Rakesh Rao

VALSAD: For over three decades, the National chess champion was the one who emerged stronger from a gruelling competition that was as much a test of stamina as of skill. In the last few years, the round-robin format stretched to over 20 rounds and as a result, the players reeled under the taxing physical and mental demands.

On Monday, a new beginning will be made here when the Atul 44th National `A' chess championship adopts a 13-round Swiss league format.

In spite of the mixed views on the format, the battles over the next 12 days promise to be no less intense. Although Grandmasters K. Humpy, Parimarjan Negi, Sandipan Chanda and an indisposed International Master Dinesh Kumar Sharma have chosen to stay away, the field still offers plenty of heavy weights.

Surya Shekhar Ganguly, in spite of his below par form, will be looking for his fourth straight National crown.

Fine mix

A field including eight Grandmasters, 21 International Masters and three Woman GMs offers a fine mix of challengers with varying playing strengths.

One among the big points of interest remains how third seed Diwakar Prasad Singh performs this time after being tied for the title in the last edition in April.

Top 10 seeds (with rating): 1. Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2574), 2. Abhijit Kunte (2524), 3. Diwakar Prasad Singh (2507), 4. Deepan Chakkravarthy (2501), 5. Pravin Thipsay (2494), 6. R. B. Ramesh (2491), 7. Neelotpal Das (2490), 8. Abhijeet Gupta (2481), 9. Dibyendu Barua (2471) and 10. M. R. Venkatesh (2466).

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