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CBIJ #11: What it takes to become a national champion?

by Avathanshu Bhat - 25/10/2018

This weeks edition of CBIJ brings to you some important news! Manish Anto Cristiano is one of the many shining stars of Indian Chess. He was the under-11 national champion in 2016 and in his bid to qualify for the World Youth Championships in India in 2019 he played the U-17 Nationals, being just 13 years old! He was so close to a podium finish but in the end he had to settle for the fourth spot. Irrespective of that, he has his own special journey to share! Do read that, and don't miss out on his games, annotated by the boy himself!The Bournvita Chess Tournaments were a big hit in their time; read about one man's vision to revive it with a bang! Lastly, try your hand at this week's very interesting Trivia. Enjoy! 

Praful Zaveri - A chess organizer with a vision

Praful Zaveri, the tournament director of the IIFLW International tournament held in Mumbai every year

He is a very familiar face in chess by now. He is one of the most important people who is really shaping up Indian chess. He seeks to provide the perfect environment for chess players to play in. He is IA Praful Zaveri, the man behind the splendid IIFL tournaments and the most ambitious organizer around! He has already brought about quite a change; the first IIFL tournament was revolutionary, in one sense, as Indian chess had never quite seen such extravagance. Now, he is reviving a series of tournaments that first reared the chess thrill in India for Juniors, the Bournvita Inter School Tournaments. In its time, it was the biggest inter-school tournament in Asia! Praful Zaveri is bringing it back, and even bigger than its predecessor! Read on for an interview with the man.


Avathanshu Bhat (AB): You are one of the most well-known faces in chess as an organizer. Your tournaments are always conducted well, and have a level of class as well. How do you manage all of that?

PZ: First of all I am a chess player before an organizer. I know that it is difficult for chess players to give their best without good conditions and hence I always try to create the perfect atmosphere for all the players to give their 100%. A trophy or medal won by a player, especially little children, is priceless and there can be no tag attached to it. My idea of presenting unique trophies and starting the under-13 category is to ensure that these kids will cherish their victories for a lifetime.


AB: Your prestigious IIFL Tournaments now have U-13 sorted category. What made you go for a below 13 years category?

Swapnil and Raunak, winners of IIFl 1st Edition! | Photo: Priyadarshan Banjan

PZ: I owe the birth of IIFL Mumbai Junior (U-13) International Chess Tournament to Dubai Junior International Chess Tournament. In the year 2014 I had taken my 3 students to participate in this tournament. This is an U-14 tournament and is considered as not only one of the best chess events for kids in the world but also the richest with a prize fund of US $ 10,000. My students, Ridit Nimdia, Soham Palkar and Rahat Mhatre performed amazingly well beyond the expectations of everyone. Ridit tied for joint second place (his only loss was against the eventual winner, FM Assaubayeva, Bibisara, rated around 2100 at the time and who is a full-fledged FM now. Ridit missed a draw in a Rook ending against her), and won a cash prize of approx Rs.50,000/-, Soham secured 10th position and got a prize of USD 100 and Rahat came 16th with huge gain of rating points.

Praful Zaveri with his students Ridit, Soham and Rahat along with IA Bajrani

Ridit Nimidia, who came Joint 2nd in this tournament

From that point I had nurtured a dream that why not have a much bigger and better event? Soon, the dream got a wing to fly as Karan Bhagat and Shilpa Bhagat - the owners of IIFL - liked the vision I shared to them at Asian Schools in Taiwan (you were also the part of the team!) and the rest is history. Chess is getting younger and younger and I personally feel that 13 is the age when young kids nearly peak in their chess prowess. This is the reason, I decided to go for U-13 category.

The Asian Schools tournament which Praful Sir is talking about! How many stars can you spot in this picture? Let us know!

Looking back after 3 editions, I really feel proud that my decision was spot on! Of the 3-champions we have had, 2 in Raunak Sadhwani and Gukesh have become full-fledged IMs and Pranav V also has an IM norm!! I am of the firm belief that few years down the line, we would definitely see an IIFL U-13 champion, emulating Anand! (Amazingly, Anand is the Patron of this event!).


AB: The Bournvita Inter-School Chess Tournament was the biggest Inter-School tournament in Asia, in its time. It was, however, discontinued a few years ago, and chess in Mumbai sort of came to a halt. Tell me something about your plans with restarting this traditional inter-school tournaments and about the legacy of the Bournvita events.

