Railway Sports – Vidarbha’s Swapnil shines in Odisha

NAGPUR: Swapnil Dhopade once again did the region and his employers, Indian Railways, proud when the Amravati youngster emerged on top amongst the Indians in the 5th KIIT International Chess Festival which concluded at Odisha on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old garnered 7 points out of maximum 10 to finish overall fifth. 123 participants including 22 grandmasters competed in the eight-day tourney. Tajikistan GM and second seed Amonatov Farrukh pocketed the title with an unbeaten record collecting 8 points.

With 7 points and a better progressive score, Vidarbha’s first GM-elect Swapnil stole the thunder amongst Indian participants.

Having started the proceedings as a 19th ranked in the starting list, Swapnil gave a rousing start to his campaign when he made light work of Andhra Pradesh youngster Krishna Teja in the opening round.

Playing with black pieces in the second round, Swapnil outclassed Railway compatriot Arjun Tiwari to jump to lead and face the challenge of second seed Farrukh in the third round.

Playing with white pieces, Swapnil made good use of the opening advantage to sign the peace treaty with the eventual winner in a marathon encounter which lasted more than four hours.

Similarly in the fourth round, Vidarbha’s second International Master held Ukraine GM Georgy Timoshenko to a draw before he got the better of another compatriot Rahul Sangma in the fifth round to collect 4 points at the halfway mark of the tournament.

After a fine show, Swapnil faltered in the sixth round against the 2004 national champion of Georgia, seeded fourth. Having lost the sixth round, Swapnil regained his lost momentum and outplayed Armenia’s IM Baghdasaryan Vahe and Indian GM RR Laxman to collect full points in the next two rounds.

With six points from eight rounds, Swapnil played safe and secured draws in the penultimate and final rounds against GM’s, seed No. 5 Pantsulaia Levan and 12th seed Abhijit Kunte respectively to complete the proceedings on a high.

A fine show against higher ranked opponents, especially against the GMs, will help Swapnil to get closer and fulfill the dream of becoming the first GM from Vidarbha in days to come.