Tania Sachdev is champion among women
The Commonwealth of Nations is a political association of 53 member states, nearly all of them former territories of the British Empire. Since 1983, the Commonwealth Championships have been regularly conducted and in 2019 the 30th edition was held in New Delhi from the June 30th to July 7th. The tournament was slated to be held in Sri Lanka. However, because of the bomb blasts that shook the nation in April 2019, it was decided that Sri Lanka would not host the championships. With only a couple of months left, it seemed as if the tournament was not going to be held at all. But the All India Chess Federation along with the Delhi Chess Association came forward and salvaged the event.
Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta, already four-time Commonwealth winner, was the top seed. But this time he faced stiff resistance from a host of other Indian GMs: S.L. Narayanan (rated 2603 and the only other 2600+ GM in the tournament), triple national champion Aravindh Chithambaram, an in-form Lalith Babu, Deepan Chakkravarthy, Debashis Das, Arjun Erigaisi, P. Iniyan etc. The tournament had a total of 94 players from 9 different countries. Although no real strong players participated from outside India, the fight for the top spot was quite intense.
Mr. Commonwealth = Abhijeet Gupta!
“If I played four events, I would rather choose gold in one and no medals in other three over four silver medals!”
This statement by Abhijeet Gupta aptly sums up his attitude. Winning tournaments means a lot to him. He is ready to take tremendous amounts to risk to win the title and he proved this in the last round of the Commonwealth Championships. Abhijeet had already created a record of winning the most number of Commonwealth titles by winning his fourth title in 2017. Previously Nigel Short was tied with him with three Commonwealth victories. For Abhijeet it was no longer about the record. It was more about winning the championship, which he so very much loves to do!
Abhijeet Gupta (6½/8 and playing White) took on Arjun Erigaisi (6.0/8) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Playing with the white pieces in the final round against Arjun Erigaisi, Abhijeet had his work cut out for him. Gupta had missed a win against Swapnil Dhopade on the previous day after playing for over 140 moves! Health-wise he was not in the best possible shape. Still, he went for the sharpest variation against Arjun’s Slav. We soon had the Moscow system on the board and after Abhijeet’s opening decision, it boiled down to a situation where White had burned all hi bridges. There was no going back!
Two others on 6½/8 — Aravindh Chithambaram and S.L. Narayanan — drew their game, so if Abhijeet won his then he would move 7½/9 and would be the undisputed champion.
Aravindh Chithambaram and S.L. Narayanan | Photo: Sagar Shah
This position was reached after 17 moves. And if you give this to a computer, it will say that the position is just better for Black. Black is a pawn up and has a very active bishop on d5. But Abhijeet felt that his position was not bad at all. In fact it was an ideal one for his last round must win situation because the black king is not sure where it can go to.
The bishop moving to g5 was an important part of Abhijeet’s entire concept. He wanted to prevent black from castling long.
Changing the character of the position at the right moment is one of the big skills of a match winner. Abhijeet gives up the g2 pawn, but in return gets more activity.
You have think prophylactically here. You need to stop your opponent’s plan of 0-0-0. Hence the right move is ♕h4! Also creating a threat of ♕h8+!
The best move here is to take the pawn on g5 with the queen. Black then makes a queen in order to distract the rook. Now it is important to see the intermediate check ♘d6+. Black must take the knight with his queen, and we reach this very unique position:
Black has two queens and both are hanging. But you can only take one piece at a time!
Abhijeet played the move ♕g6+ and after ♚d8 he picked up the queen with exd6! Although White is a piece down, the black king is stranded in the centre of the board and the game ended in just a few moves!
A detailed interview with Abhijeet Gupta after the final round. He explains the thought process in his win over Arjun Erigaisi
Final standings (top 20)
|2||GM||Aravindh Chithambaram Vr.||2598||7,0|
|3||GM||Swapnil S. Dhopade||2488||7,0|
|5||GM||Deepan Chakkravarthy J.||2557||6,5|
|10||GM||Lalith Babu M R||2571||6,0|
|16||IM||Saravana Krishnan P.||2290||5,5|
|19||FM||Srihari L R||2214||5,5|
Abhijeet Gupta receives the winner’s trophy, while second place went to Aravindh Chithambaram and third to Swapnil Dhopade | Photo: Sagar Shah
Aravindh won the silver medal. He has won the national title in all three formats — classical, rapid and blitz in 2018. He was looking to win another gold, this time at Commonwealth, but a silver is also an excellent result! After the tournament we did a detailed interview with him where the youngster showed his exciting win over Lalith Babu.
