.

However, the open Grandmasters’ tournament was a boon for many players from the state to gain international exposure. World under-14 girls’ champion Padmini Rout finished as the most successful Orissa player, occupying the 38th position with seven points.

Despite the shock defeat at the hands of lower-rated state mate Sunyasakta Satpathy in the fifth round, she remained unfazed and went on to win a difficult game against International Master Arghyadip Das.

“It was a golden opportunity for me. Hardly anyone finds such opportunities at one’s doorstep to play with big guns of the game,” said Padmini, a former Asian and under-14 World Champion.

Apart from Padmini, five other Orissa players - Anwesh Upadhyaya, Debasish Das, Kiran Manisha Mohanty, Swayangsu Satyapragyan and Manoj Kumar Panigrahi - did extremely well by finishing with six points each.

“This tournament will remain memorable for me. I defeated Padmini and other higher ranked players like FIDE Master G.V. Saikrishna and Bangladesh’s Woman FIDE Master Zakia Sultana. This string of wins would certainly improve my rating considerably from my present tally of 1755 in FIDE rating. Had the match not been played here, I doubt if I’d have even participated in such a tournament,” said Sunyasakta.

If the tournament was an incentive for seeded players to improve their ratings, for children it was a bigger opportunity to get a feel of an international match. Many children, as young as five years, were seen checkmating players 10 times older than their age.

“I am very happy to have participated in the tournament. I started learning chess just year ago and participating in an international match for the first time. I defeated a player who is studying in the ninth standard,” said Saina Salonica, a five-year-old player.

Not only players from the state, players from outside the state were also too happy to lap up the opportunity.

“I have got an opportunity to play with players who are higher rated. I even defeated a seeded player and drew with another. It will certainly improve my rating from the 1779 FIDE ranking. I am happy that the tournament was played in my neighboring state. There should be more such tournaments in every state to promote chess talent,” said Sayan Mazumdar, an under-11 player from West Bengal.

How did the revolution come about?

The tournament was an acid test for the newly formed ad-hoc chess association of Orissa which was formed after dissolving the Orissa State Chess Association following charges of “serious irregularities and misconduct.”

The expectations were high from the ad-hoc body since it was formed after rebellion from some district associations which alleged nepotism in the state association, formed in 1959.

“Earlier, chess was just confined to three districts of the state and the association’s role was limited to selecting players for national tournaments. It never thought of training and providing exposure to players from the state,” said Vivek Kumar Tibarewal, who played a major role in organising the tournament.

After a prolonged court battle the Orissa High Court directed the All India Chess Federation (AICF) to inquire into the allegations. A four-member AICF inquiry committee found “serious irregularities in functioning’ of the association and a five-member ad-hoc body was set up till the new association is formed.

The ad-hoc body started on a pleasant note, felicitating some notable players including veteran chess players from the state - J.M. Joardar, the founder of Ruy Lopez Club in 1942, septuagenarian K.D. Pilai, eleven times state champion and P.M. Mohanty, the two times National ‘B’ champion and 12 times state champion with a rare distinction of drawing twice with world champion Viswanathan Anand - to coincide with the tournament.

It also took several steps in reviving the defunct district associations, organising tournaments and finding sponsors.

“It is not like your matriculation result which you can show to everyone. But the response of the tournament is for all to see,” Asit Mukherjee, the chairman of the ad-hoc committee said.

The Ad-hoc body wants to put in place an elected body within a couple of months.

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