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Viswanathan Anand aims to book Grand Chess Tour berth

Press Trust of India

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Kolkata: With just two spots up for grabs, Indian chess wizard Viswanathan Anand on Wednesday said he is confident of sealing his berth in the 2019 Grand Chess Tour Finals to be held in London from November 30 to December 10.

The GCT Finals will be held during the London Chess Classic in London and Anand wants to brighten his prospects with yet another perfect finish in the Tata Steel Rapid and Blitz tournament to be held here from November 22 to 26.

Anand, who finished a disappointing tied third in the Sinquefield Cup last month, needs 13 points from the remaining two legs in Bucharest (November 6-10) and Kolkata to seal a spot in the GCT Finals which carries a prize purse of USD 350,000.

“Definitely it’s (securing a place in GCT Finals) gettable, but it is still very unpredictable. (Levon) Aronian, me and (Wesley) So all have the same tournaments left. So all of us are fighting for the same 13 points,” the five-time former world champion told PTI in an interview from Chennai.current sports news

“On top of that, there are other guys, who in the event of a crumble, can get close enough. So, I think 6-7 players are fighting for the last two spots. Hopefully, it will go well for me,” he added.

The ‘City of Joy’ has been a happy hunting ground for Anand. From playing his first GM tournament here in 1986 to winning the Tata Steel Blitz title last year, Kolkata holds a special place in the chess wizard’s heart.

“My performance in the Blitz tournament (last year) was great and that made it extra special. Kolkata has been very special to me and the sport fans are really passionate,” he said.

The venue for this year’s Tata Steel Rapid and Blitz event is the prestigious National Library, which will host a chess tournament for the first time.

“I think the atmosphere there would be electric. National Library as the venue sounds amazing. I’m looking forward to see the final arrangement there. I’m sure they will do a good job. And, obviously I hope to do well,” Anand said.

The compeition in Kolkata will see Anand face world champion Magnus Carlsen for the first time in India since his 2013 World Championship defeat in Chennai.current sports news

“I have played him (Carlsen) many times in between. I don’t think that matters too much either because there would be other players as well. Then I was playing him exclusively. Now there will be 10 participants,” said Anand about his upcoming duel with the Norwegian.

“But of course it’s always a big challenge playing him. His performance this year has been very good.

“Generally he starts as a favourite everywhere. But you just play your best and see what’s you’re up to. Ding (Liren) has been very impressive too,” he added.

Anand won one match and drew 10 at the classical leg of the GCT in the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis. The Indian, however, failed to convert some positional advantages there, espeically against GM Ding Liren.

But Anand now wants to shift his focus on the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss in the Isle of Man from October 8 to 22, where the winner will qualify for the 2020 Candidates Tournament.

Anand pulled out of the ongoing World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk and is currently enjoying a break with his family at his home in Chennai.

“I had a chance to rest, otherwise I would already have started playing (in World Cup). I thought that I might be tired so I took the decision to skip this one,” he said.

On his preparation for the Isle of Man event, which is expected to be the strongest Swiss-system tournament, Anand said: “It’s still a while way but I am getting ready for it.

“There are too many variables. I don’t know whom I’ll be paired with and with what colours. So you just have to go, be ready to take your chances and see what happens. You can’t plan and switch on.”

Anand also sounded concerned about the ongoing infighting in Bengal chess where GM Dibyendu Barua has filed a complaint against BCA secretary and IM Atanu Lahiri for alleged of irregularities.

“Hopefully this short-term issue will be resolved. The main thing is developing the talent that you have,” he said.

“There are enough activities and good players in Bengal. I’m optimistic that talent could emerge at any moment. You have a good chess culture here. Hopefully, the Tata Steel event will also inspire the young talents to emerge.”

Anand, who will turn 50 on December 11, also ruled out retirement plans anytime soon.

“No, at the moment. I haven’t thought about it. I will see how it goes. I don’t think about it a lot,” he concluded.

Boxing

Amit Panghal loses to Zoirov, bags silver in final of boxing Worlds

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amit panghal
Amit Panghal.

Ekaterinburg (Russia): Indian boxer Amit Panghal’s phenomenal campaign in the men’s world championships ended with a silver medal after he went down to Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in an intense 52kg category final here on Saturday.

Panghal lost 0-5 but the scoreline was hardly a reflection of the fight he put on against the more fancied Zoirov.

In the course of his stupendous run, the second-seeded Indian became the first male boxer from the country to finish second in the world event. The nation achieved its best-ever medal haul of two. Commonwealth Games silver-medallist Manish Kaushik (63kg) had signed off with a bronze after losing in the semifinals earlier.

