My money on Viswanathan Anand
Shib Sagar scalps 5/32
Eight-wicket win for Wari
Indian women lose to Thailand
Patwardhan takes lead
Chowrasia in 2nd spot
Jindal Steel win
Saba Karim dropped
Race Review/ Alvarada hogged limelight

Teheran, Dec. 19: 
The countdown has finally begun. In less than 24 hours the World Chess Championship finals get underway in Teheran between Super Grandmasters Viswanathan Anand of India and Alexei Shirov of Spain. The preliminary rounds of this knockout meet were held in Delhi from November 25 to December 16 where 72 players started and half were eliminated. The rest were joined by 28 who were seeded directly to the second round by virtue of their current rating and last year�s performance.

It is worth mentioning that both Anand and Shirov had joined in the second round because of their high rating.

A lot of debate has raged for long, as to who would succeed Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov and Garri Kasparov and become the 14th world champion. One name that came to everybody�s mind was �Vishy�, as Anand is popularly known in the chess circuit. In fact, the entire world chess fraternity was suffering from the monotony of the same old Russian faces and wanted a new non-Russian champion.

So, when Anand went to the finals of the 1998 world championship to face Anatoly Karpov, everybody was excited.

They were prepared to welcome a new champion from a developing country for the very first time in the history of chess. However, Anand failed to live up to their expectations. In the last world championship, Anand withdrew his name and opted to accept the challenge of Garri Kasparov to play a separate match at the cost of the world championship title. It is a pity for Anand that the said match did not take place at all. Anand realised his mistake soon and did not fall into any such trap this time. As a result we see him fighting for the champion�s crown this year.

Now the million dollar question: will Anand succeed this time? Anand has faltered in three earlier occasions, despite coming very close to the coveted world title. One cannot forget how Anand lost to Gata Kamsky of the US in the quarter finals of the world championship in 1994 from an overwhelming position.

The same thing happened in New York�s World Trade Centre in 1995, when Anand fell prey to Kasparov even after taking the lead at the end of the ninth game in the 20-game match. Anand was once again seen to collapse against Anatoly Karpov of Russia in the final round of the 1998 World Chess Championship.

This time, though, the scene is completely different. From the very beginning Anand is playing with a lot of confidence and in a very calculated manner. On his way to the finals, he has defeated all his opponents very comfortably, except defending champion Alexander Khalifman, whom he could defeat only in the tie-break game.

Win with white pieces and draw with black pieces � this is the strategy that Anand has adopted since the very beginning. As a matter of fact, in this knockout format of the World Championship, all the major upsets take place in the early rounds. So once Anand crossed all the hurdles till the quarter finals, I was quite sure that he would easily make it to the finals. On the other hand, if we study Shirov�s path to the final, it will be clear that he has not won a single match convincingly. Most of the matches were decided in the tie-break.

It is a very difficult task to compare the playing strenghts of Anand and Shirov as both of them are reigning in the top 10 positions for quite some time. In the top, all are extremely talented and there usually exist only minute differences in strength. Both of them are highly imaginative players, having excellent calculative power, good opening repertoire and quick thinking ability. Still, I would put the odds in Anand�s favour at 60:40.

This is not at all an emotional statement. I am saying this considering the following reasons:

1) Anand has greater match experience.

2) Anand�s overall tournament performance is better than Shirov�s.

3) Anand is ahead in terms of current rating and performance. (Very recently he won the World Cup in China)

4) Anand is also ahead of Shirov in their personal encounters.

5) Most important of all, Anand is extremely solid and positional, whereas Shirov is a highly tactical player who usually takes lots of risks.

I will not be surprised if Anand crushes Shirov straightaway. It may not even last till the final game of this six-game match. But if Shirov somehow manages to drag Anand upto the tie-break, then we have to keep our fingers crossed. Then, with a shorter time control, the player with stronger nerves shall have the last laugh.


Calcutta, Dec.19: 
Shib Sagar Singh scalped five wickets for 32 runs on the first day of the three-day under-22 cricket tie against Orissa in Berhampore today.

Orissa were bowled out for 140, in reply Bengal were 31 for the loss of Manoj Shaw.

