SPORT

Humpy leads Indian challenge

SAHARANPUR SEPT. 26 . After the chess-mess at the Piloo Mody International rating tournament at Lucknow, the caravan has now come to this small town.

Seldom has an open chess event in the country attracted over 400 entries. If the Saharanpur International tournament has, it is only because the event carries a whopping prize-money of Rs.5 lakh. Credit is due to the organisers here for taking up the challenge of not only putting together such an attractive prize-fund but also accommodating such an unprecedented number of entries. This five-day event commences on Saturday.

The winner's share of Rs.1 lakh has attracted three Grandmasters. Fresh from winning the Asian women's title, Koneru Humpy leads the Indian challenge. Moldova's Dmitry Svetushkin, the young top seed will be playing for the first time in this country. With a rating of 2571, Svetushkin will be keen to prove his might against some very tough challenge from the host. In addition, Russia's highly experienced Alexander Fominyh has decided to join the fray along with Uzbek GM Saidali Iuldashev.

Besides the three GMs, the field consists of double Grandmaster-norm holders Uzbek Tair Vakhidov and the 2002 British champion R. B. Ramesh.

Following these are the home grown IMs like S. Satyapragyan, Dinesh Sharma, Neeraj Mishra, Varugeese Koshy, P. Konguvel, Sriram Jha, N. Sudhakar Babu, T. S. Ravi, Prathamesh Mokal, Poobesh Anand, among others.

The presence of Humpy is a good sign for an open tournament in the country. After her display in the National `B' and the Asian women's championship that followed, Humpy has gained the confidence to face any Swiss league competition at home. In fact, barring the participation of the foreigners, the field is pretty much the same as the one faced by Humpy while finishing runner-up to Ramesh in the National `B' last month.

Unlike Humpy, the country's other GMs like Dibyendu Barua, P. Hari Krishna, Surya Sekhar Ganguly and Abhijit Kunte have chosen to give this event a miss and play at Delhi and Jamshedpur in the following weeks.

Svetushkin, the 23-year-old from Moldova is quite a known quantity for most of the Indian players. He has finished twice in the top-10 bracket of the World junior championship and is presently ranked third in his country.

Fominyh, who last played in the NTR memorial tournament in May at Hyderabad and described it as the ``worst organised event in the world'' has returned with a hope of a better tomorrow. Mercifully, the Russian chose to come here and not play in the Piloo Mody tournament, which was a huge organisational disaster.

The Uzbeks, Iuldashev and Vakhidov, too, have played in India and have a fair idea of how the events are organised here. But no one has any idea as to how the next five days are going to be. Even the Indian players are not sure of the playing conditions.

The banquet halls of two hotels have been taken up to host the matches. It remains to be seen how things move from here.

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