Once again up against a taller and more muscular opponent, Panghal gave it his all but fell short when it came to connecting accurately. The Asian Games and Asian Championships gold-medallist nonetheless achieved a historic feat.

In a bout that was mostly about counter-attack, both Panghal and Zoirov were wary of each other in the opening three minutes.

The action picked up a bit in the second round and Panghal tried hard to capitalize on his rival’s low guard. However, in Zoirov, Panghal met his match in pace and the Uzbek had no trouble dodging Panghal’s lunging efforts.

The final round was when the two boxers decided to attack each other more intensely and even though Panghal was more aggressive, it was Zoirov who managed to land more scoring blows.

The silver here marks a new high for the boxer from Rohtak, who has been simply unstoppable since breaking into the national scene with a bronze in the 2017 Asian Championships.

Zoirov, despite being unseeded here, was always going to be a tough challenge as he also has to his credit silver medals in the Asian Games and the Asian Championships.

Before this year, India had never won more than one bronze medal at a single edition of the world championship.

The past medal-winners at the big event are Vijender Singh (2009), Vikas Krishan (2011), Shiva Thapa (2015) and Gaurav Bidhuri (2017).

This time, India was among nine countries, out of a total of 78, which had their boxers in the finals. Uzbekistan topped the finalists count with four boxers.

“This is a reward for the effort that BFI (Boxing Federation of India) has put into re-modelling the entire structure of the sport so that our boxers get the best of training and can confidently perform on the world stage,” BFI President Ajay Singh said.

“With less than a year to go for the 2020 Olympics, these performances are a major boost. BFI will ensure and encourage them in every possible way so that they can carry this form into Tokyo to bring back medals for the country,” he added.

The just-concluded tournament was to be an Olympic qualifying event but was stripped of that status by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) citing administrative and financial mismanagement in the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

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Wrestling

Wrestler Deepak Punia 4th Indian to qualify for Tokyo Olympics

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Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan): Reigning junior world champion Deepak Punia on Saturday became the fourth Indian to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after moving to the 86kg semifinals at the World Wrestling Championship here on Saturday.

Competing in his maiden senior World Championship, Deepak locked the quota after prevailing 7-6 in a tense semifinal against Colombia’s Carlos Arturo Mendez.

With one minute to go, he was trailing 3-6 but pulled off a takedown and then expose move to take a 7-6 lead in the dying moments of the tense bout.

He will now clash with Switzerland’s Stefan Reichmuth for a place in the gold medal match.

Also doing a commendable job was Rahul Aware, who has moved to the semifinals in the 61kg non-Olympic category.

Both Deepak and Rahul overcame rough Kazakh wrestlers en route the semifinals.

Vinesh Phogat, Deepak Punia and Ravi Dahiya have already qualified for the 2020 Olympics with bronze medals.

However, Jitender (79kg) lost his quarterfinal while Mausam Khatri lost his first round in 97kg to reigning Olympic champion Kyle Frederick Snyder.

Deepak had bumped into home wrestler Adilet Davlumbayev in his opening round and looked a bit nervous before the bout, probably fearing partiality.

However, he played very smartly to defeat the home favourite despite trailing 0-5.

Adlilet was playing rough and was cautioned for poking Deepak. Consecutive takedown moves and a caution point brought Deepak on even terms at 5-5.

He converted an opportunity but also conceded a throw and it was 7-7. The home camp challenged the call and lost.

Deepak got one more point while the Kazakh lost one, sending Deepak into the next round.

He was hardly troubled by Tajikistan’s Bakhodur Kodirov, who he beat 6-0 to move to quarterfinals.

In 61kg, Rahul Aware played his pre-quarterfinal against Turkmenistan’s Kerim Hojakov.

The diminutive agile wrestler from Maharashtra was in complete control of the bout, which he ended with leg lace moves, winning by technical superiority.

Against Kazakhstan’s Rassul Kaliyev, it was a very tough bout but the Indian showed more craft than his rough opponent and won 10-7 in a roller-coaster quarterfinal. He was technically more sound and sharp.

Jitender began with an easy 7-2 win over Molodova’s Gheorghi Pascalov.

In the pre-quarterfinals, he was up against Turkey’s Muhammet Nuri Kotanoglu, the European Championship bronze medallist and again his immense upper body strength helped him to a 7-2 win.

However, he could not find a way to break the solid defence of Slovakia’s Taimuraz Salkazanov, losing 0-4.

