Report by GM Srinath Narayanan
Former Asian Champion GM Sethuraman played a seamless event for the first 8 rounds and looked set to add another Asian Championship to his belt. However, winning in sports require more than just playing well and more often than not, in the end it all comes down to who plays better in the final moment. GM Le Quang of Vietnam managed to breach Sethuraman’s Berlin wall to win the Asian Championship 2019. Despite a disappointing finish, Sethuraman won the Bronze medal and sealed his qualification spot to the World Cup.
GM Murali Karthikeyan overcame back to back defeats to score a fine victory over GM Parham Maghsodloo of Iran and finish 2nd. Although he didn’t win the tournament, the brilliant Qxc3+ against Iranian wunderkid GM Alireza Firouzja headlined the tournament and was definitely the game of the tournament, and perhaps even the game of the year or more.
GM S.L.Narayanan won an important game against the tournament’s top seed GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi. He then sealed his world cup qualification spot with a draw against GM Rinat Jumabayev of Kazakhstan. He finished 4th in the Classical event and finished very strongly in the blitz event to win the last six games, win a bronze medal and cap off a succesful event. GM Abhijeet Gupta was the 4th Indian to qualify for a world cup with a well calculated quick draw against Chinese National Champion GM Lu Shanglei.
Young GM Nihal Sarin had half point too less for world cup qualification and finished in the 11th place, but played powerfully win the blitz event. After a solid and smooth start with 3 points out of 4 games, he took off to win the last 5 games with crucial wins over fellow prodigies GM Praggnanandhaa and GM Alireza, among other strong GMs as well. This brought India’s overall medal tally apart from the 4 qualification spots to the world cup.
WGM Vaishali was India’s best performer in both the Classical and blitz with strong finishes in both the sections. She finished 5th in the classical section and 6th in the blitz respectively. WGM Bhakti was India’s best hope and contender for most of the tournament. She was leading halfway through the tournament, but like GM Karthikeyan in the open, Bhakti also lost the crucial rounds 7 and 8. In the end she had to settle for a disappointing 7th place. However, she can take the solace in the fact that soon she will be addressed as IM Bhakti Kulkarni, as she completed the rating requirements by crossing 2400 in the live ratings.