Sunday, June 22, 2014

Our Spanish trip begins!

It's said there is no gain without pain! We tweaked this a little and made it, "there's no gain without spain!" :) With our aim to become better chess players and further our chess playing careers, I and Amruta left for Spain on 21st June 2014 to play in four tournaments.
Me and my wife at home just before we left! :)

Our first tournament begins on 25th of June in Montcada, Barcelona. We decided to leave a bit early so that we could acclimatize ourselves with the Spanish climate and not let any fatigue affect our play.
Staying in Europe can be extremely cheap if you are in a group of four or more people. However, this time we had no one with us and hence taking a full apartment on rent was not feasible as it would be too expensive.
Thus we decided to stay as a paying guest through a booking done on

The bedroom is a little small but cozy. However, nothing compares to.....

The beautiful view from our apartment.

Currently my Elo rating is 2314 and Amruta is on 2043. Our main ambition is to play excellent games of chess. The results will follow on it's own!
Let's hope for the best! I will keep you posted on our progress. Till then you can have a look at the starting list of the tournament.

I leave you with three pictures from three different countries. India, France and Spain!

Lord Krishna with Radha at the Mumbai airport!

At the Charles De Gaulle Airport, Paris. Our 3 hour halt before we left for Barcelona!

Hot theplas and pickle in the cool morning! A perfect Gujju breakfast!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Maharashtra Chess League is back!

We are into the 2nd year of Maharashtra Chess League and it promises to be another spectacular event. This year the Maharashtra Chess League will be held in Pune from 11th to 15th of June 2014 at PYC Hindu Gymkhana.
The thing which makes this event special is that everything is done so tastefully. Right from the opening ceremony to the auction, to the selection and decoration of the playing hall and the closing ceremony, it's all so grand. It makes the game of chess come to life. After all these are same Indian players who having been playing in different tournaments all over India since years together, yet when they play in MCL it gives an altogether different feeling. What might be the reasons for that? Let's have a look:

1. Auction- to be selected in a team through auction is a new feeling for chess players. It makes them feel confident that people actually are ready to spend money for their chess skills.

The Auction is a fast paced event and any wrong move can leave you with a poor team.

2. Owners- The owners take care of your every need in the tournament be it boarding, lodging as well as transportation. All they ask in return is for you to give your 100% in every game. Naturally every player is motivated.

3. Mistmatched pairing- Though every team has GMs, IMs, WGMs, Rated players etc, the fact that any player can be paired with anyone makes this format so very interesting. Sometimes it's a wonderful news for a team whose weakest player is paired against strongest player of opposing team. For eg. if your team has a lower rated player and is paired with a 2600 GM, it is great news. Though, the chances of losing that point are high, you can win the match in the remaining games.

4. Vishy Anand: The brand of Vishy Anand can make any tournament look grand. Calling him for the opening ceremony was a great move by the organizers and it gives a lot of credibility to this tournament.

Anand at the opening ceremony of the tournament.

5. Emotions: Last time when I played, our team mates would shout a war cry before the round and after winning we would often form a huddle and have a pep talk. All this is terra-incognita for chess players! It's really great that after winning a game, chess players don't always have to keep a straight face and actually express their happiness!

So after knowing whats so different about this unique tournament let's move onto the team composition and see what really happened at the auction.
But before that you must know the rules:
1. Each team must have 3 Maharashtra players playing out of the 6 boards.
2. Each team must have 2 woman players playing.
3. Each team must have atleast 1 unititled player playing out of the 6 boards.
4. Each team has a maximum of Rs 3,50,000 rs to buy the players.

 (owned by Goel Ganga group)
Of course this team is special for me as I am playing for it this year. They were also the winners of the first edition of MCL.

Pune attackers team in 2013 edition.

The Pune Attackers is lead by the able leadership of IM D V Prasad. GM Lalith Babu (2561) who was the star player of this team in 2013 decided to stay with the team thus earning a 10% hike over his last year's amount of 80,000.
The best player for Pune Attackers.