PZ: Besides the legacy of Zandu Canteen, the chess boom in Mumbai can be attributed to Vinay Shetty for introducing Bournvita Inter-School Chess Tournament in the year 1995 and to a certain extent, the team of Bandra Chess Club in Satish Thipsay, Kapil Udeshi, Geeta Punjabi for holding Parle-G Inter-School Chess Championship for a period of 3-years from 1998).

With the introduction of Bournvita Inter-School Chess Tournament, Vinay Shetty made chess a much-sought after sports! The event was conducted in 4-categories: U-8, U-10, U-12 and U-14 during the Diwali holidays with a classical time-control. I feel privileged and honored to be the part of 1st and last edition of the event as the Chief Arbiter. With a modest beginning of 440 players (Patuck Technical School, Santacruz) in the 1st edition, the numbers swelled to a whopping 2200 in the year 2004 (the last few editions were held at Prabhodhankar Thackeray Sports Complex, Vile Parle) before it died an untimely death.

A flashback to the Bournvita Tournaments. Can you guess who the man giving away the prize is and little boy who is receiving it?

Such was the effect of this event that parents used to plan their Diwali holidays only after getting the schedule! Whatever big names in Indian Chess we have it from Mumbai in IM Aditya Udeshi, IM Prasanna Rao, IM Sagar Shah are all a product of this system.


The first prize for each of the winners in the 8-categories (Boys and Girls) was a 50 Sterling Pound scholarship from the London School of Economics and an incentive to play the Nationals with entry fee sponsored by Vinay Shetty. In addition, top 20/30 players had an opportunity to take part in a simultaneous display against the greats of Mumbai and Indian chess. This exposure of 10-years had certainly rubbed on budding young chess players and they were able to reach great heights.


I cherish all these wonderful memories but the one, which is etched in my mind forever is the visit of Kumar Mangalam Birla and Mrs. Neerja Birla (last edition of 2004). We were preparing for the early morning round and someone guided him to me as the one who was managing this event as the Chief Arbiter. He came to me and introduced himself and thereafter the following words of his keeps ringing in my years "You have my compliments for managing a crowd of 2200 kids. My daughter (Ananya) is enjoying the event"! Meeting this man out of blue made me speechless and also by the humility shown! I did nothing better than just to shake hands with him and barely managed to say 'Thank you Sir!"


We also had a special visitor in the then Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Late Sunil Dutt Saheb (co-incidentally, on the same day as Kumar Mangalam Birla) and he was also amazed that chess could bring in so many kids together! He was not keeping well (he died the following year in May 2005) and had a great difficulty in walking. However, he walked down all the way to the basement arena and told me "Beta Bahut Badhiya - keep it up"!


The untimely demise of this event was a big loss for the chess fraternity of Mumbai and I wish I could turn back the clock. I tried reviving the event in the year 2008 but failed in my attempt to keep the momentum going. Now 14-years down the line, we see a silver lining emerging from these dark clouds as this Inter-School tournament will be revived in the new Avatar of 'Maharashtra State Schools Chess Championship 2018' at state-of-the-art - Nehru Centre, Worli from 14-18 November, 2018.

The first edition of Bournvita had brought 440 children together and, it will be a big gain if we manage to bring in 500 players from all over the State! And, do not be amazed if the numbers swelling to 1000+. For chess has that inherent ability to spring surprises!! I have a gut feeling that this event is going to be a huge success as a quirk fate and co-incidence will see it being revived on children's day and that too at Nehru Centre! Chacha Nehru must be definitely be smiling in heavens.

The Nehru Centre in Worli which will be the venue for the State Schools 2018!

To be very honest, the event of this magnitude has become a possibility only because of the co-operation of South Mumbai Chess Academy (SMCA) and IIFL Wealth. The founders duo of FM Balaji and Nagesh Guttula from SMCA and myself from ICS have decided to work in close co-operation is staging meaningful chess events (our vision is one rating event a month!) in Mumbai and across the country. Avathanshu, you were a part of the 1st rating event conducted by us in the recently concluded State Amateur and now we have 10 rating events lined-up from November 2018 onwards!


I have to assure you that State Schools 2018 will set a new benchmark in chess organization. SMCA and ICS have decided that the event would be held in a befitting manner. As you are aware, that the entire arena of Nehru is air-conditioned and we want children to experience not only the best of the playing conditions (we are going to have 120 games live! Top 10 boards in each of the 12-categories) in par with international chess tournaments but as also to explore the rich heritage of country in display at this venue. Further, each and every participant of State Schools would be granted a minimum discount of Rs.1000/- on the entry fee for participation in IIFL Wealth Mumbai International Chess Tournament 2018. I feel that this is an incentive enough to attract the kids from all over Maharashtra!

