Indian Summer in Edinburgh… Kunte wins, Gwaze finishes even

The controversy that floated over the British Championship has culminated in yet another win by an Indian player. GM Abhijit Kunte of India won the event with an impressive and undefeated 8½-2½. His payoff for roughly 14 days (a fortnight) of work… a hefty £10,000 (US$16,100). His compatriot GM Pentala Harikrishna placed joint 2nd with Cyprus' GM Vassilios Kotronias, the tournament's top-seed, and Scottish player GM Paul Motwani (8-3). The closest English players were IM Nicholas Pert and GM Aaron Summerscale in 5th-9th position (7½-3½).

These results affirmed the concerns of England's chess establishment that the allowance of all Commonwealth players in the British Championship had outlived it usefulness. In fact, in Mig on Chess #192, it is reported that British Chess Federation President Gerry Walsh chaired a July 21st meeting to reform the eligibility requirements for the tournament. The new rules insist on "British citizenship or three years of residence in Britain, effective next year."

GM Abhijit Kunte

GM Abhijit Kunte
2003 British Champion

Frankly, it is doubtful that it will produce the desired results (in the long run), but for the meantime, it will turn off the golden spigot that Indians (and non-British players) have enjoyed for the past few years. What does this mean for other players from smaller regions such as Africa and the Caribbean? Many of these players have gained invaluable experience when they would not have the opportunities to compete in such a strong tournament. Who can forget the 1985 victory by the young man from Barbados, Ron Buckmire over IM Geoff Lawson… or the presence of African stars such as Nigeria's IM Odion Aikhoje, Zambia's IM Amon Simutowe and Zimbabwe's IM Robert Gwaze… all Olympiad medal winners. It simply means that they will have to be content on playing in open tournaments or the Commonwealth championships.

Although the Zimbabwean star finished with an even score, he displayed the brash and uncompromising style that made him a gold medal winner in the 2002 Chess Olympiad. All of his games were hard-fought and included such niceties as his "roaming rook" against GM Aaron Summerscale (see moves 15-25), his "knight-mare" crush of James Coleman,  and a "knight jaunt" against R.M. Taylor (see moves 19-29). Of course his win against  GM Colin McNab is worthy of note.

Gwaze's games are fresh with new ideas and his style appears to present strong opponents with some difficulties. Perhaps a few more strong tournaments will result in success for this two-time African Junior Champion and may attract attention of tournament organizers.

While it is ironic to hear British players complain about corporate sponsorship of Indian players from a country rife with poverty, it shows that emerging countries such as China, India and South Africa will have to take the lead in organizing strong tournaments that will serve as a staging ground for talented players like Gwaze.

IM Robert Gwaze

IM Robert Gwaze

Posted by The Chess Drum: 3 August 2003