Scribes� cricket

West Zone beat East by 19 runs in the J.K. Bose cricket meet at Eden Gardens today. Sanjeev Samyal top scored for West with an unbeaten 61, who made 202. Arup Chatterjee made a solid 67 in reply but four wickets by Ahmed Rizvi sealed the match. In the other match at the Police ground, South Zone thrashed North by 10 wickets.


West Zone 202 in 35 ovs (Sanjeev Samyal 61 n.o., Arup Chatterjee 3/32; Subodh Barua 2/41). East Zone 183 in 33 ovs (Arup Chatterjee 67, Dipankar Guha 44; Ahmed Rizvi 4/30, Rakesh Jaiswal 2/40). West won by 19 runs.

South Zone 85 (Aminul Islam 5/31, Satindra Pal Singh 4/1). North Zone 86 in 5.5 ovs (Sekhar Luthra 40 n.o., Sunil Narula 34 n.o.). North won by 10 wkts.


Calcutta, Dec. 19: 
Nilanjan Majumdar, with an unbeaten 102, helped Wari AC overcome Rajasthan Club by eight wickets in the CAB senior division knockout tournament today.


Rajasthan Club 258/8 in 45 ovs (Afzal Siddiqui 105, Rajat Chaturbedi 51, Sayan Dey 43; Suman Chakraborty 3/46, Ranadeb Bose 2/31). Wari AC 259/2 in 38.4 ovs (Nilanjan Mazumdar 102 n.o., Aurijit Basu 79, Saikat Mukherjee 46). Wari AC won by 8 wkts.

Taltala Institute 226/7 (Sajal Sarkar 49, Amit Biswas 48, Samrat Sen 40; Chiranjib Guha 3/36, Anupam Sinha 2/22). BNR Rec. Club 122 in 31.4 ovs (Ashes De 27; Ashok Verma 3/14, Amit Nandi 3/11). Taltala won by 104 runs.

Young Bengal 266/6 (Tuntun Dasgupta 91, Sougata Mitra 71). Kumartuli 222 in 42.2 ovs (Saugata Mitra 2/44). Young Bengal won by 44 runs.

Sporting Union 257/8 (Subhashish Das 66, Satrajit Lahiri 50; Sagarmoy Sen Sharma 3/44, Arup Bhattacharya 2/41). Tapan Memorial 258/3 (Debopam Sarkar 87, Arup Bhattacharya 83). Tapan Memorial won by 8 wkts.

Aikya Sammilani 207/8 (Rabi Pradhan 55, Mazhar Ali 47; Rupak Banerjee 4/39). Town Club 202/9 (Kushal Dey 36, Mazhar Ali 3/28, Chandranath Sanyal 3/42). Aikya won by 5 runs.

Ballygunge United 202/9 (Md Javed 4/56). Mohammedan Sporting 206/6 (Rajesh Joshi 77). Md Sp. Won by 4 wkts.

Netaji Subhas Institute 217/6 (Biswanath Bose 46, Adipta Mukherjee 51; Samit Ghosh 3/43, Sourav Seal 2/38). Suburban Club 220/8 (Aranyadeb Sarkar 74, Sourav Seal 32). Suburban Club won by 2 wkts.

Mohunlal Club 244/8 (Mainak Dutta 85, Nilanjan Khan Bhaduri 47, Arijit Jana 40 n.o.; Arnab Majumdar 2/27). YMCA College 227 (Jairam Orao 79, Sudip Mitra 51; Saikat Goswami 4/52, Pankaj Mondal 2/33). Mohunlal won by 17 runs.


New Delhi, Dec. 19: 
It was Thailand�s day at the Bharat Sanchar Asia Cup 2000. In the inaugural women�s event, they ousted hosts India 2-1. In the men�s section, they rallied from a 0-1 deficit to overcome China 2-1.

At the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) courts, Thailand�s No. 2 Tongsalee Napaporn started tentatively, losing her opening service game. Manisha Malhotra then held serve to lead 2-0 but lost her grip on the match after that.

Tongsalee rallied from the baseline and a hasty Manisha made several unforced errors, either volleying into the net or hitting wide. Manisha�s service was broken in the fourth, sixth and eighth games.

