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World Champ Anand Opens World Junior in India Print E-mail
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim   
August 3, 2011
Anand350.jpgChennai, India -- GM Ray Robson got off to a good start in the 50th World Junior (August 2-15) Tuesday after defeating one of the many competitors from the host country in a game that ended when his opponent realized he could not stop Robson from promoting.

“One down and 12 to go,” a relieved Robson said Tuesday after the first round of the 13-round event, which launched Monday amid colorful festivities here in this city on the eastern seaboard of India. Robson drew his second game to IM Firat Burak of Turkey.

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The event kicked off Monday with a word of encouragement from Viswanathan Anand, the current world champion who hails from Chennai, which was heralded in opening ceremonies as the “Mecca of Indian chess.”

Speaking before a largely reverent crowd at a local auditorium, Anand recalled his own experience in World Junior championships of years gone by -- including several he lost before he won the event 1987. The message about the importance of persistence in the face of defeat was implicit in the fact that Anand reigns as world champ today.

The path to victory wasn’t as clear back in 1984, when Anand played his first World Junior in Finland.

“It was a very exciting tournament,” Anand said. “It was the first time I got to play with all these big stars. I was one of the youngest participants, and you always knew that several World Junior champions had gone on to become World Champions.”

But Anand emphasized the fact that the value of the tournaments go beyond that which can be confined to the chessboard.

“Some of the best friendships you forge are at these events,” Anand said. “I think these will be very special memories for you.”

That’s what Ben Hercules, 20, of South Africa, said he had in mind when he ventured here to represent his country in the tournament. He is majoring in psychology and economics.

“I suppose its mostly the traveling experience and exposure to different countries,” Hercules said when asked what motivates youths to trek so far for a tournament that features no prize money. “I’ve never been to India. It’s very hot and it’s very different.”

For Aaron Deepak, 16, the only other American competing in the event, the tournament represented a chance to return to his roots and his birthplace. His father moved him to the United States back when Deepak was 2.

Deepak -- who has no recollection of the country and essentially views it as an American -- said the return to Chennai has afforded him the opportunity to meet for the first time certain relatives, who all want him to match or surpass his grandfather’s exploits

Deepak is the grandson of India’s first International Master and a nine-time national champion, Manuel Aaron.

”They want me to play as well as he did,” said Deepak, who lost the first round to IM Nitin S, of India. “I”ll do my best.”

The open section of the tournament features 7 GMs, 10 FMs and two IMs. In the girls section, there are 13 WIMs, 12 WFMs, two WGMs, three WCMs and one CM.

In all 194 youths from around the world are competing in the event, hosted by the Tamil Nadu State Chess Association.
 
Tournament officials said this year’s tournament represented the strongest collection of players in the tournament’s history.

As The Times of India observed: “The world junior chess championship used to be a stage that helped young talents acquire GM norms and a GM title in the last 10 years. But today, if you go by the ratings and grades of the top competitors in the recent championships, it is clear that they are no longer there to pocket any norms or a GM title.

“They want to win the championship and get noticed at the highest level for invitations from elite tournaments,” Hari Hara Nandanan wrote in a story that appeared prominently in the sports section of The Times of India.

The Times of India proudly noted the fact that Indians have dominated the World Junior and World interviews with five recent World Junior and Junior Girls Championships in recent years.

Among the recent Indian victors in the tournament is GM Pentala Harikrishna, who won the World Junior in 2004 in Kochi, India. For Hariskrishna and others who hail from India, dominating the game of chess is a matter of national pride.

“Since it is being held in India I hope that some Indian player wins,” Harikrishna told Chess Life Online. “Also world junior champion gets lot of opportunities to play in strong tournaments. I also like to see the domination of Indian juniors.”

From a strictly numerical perspective, the odds of an Indian winner are good. At this year’s tournament, 61 of the contenders in the World Junior are from India -- a fact naturally attributable to the venue. Within the Junior Girls Chess Championship, 29 of the competitors are from India.

However, it’s the strength of the player that matters, and the only Indian in the top ten of the World Junior is Baskaran Adhiban, 19, who is ranked No. 10 and rated 2542.

The top games of the 13-round tournament, which is set to last through August 16 at the Vijay Park Hotel, will be broadcast live at http://www.wjcc2011.org/ , where you can also find details on tournament standings & pairings. GM Ben Finegold is the coach of the US delegation.

 
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