As of now we do not have a sponsor (The tournament budget is 25.00 Lakhs minimum) and, I hope that someone from the likes of Bournvita or Parle-G reads this article!

We have taken a big challenge to set the ball rolling and here I would like to quote Panditji "There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open"! I am sure that ChessBase India has a big reach and Corporates would definitely rope in to revive one of the biggest sporting event in Mumbai. Wish us Good Luck!


AB: Lastly, what advice would you give to all the Juniors who will be playing this tournament?

PZ: I always advise kids to just go and 'enjoy' the game. As for aspiring chess players, I would advise them to work hard to achieve success for there are no short-cuts to this road.

I conclude with this quote: "Think, Think! Only Intelligence is not enough!


Indeed sir, idle intelligence is not enough! ChessBase India wishes you success and best of luck for organizing all the tournaments to come.

Manish Anto Cristiano, the former National Champion under-11:

Manish Anto Cristiano at the IIFL Juniors that was held last year

Manish Anto Cristiano is just 13 years old, but he participated in the under-17 nationals and missed a place on the podium by a whisker. He played marvelously, as his games will show, but unfortunately, he had to settle for a draw in his last round game against Vedant Panesar, who went on to win. The boy is still very competent, and proved it by winning the U-11 Nationals in Raipur in 2016. His potential is easily visible in his games, and I vividly remember him winning the event.

A screenshot recalling the moment! (Left to Right: Kriti Patel, Manish Anto Cristiano, yours truly and Raahil Mullick)

Manish and I at the World Youth Chess Championship, U-8, at Dubai.

Here is an interview with Manish, which shows his love for the game more than anything else!


AB: You played the Nationals U-17 recently. However, you did not come in the top three, missing it by one position. Were you upset when you realized that?

Manish Anto Cristiano (MAC): I was very disappointed that I could not make it into the top three. But whatever happened has happened and I just don’t want to think deep into that. I learned a lot from my mistakes, I moved away from that and I am determined to play better the next time.


AB: Your last round in the Nationals was against Vedant Panesar, which was a crucial game. Were you tensed? How was it for you?

MAC: I was a bit tensed during my game against Vedant Panesar as anyone would have been before a crucial game and I also had to win to be on the top two spots. But after the game started, I did not think about anything other than the game. So it was quite relaxing and I was able to play quite a good game.


AB: What preparation did you go through for this all-important tournament?

MAC: Normally I do not prepare the openings much. But I prepared my openings especially for this tournament. As I am very eager to play World Youth Chess Championship 2019 in Under 18 category in Indian soil, I was motivated to work harder than usual.


AB: Who is your idol? Why?

MAC: My idol is former World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov as I am very amazed by his deep calculating abilities, remarkable sacrifices, his ability to evaluate the position accurately and his fearlessness.


AB: What do you think are your strengths? What about weaknesses?

MAC: I think that my strengths are my knowledge in end games and the ability to evaluate the position quite correctly. My weakness is, I do not calculate variations very deeply and play the moves very fast.

These are the collection of trophies Manish had by the time he was 10! | Photo: Manish Anto Cristiano

AB: Some years back, you won the U-11 Nationals, amidst a tough crowd. Could you recount the experience?

MAC: How can I forget that wonderful moment? I felt that it was going to be a very good tournament before the start. So I was confident that I can play very well. I had a very similar situation as to the Under-17 Nationals this year. To get into the top three spots, I had to win my last round against Sreeshwan who was leading the tournament by half a point. I played a very good game to defeat him and after that I had a better buchholz tie break score over Pranesh and got the first place. After becoming Under 11 National Champion, I was very happy and excited about the next year’s Asian Youth Chess Championship and World Cadets Chess Championship that I was going to play. It was more satisfying that I won the title in the presence of Gukesh, Raunak Sadhwani, Bharath Subramaniyam, Pranav, Aaryan Varshney and others.


AB: Who all would you give credit to for this achievement?

MAC: First of all, it is God almighty. Without his blessings nothing is possible. I would give credit to my parents who gave all the support that I required, my coaches GM Aleksander Goloshchapov of Ukraine and arguably the best Indian Chess coach GM R B Ramesh who have been helping and guiding me in the right ways. The credit goes to the Rector and Correspondent Rev Fr Gregory Devarajan and the Principal Rev Fr Philip Louie of my school Don Bosco School of Excellence, Egmore, Chennai for their encouragement and blessings for me. My friends and well-wishers do deserve the credit.

