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Pouya Idani wins the 1st Goa GM International 2018

by Sagar Shah - 23/10/2018

It is the second time that an Iranian came to India and won a major GM open event. The first one was by Parham Maghsoodloo at the Mumbai IIFLW event in January 2018 and now it was Pouya Idani who won the title of the 1st Goa GM international 2018.  Pouya started as the fifth seed in the event and played a very smooth tournament to emerge as the champion with a score of 8.5/10. In fact, he was completely winning in the penultimate round, but missed his chance. He had to settle for a draw. But in the last round he played his heart out, beat Karthik Venkatraman and won the event. In this report we have all the excitement of the final round, but also a lot of interesting pictures, and interviews to give you a complete feel of this chess extravaganza.

Pouya Idani's super defensive effort to win Goa GM 2018

After botching up a completely winning position in the penultimate round against Levon Babujian, Pouya Idani was in a tough situation. There were four players on a score of 7.5/9 and he was going to face the strong and talented youngster from India Karthik Venkatraman in the last round. The other two leaders Levon Babujian and Sergey Kasparov were facing each other.

The game between Babujian and Kasparov ended in a draw. This meant that the winner of Pouya and Karthik game would be the undisputed champion! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Everything was at stake in this final round encounter, but... | Photo: Niklesh Jain

...before the game Pouya Idani maintained his cool | Photo: Niklesh Jain

"Before the game began I knew that my opponent was a dangerous tactical player and hence I had to remain careful." Idani said. He started off with an off beat opening:

...a6!? This move is intended to discourage the white player from going g3 because b5 is pretty strong. But after 4.Nc3 hasn't Black just lost a tempo. Well, the black players don't think that way and after 4...d5 fight a normal game.

When Karthik played the move e4 and got his knight into the game. At this point Pouya realized that he had to be careful because things could go completely in the wrong direction

The move ...Rf8 showed that Pouya Idani was in great form. He was two pawns up and with strong purposeful moves he made sure that he took the game to its logical result.

Final ranking after round 10:

Rk.SNo NamesexFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4  TB5 Krtg+/-
GMIdani PouyaIRI2588IRI8,50,060,566,055,5071012,6
GMBabujian LevonARM2456ARM8,00,063,568,053,5061023,9
GMDeepan Chakkravarthy J.IND2540RLYS8,00,063,567,552,006109,6
GMTer-Sahakyan SamvelARM2547ARM8,00,060,065,051,008108,4
GMKasparov SergeyBLR2453BLR8,00,060,064,049,0071021,3
Raahul V SIND2294TN8,00,059,563,550,0062058,8
IMDas SayantanIND2425WB7,50,061,065,546,2561013,2
GMAmonatov FarrukhTJK2615TJK7,50,059,064,547,00710-3,4
GMPredke AlexandrRUS2615RUS7,50,059,064,046,25610-10,7
IMKarthik VenkataramanIND2525AP7,50,058,563,545,25710-1,9
IMAkash GIND2424TN7,50,056,060,543,006108,7
GMTukhaev AdamUKR2556UKR7,50,055,558,543,25610-7,9
IMRathnakaran K.IND2366RLYS7,50,051,055,040,006107,7
GMSivuk VitalyUKR2545UKR7,00,065,071,047,505103,4
GMPopov IvanRUS2611RUS7,00,062,566,543,50610-13,2
GMNeverov ValeriyUKR2488UKR7,00,060,065,543,256108,4
IMBakunts RafaelARM2427ARM7,00,057,561,540,00610-3,1
IMGusain HimalIND2384RLYS7,00,055,560,039,256108,0
GMKunte AbhijitIND2484PSPB7,00,051,556,539,00410-15,1
FMNitish BelurkarIND2295GOA7,00,051,554,036,7552015,0

Complete list of final rankings

Fireworks on the stage as the winner goes to receive his first prize | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Receiving the trophy always feels nice... | Photo: Amruta Mokal

...but sometimes giving a trophy is just as pleasant! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

With this win Idani has crossed the magical Elo barrier of 2600! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Iran chess is seeing a boom recently. You have Parham Maghsoodloo meandering around the 2700 mark. He is followed by Alireza Firouzja and Amin Tabatabaei both around the 2600 mark. When you have such youngsters, all below the age of 18, it is natural that a 23-year-old player is overshadowed. But Pouya Idani is not someone you should overlook. He is studying Pharmacy, but his focus is clearly on chess. He works hard on his game giving nearly 8-10 hours each day. As the Iranian economy has collapsed recently it is quite difficult for them to travel to many events or get an international trainer. What they lack in terms of finances, they make it up by working as team with each other. Idani, Maghsoodloo, Tabatabaei and Firouzja form quite a dangerous team and it would be interesting to see how they perform as a team at the Olympiad in two years from now. After his final game ended Pouya could have gone back to his room, relaxed, made phone calls to his loved ones, instead he came to the live commentary room and discussed both his round 9 and 10 games with us in great detail. That showed his true love for the game of chess.

