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I do not wish to lose a single rating point after marriage!

by Aditya Pai - 21/01/2017

The 92nd edition of the Hastings Chess Congress was held at the Horntyte Park Sports Complex between December 28, 2016 and January 5, 2017. The 100 player field included 12 Grandmasters and 14 international Masters from 23 countries. Beating that stiff a competition, after 9 rounds of play, India's GM Deep Sengupta emerged victorious with a score of 7.0/9. In the following interview, Deep talks about his shaky start at the event, when and how he began playing chess, his forthcoming marriage and a lot more.

The Hastings Chess Congress holds a very special place in chess history. Right from its inception in 1895, it has borne witness to some of the most glorious victories of the most celebrated players in the history of our royal game. Every World Champion before Kasparov, with the exception of Bobby Fischer, has been a part of this event. Steintz won his famous game against Bardeleben right here! At the turn of 2016, it was the Indian GM Deep Sengupta who emerged victorious.

Deep lifting the prestigious trophy

Aditya Pai (AP): The Hastings Congress has a rich history – all world champions before Kasparov (except Fischer) have participated in this event; not to mention, the opening variation in the QGS that has been named after it. How special is it for you to have won such a coveted event for the second time?

Deep Sengupta (DS): Thanks! I am extremely happy to win the Masters tournament this year again. This victory came after quite some time. I was so delighted to see my name in the same Golombek trophy along with Ex-World champions.

Some "Deep" thinking to clinch the title (final round game against Karthikeyan).

AP: Round seven onwards, there was a gruelling battle at the top between you, Sethuraman, Karthikeyan and Rasmussen. How did you manage to hold your nerves in the heat of the contest?

Rank after Round 8

Rk. SNo     Name FED RtgI RtgN Club/City Pts. n w we w-we K rtg+/-
1 1   GM SETHURAMAN S.P. IND 2647 0   6,0 9 6 7,36 -1,36 10 -13,6
  4   GM SENGUPTA Deep IND 2575 0   6,0 9 7 6,30 0,70 10 7,0
  5   GM KARTHIKEYAN Murali IND 2530 0   6,0 9 6 5,54 0,46 10 4,6
  6   GM RASMUSSEN Allan Stig DEN 2502 0   6,0 9 6 4,78 1,22 10 12,2
5 9   IM GALYAS Miklos HUN 2473 0   5,5 9 6,5 5,63 0,87 10 8,7
That's how close it was before the start of the final round

DS: Sometime before Hastings tournament, my grandmom got seriously ill and finally she expired. We were all busy with her health and so I was somewhat out of touch from chess. Thus, in the initial rounds I was playing shaky games. But towards the end I regained my confidence. It was not much of a problem with the nerves in the critical moment.


AP: I'm sorry for your loss, Deep. That explains why a seemingly equal position went south for you in round 2 against Bobby Cheng. Can you tell us a bit more about that game?

DS: In the second round I was not expecting the Modern Defence and soon after the opening the position was equal. I kept trying to generate some play with Ne5-f4 with Qe1 ideas but my opponent simply changed the queens leading to equality. But by then I was already under severe time trouble and somehow my reflexes were not working (may be because of being out of touch for a short while). I simply blundered a pawn and then the game.

[Event "Hastings Masters op 92nd"]
[Site "Hastings"]
[Date "2016.12.29"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Sengupta, Deep"]
[Black "Cheng, Bobby Sky"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B15"]
[WhiteElo "2575"]
[BlackElo "2446"]
[Annotator "Shah,Sagar"]
[PlyCount "70"]
[EventDate "2016.12.28"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceTitle "Mega2017 Update 12"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2017.01.14"]
1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. h3 Nf6 6. Bd3 dxe4 7. Nxe4 Nxe4 8.
Bxe4 O-O 9. O-O Nd7 10. c3 e5 11. Be3 exd4 12. Bxd4 Nf6 13. Bc2 b6 14. Be5 Bb7
15. Nd4 Qd5 16. f4 c5 17. Nf3 Rad8 18. Qe1 Nh5 19. Qh4 Qc6 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. f5
Qc7 22. Rf2 Qg3 23. Re1 Qxh4 24. Nxh4 Rde8 25. Rd1 Nf6 26. fxg6 fxg6 27. Nf3
Re7 28. Bb3 Nh5 29. Ng5 Rxf2 30. Kxf2 Nf4 31. Kg3 $2 (31. g4 $1 h6 32. Ne6+
Nxe6 33. Bxe6 $11 Rxe6 34. Rd7+ Kf6 35. Rxb7 $11) 31... Nxg2 $1 $17 {Black has
just won a pawn without any compensation.} 32. Ne6+ Kh6 33. Rd3 Ba6 34. Rd2 Ne3
35. Kf4 (35. Kf3 c4 36. Ba4 Rxe6 37. Re2 b5 38. Bc2 Bb7+ 39. Kf2 Ng4+ 40. hxg4
Rxe2+ 41. Kxe2 Kg5 $19) 35... c4 $19 0-1 

I have to thank my close friend who advised that I should just play for fun this time. It was easier to deal with then since my main target was to simply enjoy each game as it comes.


AP: And that advice did you a lot of good apparently. How exactly did you unwind after the rounds?

DS: For the first time in Hasting we had a beautiful sunny weather except for a few days in between. It was nice walking down the town center when its sunny and warm (a rare thing for Europe in December). We had a superb room with sea view in the White Rock Hotel (one of the sponsor of the tournament). After the games me and my room mate Arghyadip Das (also from Kolkata, India) went to our favourtie restaurant “Mon’s Masala” somewhere close to the train station. The owner of the restaurant once lived in Kolkata and served us home made Bengali cuisine which we seldom get in Europe.