The interesting part about this team is that instead of going for a second GM, they have chosen 3 extremely strong IMs. Between them I think there are already 8 GM norms! Swapnil Dhopade (2419) is an excellent rapid player and so is Diptayan Ghosh (2487). The latter is a real maverick when it comes to time-pressure play. Thejkumar (2435) recently finished joint first in the National Rapid so I need not say more. Getting him for just 30,000 is a great selection by the team.

The three tremendously strong IMs in the Pune Attackers team. Swapnil's photo is a little bigger because he is the IM who has received the highest amount in the IM category: 72000/-.

 Soumya Swaminathan (2318), the 2009 World Junior champion is definitely one of the biggest attractions of the tournament as she is from Pune. With her 3 IM norms coupled up with WGM title she is one of the strongest female players in the tournament.

The other woman player in the Pune Attacker's team is Supriya Joshi.(1862) This will be the first time she will be playing in MCL and all eyes will be on her as she will be playing all the games for her team.

Mithil Ajgaonkar (2198) has surely established himself as an excellent rapid player by winning a lot of rapid tournaments in Mumbai.

Sagar Shah (2309): What can I say about this guy? He looks a lot like me! :)

The Pune Attackers team has the highest number of players i.e eight. They have made good use of their funds spending Rs 3,46,000 out of the stipulated 3,50,000. There is one person that you must know in this team before I go to the next team....

Coach and planner of the team IM D V Prasad (2346) who was potent force on the board in his heyday beating the likes of Mikhail Tal, is also a great strategist off the board too.


This team is taking part in the MCL for the first time. It has replaced the team Nagpur Royals. Though this was their first time in the auction, I must say that the team that the owners along with coach Anuprita Patil have selected is really excellent.

This team has two GMs at the top.
These two GMs require absolutely no introduction. Sethuraman (2576) is a world beater and to get a player like Vishnu (2459) at just Rs 50,000 is really a great buy for the new team! 

The lone IM in the team is Mumbai's Aditya Udeshi.(2420)

Aditya enjoys his life away from the chessboard and I religiously follow his updates on facebook! :)

However, once on the chess board, he is concentration personified and an amazingly talented player.

The wonderful news for this team is that both there women player's are extremely strong. A lot of my work of creating a collage was saved when I found this above picture of Mary Ann gomes (2359) (left) and Swati Ghate (2260) playing for team India in the Dresden Olympiad 2008.

 Pune TruMasters got an IM in the rated player category. Sameer Kathmale (2345) has completed all his IM title requirements and awaiting his IM title. However, the team was able to use his little window of achieving the title and actually getting it, to their benefit by getting him in the rated player category. That explains his Rs 40,000 bidding.

Pawan Dodeja (2161) from Amravati is not very famous as his city mate Swapnil Dhopade but he is surely a very aggressive and at the same time a practical player who cannot be underestimated.

Pune TruMasters have made the optimum use of the Rs 3,50,000 barrier by spending Rs 3,47,000.

(owned by RBS sportsethix)

The Ahmednagar Checkers team is owned by three young and die hard sports fans, Siddharth Mayur, Dhaval Shah and Narendra Firodia. Their respect for sports players is immense and this is what every player wants from their owners! I can attest this fact as I was playing for this team in 2013. Coming to the year 2014, here is how their team looks. 

It is said that a man is truly successful when he can delegate something that he has created to other people. The same can be said about Abhijit Kunte (2482)! After slogging it out in the first year of the MCL as an organizer, he has now created a team good enough to take care of the organization so that he can play in the tournament! And boy was he in demand!! Rs.1,20,000!!

Apart from the fact that Kunte is in awesome form, Ahmednagar Checkers must be banking on him for some excellent strategy to lead their team to victory!

Ahmednagar have also bought another dynamic GM who plays such formats at sizzling pace!

In the last MCL when I saw Tejas Bakre (2452) play, he would play at such breathtaking speeds that often he would just use 5 of the stipulated 25 minites. This is mainly due to his wonderful sense of intuition. Combined with Kunte, the two veteran GMs can be threat to any team.

