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World Juniors 2018 Round 1: Isha Sharma stuns WGM Hojjatova, Indians off to a good start

by Sagar Shah - 06/09/2018

The World Juniors is an extremely exciting tournament where some of the best junior players in the world of chess have gathered together in Gebze, Turkey from the 5th to the 16th of September 2018. The competition is stiff with the likes of Maghsoodloo, Van Foreest, Donchenko, Martirosyan, Esipenko, Firouzja and others participating. However, Indians are no less. Three of our GMs are extremely strong - Aravindh Chithambaram, Karthikeyan Murali and S.L. Narayanan. We also have Abhimanyu Puranik, Karthik Venkatraman, Harsha Bharathakoti and a few other strong players. In the girls section Sakshi Chitlange, Mahalakshmi lead the pack, but the surprise of day one was surely young Isha Sharma from Karnataka who won an excellent fighting game against the sixth seeded Aydan Hojjatova. Report from Turkey by IM Sagar Shah with photos by Amruta Mokal.

I was born in 1990. 2010 was my last chance to represent the country at the World Junior Championships. The event was being held in a small town called Chotowa in Poland. Although the expenses were pretty high, I convinced my father to sponsor me for the event and went to Poland to take part in this championship. Eight years later, I would say this was one of the best decisions that I ever made. I got to play with some of the best juniors in the world and the atmosphere was awe-inspiring. It was Dmitry Andreikin who won that event and as we all know now he is one of the best GMs in the world of chess right now having qualified for the Candidates in 2014. The thing which separates World Juniors from other events is that many of the participants are nearing the age when they are making the leap towards the elite. At the same time they have the air of freshness in their game and when you put them all together in one room you are bound to get some high quality fighting chess.


The World Juniors 2018 Championships for the open section and the girls is taking place from the 4th to the 16th of September 2018 in Gebze, Turkey. A total of 263 players (165 in the open and 98 in the girls) from 62 federations are taking part. The organizers were close to breaking the record of 65 federations, but players from few countries backed out at the last moment. The Open section is quite strong with 25 grandmasters, 40 International Masters and 55 FIDE Masters. In the girls section we have 2 IMs and 4 WGMs. Parham Maghsoodloo (2649) leads the pack in the open section while in the girls it is Stavroula Tsolakidou (2393). I tried to find how strong the tournament is by checking the top juniors list for September 2018 from the FIDE website.

This is the list of the top 20 juniors in the world of chess right now. Wei Yi, Duda, Artemiev and Xiong have given the World Juniors 2018 a miss. The top seed is the fifth highest rated junior in the world Parham Maghsoodloo. In all we have 9 of the juniors from top 20 in the world playing right now. With Maghsoodloo, Van Foreest, Donchenko, Karthikeyan, Martirosyan, Esipenko, Xiangyu, Firouzja, Petrosyan and Chithambaram taking part, the tournament is highly exciting. Who do you think will win it? Let us know about it in the comments section below. 


In the girl's section, these are the top 20 players in the world as on 1st of September 2018 as per the FIDE website:

The top seed of the girl's section is Stavroula Tsolakidou, International Master from Greece. In terms of the world ranking, she is number seven, which means six of the best girl juniors are not playing. From top 20 girls in the world as on 1st September 2018, six are participating in Turkey.


Amruta and I travelled from the ChessBase office in Hamburg, Germany to Sabeha Gokcen airport. We preferred this over Istanbul, as Gebze, the place where the tournament is being held, is just 20-25 kilometres from the Sabeha Gokcen airport.

We were greeted by these two young gentlemen at the airport. It always feels nice when you have someone who comes to pick you up at the airport.
Check out the artistic chess board that was gifted to all the participants of the World Juniors 2018

The rooms are not extravagant, but quite compact and sufficient for a good stay!

After arriving the first people whom we met were two of India's best players Karthikeyan Murali and S.L.Narayanan and enjoyed a nice dinner with them

India has sent a contingent of 16 players - 10 boys and 6 girls and two coaches - IM Ravi Teja and WGM Aarthie Ramaswamy. The tournament is being held in the Ramada Hotel. The Indian team is hosted in the Lamec hotel which is a 20 minute drive from the venue. In the boys section we have Karthikeyan Murali who is the fourth seed of the event, Aravindh Chithambaram, who won the bronze medal in World Juniors 2017, is the tenth seed and S.L. Narayanan is the thirteenth. India has a realistic chance in the open section for a medal. In the girls section our best player is Sakshi Chitlange who begins as the 12th seed. But at an event like the World Juniors where everyone is young, hungry and ambitious ratings and seedings hardly matter as proved by WCM Isha Sharma. Isha with a rating of 2012 began as the 55th seed, but played a tenacious game to beat the sixth seed WGM Aydan Hojjatova (2356).

After the opening, nothing really was going Isha's way. But she clung on, didn't give up and fought back in style to get the full point | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Isha is 17 years old and a few months ago had a rating of around 2150. The past few months have been tough for her as she lost nearly 150 Elo points. But instead of giving in, the girl has fought hard and worked on improving her game. The results are bound to come and her win against WGM Hojjatova is a sign of the things to come.

