Kunte fourth Indian GM
Srinath, Ghouse ousted
Indians in Super League
Top stars for Masters golf
SBT keen to avenge first-leg loss today
Sandipan is a natural, feels Pravin Thipsay
Kunte seeks to match Anand
Saddle Up brought back the charm
Eight for tomorrow’s main event

 
 
KUNTE FOURTH INDIAN GM 
 
 
BY A CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 14 
As expected, Abhijit Kunte kept his date with history to be India’s fourth GM in the ninth round of the Goodricke International Open Chess Tournament at Gorky Sadan today. Kunte, playing White against Sandpan Chanda, offered a draw to Sandipan after a mere seven moves which was promptly accepted by the youngster from Calcutta.

With today’s draw Sandipan has confirmed a 10-game GM norm. There was some confusion initially regarding Kunte touching a rating of 2500, but chief arbiter (and vice-president Fide) P. T. Ummerkoya informed

The Telegraph

that Kunte, who had a pre-tournament rating of 2487 has earned 14 points so far and will be officially awarded the GM title in the Fide Congress in April.

K. Sasikiran of Tamil Nadu, earned his third GM norm by beating GM Viorel Iordachescu of Moldova. Though Sasikiran completed his third norm, he is yet to confirm the title as Fide law stipulates that in Swiss tournaments the norms must be made in a span of 30 games. With today’s win Sasikiran has covered 27 games for his three norms.

In a red-letter day for Indian chess, P Harikrishna, earned his second IM norm with a draw against GM Alexander Goloshchapov of Ukraine in 21 moves in a French Winawer.

Meanwhile, Gregory Kaidanov inched closer to the title with a short draw against the Chinese GM Peng Xiaomin in just nine moves in a Bishop’s Opening.

Kaidanov has taken his tally to 7.5 points and is followed by four players on 6.5 points.

The German IM Mathias Roeder got the better of GM Maxim Sorokin to jump into the joint second spot with 6.5 points. Roeder needs a win tomorrow to confirm his GM norm.

Sasikiran played an unconventional line in the Caro Kann defence against GM Viorel Iordachescu and won a pawn in the middle game in addition to spoiling the pawn stucture of his opponent on the Kingside. He later played the Knight vs Bishop ending in text book fashion to net the full point. If Sasikiran wins his last two games he will earn a 12-game norm which will assure him his title.

The other norm aspirants of the day, G. B. Prakash and Surya Sekhar Ganguly, drew their respective games to spoil their chances of making norms today. Deputy chief arbiter R. C. Chatterjee informed that Prakash still has a chance of making a GM norm provided he wins his next round game against a player above Elo rating of 2530.

Surya Sekhar only managed a draw against P. Konguvel with white pieces.

Koneru Humpy scalped her third IM in the meet when she beat veteran Arun Vaidya to take her tally to 4.5 points.

GM Toni Najdoski crashed to his fifth defeat when he lost to lowly placed Laltu Chattterjee of Bengal. Najdoski who has a Elo of 2548 has amassed got points so far.    


 
 
SRINATH, GHOUSE OUSTED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 14 
Prahlad Srinath and Mustafa Ghouse, the Indian wildcard holders, lost their first-round matches in the Indian Oil-Servo Cup ATP Challenger meet at South Club today. Srinath, a member of the Indian Davis Cup team, went down 1-6, 6-7 (4/7) to Takahiro Terachi of Japan while Australia’s Dejan Petrovic whipped Ghouse 6-1, 6-3.

In doubles, Indians Rohan Bopanna and Rishi Sridhar lost 7-6 (7/1), 2-6, 4-6 to the Uzbek pair of Oleg Ogrodov and D. Tomashevich. Syed Fazaluddin teamed up with Cedric Kauffmann of France to enter the quarter finals with a 6-4, 6-7 (7/2), 6-4 win over Tomas Anzari and Satoshi Iwabuchi.