IM Shardul Gagare (2446) provides the balance to this team. The young IM is a reliable bet against any opposition. He is extremely solid and wonderful calculator. All in all a very difficult opponent to beat!

Dubbed as the queen of Orissa chess, Padmini Rout (2354) deserves the Rs 73000/- that she received. She was a part of the Indian team that won the Gold in blitz and silver in Rapid and Classical in the Asian Team championships 2014.

She is born in 2000, confident, focussed and hard-working. Gaining Elo points at a rapid pace, Akanksha Hagawane though rated just 1802, can be the surprise package of the tournament.

The two rated players selcted by Ahmednagar are Abhishek Kelkar (2319) and N R Vignesh (2354)
The best part for the team is that both of them are such strong players yet they got them for Rs 10,000 each. 

Ahmednagar have spent quite a lot on their top players. But they have used just Rs 30,000 to get strong players in the rated category. Good planning by the team! Total sum spent= Rs 3,26,000. 

(owned by Jain Irrigation systems)

Jain Irrigation has established itself as a huge promoter of chess in Maharashtra. It was the venue for the National Premier 2013. Obviously they have a good understanding about the chess players in India. Lets see the team they have selected.


Jalgaon Battlers have achieved the unthinkable. They were able to get two of the most talented players in Indian circuit in their team GM Vidit Gujrathi (2602) for Rs 1,20,000 and Adhiban Baskaran (2624) for 95,000.
These two players have between them the following achievements:
Under 14 world champion, Under 16 world champion, World Junior bronze medallist, National A champion, silver medallist in Asian championship open, National Challengers champion and the list just goes on and on!!

You might be thinking that this team has to be the strongest but there is a downside when you take such strong players. Rs 2,15,000 had already been spent out of Rs3,50,000. That meant that the owners had to be careful in selecting the other players. They achieved quite a good team with the level of remaining funds!
They already had retained two players from the last MCL.

Narayanan Srinath (2414) who is a talented IM was retained at just 33,000/- which is excellent while the pride of Jalgaon Pratik Patil(2280) was retained for Rs 11,000. Pratik is such a loyal team member, can be seen from his attire!

 Jalgaon also has two good women players. WGM Kiran Manisha Mohanty(2259) is a good rapid player and plays her normal games also at quite a good speed. While Rucha Pujari (2136) is definitely one of the strongest untitled woman player in India currently. She will soon become a WIM but as of now she not having a title is an advantage for Jalgaon as they picked her up for Rs 27,000 only!

Shashikant Kutwal (2217): The best part about this player is that he is technically very strong. With 3 IM norms already under his belt, he can really play at a high level. Getting him for 10,000 is once again a good deal!

Though Jalgaon began the auction with all guns blazing and spending a lot of money, in the end they were still left with Rs 24,000 spending just Rs 3,24,000. On the paper this is definitely one of the strongest teams.

(owned by South Mumbai Chess Academy.)

The Mumbai movers has a very interesting team composition selected by their owners and coach IM Prathamesh Mokal. It has a mix of really strong players and at the same time a few rapid specialists in the team.

GM Parimarjan Negi (2643) is leading the challenge for the Mumbai Movers. Negi is currently studying at the Stanford university. Leaving USA and his esteemed college behind, Negi has decided to entertain the spectators of MCL with his attacking chess! He is the highest rated player in the tournament. Mumbai will be feeling pretty secure having him in the team. Rs 95,000 for such a strong player is not much to spend!

The higest paid woman player in the tournament. IM Eesha Karavade (2399) from Pune received a handsome amount of Rs 85,000. She is definitely a strong rapid player and also has great opening preparation. She combined with Negi are two of the biggest opening experts in India! Mumbai can be proud of that fact.

To counter balance this fact, the team has other four members who are completely original players and do not believe in opening theory to any great extent.

Himashu Sharma (upper left), Chinmay Kulkarni (upper right), Rakesh Kulkarni (lower left) and Anup Deshmukh (lower right) are the middle order of this team.

