Athula Russell wins “Royal Challenge”


National Champion Athula Russell had it easy in the end, winning the inaugural Royal Challenge International Chess Championship by a wide margin of 1.5 points.  Russell, in fact, took an unassailable lead at the end of the penultimate round when he beat Prasanna Krishna of India (who finished third).  The last round was therefore a formality and he agreed to a quick draw with Chandana Wijekoon, the only other unbeaten player in the tournament.


Lahiru Hapuarachchi of Kingswood College, Kandy squeezed into second place ahead of Krishna on the tie-break after both players finished on 7 points.


The tournament also saw exceptional performance by Lahiru Munasinghe (Ananda College), Semuthu Pinto (St. Anne's College, Kurunegala) and Savindi Jayaratne all of whom defeated more fancied players in what is easily the best chess tournaments organizd in Sri Lanka in recent times.    


The tournament was held over 9 rounds at the Royal College Union Auditorium. It was organized by the Blue and Gold Chess Club, with the support of the Royal College Chess Club.  Hewelett-Packard and Mobitel were the principal sponsors of the tournament which attracted a total of 130 players.  The total prize fund was Rs. 260,000.00. A total of 80 players received cash prizes and 33 won medals.  Russell took home Rs. 40,000 in addition to the Gold Medal in the 'Open' category and the Champion's trophy. 


In other categories, former national player, Chathuri Hettige, returning to competitive chess after a lapse of five years, won the Gold in the Women's section as well as Rs. 20,000.  Prizes were awarded for best performances among players Under 10, Under 12 and Under 15 (Girls and Boys), as well as for the best performances in three rating categories, “unrated”, “between 1200 and 1799”,  between 1800 and 1999” and “over 2000”. 


Muditha Hettigama, Tournament Organizer, expressed thanks to Hewlett-Packard and Mobitel for coming up with sponsorship packages at short notice. In particular he thanked Mr. Priyantha Kariyapperuma, Chairm, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) and Ms. Tharanika De Almeida, President, Sports Association, TRC, for extending their fullest support in securing sponsorship for the tournament.  He also thanked Mr. Lakshmindra Fernando (Country Business Manager, Personal Systems Group, Hewlett-Packard) and Mr. Roshan Kaluarachchi (Marketing Manager, Mobitel) for sponsoring the event.

By Malinda Seneviratne