SPORT

Strong contenders from Tamil Nadu

BIKANER NOV. 13. Oblivious to all the chaos and confusion on the streets with the Assembly elections round the corner, a silent war of pieces in the National junior chess championship is set to be fought at the Veterinary College auditorium here from Friday.

This championship is known to be a stepping-stone for the champions of tomorrow. Grandmasters Viswanathan Anand, Dibyendu Barua, Pravin Thipsay, Abhijit Kunte, Surya Sekhar Ganguly and several International Masters like Raja Ravi Sekhar, T. N. Parmeswaran, V. Ravi Kumar, Sudhakar Babu, Neeraj Mishra, V. Saravanan, G. B. Prakash, P. Konguvel, P. Magesh Chandran and S. Kidambi have beaten the field in this championship at least once in the past 32 editions.

Now, talented teenaged IMs like Deepan Chakkravarthy, Poobesh Anand, IM-norm holders M.R. Venkatesh, defending champion Abhijeet Gupta and Deep Sengupta are part of a tough field that promises to throw up plenty of excitement over the next week.

With the Indians virtually monopolising the Asian junior meet in the last couple of years, those making it to the top-three bracket here gain an opportunity to have a crack at the continental title. Since the winner or those tied for the Asian junior title are directly awarded International Masters titles without rating consideration, quite a few Indians have benefited.

Deepan, yet to win the National junior title, claimed the Asian junior title last year. Poobesh Anand did not fare very well in the previous edition but in the Asian junior meet, tied with champion Magesh and Prathamesh Mokal to become an IM.

Venkatesh, who will be playing his second National `A' next month, will have to face stiff challenges from Deepan and Poobesh, his younger teammates from Tamil Nadu, among others. Deepan and Poobesh, too, will be under some pressure to perform like IMs.

The underdogs in this championship can never be written off. One remembers the victory of S. Kidambi ahead of K. Sasikiran and P. Hari Krishna at Jalandhar in January 1999 and the record-making triumph of Abhijeet Gupta at Nagpur last October.

Abhijeet, the youngest winner of the National junior championship, will be among the favourites this time. This lad has won more international medals for the country in recent years than any other in his age group. Last month, he gained his maiden IM norm in New Delhi and with it, plenty of confidence. Another good showing in his home state should be well in keeping with the form and capabilities.

Also in the hunt will be Arghyadip Das, who qualified for the National `A' in August. National sub-junior champion S. Arun Prasad is another fine prospect. Some surprises can also be expected from C. Praveen Kumar, the lad who upstaged Koneru Humpy in Delhi last month.

However, missing from the line-up will be G. Rohit, Akshayraj Kore, D. Sai Srinivas, K. Nikhilesh Kumar and Rahul Sangma. All these players have proved their worth at the age group level. Of the lot, Rohit's absence will be felt the most.

By late Thursday afternoon, 64 players had arrived for the meet. The All India Chess Federation vice-president Mr. S.L. Harsh, who is also the man behind the show here, is hopeful of the entries touching the three-figure mark on Friday morning.