Others to make it to the singles second round were Frenchmen Gregory Carraz and Marx Guillaume and Andy Ram of Israel. While Carraz struggled to a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Nicolas Thomann, Guillaume beat Leonardo Azzaro of Italy 7-5, 6-2. Ram eliminated compatriot Noam Behr 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

In the pre-quarter finals, Takahiro will meet the winner of Ashley Fishe of Australia and Tuomas Ketola of Finland. Petrovic will take on Carraz and Marx will face Ram.

The match between Srinath and Takahiro saw the latter dominate the first set right as he outplayed Srinath in all departments of the game. Takahiro broke Srinath in the second and sixth games. The Indian fought back in the second set. After dropping serve in the third game, Srinath broke back immediately and held serve therefater to force a tie-breaker. But the Japanese kept his cool and clinched the match.

Top seed Leander Paes will begin his title defence against Dimitri Tomashevich tomorrow.    


 
 
INDIANS IN SUPER LEAGUE 
 
 
FROM A CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 14 
Brimming with confidence India pulverised Australia 5-0 in the preliminary stage of the Uber Cup here today.

This second successive win has assured India of a spot in the Super League stage. National coach Syed Mohammed Arif expects India to top the preliminary stage. In that case India will qualify for the relatively easier group X in which the three seeded teams are Indonesia, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei. The seeded teams in group Y are South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Arif feels that India can overcome both Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong and reach the semi-finals.

The expected fight from the Aussies did not materialise. Coach Arif said: “We expected to win but not so easily.”

The highlights of India’s emphatic win today were the sterling performances by newcomers B. R. Meenakshi and Shruti S. Kurian. The 21-year-old Meenakshi, making her Uber Cup debut, outclassed Jane Crabtree 11-5, 11-4 in just 21 minutes. Teenaged prodigy Shruti showed remarkable speed and courtcraft to combine with veteran Manjusha Kanwar in outclassing the top Aussie pair of Lucas Kellie and Crabtree 15-9, 15-1 in just half an hour.

The only contested match was between Aparna Popat and Kellie. Popat’s toss and drop game did not work initially. She later complained of the drift and said that it affected her strokeplay. Later Popat took control of her game and won 13-10, 11-5.

Manjusha also blasted Laura Blackman 11-3, 11-2 in just 15 minutes.

In the doubles, the evergreen Madhumita Bisht again excelled. Madhumita teamed up with 1995 national champion P. V. V. Lakshmi to beat Tania Luiz and Vanessa Tyrrel 15-6, 15-4.

This is Madhumita’s ninth Uber Cup. She has played regularly since 1980, except in 1994 and 1996, due to childbirth.

Zambia who were disqualified yesterday for not reaching in time (they arrived unexpectedly last night) were allowed to play but their results will be considered unofficial.    


 
 
TOP STARS FOR MASTERS GOLF 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 14 
The Royal will host the Wills Masters, dubbed the crown jewel in the PGAI’s Wills Tour, from Wednesday till Saturday.

Prize money is a very handsome Rs 20 lakh, with the winner alone set to become richer by Rs 3.24 lakh.

Though defending champion Arjun Singh and top draw Arjun Atwal won’t be in action — the former has had a recurrence of the shoulder injury, while Atwal will be in The Philippines — the Masters still has an impressive cast.

And the consensus, reflected in what the Royal’s Golf Captain Lakshman Singh, said, is that competition won’t be at a premium.

The country’s No. 1 pro, Vijay Kumar, has confirmed participation, as also Shiv Prakash, Gaurav Ghei, Vivek Bhandari, Uttam Singh Mundy and Indrajit Bhalotia.

Among amateurs, top guns include Harmeet Kahlon, Digvijay Singh, Amit Dube and Zai Kipgen.

Though the Masters proper gets underway Wednesday, the Pro-Am will be held tomorrow. At the Royal, of course.    


 
 
SBT KEEN TO AVENGE FIRST-LEG LOSS TODAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 14 
There was no fizz in air at the East Bengal camp today, 24 hours before their National League match versus State Bank of Travancore (SBT).

