Sasikiran keen to play against the elite

NEW DELHI MAY 29. Grandmaster K. Sasikiran is keen to make the most of the "unexpected'' wild card entry in the Moscow leg of the Grand Prix chess circuit next month.

On his way to Moscow, the 21-year-old Sasikiran who is enjoying his career-best rating of 2633, told The Hindu here on Tuesday, "as such, I have no great aims. I just hope to play my normal game in the elite group.''

The field of 32 players, headed by Garry Kasparov, includes World champion Ruslan Ponomariov, Evgeny Bareev, Vassily Ivanchuk, Alexander Grischuk, Alexander Khalifman and Peter Svidler. The tournament will be played from June 1 to 6.

Since December last, Sasikiran has had a fine run, winning five tournaments in succession. Thereafter, he finished second best in the Goodricke tournament in March and stood to gain a minimum of 17 rating points. These points are likely to be added to Sasikiran's tally when the next world rating list comes out in July.

However, in Sasikiran's last competitive outing, in Dubai, where his performance was "not so bad,'' he is likely to lose two rating points. "Overall, I was tired and could not convert some of the favourable positions into victories. Even then, I could have gained five points only if I had drawn my last round match,'' he said.

In Moscow, the matches will involve 25-minute rapid games. Though Sasikiran prefers the longer time-control, he makes no secret of his love for playing blitz (five-minute-each-side games) chess. "In the National camp (which concluded last week at Kozhikode) under Evgeny Vladimirov, we all must have played over 200 blitz games,'' disclosed Sasikiran indicating that he was not averse to playing quickly. "In fact, I enjoy it,'' he added.

"There will be no pressure on me in Moscow. When you play rapid games, I think it is a matter of being alert. Also, what holds the key is one's opening preparations,'' said the introvert champion from Chennai.

Interestingly, Sasikiran made a candid admission. "Compared to the players with ratings of above 2650, my knowledge of openings is considerably poor. This is where I would like to work more. I need to improve my middle-game and calculate faster. I guess, an overall improvement is needed. In fact, recently with Vladimirov, I learnt something new about basic endgames. After all, there is so much to learn,'' he said.

Known to work tirelessly on his game, Sasikiran is hoping to improve his rating by getting opportunities to play in tough tournaments — of Category 14 and above. Given his sincerity and single-minded objective to excel, Sasikiran looks well poised to give the chess lovers of the country many more pleasant moments.

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