Lloyd’s Bank chess championships: Dibyendu Baruah defeats grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi
Dibyendu Baruah: On his way upIt was, literally, a David and Goliath confrontation. In one corner India’s Dibyendu Baruah, 15, a comparative newcomer to international chess. In the other, Viktor Korchnoi, 60, world number two and self-exiled Russian grandmaster. Last fortnight, chess circles in the world were astonished when Baruah,Dibyendu Baruah: On his way upIt was, literally, a David and Goliath confrontation. In one corner India’s Dibyendu Baruah, 15, a comparative newcomer to international chess. In the other, Viktor Korchnoi, 60, world number two and self-exiled Russian grandmaster. Last fortnight, chess circles in the world were astonished when Baruah defeated Korchnoi in 54 moves at the Lloyd’s Bank International in London.Korchnoi was so aghast at his defeat that he did not congratulate Baruah after the game. Baruah, for his part, is now only one international norm away from the international master title and is inching his way towards earning the coveted grandmaster title, a feat no Indian has been able to accomplish so far.Baruah has been a consistently good chess player ever since he was introduced to the game at the age of five. He first drew attention to his mental skill when, while watching his father play chess with his elder brother’s tutor, he pointed out some moves his father had made which he said would lose him the match.From then onwards Baruah lived chess, encouraged by his father and passed a series of important milestones: the West Bengal stale senior chess crown at 11, tenth position in the tough national B chess tournament third position in the world under-14 championships and fifth in the world under-17 championships two years later.Mature Skill: Playing with fast maturing skill, Baruah secured the junior player award and this feat brought him his first international master norm – the youngest Indian to do so. Baruah prefers the traditional approach to openings with his own set of favoured lines like the Guico-Piano and the Petroff Defence.advertisement He depends on long-drawn out games which tend to be tough middle-game fights and difficult end-game possibilities. Baruah is rated to become a grandmaster because his play is characterised by good positional insight and a capacity to hold out against big odds.His victory over Korchnoi has not affected Baruah’s mild manner, which borders on shyness. In the Lloyd’s Bank championships, he played nine matches in all, won four, lost two and drew three. About the Korchnoi match, he said: “I thought that I would play for a draw. But he started playing attacking moves and I realised that I too would have to attack if I wanted to survive. After that it was very clear that the match would be decisive. I counter-attacked and after that both of us were under time pressure. But one thing I must add: Korchnoi did not play well in this tournament. In every match he had to fight very hard.”Though visibly thrilled, he ascribed Korchnoi’s defeat to “mistakes committed by him”, rather than better performance on his own part. There was a slight tinge of regret in his voice as he recalled that Korchnoi had not congratulated him after the game.However, he was quick to add: “For one hour after the game he discussed with me the various moves made during the play.” Baruah must also have been disappointed when, on his return to Calcutta, only his family was at the airport to receive him – motorcades and suchlike are apparently reserved for only cricketers or the occasional badminton champion.Great Aspirations: The young master is not letting that get him down, though. At the moment, he is preparing for the higher secondary examination, but is dreaming of the day when he becomes world champion. He admits, however, that this is not going to be easy.Says Baruah: “I must have the benefit of being trained by internationally renowned coaches as only then will I be able to rectify my mistakes.” For that he will need funds. The Baruahs live in a two-room apartment in a rickety building in a congested north Calcutta locality with clear evidence everywhere of a struggling existence. The father, Benoy Baruah, owns a small printing press and his business is modest.Thus money problems have always plagued the young schoolboy: his father had to buy his own ticket for the trip to London as the promised help from the West Bengal Council of Sports did not materialise. Baruah, however, received passage fare from Delhi to London and was allowed $250 (Rs 2,250 in foreign exchange). In the family’s modest circumstances, it had never even been possible to arrange any proper training for Baruah. Says he: “I learnt my chess mainly from books and magazines on the game.”Baruah’s victory over Korchnoi must have given fresh impetus to India’s chess players. In the early ’60s, Manuel Aaron had brought about a revival of the game in this country by becoming the first international master when he won the Asian zonal championships.advertisementYears later in 1978, V. Ravi Kumar won the Asian junior championships to become the second international master. R. Ravishekar joined the chosen few later. The bespectacled schoolboy from Calcutta, fresh from his giant-killing feat is set to become the first in a line of Indian grand-masters.