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World Youth 2018: Can India win a medal?

by Sagar Shah - 27/10/2018

The World Championships for under-14, 16 and 18 are being held in Greece from the 20th to the 30th of October 2018. 25 Indians have participated in this event. Seven rounds have been completed and the Indian players who are in top ten places are Sankalp Gupta, Kushagra Mohan, Tejaswini Sagar and L. Jyothsna. There are a few players like Divya Deshmukh and Mrudul Dehankar who have a good chance for a podium finish if they play well in the last four rounds. Indian chess faces a grave problem in such youth tournaments that the best players of the country do not participate in the World Youth Championships. Hence, the chances of us winning medals is significantly reduced. In this article we try to touch upon this problem and hope that a solution is found. 

The World Youth Championships 2018 are being held in Porto Carras Grand Resort, Chalkidikki, Greece from 20th to the 30th of October 2018. The best players from all over the world in under-14, 16 and 18 categories have gathered together and are playing in six different sections. India has a contingent of 25 players vying for the top spots.

The beautiful playing hall | Photo: Niki Riga

Organizing youth events is never easy because of the sheer numbers, but the organizers in Greece have done a tremendous job! | Photo: Niki Riga

A couple of years ago we used to have all the sections under-8, 10, 12 and 14,16,18 together. India would always come back with the highest tally of medals because our kids would usually reign supreme in the under-8, 10 and 12 categories. Since this bifurcation has been made (the under-8,10,12 will be held later in a few days in Spain), India has always struggled in the under-14,16 and 18 section. This year too, the chances of our players winning a medal depends upon the results in last four rounds, but we do not have any player in top three spots after seven rounds.

 

Why is this the case? It is because most of the top players in various age categories have not been taking part in the national events and also in the world youth tournament. Take for example the under-18 section. Players born in 2001 can take part. Our top player is GM Aryan Chopra born in 2001, but he was playing in the India-China match. P. Iniyan born in 2002 is already rated 2476, but he isn't the participating. Arjun Erigaisi, who is already a GM, and born in 2003 is also not to be seen. Nihal Sarin, Prithu Gupta, Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani are all playing at the Isle of Man International 2018. It is quite clear - if you do not have your highest rated players fighting for the top prizes, the chances of India winning the medals are also lower.

L. Jyothsna has been the best performing Indian until now. After seven rounds she is on 5.5 and in fourth position in the under-14 girls section. | Photo: Niki Riga

Tejaswini Sagar, who is the current under-18 Commonwealth Champion, is in fifth place in under-18 girls | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

A lot is expected from the young Divya Deshmukh, who is on 5.0/7 and in 10th place in under-14 girls. A strong finish in last four rounds can assure India of a medal from her. | Photo: Niki Riga

They both are on 5.0/7 and they both are from Nagpur! Divya Deshmukh and Mrudul Dehankar are two of the biggest talents of Indian women's chess and they both hail from the city of Nagpur. They have always been friends cum competitors of each other! | Photo: Niki Riga

Excuse me! No mobile phones allowed! | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Some very strong GMs in the world like Sergei Tiviakov are the coaches of various delegations! | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

The experienced Neeraj Kumar Mishra is the coach of Indian team along with C.S. Gokhale, Kavitha J.E and Puneet Jaiswal | Photo: Niki Riga

Sakshi Chitlange is on 4.5/7 and has good chances of a podium finish | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Kushagra Mohan with 5.5/7 is well placed for a strong medal finish | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Sankalp Gupta has played solid chess and with 5.0/7 is on the ninth position | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Under-18 girls is where India can make the maximum difference with Tejaswini, Sakshi and Priyanka, all capable of finishing well | Photo: Niki Riga

Mitrabha Guha is on 4.5/7 in under-18 section | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Koustav Chatterjee - 4.5/7 in under-16 | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Manu David Suthandram has a rating of just 1970, but it fighting very hard and is on 3.5/7 in the under-18 section | Photo: Niki Riga

Shanya Mishra - 3.5/7 in under-16 girls | Photo: Niki Riga

Tarini Goyal is on 4.0/7 in under-18 girls | Photo: Niki Riga

Overview of Indian performances after seven rounds

SNoNameRtgFED1234567Pts.Rk.Group
30FMMitrabha Guha2352IND10½11014,522Open 18
83Manu David Suthandram R1970IND½½01½½½3,548Open 18
28Sankalp Gupta2352IND11101½½5,09Open 16
30Koustav Chatterjee2344IND1100½114,527Open 16
73Vatsal Singhania2128IND0101½013,556Open 16
110Garvit Kumar Kalra1620IND0½01½½02,596Open 16
3IMRaja Rithvik R2421IND1½½1½1½5,014Open 14
26CMKushagra Mohan2283IND11½½½115,58Open 14
40AGMSrihari L R2170IND110110½4,524Open 14
12WIMChitlange Sakshi2237IND1110½014,512Girls 18
14Priyanka K2207IND111½0½04,027Girls 18
20WFMArpita Mukherjee2147IND110½1½½4,514Girls 18
22WIMTejaswini Sagar2139IND11011½15,55Girls 18
30WFMTarini Goyal2026IND1½½1½½04,024Girls 18
5WFMMakhija Aashna2197IND1½101½½4,519Girls 16
21WFMSalonika Saina2093IND111½½0½4,513Girls 16
26Meenal Gupta2065IND011101½4,522Girls 16
40Sanskriti Goyal1971IND101½0114,527Girls 16
44Shanya Mishra1924IND110½0103,537Girls 16
52Tejasvi M1869IND01010½13,553Girls 16
86Sagar Siya1310IND00011002,082Girls 16
4WIMDivya Deshmukh2180IND11011015,010Girls 14
11WCMJyothsna L2060IND111½½1½5,54Girls 14
16WFMDhyana Patel2002IND11½01104,520Girls 14
20WCMMrudul Dehankar1996IND11011015,012Girls 14

Performance of Indian players

The top three players in open and girls section in Indian nationals under-13, 15, and 17 qualify for the world youth championships under-14, 16, 18 next year. All their costs are covered by the Government of India. The question to be asked is whether we should continue with the current practice or send top three rated players in each section. If we do the latter then the chances of India winning the medals is much higher. However, this approach has the negative point that the national tournaments lose some of their charm. The ideal scenario would be to get all our top players to fight it out in the national championships. But why would our grandmasters like Nihal Sarin, Praggnanandhaa, or aspiring GMs like Prithu Gupta or Gukesh want to play in the National championships? This is a big question which needs to be resolved by All India Chess Federation (AICF). There has to be sufficient motivation for some of our best talents to play in the national tournaments, or there should be a direct all expenses paid entry to the World Youth above a certain rating. Only then will India have the chance to fight against super powers like Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, etc. who are sending some of their best players to these tournaments.

This picture makes us believe that there can be a solution to every problem! Makropolous and Dvorkovich having a nice time at the World Youth Championships 2018! | Photo: Niki Riga