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Indian cheers on the 64-square

December 30, 2005 17:15 IST

It might not have been a great year for chess but India had plenty to cheer about its ace Viswanathan Anand, who emerged as the world's top rated active player, and his prodigal juniors.

Vaishwanathan AnandAnand, who was vying for the honour with Veselin Topalov after the two were tied second since July, took the honour when the Bulgarian lost six rating points to slip to 2782 while the Indian, who did not play any rating game in the meantime, maintained his tally of 2788.

Anand yet again came out with a better than average overall performance with three titles victories and but for the heroics of Bulgarian Topalov, he would have yet again won the World Championship, held at San Luis after Russian great Garry Kasparov announced retirement earlier in the year.

Besides, P Harikrishna was the most successful Indian winning as many as three strong titles against stronger opposition.

The year started with Harikrishna's joint triumph along side Boris Gelfand of Israel in the Bermuda International event and later the Hyderabad-based stamped his superiority on the Sanjin Hotel Cup in China and the Crown Group of Essent chess tournament of 2005.

Anand won the Amber blindfold and rapid chess tournament, underlining his expertise in the Rapid and blindfold version of the game.

The Indian, in fact, won all the three titles, rapid, blindfold and overall, at stake there.

Anand was yet again at his best in smashing Russian Alexander Grischuk in the Mainz Chess Classics by a 5-2 margin while Rustam Kasimdzhanov's full point lead during the Leon rapid chess tournament also came a cropper against the wily 'Tiger from Madras'.

Anand's lows were again in the Classical chess format where after his second place in the Corus event he was third in the Linares chess tournament, second in the MTel Masters, behind Topalov again, and second in the World championship in Argentina recently.

Another big shock for Anand came in the Corsica Master's where his winning streak for many years was ended by Vadim Milov of Switzerland.

Krishnan SasikiranKrishnan Sasikiran jointly won the Sigeman and Co. International Chess tournament along with Dutch veteran Jan Timman.

Koneru Humpy, who mostly kept a low-profile all through the year, won her solitary title at the North Urals Cup at Krasnoturinsk, Russia in July. This was by far the biggest ever women's round-robin tournament of the world and Humpy topped Chinese Xu Yuhua by a half point to emerge clear first.

World women's champion Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria finished last in this evenly matched field that included Russian glam-girl Alexandra Kosteniuk as well.

Besides, the Indian domination in the age group chess tournaments continued as talented youngster Sahaj Grover won the world under-10 at Belfort in France becoming the youngest ever World champion from India in any sport.

N Srinath grabbed the Under-12 World title championship making it an Indian double for the first time in the same event.

Mary Ann Gomes won the Asian Under-16 girls championship held at Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Indian colts also clinched 21 out of 24 medals at stake in the recently concluded Asian Youth chess championship at New Delhi.

However, there was no success for them in the World Junior chess championship at Istanbul in Turkey as none of them could bring home a medal.

For the last few years the likes of Harikrishna and Surya Sekhar Ganguly among boys, and Koneru Humpy and Eesha Karavade among girls had done well to win coveted medals in this event but this time the steam in Indians apparently ran out with Harikrishna, Humpy and Ganguly not in the fray.

As far as the latest ratings list released by the FIDE in October is concerned, it shows three players in the top-40 bracket with Harikrishna jumping to the 31st spot with a career-high rating of 2673 from 59th place.

Sasikiran, who had to vacate the second spot to Hari in the Indian list, reached 2663 to move from 52nd to 40th spot.

Koneru HumpyHumpy and S Vijayalakshmi also recorded their career-best ratings in the list. Humpy, whose previous best was 2539 in January 2002, reached 2540 while Vijayalakshmi tallied 2486 to be fourth and 12th respectively in the world's women's list.

In the world junior list, Humpy was the top-ranked girl while Hari was third among the boys.

The players however faced a more formiable opposition beyond the 64 squares.

The in-fighting of the All India Chess Federation in the early part of the year resulted in erstwhile Secretary P T Ummer Koya being restrain from "interfering in day-to-day activities of the affairs of AICF", by the honourable court of law.

What had happened earlier on was that the Tamil Nadu Chess Association, the Maharashtra Chess Association and the Delhi Chess Association had filed a suit in Chennai requesting action against Koya, the-then reigning Secretary of AICF.

A few months that went by immediately after the conflict in AICF were hard for the Chess players of the country but it was business as usual once M/S D V Sunder, the current secretary, and Co. called the shots and got the events organised.

Last heard, the matter was still sub-judice and the eventual outcome will be known only after the final verdict.

On the international scene though, the world was rocked by a rather premature retirement decision of World's top rated Russian Gary Kasparov soon after the conclusion of the last Linares chess tournament.

Kasparov, also known for his political ambitions in Russia, won his last event despite losing his last professional chess game against Topalov in the same event.

The news was quite shocking for the chess buffs across the globe and many requests poured in from all corners of the world for 'Garry to continue'. However, the Russian did not budge.

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