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National Teams 09: a gripping affair

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 16/02/2016

Sugar, spice and everything nice -- the National Teams Championship 2016 ended with a spectacular finale that was as gripping as gripping could possibly mean. The adrenaline rush felt by not just the players, but the fans as well was a sight to behold for an observant eye! Railways-A managed to take home the title, or did they? They say things are simple but never easy. Read our illustrated report and find out what happened in the ninth and the final round!

National Teams 09: a gripping affair

How do you snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Sporting history has stood witness to a long-standing tradition of clear favourites completely dominating their game, only to botch up royally and lose. Cricket is the most followed sport in India, and who will not remember South Africa's famous choke in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup that was held in England? (Ah, and that reminds me: I still think that, in all fairness, England would have choked much earlier than the Proteas).


Chess too has examples abound at all levels -- from super GMs to the mere taluka-level tournaments -- we always have a winning position from where somehow, by divine intervention, we manage to lose the thread. Railways-A team always knew it best -- in 2011, they were all set to win the National Teams Title when their own brothers in arms Integral Coach Factory, that is a part of Railways, turned Judas Iscariot, beating Railways and knocking them off the first place!


In the ninth round of the National Teams Championship 2016 being held at KIIT University in Bhubaneshwar, Railways-A walked into the tournament hall waiting for their moment of glory. The problem was that chess is a sport, and sport is never so simple.

Just behind Railways by one win and one game-point, the young and spirited Airport Authority of India polished a clueless Tamil Nadu-B team 4-0.

All the Railways had to do was win against the not that strong LIC side to take home the ever-elusive National title.

Here is the catch: if Railways-A drew, they would end up on equal game-points as AAI, which would mean the tie will be resolved by match-points. Since AAI had won 4-0, if Railways-A drew 2-2, they would get only 1 match-point to AAI's 2.5 points! (for making more than 2.5 points in the final game). AAI will become champions!


Would this result in the undoing of Railways-A's dream run in the tournament? It all started beautifully when...

...LIC's IM Dinesh Sharma went down in flames to the might of IM Arghyadip Das.

While Arghyadip prepared for the coronation, the crowd began to see UFOs in the air...


...when the man in form IM K. Rathnakaran landed in a position where he was two pawns up! Very unusual for the maestro from Kerala, because normally, he is the one who is two pawns down!
[Event "Indian National Team Chess Championship-"]
[Site "Bhubaneswar"]
[Date "2016.02.14"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Rathnakaran, K."]
[Black "Deshmukh, Anup"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2463"]
[BlackElo "2225"]
[PlyCount "94"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[Source "MonRoi"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Be7 5. Nc3 O-O 6. a3 d6 7. Ba2 Nd4 8. Nxd4
exd4 9. Ne2 c5 10. Nf4 Bg4 11. f3 Bd7 12. Qe2 b5 13. Qf2 Kh8 14. h4 Rc8 15. g4
c4 16. g5 Ne8 17. Qxd4 Nc7 18. Qxa7 d5 19. Qf2 dxe4 20. dxe4 f5 21. Be3 Ne6 22.
O-O-O Nxf4 23. Bxf4 fxe4 24. Be5 exf3 25. Qd4 Rf7 26. g6 Bc5 27. Qc3 hxg6 28.
b4 Bf8 29. Qd2 Qe7 30. h5 g5 31. Bc3 Kg8 32. Rhe1 Be6 33. Qf2 Ra8 34. Bb2 Ra6
35. Re5 g4 36. Kb1 Rf5 37. Rde1 Rxe5 38. Rxe5 Qd7 39. Bc1 Rd6 40. Qe3 Bf7 41.
a4 Rd1 42. axb5 Qd6 43. Rc5 f2 44. Qxf2 Qh6 45. Qxf7+ Kxf7 46. Bxc4+ Ke8 47.
Re5+ Be7 0-1


His opponent IM Anup Desmukh played like he usually does: his way or the highway. And he won! Suddenly, LIC had pulled one back and the score stood 1-1, with...