Interview with silver medalist Aravindh Chithambaram
Swapnil Dhopade is now almost a full time coach, yet he is able to deliver such a powerful performance, including a win against P. Iniyan in the final round to secure his bronze medal.
Swapnil Dhopade | Photo: Swapnil Dhopade’s Facebook
Gold to Tania
Tania Sachdev scored 6.0/9 and became the women’s champion. She played a great last round and beat Varshini. This meant that Tania was able to defend her title.
Tania Sachdev (left) vs Varshini
Gold to Tania, silver went to Divya Deshmukh (right) and bronze to Bhakti Kulkarni (centre) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Here are two interesting positions from Tania’s games at the Commonwealth:
Move the pieces on the live diagram or replay the game below
Tania talks about her experience of winning her third Commonwealth title and also explains the above positions in depth
One of the best things about the Commonwealth Championships is that the youngsters are able to interact with the world class GMs. In the above picture you can see youngsters eagerly taking their photos with Tania Sachdev. It will be a great memory for them for years to come!
Tania Sachdev and her young fans | Photo: Sagar Shah
Divya Deshmukh with her complete family: mother Dr. Namrata Deshmukh, sister Arya Deshmukh, who was seen for the first time at a tournament venue, Divya and father Dr. Jitendra Deshmukh | Photo: Sagar Shah
Divya Deshmukh not only won the silver in the open women’s section but also gold in under-16. She has surely graduated into the big league! Here’s her favourite game from the event, where she was “forced” to make a queen sacrifice!
The bronze medal winner Bhakti Kulkarni with AICF Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan | Photo: Sagar Shah
A proud coach!IM Vishal Sareen with both his students who have become the Commonwealth Champions! | Photo: Sagar Shah
From left to right: Tania’s husband Viraj, Tania’s mother-in-law, sister in law, Tania Sachdev, Tania’s parents, Abhijeet Gupta, Tania’s father in law, Abhijeet’s wife Aditi and Bharat Singh Chauhan | Photo: Sagar Shah
Age group events
One of the finest points of the Commonwealth Championships 2019 was the fact that the age group of under-8 and under-10 get to play in the same playing hall as the open section. This means that the youngsters can go and see the games of top grandmasters like Abhijeet Gupta, Aravindh Chithambaram, S.L. Narayanan and so on. And also the grandmasters often visit the games of these youngsters.
In all there were 14 age category tournaments that took place and there were 42 medals at stake. Below you can find the photos of all the winners with the standings.
Under 8 girls
From left to right: Aishani Pathak (gold), Yatee Kothari (silver), Tashna Aggarwal (bronze) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 8 Open
From left to right: Chinmay Kowshik (gold), Vivaan Saraogi (silver), Amogh Bisht (bronze) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 10 girls
From left to right: Sneha Halder (gold), Shefali AN (bronze) and Hiya Panchal (silver) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 10 Open
From left to right: Yash Bharadia (gold), Ilamparthi AR (silver) and Daaevik Wadhawan (bronze) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 12 girls
From left to right: Yashita Rout (bronze), Riddhi Patel (gold), Tejaswini G (silver) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 12 Open
From left to right: Shreyash Patnaik (bronze), Tanmay Jain (silver) and Garv Gaur (gold) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 14 girls
From left to right: Vyshnavi Chinnam (bronze), Yash Jyoti Bir (silver) and Divya Deshmukh (gold) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 14 Open
From left to right: Srihari LR (gold), Rohith Krishna (silver), Aditya Gampa (bronze) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 16 girls
From left to right: Nityata Jain (bronze), Bristy Mukherjee (gold), Meenatchi Rajam (silver) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 16 Open
From left to right: Arjun Erigaisi (gold), Kashyap Dhrupad (silver) and Jinan Jomon (bronze) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 18 girls
From left to right: K. Priyanka (gold), Sanskriti Goyal (silver) and Srishti Pandey (bronze) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 18 Open
From left to right: Vedant Panesar (bronze), P. Iniyan (gold), Gaurav Zagade (bronze) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 20 girls
From left to right: Rutuja Bakshi (gold), Mounika Bommini (bronze), Vishwa Shah (silver) | Photo: Sagar Shah
Under 20 Open
From left to right: Nilsu Pattnayak (bronze), Suyog Wagh (gold), Indrajeet Mahindrakar (silver) | Photo: Sagar Shah
The men who worked hard to make this event possible. A.K. Verma (left) Secretary of Delhi Chess Association and Bharat Singh Chauhan, Secretary of All India Chess Federation (AICF)
Check out the Commonwealth Championships 2019 Playlist on the ChessBase India YouTube Channel for some interesting interviews of the players from the event.