Mon Choudhary, the owner of Mon's Masala, with Deep Sengupta and Arghyadip Das

AP: A home cooked meal is always a treat. But besides the food, which one of your games from this tournament did you enjoy the most and why?

DS: I think I liked the game against Alexandr Fier in round seven. It was a Sicilian Najdorf. I went for the sharp queen side castle line. But my opponent was better prepared and soon I felt uncomfortable. However, I really liked the idea with c4-g4 and then bringing the h3 rook to a3 and defending the king. The position was extremely complex after the sacrifice of two pawns and there my opponent made a serious mistake. I won afterwards.

Formulating a master plan against better prepared opposition (picture by Lara Barnes)

Deep was proud of the idea that he found with the moves c4, g4 and Rh3xa3
[Event "Hastings Masters op 92nd"]
[Site "Hastings"]
[Date "2017.01.03"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Sengupta, Deep"]
[Black "Fier, Alexandr"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B90"]
[WhiteElo "2575"]
[BlackElo "2590"]
[PlyCount "79"]
[EventDate "2016.12.28"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceTitle "Mega2017 Update 12"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2017.01.14"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nde2 h5 8. Bg5
Be6 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. Nd5 Qd8 11. Qd3 Nd7 12. Nec3 g6 13. O-O-O Nc5 14. Qe2 {
The first new move of the game.} Bh6+ 15. Kb1 b5 16. a3 Rb8 17. h4 $5 {An
interesting idea in order to exchange the bishop on f1 via h3.} Bd7 18. g3 a5
19. Bh3 Bxh3 20. Rxh3 b4 21. Nb5 O-O 22. c4 $5 {Although objectively not the
best, Deep was proud of finding this idea.} bxa3 23. g4 $1 hxg4 (23... axb2 24.
gxh5 $40 {White king seems safe behind the black pawn, while the black king
looks quite exposed now.}) 24. Rxa3 f5 (24... Qxh4 $5) 25. Ndc3 Rb6 26. Rxa5 {
White has won an important pawn and is now clearly better.} Qxh4 27. Nxd6 Nb3
28. Rxe5 Qf6 29. c5 $1 Rxd6 (29... Qxe5 30. cxb6 $18) 30. cxd6 Qxe5 31. Qc4+
Kh8 32. Qxb3 fxe4 33. d7 Bg5 34. Qb6 g3 $2 (34... Kg7 35. d8=Q Rxd8 36. Rxd8
Bxd8 37. Qxd8 $18) 35. fxg3 (35. Qxg6 g2 36. Nxe4 $18) 35... Kg7 36. d8=Q Bxd8
37. Rxd8 Rxd8 38. Qxd8 e3 39. Qd7+ Kh6 40. Qg4 1-0

AP: Winning such a prestigious event might have left you weary. What have you been doing after the tournament was over to get back to normal routine?

DS: Right now I am quite busy making arrangements for my big day (marriage), so my usual routine is not back yet!


AP: When did you learn playing chess and how did you pursue your quest for chess mastery then on?

DS: I learnt chess at about five years of age. My father and uncle used to play it at home in the Indian version (where king could move like a knight until checked). Seeing my interest in it I was taught the basics. I picked it up quite fast and soon I won the Nationals in 1995 in U-7. However, the major stepping stone was the World U-12 Gold medal. Until then I was confused between academics or sports as a career.

The cute, yet confused, World U-12 gold medalist (Image source: Hindu

AP: Do you have an idol who has influenced you in your chess career?

DS: Vishy Anand - he is a source of inspiration for all Indian chess players.


AP: Indeed he is! And what about chess books, do you have a favourite chess book?

DS: My favorite book is My System by Aron Nimzowich


AP: And how many hours do you devote to chess every day?

DS: 5-6 hours a day on an average.


AP: There have been several analogies made between chess and life. In this context, how has chess affected you in your life? Has there been any learning? If yes, has it always been positive?

DS: That’s a complex question to answer. I have learnt a lot from being a player. I think chess teaches us some very important aspects of life. To name a few, patience, objective thinking, to deal with failures, etc., but most unique to chess is the art of calculation. To be able to calculate and assess the next few steps before making any move.


As such no negative point come to mind except sometimes too much thinking on simple situations when it's not required at all just complicates matters.

Chess teaches you the ability to calculate and assess the next few steps before making any move! (Take note of Deep's favourite thinking pose - the thumb on the chin!)

AP: Are you interested in any other sport apart from chess?

DS: I like to play badminton and table tennis but I am still an amateur at both!


AP: What are your hobbies?

DS: Reading novels (especially Fantasy and Wuxia)

Wuxia is one of Deep's favourite novels

AP: That apart, you’re about to crown the queen of your life in wedlock; how do you think would it affect your chess life?

DS: I am hoping that there isn’t any significant change in chess life and my fiance is very understanding in this matter, but only time will tell how it will all unfold.

Deep with his to-be wife Tania Thakur

AP: I asked that because I bleakly recall some players warning Vishy Anand to prepare losing 50 rating points while congratulating him on his marriage. I wanted to know how many points you are prepared to lose.

DS: Not a single one! (laughs!)


AP: Okay, jokes apart, can you give our readers a quick tip on how they can improve their game?

DS: Now a days there are several ways to improve chess even if you do not have a regular trainer. There are several online chess courses with lots of materials. Its much easier to improve now compared to the 90’s when even books were rarely seen in India. So I recommend using some of those online resources.


AP: Thanks a lot for your time, Deep. And once again, I'd like to extend my best wishes for your marriage as well as your future endeavours. 


About the Author

Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He has been an advertising copywriter and is currently pursuing a Master's in English Literature at the University of Mumbai. He loves all things German and is learning the language. He has also written scripts for experimental films.




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