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Shanmukha’s journey to India

By Davide Nastasio

Shanmukha Meruga, a quite talented young chess player, traveled back to India this Summer after few years away from his native country. He enjoyed seeing his family again, and visiting the countryside.

Since his passion is chess, Shanmukha found some FIDE rated tournaments thanks to the Indian Chess Federation calendar.
To prepare for the tournaments Shanmukha played a lot of blitz and a lot of tactics. Online he reached a tactics rating of more than 2300! Of course, he also watched chess videos on youtube and reviewed the latest chess games in the major tournaments.

For the first tournament, the First Medha All India Open, the entry fee was 1000 rupees (about $16 if I converted correctly).  Shanmukha won 2500 rupees, but the travel cost around 10000 rupees ($160) because it was an eight-hour bus trip. Then, of course, there was the cost of the hotel for four days. On the bus and in the hotel there was air conditioning, because it was quite hot; this, however, wasn’t the case at the site of the tournament.

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The first tournament started five hours late, but the problem was that the organization was prepared for 150 people, and more than 300 people showed up! So the organization had to find more than 100 tables, boards, and clocks since they provided everything. We often take for granted the hard work of tournament organizers to make everything run smoothly, but we should acknowledge that it is thanks to their efforts that we can play in tournaments. In this case, I cannot even begin to imagine the nightmare an organizer went through in trying to find more than 100 tables on such short notice.

For the second tournament, the 5th St.Joseph’s Rated Chess Tournament, played at the St. Joseph’s College in Chennai (yes, the city of the former world champion Anand!) Shanmukha took the airplane. The tournament was five days long. At the second tournament about 800 people showed up, but there was not enough space in the college where the tournament was played, so the end count was 677 players.
Maybe the reason they had so many people was that the entry fee was free for players above a certain rating; in fact, Shanmukha didn’t pay the entry fee.

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In this tournament Shamukha’s result was 6 out of 9, which placed him 66th. It is impressive to see that while Shanmukha made 6 points, another 34 people made 6.5 points! Maybe a tournament with such a huge number of players would need more rounds to show the real winners.

When Shanmukha showed me the games on his scoresheets I was perplexed, because he put only one name for his opponents.  I thought it was strange, but then I came to know that in India some names are amazingly long! And even the best scoresheet doesn’t have enough space for writing them.

Here are some of the games played.  The comments were made without the use of an engine, because even though engines are useful, very powerful, and most of the time correct, as GM Caruana said, they are a crutch which can prevent our own progress.

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