The Calcutta giants, who insisted at the start of the season that this was the title they were after, are having a harrowing time. All hope evaporated soon, and three defeats on the trot has left them anchorless. The last, a 0-2 drubbing at the hands of bottom-ranked Dempo, was probably the last straw. That, in fact, was the Goan team’s first success.

SBT, comprising local players, have been grossly underrated. Six wins in their last ten outings —including a 3-1 thrashing of leaders Churchill Brothers — have pushed them up to 20 points from 14 matches. They can think of collecting three more tomorrow.

East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick, struggling to field 11 fit players, said Bijen Singh, Rennedy Singh, Carlton Chapman, Raman Vijayan, Emmanuel Opoku are all on the injury list and striker Willie Brown has got two yellow cards.

Bhowmick will now have to use the unimpressive Sheikh Sanjib and Brazilian striker Ossius upfront.

The coach identified lack of confidence to be the reason behind the embarrassing showing. “That’s where I failed as coach, I couldn’t instil confidence after the first few defeats,” Bhowmick said and ruled out chances of quitting before the last match. “I could be fired, though,” he said.

SBT are high on confidence. “We conceded two goals in the last five minutes to squander a 2-0 lead against East Bengal in the first phase. We don’t want such silly things any more,” said manager K. Rajeev. His team will miss central defender Deepu Krishnan who got a red card against Churchill and left-back Sunil Kumar is out with two bookings. Vinu Jose and Martin Mathews are likely to be the replacements.

However, the secret of their impressive run is the three-pronged attack of S. Ignatious, Asif Saheer and V. P. Shaji. The manager, however, said that East Bengal will enjoy the ‘home’ advantage. East Bengal are struggling to add to their 14-match tally of 14.

Tolly meet Mahindras

Tollygunge Agragami will be somewhat handicapped in their match versus Mahindra and Mahindra at the Coooperage tomorrow, PTI reports from Mumbai. They will miss key striker Srikanta Dutta through two bookings.

The Calcutta team, which made a dramatic comeback after conceding two goals in the first half in their last league match against Indian Telephone Industries, Bangalore to win 4-2, will also be without deep defender Kajal Bhattacharya. He is nursing a hamstring injury.

That leaves coach Amal Dutta with his imports in attack —Nigerians Abdulateef Seriki and Awayomi Isiaka and Kenyan Moses Owira. There is also the strength of the game-making of Sasthi Duley in midfield and Chandan Das is a dependable anchor.

Those tewo setbacks for the Calcutta team have pushed the Mahindra confidence level up a few notches for tomorrow. Moving ahead from strength to strength, the Mumbai team expects tro make the best of this situation.    


 
 
SANDIPAN IS A NATURAL, FEELS PRAVIN THIPSAY 
 
 
BY ATREYO MUKHOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Feb. 14 
The Goodricke International Open is the only annual chess event in the country where Indian players get a taste of top international flavour. It gives them the opportunity to secure Grandmaster norms as not many tournaments in India attract that strong a field.

Among those to have made most of this chance this year is Sandipan Chanda, who secured his maiden GM norm after a seven-move draw with Abhijit Kunte in the tenth round today. Kunte became India’s fourth GM but Sandipan had a memorable outing, beating three GMs and drawing with as many, including former world title challenger Viktor Korchnoi.

Scalping GMs, however, is nothing new to this 16-year-old. He had upset three others earlier, the first one at age 14. “The third match here against Viorel Iordanescu was most satisfying as was the one versus Korchnoi,” Sandipan, a find of The Telegraph Schools meet, said.

But securing the norm was nowhere on his agenda when he filled in the application form. His recent performance, including the Millennium Open here, was unimpressive which cost him nine Elo rating points. “I didn’t quite think of points or norms but concentrated on playing well,” Sandipan said.