Of course, we had to interview Isha after her stupendous win!

Aravindh Chithambaram gives a nice smile to the camera!

Karthikeyan had very difficulty to dispatch his opponent after he made an opening inaccuracy:

The coach with his student! IM Ravi Teja (right) is just 25 years old. He had a big wish to play the World Juniors, but was not able to. Now he fulfills his dream as being the coach of the team. In the picture with him is India's latest GM Karthik Venkatraman.

Boys from Maharashtra. GM Abhimanyu Puranik (right), Nubairshah Shaikh (left forward) and Shailesh Dravid. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Parham Maghsoodloo (2649) is the top seed in the open section | Photo: Amruta Mokal

IM Stavroula Tsolakidou (2393) is the top seed in the girls section. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The reigning national champion Harsha Bharathakoti has a rating of 2474. He already has his three GM norms. Can he achieve the remaining 26 Elo points to become India's next GM. If he does achieve it, for sure he would also be standing on the podium at the end of the tournament. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Three Indian players are sponsored by the Government of India. They are the top three players of National under-19 held in 2017. In the open section top three players were Harsha Bharathakoti, Karthik Venkatraman and Krishna Teja. All three from Andhra Pradesh. While in the girls section the national champion was Mahalakshmi, followed by Sakshi Chitlange and Isha Sharma. Aravindh Chithambaram got a direct seeding at the event thanks to his bronze medal last year at the World Juniors. Rest of the players are donor entries.

Harshit Raja won his first round and will now face Amin Tabatabaei in round two | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Iran has some great firepower in the form of Firouzja, Tabatabaei and Maghsoodloo. All three are the members of the national team for the Batumi Olympiad 2018 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The author of these lines congratulates the latest Asian Juniors Champion and Thailand Open winner Novendra Priasmoro. Novendra is one of the biggest talents from Indonesia. He has a current rating of 2498 and already has two GM norms. He has a great chance of becoming a GM at this event. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Earlier in the day, the Mayor of Gebze Adnan Köşker opened the tournament by making the first move | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Results of Indian players in round 1:

Rd.Bo.No. NameFEDPts. ResultPts. NameFED No.
144GMKarthikeyan Murali IND0 1 - 00 FMPigeat Alexandre FRA86
11010GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr. IND0 1 - 00 FMTasdogen Dincer TUR92
11212GMLiang Awonder USA0 1 - 00 FMShailesh Dravid IND94
11395FMSevgi Volkan TUR0 0 - 10 GMSunilduth Lyna Narayanan IND13
123105Taalaibekov Tagir KGZ0 0 - 10 GMPuranik Abhimanyu IND23
127109Gulbeyaz Emir TUR0 0 - 10 IMKarthik Venkataraman IND27
14040IMHarsha Bharathakoti IND0 1 - 00 FMTuna Alp TUR122
15050IMMohammad Nubairshah Shaikh IND0 ½ - ½0 Tarlabasi Emirhan TUR132
15656IMRaja Harshit IND0 1 - 00 Ismayilov Muhammad AZE138
177159Akin Kadir TUR0 0 - 10 IMKrishna Teja N IND77
166WGMHojjatova Aydan AZE0 0 - 10 WCMIsha Sharma IND55
11212WIMChitlange Sakshi IND0 1 - 00 Nastase Andreea-Cristina ROU61
11616WIMAlinasab Mobina IRI0 ½ - ½0 Meenal Gupta IND65
12170Kyrkjebo Marte B. NOR0 ½ - ½0 WIMMahalakshmi M IND21
13232WIMVarshini V IND0 1 - 00 WIMNassr Lina ALG81
13636WIMIvana Maria Furtado IND0 1 - 00 Catal Uktenur TUR85


Overview of Indian performance:

4GMKarthikeyan Murali2605IND11,028Open
10GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.2578IND11,031Open
13GMSunilduth Lyna Narayanan2573IND11,05Open
23GMPuranik Abhimanyu2524IND11,010Open
27IMKarthik Venkataraman2519IND11,011Open
40IMHarsha Bharathakoti2474IND11,044Open
50IMMohammad Nubairshah Shaikh2443IND½0,586Open
56IMRaja Harshit2419IND11,051Open
77IMKrishna Teja N2356IND11,024Open
94FMShailesh Dravid2325IND00,0110Open
12WIMChitlange Sakshi2279IND11,024Girls
21WIMMahalakshmi M2213IND½0,539Girls
32WIMVarshini V2173IND11,030Girls
36WIMIvana Maria Furtado2144IND11,032Girls
55WCMIsha Sharma2012IND11,019Girls
65Meenal Gupta1963IND½0,546Girls


For the International report check out the website.

From the ChessBase office in Germany...

...Amruta and I are now in Turkey! The nomadic journey continues! Stay tuned for daily reports from the World Juniors 2018. Let us know who you think will win this event in the comments section below.