Analyzing with Pouya Idani after his final round victory

Pouya Idani chose the Small Steps to Giant Improvement as the book he would like to read from the ChessBase India shop after becoming the champion! Photo: Sagar Shah

You took can order your copy now!

Armenian GM Levon Babujian had a great tournament. He scored 8.0/10, gained 23 Elo points and finished second | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Indian GM Deepan Chakkravarthy won the third prize at the tournament | Photo: Niklesh Jain

It was a tall order for Deepan to beat the top seed Martyn Kravtsiv in the last round with the black pieces but he managed to do that. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Deepan Chakkravarthy's story is inspiring. He became a GM at the age of 19 and ever since has been one of India's most promising chess players. However, eleven years later he had a rating of 2477 in August 2017. Any chess player would be disheartened. Anyone would lose hope. From being one of the best juniors, you become one of the many "normal" GMs in the world. But Deepan is an exception! He fought hard, changed his mental approach,  transformed his playing style and dedicated himself totally towards chess improvement. The result is here for all to see. In a year he has crossed 2550! At the age of 31, Deepan has for the first time in his chess career crossed the rating of 2550! How is Deepan doing this? Get a glimpse of how Deepan calculates and approaches the game of chess by watching him analyze his last round victory of Martyn Kravtsiv in this video. Deepan beat Kravtsiv and finished 3rd at the Goa GM International 2018.

Samvel Ter-Sahakyan (left) started off with 5.0/5 and then lost two games. However, he didn't let that affect him and in the last three rounds, won all three of his games and finished fourth with 8.0/10. In the last round he beat Vitaly Sivuk. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Sergey Kasparov finished fifth | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Sergey Kasparov is a well known GM. Of course a chess player he is extremely solid and hardly ever loses, but he is also famous because he shares his surname with the great Garry Kasparov! In this interview (above) we ask Sergey about his experience of playing in India and also about his two openings Benko Gambit for Black and the Maroczy Sicilian with 5.f3. We also ask Sergey about his meetings with Garry Kasparov and if there was any interesting incident that he can remember of with the 13th World Champion!

Raahul VS played a fantastic event. He beat GM Valeriy Neverov in the last round and got his final IM norm. Raahul now has three IM norms and a rating of somewhere around 2380. He will be India's next International Master very soon! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Raahul was the only player in the tournament to make a norm. It remains a question as to why only one norm was made in such a strong event where you had 22 GMs and 26 IMs. Well, a lot has to do with the number of players below the rating of 2000 that were allowed to play in the A-category. As per the circular, the A-category is only for players above 2000 Elo. But in this particular scenario there were 288 players and only 143 were above 2000. It is clear that in India a lot of lower rated players want to match their wits against higher rated opponents and do not want to play in the B and C category. On one hand this is boosting Indian chess because a lot of youngsters get a feel of what it is like to play against GMs and IMs. But on the other hand the norm aspirants have very less chance of playing strong opponents getting their IM/GM norms. What is the solution for the same? We asked the Secretary of AICF Bharat Singh Chauhan and this is what he had to say:

Bharat Singh speaks about the rating cut off in the A-category from 6 minutes 30 seconds onwards

Abhijit Kunte didn't lose a single game at the event, but he lost 15 Elo points and ended with a score of 7.0/10 and six draws | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Swati Ghate was the best female player in this tournament. She gained 35 Elo points and beat some very strong opponents like Vignesh NR | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Local lad Nitish Belurkar beat GM Vitaliy Bernadskiy in the last round and finished 20th. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The ChessBase India Juniors annotator Arhan Anand scored 4.5/10 and gained 92 Elo points from this event | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Talented Indian youngster Savitha Shri would have wanted the tournament to go better for her. She lost 39 Elo points. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Bharat Singh Chauhan and Ravindra Dongre in a serious mode! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The closing ceremony function was excellently executed with music, dance and frolic! | Photo: Amruta Mokal
The entire closing ceremony of the 1st Goa GM international streamed live on Youtube by ChessBase India


Shibin Benny won a crucial final round against Prasath KR and with 9.0/10 emerged as the champion.