...GM Sriram Jha pushing  hard against GM Deepan Chakkravarthy at the top board, and the latter was in a very critical position, battling for a draw!

Even worse for Railways: on the fourth board, the unheralded Brajesh Agarwal (2023) was close to winning  against GM Swapnil Dhopade! Why? Because Brajesh was Black and...

...and it is Black to play!

The crowd was left spell-bound as this position occurred on the board when Brajesh could have attained glory by beating India's 41st grandmaster, and sealing the victory for Airport Authority of India, who watched the game with bated breath, their hearts almost freezing!
[Event "Indian National Team Chess Championship-"]
[Site "Bhubaneswar"]
[Date "2016.02.14"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Swapnil, S Dhopade"]
[Black "Agarwal, Brajesh"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2478"]
[BlackElo "2023"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "5R2/8/R7/3b1p1p/5k2/P6K/2r5/8 b - - 0 60"]
[PlyCount "4"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[Source "MonRoi"]
60... Bg2+ (60... Rc1 $1 {Threatening a simple mate!} 61. Ra4+ Be4 62. Rxe4+
Kxe4 $19) 61. Kh4 Bc6 62. Kxh5 {and here, thought White certainly is better,
it is far from winning completely. What would you play if you were Black?} 1-0


Brajesh did not realize that he had missed his chance, but in the end, as you can see above in the game replayer, he did something inexplicable -- extend his hand towards Swapnil!

Swapnil was confused and thought: 'Maine to draw nai poocha!?' (I never asked for a draw!?). That is when he realized that Brajesh was actually resigning. GM Shyam Sundar M. of AAI, who stood beside Swapnil, could not believe it -- he actually said to Swapnil 'No, no! Don't stop, continue the game!'


The position is certainly worse for him (Brajesh) now, but it's far from clearly winning. Even GMs can go wrong in such situations. But maybe, he just couldn't take the pressure and the heat of playing strong moves against a strong opponent with so many players and fans watching with discerning eyes.


It is not easy to be a chessplayer, and that should only increase our respect for our professional players who do it again and again.

Meanwhile, Deepan defended limitlessly and held Sriram to a draw. And thus, Railways-A beat LIC 2.5-1.5, winning their first ever title!

The captain did not hide his happiness!

Team AAI were left in tears, but they came close and performed well as a unit.

A point to note is that among the top teams, AAI was the only side which did not field a reserve board! While the other teams rotated their side fluently as per their needs, which sometimes resulted in mess-ups such as this one, Visakh Nr., Stany, Shyam and Rajesh played all nine games without a break and almost pulled it off!

Long after the games had ended, the gripping finale was still in the minds of chess players and fans as they had fun discussing the various moves and possibilities.

Such events throw up many a shock result: PSPB managed to beat Team Odisha 2.5-1.5, but not before their top-board, the strong GM Deep Sengupta, suffered a debacle against...

...Manoj Kumar Panigrahi (2039).

The PSPB Women's team comfortably took home the Women's title ahead of Air India.


Let's raise a toast to the winning team: Railways-A!

Open Final Standings:

Rk. SNo Team Games   +    =    -   TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4   TB5 
1 2 Railway Sports Promotion Board - A 9 7 2 0 16 27,0 0 176,5 194,5
2 4 Airport Authority of India 9 6 3 0 15 28,0 0 172,5 188,0
3 3 Air India 9 6 2 1 14 23,0 0 180,0 198,0
4 1 Petroleum Sports Promotion Board 9 6 1 2 13 23,0 0 182,5 198,0
5 9 Delhi 9 5 1 3 11 24,0 0 164,5 180,0
6 10 West Bengal 9 5 1 3 11 22,5 0 164,0 180,0
7 7 Tamil Nadu - A 9 5 1 3 11 22,0 0 163,5 178,5
8 5 Railway Sports Promotion Board - B 9 5 1 3 11 21,0 0 185,5 203,5
9 11 Gujarat 9 5 1 3 11 18,5 0 169,0 182,0
10 6 Life Insurance Corporation 9 4 2 3 10 20,5 0 164,0 179,5