And that was exactly what GMs Toni Najdoski, Iordanescu and Jozsef Horvath found out. The Goodricke National Chess Academy student maintained that he had not set any target for himself. “My only aim at the moment is to play well, not going after titles.”

GM Pravin Thipsay, who beat Sandipan in the Goodricke meet in 1998, thinks the youngster has made huge progress since. “He’s a natural player who doesn’t care much about theories. This is important as this is the age to let one’s natural style blossom. Also, he has matured a lot in these few years,” Thipsay observed.

Striking aspect

The most striking aspect of Sandipan’s game, as pointed out by his coaches, is his natural aggressive instinct.

Ironically, the coaches added, that quite often leads to his downfall. But Sandipan said he doesn’t want to change his style. “I have to tighten up my opening but not by compromising my style.”

His opening, thinks GM Dibyendu Barua, is the area which needs immediate attention. “Tactically, he’s very sharp, very dynamic. He never plays for a draw which is significant, but his opening is not as good,” Barua told The Telegraph.

Barua thinks poor opening can put a player under extra pressure as one spends a lot of time in middle-game to recover. “Sandipan’s middle-game is very good which helps him make up. But he should pay more attention to his opening as that will enable him to play the middle-game more freely and also help him save some time,” Barua noted.

Barua, who took just two years to collect his final norm after clinching the first in 1989, thinks Sandipan should play a lot more tournaments now, to make most of this momentum. “He’s in the right rhythm and expectations are not mounting. This helps him to play freely which may not be the case some years later. He may not get as many chances to experiment,” he said.

Sandipan is aware of the fact that his opening has to be better. That is the feedback he got from his coaches and even from some of his rivals here, like Horvath whom he beat in the fifth round.

“Sandipan is brilliant in attack and can touch the 2600 Elo mark but it will be difficult to go further with such opening,” Horvath had said after their match.

Sandipan, who leaves for Sangli for another international meet beginning February 21, knows he can have a go at his second GM norm there. But, he insisted, his target is to just play well.    


 
 
KUNTE SEEKS TO MATCH ANAND 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 14 
When Abhijit Kunte became a grandmaster today, he became the fourth Indian to achieve the feat.

But, the level-headed Kunte has already started to set his net goal. “Becoming a grandmaster is only the starting point at the international level. Now I have to concentrate all my energy to collect ELO points so that I can improve my standing,” Kunte, who drew with teenage sensation Sandipan Chanda in the ninth round of the 11th Goodricke International Open tournament today, said.

A happy and smiling 23-year old Kunte said that his dream was to reach the level of GM Vishwanathan Anand, one of his two idols, the other being world champion Garri Kasparov.

Asked whether he had expected to get his final GM norm here, Kunte said: “No. I only wanted to have a decent start and play well. After all, I didn’t start well in the last few meets including the Asian Championship at Udaipur. “But once I scored four points in the first five rounds, I became optimistic,” he said.    


 
 
SADDLE UP BROUGHT BACK THE CHARM 
 
 
BY STAR RACER
 
 
Till recently, the Queen Elizabeth II Cup had a special magic. Participation of the best stayers in the country was a routine affair until the advertised stake for the trophy was literally freezed at Rs 3 lakh-plus, thus relegating the status of the prized event.

The forthcoming Stayers’ Cup in the city during the Turf Invitation Cup weekend later this month, however, marginally changed fortunes of the race. It just happened that the last year’s Indian Derby winner Saddle Up — subsequently disqualified for failing a dope test — was among the early arrivals in the city for a more pressing engagement on February 26. He lined-up for the Queen’s Cup, on Saturday, despite speculations that the event had come a wee too early after his long journey from Mumbai.

Win, loss or a draw, the Vijay Mallya-property did bring back some of the rich heritage of the past. It was also expected that the Bold Russian-Queen’s Rule five-year-old would not be unduly pressed in view of greater — Stayers Cup — honour that awaited him.

