By sheer rating and form, top seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan looks the man to beat in the fourth Kolkata Open Grandmaster chess tournament beginning at the Gorky Sadan on Tuesday.
Considered the strongest ever Open in Asia, the competition, comprising 35 GMs and 28 IMs, is expected to be fierce over the next 10 days.
For the two GMs from Kolkata — Dibyendu Barua and Surya Sekhar Ganguly — two-time World junior champion Mamedyarov looks by far the best bet to win the title.
Neither the Kolkata Open nor its predecessor, the Goodricke International tournament, have been happy hunting grounds for Indians in terms of winning the crown. GM Abhijit Kunte rewrote the script by winning it in mid-2000. Even Viswanathan Anand did not succeed when he played in the later ’90s.
In this background, Barua thinks two Indians — Ganguly and Parimarjan Negi — have a very good chance of finishing at the top considering the form the duo is in.
“It is indeed a very strong field, but I think Ganguly and Negi will do exceptionally well, even win it. The two have the capability to achieve the feat,” he says.
Nigel Short and Ni Hua, having played here earlier, are the other two to watch out for on their rating. The two with 2700 plus Elo rating can also be considered to take the title.
Defending champion Viktor Laznicka from Czech Republic may try for an encore provided his form and luck stay with him.
“Such tournaments help Indian chess,” feels Barua. “It is a good opportunity for the lesser-known Indian players to showcase their talent, especially playing the big stars. It is going to help them gain GM and IM norms. They can learn a lot by just watching the big players like Mamedyarov, Short, Hua and others. If one gets to play any of the big players, it will be a bonus,” he points out.
Barua himself is not playing because he declined to accept a late invitation. “To play such an important tournament I shall have to be mentally and physically ready. I just won a GM tournament at Dhaka. I am really tired,” he says.