Women's Final Standings:

Rk. SNo FED Team Games   +    =    -   TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4   TB5 
1 1   Petroleum Sports Promotion Board 7 7 0 0 14 26,5 0 96,0 106,0
2 2   Air India 7 6 0 1 12 24,0 0 98,5 108,5
3 3   Tamil Nadu 7 5 0 2 10 19,0 0 99,5 109,5
4 4   Odisha - KIIT University 7 4 0 3 8 16,0 0 100,0 105,0
5 7   Odisha 7 3 1 3 7 14,0 0 95,0 100,0
6 5   Bihar 7 3 1 3 7 11,5 0 99,0 104,0
7 6   Life Insurance Corporation 7 2 1 4 5 11,5 0 104,5 111,0
8 8   Gujarat 7 2 1 4 5 10,0 2 104,5 109,5
9 9   Andhra Pradesh 7 2 1 4 5 10,0 0 73,5 78,5
10 10   Goa 7 0 2 5 2 6,5 0 76,0 81,0
11 11   Telengana 7 0 2 5 2 5,0 0 75,5 82,0

Note: Dear Reader, thank you for your valuable time. I hope you enjoyed our reporting for the tournament. A humble request to players and parents wishing to get their photos from the tournaments held in the past few days. We value your special moment at the chessboard as much as you yourself do. Please give me some time to recover from this month-long trip!


Do you think it is over? Far from it! I spent the past one month crisscrossing India covering these high-quality tournaments, witnessing numerous stories, meeting interesting people, watching some fantastic games of chess, and even going to jail. ChessBase India will bring you special reports of the Delhi, Mumbai and Bhubaneshwar tournaments with pictures, stories and more. You will be entertained!


Not all the games were recorded, and you can find the top-board games on monroi, here.

Photos for ChessBase India

Previous Reports:

National Teams 01: shaky yet solid

09/02/2016 - The National Teams Championship kicked off here at Bhubaneshwar with top organisations like PSPB and Railways sending strong teams in order to win this thirty-sixth edition. There are two sections -- Open and Women. The Open has eleven grandmasters and seventeen International Masters, meanwhile the Women's section has four International Masters and three Women Grand Masters and is being conducted at the KIIT law College in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa. We bring you an illustrated report.


National Teams 02+03: rough take off

10/02/2016 - The National Team Chess Championship 2016 witnessed some drama (!) on the second day of play as Air India managed to pull off a blunder by messing up their board order. The mistake did not cost much as the team waltzed into the lead anyway. ChessBase India brings you an illustrated report from the tournament.


National Teams 04: the train has arrived?

11/02/2016 - For quite some time now PSPB has maintained a hegemony at the top, comfortably winning the National Teams title by sending a super-strong team. The 36th edition hasn't attracted the very top members of the PSPB squadron, and they face a tough task now as the Railways-A team is steaming ahead at breakneck speed! In the fourth round, Railways-A hijacked Air India to oblivion. ChessBase India brings you games and more in this pictorial report.


National Teams 05+06: everything is fair in love, war and chess!

12/02/2016 - Railways-A and Airport Authority of Inda lead the Open section, with AAI ahead on game-points. In the women's section, PSPB managed to outwit Air India to seal their victory. Nevertheless, it was a double-round day that was full of drama and excitement. ChessBase India brings you an illustrated report.


Round 07+08: Railways almost home

15/02/2016 - They have left no stone unturned this time and are leading comfortably, but anything can happen in chess -- there are many a slip between the cup and the lip. Railways-A is one solid result away from the title with Airport Authority of India on their heels. On the other hand, PSPB Women's team are hardly facing any resistance. ChessBase India brings you an illustrated report.

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