Training with his personal coach GM Aleksander Goloschapov | Photo: Manish Anto Cristiano

AB: Who are your closest friends in the chess circuit?

MAC: My closest friends in the chess circuit are Rohith Krishna, Pranesh and Bharath Subramaniyam


AB: What are your other hobbies?

MAC: My other hobbies are reading books and playing football.


AB: Is there anyone else in your family that are also professionally into chess?

MAC: My father Prof Francis Xavier is a Former University Chess player, but he has not chosen chess as his career. My elder brother, F Beckham Joe Roshan has a FIDE rating of 1220 but he is not professionally into chess. He is preparing for the IIT-JEE.


AB: What do you do after a tough loss?

MAC: I won’t feel very bad after a loss if I had given a tough fight. But if I had allowed the game to slip out of my hands easily, I feel terrible for it. I go for a walk or read a book to divert my mind from that loss.


AB: How have your parents helped you mentally for tournaments?

MAC: My parents have helped me mentally for tournaments by relaxing my mind by telling jokes and stories to me.


AB: Lastly, why do you love chess? What made you like the game?

MAC: I love chess because it is what makes me happy. The way the pieces move, especially the interesting way the knight moves which made me like the game of chess.

Sharing his love for the game with 40 other players, simultaneously! | Photo: Manish Anto Cristiano


AB: Which is your best game?

MAC: My best game that I have played till now is my game against WGM Bhakti Kulkarni in the Bangkok GM Open 2018.

My most favorite game from the Under-17 Nationals 2018 was my 10th round game against Vinay Thomas Abraham.

Editor’s Pick:

You are playing against a player much stronger than you and he has just played his first, unexpected move. You begin to worry already. You may even peek at the adjacent boards, and be surprised to see they have zoomed ahead into the middle-game. Eventually, you pick up a piece with great trepidation and set it down to what seems like a good square. You and he play a few more moves like this, and just when you think you’ve made up to it, something goes horribly wrong. It may be a move you hadn’t seen, an attack or simply just a blunder. Your mounting confidence suddenly dissipates as you try to work out the motive behind this move.


If it is at an extreme, and you’re that kind of person, you may be cursing your luck and thinking of your unhappy fate. Unrealistically, you may just ‘wish’ that your opponent’s king suddenly becomes mated, or he loses his queen, or something along those lines. Time travel, unfortunately, doesn’t exist (yet), and you will find yourself wishing that it did.


In the game, you will probably slog through it, until almost all the pieces are gone, and your doom is nearing. By now, your mind has become chutney, and your opponent, who is well aware of that, smartly plays a piece. Suddenly, the tables have turned! You jump out of your chair as you realize your opponent has made a grave mistake, indeed the realization of it is turning him green. Your hands shaking, you play your move with a furrowed brow, and you know you’ve hit the jackpot. The resignation is showing on your enemy’s face and he declares it by knocking over his own king.

You are delighted! You cannot contain you sheer joy, the childlike excitement and even a bit of smug pride at your victory! People now press towards you, inquiring about the game result. They are shaking you vigorously, and it goes a bit out of hand. You are surrounded and everything becomes a blur….until you wake up in shock! You see your mother pleading with you to wake up from your sleep and get ready for the next round. In a dazed state of mind, you accept what happened with a sigh, and move on.


Everyone has their own unique dreams! There are so many different kinds of dreams, and it is also a belief that they tell you something about the past, present or future. Thus, this week’s Trivia question is: “What kind of dreams do you have about chess? What do you think they mean?” Let us know below in the comments section; your opinions matter!

About the author:

Avathanshu Bhat has been writing about chess for well over a year now. He has published innumerable articles on ChessBase India and his reports have been well received by the audience. He is the editor-in-chief of ChessBase India Juniors. His main intention is to bring the best junior players of our country into the limelight with his writings. Here is some of the work he has done in the past:

Life of a young chess player

Joy of losing

G. Akash wins the Grand Hyderabad affair

10-year-old boy's deep calculation (69,000+ hits on Youtube)

12-year-old chessentrepreneur Avathanshu Bhat

Chess species classified

Hemant Sharma becomes International Master

Colours of Black and White

Champion from Chudamani - IM Sidhant Mohapatra

Blindfold simul by Timur Gareyev

A letter from 2050

ChessBase India Juniors #01

ChessBase India Juniors #02

ChessBase India Juniors #03

ChessBase India Juniors #04

ChessBase India Juniors #05

ChessBase India Juniors #06

ChessBase India Juniors #07

ChessBase India Juniors #08

ChessBase India Juniors #09

ChessBase India Juniors #10

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