In the second set, both players lost their service games initially. However, Tongsalee settled down soon and controlled the game thereafter.

With service breaks in the seventh and ninth games, the Thai won 6-3, 6-3 in 69 minutes.

In the absence of Nirupama Vaidyanathan, coach Nandan Bal opted for Sai Jayalakshmi as the No. 1 player. However, Sai was outclassed by Thailand�s Suchanan Viratprasert. Sai�s service led to her downfall.

The former national champion also failed to cope with the blistering groundstrokes of Viratprasert. The Indian�s service was broken twice in each set and she lost 3-6, 2-6.

Sai then combined with national hardcourt champion Rushmee Chakravarthy to gain some consolation for India as they defeated the Thai duo, Tongsalee and Lamangthong Orwan, in straight sets 6-2, 6-4 in just over an hour.

The doubles win was immaterial today but it could prove important in the long run. With just three participants, in case of a tie, this result may help India.

In the men�s event, Thailand lost the opening singles. However, China�s No. 1 player Zhu Ben-Qiang retired injured after losing the first set 4-6 to Danai Udomchok. With the scores level, Thailand won the doubles in straight sets in just over an hour to wrap up the tie.

Ramesh Krishnan was relieved that the Indian men�s team was at full strength. Mahesh Bhupathi and Syed Fazaluddin joined the squad last night.

The Indian quartet had light practice and even played cricket with a tennis ball. Krishnan realises that their opener against South Korea tomorrow is crucial. Korea�s top player Hyung-Taik Lee is ranked 99th in the world.


Thailand bt India 2-1: Tomgsalee Napaporn bt Manisha Malhotra 6-3, 6-3. Suchanan Viratprasert bt Sai Jayalakshmi 6-3, 6-2. Jayalakshmi and Rushmee Chakravarthy bt Orwan Lamangthong and Tongsalee Napaporn 6-2, 6-4.


Calcutta, Dec. 19: 
Jaideep Patwardhan of Pune went into the lead with a two-under par 70 on the opening day of the Goodricke East India amateur golf championship at the RCGC today.

Patwardhan was followed by local golfers, Ranjit Singh and Rahil Gangjee, along with Delhi�s Aman Bahl at even par 72.

Other notable performances from city-based golfers were � Aditya Khaitan (77), Arjun Singh (78) and Lakshman Singh (79).

The current leader in the India Order of Merit for Amateurs, Manav Das, had a dissapointing day, tallying 81.


Calcutta, Dec 19: 
City lad Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia was in second spot, a stroke behind Rohtas Singh who was four-under 68 on the opening day of the Rs 7.5 lakh Tamil Nadu Golf Federation (TNGF) Open at the par-72, Cosmopolitan Golf Club course in Chennai today.

According to information reaching here, Ali Sher, Uttam Singh Mundy and Rafiq Ali were tied for the third place at two-under 70. Order of Merit leader Shiv Prakash was among those tied for the sixth place at one-under 71, while Mukesh Kumar was a stroke behind and tied for 11th place.

Rohtas started well with successive birdies on the first two holes, and then added two more on the sixth and seventh holes. But thereafter he fell back a little when he could make only one birdie against three bogies.


Calcutta, Dec. 19: 
Jindal Steel and Power beat 61st Cavalry 7-5.5 in the Darbhanga Cup polo competition at Pat Williamson ground today. For Jindal Dhruvpal Godara scored three and Samir Suhag two, while Naveen Jindal and Shakti Singh Rathore scored one each. 61st Cavalry scored through Tarun Sirohi (1), Atul Gupta (1), Navjeet Sandhu (2) and J.S. Virk (1).    

Calcutta, Dec. 19: 
Syed Saba Karim was dropped from the Bengal Ranji Trophy squad for the matches against Orissa and Bihar, it was announced today. India captain Sourav Ganguly was named skipper.

Sourav, though a part of the Bengal team, has not signed for any club this season. The CAB has set a deadline of January 15 for him to sign. Sourav is expected to opt out of the Orissa match, in which case Devang Gandhi will lead the side.