Top three prize winners of the tournament - (from left to right): 2nd placed Vishrut Parekh, winner Shibin Benny, third place Ranjith Kalaiyarasan | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Rank after round 10

Rk.SNo NameTypFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4  TB5 Krtg+/-
Shibin K BennyIND1516KER9,061,566,059,00953,02044,0
Parekh VishrutIND1287GUJ9,059,063,056,50851,040237,2
Ranjith KalaiyarasanIND1483TN8,563,569,057,25855,02045,2
Rajat YadavIND1449MP8,563,067,555,00854,52052,0
Prasath K RIND1482TN8,563,067,555,00854,02050,6
Devi Das Suresh PaiIND1532KAR8,560,064,555,75852,02014,2
Ravi ChopraIND0UP8,063,068,051,00854,5
Aanandha Kumar M SIND1475TN8,062,567,551,75753,52040,8
Satyam PrakashIND1555DEL8,062,067,050,75753,52019,8
Shanmugasundaram G.IND1549TN8,058,563,050,00750,52011,4
Sivathanujan SSRI1535SRI8,057,562,548,50849,54019,2
Gopikrishnan SS50IND1524TN8,056,560,548,50749,0206,8
AFMDhanush Ram MU11IND1331KAR8,056,056,541,50748,040135,2
Sakthi Subash A SU15IND1556TN8,054,559,547,25747,04010,8
Shwetank SaumyaIND1166BIH8,053,558,046,00746,540181,6
Suman YaddanapudiIND1504AP7,561,066,046,75652,02018,8
Pednekar AyushU15IND1298GOA7,560,563,544,75752,040133,2
Felix MoothedathU11IND1329TN7,560,064,043,25751,040137,6
Tiwari ShivanshIND1592MP7,559,063,544,00750,040-14,4
Murarilal KoriIND1508MP7,559,063,543,50750,52015,0

Here's what the winner of the tournament Shibin Benny had to say:

"It was a wonderful tournament. The venue, accommodation and food were all excellent. I was on 5 out of 5 rounds initially. The ship was sailing smoothly. All games until then were relatively easy. And then I lost the 6th round against a Goan player because of playing an unsound opening line by choice (it was a gamble that didn't pay off). So, after 6 rounds, I was on 5 points, which is a good place to be in at the halfway mark. I knew that I will get one more shot at the championship. Rounds 7 and 8 were really tough. Against Kesavan in Round 7, I spotted an exchange sac that completely turned the tables in my favour. This was a big moment in this tournament for me.


I was sort of happy when I saw the pairing for the 10th round. I was to play the leader Prasath K R who was on 8.5 points. The reason for happiness is - If I draw the game (which my opponent would have been happy to agree to), I would get at least 4th prize. And if I win, I would probably become the champion. I couldn't come to a decision that night - whether to agree to a draw or play for a win. But, after I woke up in the morning, I did some calculation to see how much money is at stake. I concluded that I have not got much to lose, and would earn so much more if I were to win. Moreover, I couldn't stand the thought of chickening out to agree to a draw without having tried at all to win. That was it - my mind was made up. I'm playing for a win. The game was really interesting. I got an advantage out of the opening, but it was about to wane off. That was when I saw this unclear rook sac that was worth a look. Having checked the options, I decided to play it, and it came off. Well, that was it. It was a great moment. This was my 2nd consecutive huge prize in 2 months. I am definitely going to play the Goa tournament every year, hopefully in B category next year and A category later on."

We congratulate Shibin for not chickening out, but actually fighting hard in the final round to become the champion! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

After the prize ceremony ended we tried to get in touch with Shibin Benny, but he had to leave in a rush to catch his flight. Hence we interviewed the second placed Vishrut Parekh. Vishrut has an Elo of 1287 and gained 237 Elo points in the tournament. If you look at his rating graph it is quite surprising:

He had a rating of 1200, then moved to 1400+ then came down again to 1200, once again increased his Elo to 1400, brought back down and now once again gained 237 Elo points. Such fluctuations are not very common.

We interviewed Vishrut after the tournament, but at that point we were not aware of this rating fluctuations. We just asked him to show us his best game from the tournament:

Vishrut Parekh shows his best game from the event

A huge congratulations to Kishore Bandekar and his team for putting up a spirited effort in organizing one of India's finest GM tournaments. The effort involved was mammoth and being the first time that they organized an event of this stature, we have to give a huge round of applause for all that they have achieved! | Photo: Amruta Mokal
Kishore Bandekar speaks about how this big festival was organized

ChessBase India was the media partner of this event and we brought you daily reports. Here are the links of the previous ones just in case you have missed them:

Read previous reports:

Round 1: No less than Batumi

Round 2: 6-year-old prodigy and 12-year-old Veteran

Round 3+4: What is Troitsky's line?

Round 5: Who said GMs and IMs do not blunder

Round 6+7: Madhya Pradesh domination 

Round 8: An Iranian, an Ukrainian and an Armenian

Round 9: Being ambitious sometimes works, sometimes doesn't

We would like to end our coverage of the Goa International 2018 with a very special and talented personality.

Beverly is a chess artist. She has done some amazing sketches not just related to chess but also other social issues. Her work is always nicely spiced with creative art, humour and wit! Check this video to know more about her talent and her chess connection.

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