| Subhrajit Saha with the National B Champion’s trophy Wednesday. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta: It had hardly been smooth sailing for Subhrajit Saha after a sensational performance at the Goodricke International Open chess championship here in 1993. An unrated player, who opened his Elo rating account with an unusual 2390 in that meet, Saha struggled for consistency thereafter as several younger players overtook him.
Saha kept trying nonetheless, far from the focus, and has recently been rewarded with the National B title in Jalandhar. A significant achievement, since it brings him back to the mainstream of Indian chess and moreover, gives him the opportunity to do well and make himself eligible for better training and exposure programmes.
“I have waited longer than what people expected,” said the 26-year-old, who qualified for the National A meet to be played in Mumbai next February. “The fact that I slipped out of the leading pack meant I couldn’t avail of the best of preparation facilities. The better players were picked for coaching camps conducted by foreign Grandmasters.
“Naturally, I was always less prepared in tournaments from where a better result would help me move up. I always started from a disadvantageous position as compared to others,” said Saha of his largely nondescript showing over the past few years. Still, he has reason to believe it’s better late than never.
His performance in Jalandhar was commendable since it was the one of the toughest National B field ever, with GM-elect G.B. Prakash and double GM norm-holders Sandipan Chanda and Tejas Bakre in fray apart from International Master Lanka Ravi. With a rating of 2345, Saha had several higher-rated players to contend with and came up trumps with seven wins and six draws.
“It is my most memorable performance till date, since it has come at such a crucial stage in my career,” said the Eastern Railway employee. He had qualified for National A twice before and finished ninth in 1998 and 12th a year later. However, making the cut as the National B champion is a different feeling altogether.
Saha knows a place in the top six in Mumbai will bring him under the national federation (AICF) scanner which may lead to many more opportunities. The AICF has been offering precious training opportunities to those doing well in National A over the last couple of years. Surya Sekhar Ganguly and Chanda, to an extent, are the Bengal players to have gained from this and it’s Saha’s turn to grab the opportunity with both hands.
“My opening isn’t as good as it ought to be and I have to be much more consistent,” said Saha, who won The Telegraph Schools’ Chess crown in 1991. “Also, I get very upset after losing important games, which keeps me from preparing well for the next rounds. These things have to be sorted out. A place in the top six in National A is what I’m aiming at.”
At a time when Indian players have started taking advantage of the rise in the number of strong tournaments from where they can garner GM and IM norms, one IM norm is all Saha has managed till date. “I have missed a few more narrowly, but the difference between players using laptops and someone like me relying on books should also be taken into account,” Saha reasoned.
He has a point there and may also consider himself unlucky in the sense that he just about crossed the age mark when organisations like Goodricke started taking interest in grooming promising youngsters.
That, in fact, makes his recent achievement all the more creditable since barring him and Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury, all Bengal players to have made a mark at the senior level have come from the Goodricke stable.
Saha has been late in producing the kind of performance expected of him, but like a sincere observer and practitioner of the game, he admits that. Only, he would like to ensure that it’s better late than never.