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Maharashtra Chess Festival brings forth two world class matches

by Sagar Shah - 01/06/2023

As a part of the Maharashtra Chess Festival from the 1st to the 6th of June 2023 two matches between 4 world class players will take place in Nagpur. The first match is between India no.3 and the top rated player from Maharashtra GM Vidit Gujrathi taking on the 8-time Russian Champion and the accomplished player Peter Svidler. The second match is between the top rated junior from the state and one of the most promising youngsters in the world of chess Raunak Sadhwani taking on the former World Championship Challenger Nigel Short.

The title of World Champion is decided by a match. A match is a format in chess where two players are pitted against each other and play a pre-determined set of games and the one who scores the most number of points becomes the champion. While Match is an extremely important format in chess, the number of matches you see in the world of chess is quite less when you compare it to open tournaments or even Round Robin events. Why is it that the case? Well, the most logical explanation for this is the fact that the amount of money that one spends in getting together all the resources for a match is quite high and only two players get to play. While when you do an open event, the number of players who will benefit out of the organization are in hundreds, sometimes even in thousands.


But what a match provides is the excitement of two personalities going out against each other over a period of many games. It's like a story that develops. When one of the player loses a game, how will he/she try to strike back in the battle? When someone wins, what will be their next strategic move. Also for the players it results in a drastic improvement in their game. They are able to notice the gaps in their play more clearly.


Keeping all of this in mind, the Maharashtra Chess Association officials have pulled of something truly phenomenal. Because as a part of their Maharashtra Chess Festival 2023 they have organized five events:

1. GM Open tournament (above 2000 Elo) - Rs. 25,00,000

2. Below 2000 rating category tournament - Rs.10,00,000

3. Below 1600 rating category tournament - Rs.10,00,000

4. Vidit Gujrathi vs Peter Svidler - Rs.16,00,000

5. Raunak Sadhwani vs Nigel Short - Rs.5,00,000

A total of Rs.66,00,000 will be spent as prize money at the Maharashtra Chess Festival 2023. The Maharashtra Government is the main sponsor of the event along with PNG Gadgil.

One of the main reasons that this fund has been brought to chess is Parinay Fuke, the President of MCA

This is going to be a very closely contested encounter. Peter Svidler with his years of experience and also the recent success at Sigeman & Co. will definitely be a tough opponent for Vidit Gujrathi.

This will be a mouthwatering encounter. A few days ago when the match was scheduled, it felt like Vidit was a clear favourite. His Elo was 2731 and Svidler's rating was 2683. At the same time Vidit has been quite active and playing several tournaments, while Svidler has been relatively inactive. However, things have changed in the last month or so. Vidit's performance at the Sharjah Masters 2023 wasn't great. He lost 19 Elo points, while Svidler won the very strong Sigeman & Co. 2023 tournament ahead of Gukesh and Arjun. Things look much more even now. Apart from the fact that he is in good form right now, Svidler is an absolute class act. He has been the Russian champion for a record 8 times. He has played in 3 World Championship tournaments in 2002, 2005 and 2007 and he has also played in three Candidates tournaments in 2013, 2014 and 2016. He has also won the Chess World Cup back in 2011. He has reached a peak rating of 2769 in 2013. It goes without saying that if Svidler brings forth his A game, it would be extremely difficult for Vidit to handle him. On the other hand, Vidit would be motivated that the tournament is happening in his home state - Maharashtra and he will be the crowd favourite. Last time that happened, Vidit performed exceedingly well at the ChessBase India Originals Death Match against Anish Giri.

A battle of generations! Raunak was born 12 years after Nigel Short fought for the highest title against Garry Kasparov

It's the clash of generations here. 17-year-old Raunak Sadhwani takes on 57-year-old Nigel Short. It's also the first time in several decades that Nigel's rating has fallen down below 2600. But don't be fooled by numbers. Being a former World Championship challenger, three-time Commonwealth Champion and having a career high Elo of 2712, all that Nigel needs is some motivation. And facing one of the biggest talents in the world of chess is good enough motivation! Raunak is surely a slight favourite in the match given that he works very hard on chess and is a very strong rapid and blitz player. However, Nigel cannot be underestimated. If he manages to survive the first few games and get back into the groove, it would be an enjoyable match to follow. It would also provide Raunak with great experience that would definitely come in handy when he will play matches later on in his career.

The format of the match is 4 classical games, 4 rapid games and 8 blitz games. The point scoring system is 3 points for a win in the classical games, 2 points for a win in the rapid format and 1 point for the win in the blitz. The time control for the classical game is 90 minutes + 30 minutes (after move 40) with 30 seconds of increment per move. The time control for Rapid is 15 minutes + 10 seconds increment and the time control for blitz is 3 minutes + 2 seconds increment. The event is FIDE rated.

The journey from Mumbai to Nagpur

The trip began with Amruta and I meeting Vidit at the Mumbai airport. Amruta went back home, while I went together with Vidit to Nagpur!

Vidit fans are everywhere. The super GM met this wonderful family from the US who were in India for a vacation

When the opponents meet! Vidit and Peter Svidler are good friends of each other, but from 1st to 6th June they will be at each other's throats as they try and

Do super GMs ever sleep? Or they are busy revising their opening theory in their end!

Ankush Raktade of Nagpur and Vilas Mhatre of Alibaug welcome Vidit at the Nagpur airport

IA Swapnil Bansod welcomes Peter Svidler

A press conference was held on the 31st of May at the Patrakar Club of Nagpur where not only media was invited to ask quesitons, but also the colours were drawn. Vidit and Nigel Short got white in their matches against Svidler and Short respectively.

The 4 gladiators!

The media interest is quite tangible at this event

Girish Vyas (left), one of the vice presidents of Maharashtra Chess Association greets the players

In the frame (from left to right): Abhijit Kunte, Vidit Gujrathi, Bharath Sadhwani (Raunak's father), GM Swapnil Dhopade (Raunak's second), GM Raunak Sadhwani, GM Peter Svidler, and GM Nigel Short 

Video interviews and Press conference:

The press conference of both the matches
Vidit Gujrathi talks about taking on Peter Svidler in the match
Peter Svidler thinks that when it comes to openings, Vidit will surely have an edge!
"Playing Nigel Short will be a great experience for me" - Raunak Sadhwani
Nigel Short talks about how tough it is to face a young talent like Raunak Sadhwani

All photos related to both these matches can be found here.

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