These four players have a unique style of play. Anup Deshmukh (2237) was at one point one of the top players of India. His talent was often compared to the great Vishy Anand. 
Himanshu Sharma(2350) is known for his fighting chess by even the best players of India. His never-say-die spirit is what helped Pune Attackers win the MCL championship last year. 
Rakesh's(2224) performance as a rapid player has been so good that he has been dubbed as the rapid champion of Mumbai. He wins rapid tournaments at an alarming rate and that explains why he was retained by the Mumbai team who didn't want to miss out on him.
Lastly, Chinmay (2249) too is a rapid expert. Pragmatic and practical at the chess board, he hardly thinks long for his moves. That makes him a very potent force in this shortened time control.

WGM Bhakti Kulkarni (2231) from Goa's recent performance in the National Rapid and Blitz is a very encouraging point for the Mumbai team. She couple with Eesha, make the female side of the team very sturdy.

Total money spent = Rs 3,29,000.

(owned by MEP Infrastructure Developers Pvt Ltd)

The Thane Combatants is a very interesting side. They have two great friends coming together in the team in the form of Abhijeet Gupta and Tania Sachdev.

Whenever I see an update from Abhijeet Gupta (2634) on facebook, I see him holding a trophy in his hands! Such is his propensity to win tournaments. Just a few days back he won the super strong Azgamov Memorial in Tashkent. His confidence combined with his will to win is sure to raise the morale of the team.

He describes his latest picture as : Just a normal day when I take a break from chess work! :)
I better not write too many things about him!! :)
You can visit his wonderful website which he has recently created over here.

Tania Sachdev is one of the most famous chess celebrities not only in India but all over the world. Her rating of 2422 made her the strongest woman player in the auction but maybe her performance in the last edition of MCL fetched her lesser than what one might have expected her to be sold at. This year she will be aiming to win a lot of points for her team!

Thane Combatants has bought the cream of Maharashtra IMs. The two IMs Prasanna Rao (2427) and IM Vikramaditya Kulkarni (2352) have a totally different style of play. While Prasanna is a solid IM who hardly takes risks, Vikramaditya plays chess taking loads of risk and depending heavily on his calculations. Prasanna recently made his 2nd GM norm at the Bhubaneshwar GM open so he is the man in form.

Abhimanyu Puranik (left) (2301) is a little kid who looks very cute. But let not his looks deceive you. He has a superb killer instinct over the board and great tactical vision. S L Narayanan (2398) is the highest rated untitled player in the MCL. 39,000 is the perfect amount for him because he is as good as an IM. Calm and composed at the chessboard he played very well in the last MCL. Infact if we look closely, Vikramaditya Kulkarni and S L Narayanan are both very similar. They both have a poker face and show no real emotions while playing!

Parnali Dharia (1942) cannot be underestimated. In a recent Rating tournament in Mumbai she beat IM Aditya Udeshi. 

Total money spent=3,44,000.

Maharashtra players were in great demand of course as this is the Maharashtra Chess League. Every team wanted some flexibility so they chose four Maharashtra players. Just the Pune Attackers went one step ahead and selected five. Thus there are in all 25 players from the State out of a total of 43.It's a huge boost for the Maharashtra players and this tournament will benefit them immensely. After all to be discussing everyday with the likes of Negi, Abhijeet, Adhiban, Vidit, Lalith, Kunte, Bakre etc is a wonderful opportunity for the upcoming players.

You must agree that Rs 1,20,000 is nothing when compared to other sports. But it is a start. Making a start is always the tough part. Things can only get better from here. A big thanks to the entire organizing team of the Maharashtra Chess League.

The games will begin from 11th of June 2014. But till then let the excitement grow and do support your favourite team. I hope you enjoyed the article and have an idea now as to what MCL 2014 looks like!

A huge thanks to Amruta Mokal (my wife) who has clicked some wonderful pictures at the Kolkata Open 2014 which I have been able to use here!

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