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Absurdity rules Commonwealth chess; Dreev top seed

Logic-defying regulations have often taken the sheen away from the Commonwealth chess medals, particularly those in the age-group section. The absurdity is now absolute with the return of players from the non-Commonwealth nations to the latest edition of the Parsvnath Commonwealth chess championship that opens at the Clarks Inn, here on Monday.

The home page of the organisers, Delhi Chess Association, declares, “Commonwealth chess has been incorporated with international tournament. Players from all countries are welcome.” The anomaly, that was wisely removed a few years ago, is back.

As a result of this ridiculous change, Russia’s Alexey Dreev heads the list of 20 Grandmasters that includes a mix from Argentina, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, among others.

Many within the All India Chess Federation privately agree that the character of the Commonwealth championship is clearly lost. On his part, the AICF treasurer and chief organizer Bharat Singh Chauhan, says “By making it into an ‘Open’ event, the presence of stronger players enhances the prospects of norm seekers.” But can it any longer be called the Commonwealth championship?

This is the third format for the championship in as many years. In 2008, it was open only for those from the Commonwealth nations playing in one consolidated field. In 2009, host Singapore wisely separated the Open event from the age-groups. Competition for under-20 and under-16 were held together, while under-12 section was separate.

This year, it will be back to the old format were age-group medallists are picked at the end of the competition after they indicate their preference of age-group. Quite simply, it is easier to win a Commonwealth age group medal than making the medal-bracket of the National championship.

The high-end of the entry fee is a whopping Rs. 25,000 for any unrated player and a steep 12,000 for those rated up to 1799 points.

The AICF maintains that such a high entry fee is to discourage lesser-rated players from being part of the field.

However, the ground reality is that those from lower ratings usually compete for the age-group prizes that in turn attract government incentives for becoming “Commonwealth medallists.” What more, even those who do not win a prize, get a participation certificate that gives a misleading picture of every Indian representing “India.” In the competition while the truth is, the player has paid and played.

It is high time the Sports Ministry scrutinised every single case of a Commonwealth age-group medallists. Many a time, the gullible Ministry officials have cleared incentive amounts without checking out the worthiness of an age-group medallist in the championship.

Coming back to this year’s field, the field has attracted over 300 players from 16 countries. Among the top 10 seeds, second seed Parimarjan Negi and the recent winner of the Asian championship bronze medal 10th seed Abhijeet Gupta are only two players from the Commonwealth nations.

Abhijit Kunte, Sriram Jha, Tejas Bakre and R. R. Laxman. Two young International Masters, B. Adhiban and Vidit Gujarathi, will also be expected to cause some upsets.

However, going by the incongruous rules of the championship, Negi and Abhijeet might well have to prove themselves stronger than some Russians, Argentines, Kazakhs and Uzbeks to become the “Commonwealth champion.” How strange.

The top-10 players are, 1. Alexey Dreev (Rus, 2655), 2. Parimarjan Negi (2636), 3. Anton Kovalyov (Arg, 2615), 4. Dmitry Kokarev (Rus, 2612), 5. Eltaj Safarli (Aze, 2610), 6. Eduardo Iturrizaga (Ven, 2599), 7. Dmitry Bocharov (Rus, 2592), 8. Pablo Lafuente (Arg, 2587), 9. Pavel Maletin (Rus, 2584), 10, Abhijeet Gupta (2570).

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 9:34:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/Absurdity-rules-Commonwealth-chess-Dreev-top-seed/article16299603.ece

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