Saba Karim has been excluded on grounds of fitness, caused by the eye injury he suffered during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year. Saba, who played in the four-day matches against Tripura and Assam but opted out of the one-dayers, submitted a letter to the management yesterday, declaring his fitness. But CAB officials said the selectors did not get enough time to examine Saba on this ground.

�I submitted a letter saying I�m completely fit and have been playing club matches as a wicketkeeper-batsman and have not felt any discomfort. Then it was up to the selectors and they have done what they felt right,� Saba said when contacted this evening. He declined to comment on his exclusion saying, �I have not yet spoken to any of the selectors.�

The other discards from the team were Sujoy Parui and Sanjib Sanyal. They were replaced by Alokendu Lahiri and Sourasish Lahiri. Bengal will take on Orissa at the Eden Gardens from December 28.


Sourav Ganguly, Devang Gandhi, Utpal Chatterjee, Srikant Kalyani, Rohan Gavaskar, Shib Shankar Pal, Sourasish Lahiri, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Arijit Bose, Wrichik Mazumder, Deep Dasgupta, Amitava Banerjee, Sabir Ali, Alokendu Lahiri.


Calcutta, Dec. 19: 
Favourites were back to the winning ways. In a card of seven, as many as six of them delivered the goods on Saturday. The one such favourite was Alvarada in the 2,400m fillies� Derby, the Usha Stud Calcutta Oaks.

The staying prowess of the Razeen-Enfin Seule daughter was never in doubt. The Vijay Singh-trainee had already displayed her penchant for a distance of ground and her effortless victory in the monsoon Derby Stakes, albeit over 2,000m trip, had confirmed her credentials as a potential runner for the winter classics. She amply justified the faith bestowed in her, by owner Deepak Khaitan, when she placed behind Altimara in the 1,000 Guineas over a metric mile.

The fact that Altimara went on to finish second to her owner-mate, Aloritz, in the 2,000 Guineas, the class of Alvarada was, thus, confirmed. Altimara, a close fourth in the Bangalore (summer) Derby, may start as a favourite in the local edition of the premier classic on January 7 next year.

Alvarada was never under pressure at any stage of the mile and half circuit. Cristopher Alford, guiding the 9-10 favourite, had her settled in-fourth as stable-mate, Alterezza and Tsaynen Blue let the steam off up-front while Code Word raced at a safe distance behind and Alvarada not very far away.

Cristopher waited until the last 800m before releasing brakes on the public-choice. It took him only to niggle Alvarada and the filly realised the task at hand. She flew and in a few strides the Oaks was her own.

Chowksey Ruzaan on the Bangalore-challenger, Surfside, failed to do an Astrodance, the last year�s winner of the Oaks. The Green Forest-Nafazaka daughter was almost equally fancied in the �ring� but the Darius Byramji-ward cut a sorry figure. Toiling at the wrong-end of the field till the home-turn, she did cover a good ground but fell short to the winner by a shade over six lengths.

The two quick runs in Bangalore and a subsequent long journey from the Garden City might have affected her performance. She may improve upon this run, though it is unlikely that she will get the better of Alvarada in a �terms� race.

If Oaks was a one-horse affair, the sporting event, the 1,200m T. N. Banerjea Cup, produced a sizzling finish. It was thanks to a brave show by Bountiful Gesture who was impressive even in her defeat handed out by the favourite, Added Asset � enjoying a significant handicap advantage of 10-kg.

Added Asset looked a comfortable winner until the Zari Darashah-trainee decided to make light of her heavy-impost of 61-kg in the last 150m. She went down by a mere �head.�

Equally impressive was the third placed Arctic Fancy, the stable-mate of the winner. The speedy daughter of Tecorno-Chinzi was ridden in a check and was made to gallop in the middle of the track she nearly upset the stable�s gamble.

It was a fillies� day and the two ideally handicapped three-year-olds from the fair sex � Ballard Lady and Endless Surprise � were not unduly pressed as they claimed their respective events.

Automatic was an equally comfortable winner of the juvenile event, thanks to the withdrawal of a heavily backed but an unruly filly, Calamint, at the starting gates.

Kargil Soldier, the only long-priced winner on the day, played a spoilsport in the Lightning Sketch Handicap which the John Stephens-trainee won displaying an amazing turn of foot.


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