But the tough Bold Russian-Queen’s Rule five-year-old overcame all hurdles and entered his name in the historical event. His victory came as a bonus which he and his jockey Pesi Shroff rightfully earned after a great fight with Allied Forces on whom Aslam Kader tried all his tricks in the last furlong of the race but in vain.

With Kader managing to slip into a two-length lead and with a wall of horses in front of him, Shroff had no alternative but to change his galloping course in the dying stages of the race.

When in the open, Saddle Up showed amazing acceleration in the last 100m despite his heavy impost. He settled the issue virtually in his last stride.

The class of the two galloping giants was far superior compared to youngsters like Audible, Alameda and Astrodance. However, for Astrodance, the third place must have come as some solace after his debacle the Calcutta Derby.

Right from the start, the competition on the day was of top-class. Supreme Desire displayed great improvement defying his handicap disadvantage against Consolidate. But the Daniel David-ward failed to match the finishing prowess of Amerrico in the 2,400m Bergamo Cup.

In the Necessity Handicap the challenge to the 6-10 hot-favourite, Global Harmony, came from an unexpected rival — Tribal Warlord, the front runner. Manohar Singh was hard-pressed but managed to overtake the leader 50m from home. Angstrom was a pitiable third. The Bharath Singh ward may do something worthwhile over a 1,200m sprint.

The 35-100 hot-favourite, Endless Surprise was equally stretched to pass the leader, Oriental Pride, to win Princess Jani Handicap. The third placed Privy Council needs to be watched.

Amarante carried topweight to victory in his customary manner — start-to-finish — in the Ming Dynasty Cup. The big-build favourite Free At Last, needed the outing and placed second. Sky Hawk covered good ground to finish an impressive third.

With favourites deciding to go easy, the last two events were claimed by unfancied runners —Diplomatic Gesture and Jayaashva.    


 
 
EIGHT FOR TOMORROW’S MAIN EVENT 
 
 
BY OUR TURF CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 14 
A eight horses have line-up in Wednesday’s main event, the Eastern Command Cup over 1,400m. There are six-events on the cards and the first race is billed for 1.15 pm.

ACCEPTANCES

1. Kirkwick Handicap 1,100m (Cl V, Rt. 00-28) 1.15 pm: Tequila Shot 60; Avionic 59; Strides 58.5; Swingtime 58; Magic Ring 58; Time Of Times 56.5

2. Philosopher Handicap 1,100m (Cl IV, 5-y-o & over, Rt. 22-50) 1.55 pm: A Ma Dats’E 60.5; Smooth Jazz 59.5; The Epicurean 58; Silver Raising 57.5; Volcano Top 57.5; Cavonnier 54.5; Legal Fiction 53.5; Work Order 52.5; Mfungano 52.5.

3. Partisan Handicap 1,200m (Cl V, 5-y-o & over, Rt. 00-28) 2.30 pm: Vested Interest 60; Infierno 59.5; Carabineer 57.5; Aristotemus 54; Tribal Warlord 52.5; Lord Of The Manor 49.

4. Eastern Command Cup 1,400m (Cl II, Rt. 66-94) 3.05 pm: Prince Obolensky 60; Desert Force 56; Bright Bouquet 53; Cyber Freak 53; Defiance 52.5; Swash Buckler 52; Attire 49; Citadel 48.

5. Lt. Gen. Jameel Mahmood Memorial Trophy 1,400m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 3.40 pm: Go With The Wind 60.5; Analyzer 57.5; Arizona Star 55.5; Prince Of War 52; Black Mane 51.5; Armed Alarm 50.

6. Pilot Handicap 1,400m (III, 5-y-o & over, Rt. 44-72) 4.15 pm: Consul’s Secret 60; Scimitar 58.5; Gentle Priest 58.5; Mountain Memory 58; Iron Warrior 52; Ironstone 51.5.

Jackpot: 2; 3; 4; 5 & 6.

Treble: (i) 1; 2 & 3; (ii) 4; 5 & 6.    

 

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