Chennai: There is something between K. Sasikiran and Maharashtra that makes the Chennai GM always excel in events conducted in the western state. Sasikiran ended 2013 on a high by winning the national premier championship — formerly national ‘A’ — at Jalgaon, Maharashtra.
It was his fourth crown in the country’s premier chess tournament and he had won all his previous titles (1999, 2002 and 2003) in Maharashtra.
Sasi, India’s No. 3 with an elo rating of 2676, also completed his third and final GM norm at Sangli in Maharashtra. Is there any reason for the chemistry? “I didn’t give it a thought. But I have achieved a lot of success in Maharashtra,” said the Arjuna award winner.
The GM wasn’t required to turn up at Jalgaon to be eligible for Indian team selection but he chose to play the premier championship after a decade because the format was to his liking.
“I wanted the premier tournament to be a closed event. After the federation decided to do away the open format in favour of a round-robin tournament, I decided to play,” said Sasikiran, adding that the standard of the competition has gone up considerably in the last 10 years.
The national championship was by no means a cakewalk for the ONGC officer. He had a fierce competitor in another Chennai GM B. Adhiban, who stole the limelight by defeating the eventual winner. Sasikiran scored nine wins, three draws and one loss to prove that he is still the best in the country behind Viswanathan Anand.
“Nowadays you have to battle in every game. You will not get an easy point. Players don’t agree to quick draws and they all fight until the end,” said Sasikiran, who recently had an experience of a lifetime assisting Viswanathan Anand in his world championship match against world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen.
“I learnt a lot working as Anand’s second. We covered a lot of areas and the experience now helps me to stay confident. I also got an insight from Anand about preparation for a tournament and most importantly the value of maintaining a particular mind-set to face challenges,” the super GM said.
Sasikiran, who reached his all-time best rating of 2720 elo in May 2012, is now keen to move back to the 2700-level. “I am looking forward to playing in the Asian Nations Cup at Vietnam in February and later in the Russian Chess League. Then I would focus on the Olympiad that is slated to be held in Norway in August,” he added.
However, the chess champion, who will turn 33 on January 7 this year, has planned to cut down on his tournaments and focus more on his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Dheepika. “She has grown up and so I want to spend as much time as possible with her,” said Sasikiran, who had been India’s No.2 behind Anand for a long time.
While Sasikiran struggled to win titles at age-category events in India, he quickly moved into the senior circuit to reap the rewards for his hard work and dedication. Apart from winning several open tournaments, he was part of the Indian men’s team that finished sixth at the Mallorca Olympiad in 2004. He also guided the national team to gold medal at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.