Unheralded IM P. Karthikeyan of India was the surprising winner of the 2018 Commonwealth Chess Championship while Indian WGM and IM Tania Sachdev won the Commonwealth women’s title.
The organizers split up the event into 15 different categories. Apart from the open, there were Under-8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20 categories for boys and girls respectively.
About 165 players from a dozen countries flocked to New Delhi, India to take part in the prestigious championships. They included 64 titled players playing for a prize fund of Rs.10,00,000 (approximately $15,000 USD).
There were hundreds of other juniors playing for Commonwealth medals in their respective age categories. To garner more interest, the organizers also permitted the juniors (who played in the morning) to play in the open as well if their federation allowed it.
The tournament was held from June 26 – July 3 (with a double round on June 30) at the plush Leela Ambience Convention Hotel in New Delhi.
The tournament witnessed notable absences in the form of GM Nigel Short from England who is busy with his FIDE’s presidential election campaign and GM Abhijeet Gupta from India (dubbed Mr. Commonwealth for winning the event a record four times).
IM P. Karthikeyan (not to be confused with Indian GM Murali Karthikeyan) stayed unbeaten and scored 7.5/9 to finish clear first ahead of dozens of other grandmasters. He achieved the biggest title of his career with a sprint in which he finished with 3/3.
In round seven, facing South African IM Watu Kobese, Karthikeyan found a marvelous rook sacrifice to bring home the full point.
In the penultimate game, he played overnight leader IM Nitin S. of India and showed his versatility to beat him in a nice complicated game. After the end of the penultimate round, four players were in the lead and played each other. Board one saw the all-GM battle where GMs Lalith Babu and Debashis Das split the point. It all boiled down to board two, where former Indian champion IM G. Akash was playing IM Karthikeyan.
Round 9 — A Sicilian Najdorf for the title. | Photo: Delhi Chess Association.
A complicated Sicilian Najdorf proved to be the perfect choice as Black navigated through muddy waters and came out victorious on the other side.
With the games finished, the color of the medals were decided. IM Karthikeyan got Gold, local hero and GM Vaibhav Suri got silver, and GM Debasis Das had to settle for the bronze medal.
Here you can find the final standings for the Commonwealth open and the final standings for the Commonwealth age categories.
The Indians had a memorable outing, scooping up 14/17 Commonwealth Gold medals at stake. South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh bagged one gold medal each.
The South African contingent attended in full force. | Delhi Chess Association.
Mr. Bharat Singh Chauhan handing over the winner’s trophy to IM P.Karthikeyan as GM Jacob Aagard looks on. | Photo: Delhi Chess Association.
The prize giving ceremony was a colorful one with Mr. DV Sundar (Vice president of FIDE), Mr. Bharat Singh Chauhan (Commonwealth Chess Association president and Secretary of the All India Chess Federation), GM Jacob Aagard (renowned author and chess trainer) crowned the several medalists.
The Commonwealth medalists of 2018, GM Vaibhav Suri (Silver), IM P.Karthikeyan (Gold), and GM Debashis Das (Bronze)| Photo: Delhi Chess Association.