In 97kg, Mausam Khatri was no match to the American, losing by technical superiority.

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Wrestling

Bajrang, debutant Ravi grab bronze at wrestling World Championship

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Bajrang Punia
Bajrang Punia.

Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan): Shrugging off his controversial semifinal defeat, Bajrang Punia bagged his third World Championship medal while Ravi Dahiya made his debut memorable by grabbing a bronze.

Bajrang was already India’s only multiple-medallist at the Worlds and he consolidated his record with his narrow 8-7 win over Mongloia’s Tulga Tumur Ochir, the under-23 Asian champion.

Bajrang held off a spirited challenge from Ochir who had raced to a 6-0 lead but true to his style, the Indian ruled the second period with a flurry of moves.

He had won a silver medal last year and a bronze in the 2013 edition in Budapest. It was Bajrang’s first tournament of the season where he did not make the final though he qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in this championships.

“I will never forget what they did to me. I was so heartbroken that I did not even want to fight for bronze today,” Bajrang said, referring to his controversial semifinal defeat against home wrestler Daulet Niyazbekov.

“The whole world saw what they did. I had worked so hard for the World Championship gold. I appeal to the UWW to do something about it.

“My coaches told me medal is a medal so I agreed to compete in this bout. I am glad I gave India third World medal,” he added.

Ravi was up against Reza Ahmadali Atrinagharchi, the reigning Asian champion from Iran, and capped his stunning debut with a 6-3 win in the bronze medal bout.

ravi wrestler

Ravi.

“I have achieved what I wanted. I have an Olympic quota and a medal too. I have gained a lot of experience. I will get better,” said Ravi, son of a farmer from Nahri Village in Sonepat district in Haryana.

This was India’s third medal of the championships — all bronze. Vinesh Phogat had also won a bronze in women’s 53 kg event.

The last time India won three medals at the Worlds was in 2013 when Amit Dahiya, Bajrang and Sandeep Tulsi Yadav stood on the podium.

India also clinched two Olympic quotas through Bajrang (65kg) and Ravi (57kg).

However, double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, who returned to the Worlds after eight years, exited after a 9-11 first round defeat in 74kg against Khadzhimurad Gadzhiyev of Azerbaijan. Sushil was leading 9-4 but conceded seven points in a row to his opponent to lose the bout.

The Azerbaijani wrestler later lost his quarterfinal bout to USA’s Jordan Ernest Burroughs, resulting to Sushil’s ouster from the championship.

For Ravi, it was a memorable World Championships. He had shocked Arsen Harutunyan, the 61kg European champion from Armenia and 2017 world champion and world number three Yuki Takahashi of Japan before losing to Zaur Uguev of Russia.

In the bronze play-off, Ravi stayed ahead of his Iranian opponent, who made the first move but it was the Indian who scored two points on counter. With a takedown following a double leg attack, Ravi led 4-3 at the break as he conceded one point for stepping out an two on his rival’s move.

Another takedown made it 6-3 for Ravi and he held on to the lead to ensure his place on the podium.

Ochir put Bajrang under a lot of pressure from the beginning as he pushed the Indian outside the mat to take lead. He locked Bajrang’s arms to prevent attacks and then effected a four-point throw to lead 6-0.

Bajrang got on board with a counter and true to his style made a superb comeback in the second period. He first erased the deficit and then took lead with a flurry of moves to eventually nail the medal.

Asked if he found his defence lacking since he has been trailing in his bouts, Bajrang replied: “No, that’s my style. I do well after trailing. I have been doing that for years.”

In the run up to the World Championships, he won titles at all four competitions — Dan Kolov in Bulgaria, Asian Championship in China, Ali Aliev in Russia and Tbilisi Grand Prix in Georgia.

Last year also, it was only at the Asian Championship in Bishkek where he did not reach the final, finishing with a bronze.

Bajrang loses in wrestling Worlds semis after qualifying for Tokyo Olympics

In the other category which offered Olympic qualification on Friday, Sumit Malik lost his 125kg first round bout 0-2 to Hungary’s Daniel ligeti, who later lost in the quarterfinals.

In the non-Olympic categories, Karan lost his 70kg Qualification bout 0-7 to Ikhtiyor Navruzov and was ousted when the Uzbek lost in the quarterfinal.

In 92kg, Parveen won his first bout by technical superiority against Korea’s Changjae Su but lost 0-8 to Ukraine’s Liubomyr Sagaliuk.

Sagaliuk’s defeat in the quarterfinals shut the repechage door on the Indian.

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