<%-- Page Title--%> Time Out <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 144 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

March 5, 2004

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Chess Star of India

No, I am not talking about Viswanathan Anand who is undoubtedly the strongest chess player India has ever produced. I am looking far back. The British championship at Ramsgate , 1929, saw an unknown Indian winning the tournament in grand style. Mir Malik Sultan Khan (1905-1966), the new champion, appeared on the international chess scene with a bang.

He won the British championship thrice and represented England in two chess olympiads on the top board. Sultan Khan was a caretaker in the royal palace of Sir Umer Hayat Khan , a feudal lord of Punjab. Umer Hayat noticed that the young man was an unusually gifted player and decided to take him to England.

Sultan Khan had to learn the international rules of the game but took very little time to adjust himself to the changed circumstances. But his career was short lived. He had to return to India with his master in 1933, when he was still the reigning British champion , and did not get any more chance to play chess at the top level.

It is still a mystery why Umer Hayat did not allow Sultan Khan's chess career to develop further. He was among the top ten players in the world in the early thirties, having defeated JR Capablanca (world champion 1921-27) in a game in Hastings, 1930. And nobody knows how far he would have gone if he could play for another five or six years. Did Umer Hayat become envious of his servant's fame and popularity? Well, it's difficult to say what really happened.

Sultan Khan was quickly dubbed the 'Star of India' by the British chess experts. They are still not sure how an unassuming and unimpressive 'native' could scale such heights in a game like chess. The book " Sixty-four Games of Sultan Khan" by RN Coles was published from London in 1964, two years before Sultan Khan died at his ancestral home near Sargoda on May 15, 1966. He was then a very poor man with only a small piece of land to support himself.

Here is the 'Sultan Khan classic’

White: Sultan Khan
Black: J R Capablanca
Hastings 1930
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 b6 3.c4 Bb7 4.Nc3 e6 5.a3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Bg5 Be7 8.e3 0–0 9.Bd3 Ne4 10.Bf4 Nd7 11.Qc2 f5 12.Nb5 Bd6 13.Nxd6 cxd6 14.h4 Rc8 15.Qb3 Qe7 16.Nd2 Ndf6 17.Nxe4 fxe4 18.Be2 Rc6 19.g4 Rfc8 20.g5 Ne8 21.Bg4 Rc1+ 22.Kd2 R8c2+ 23.Qxc2 Rxc2+ 24.Kxc2 Qc7+ 25.Kd2 Qc4 26.Be2 Qb3 27.Rab1 Kf7 28.Rhc1 Ke7 29.Rc3 Qa4 30.b4 Qd7 31.Rbc1 a6 32.Rg1 Qh3 33.Rgc1 Qd7 34.h5 Kd8 35.R1c2 Qh3 36.Kc1 Qh4 37.Kb2 Qh3 38.Rc1 Qh4 39.R3c2 Qh3 40.a4 Qh4 41.Ka3 Qh3 42.Bg3 Qf5 43.Bh4 g6 44.h6 Qd7 45.b5 a5 46.Bg3 Qf5 47.Bf4 Qh3 48.Kb2 Qg2 49.Kb1 Qh3 50.Ka1 Qg2 51.Kb2 Qh3 52.Rg1 Bc8 53.Rc6 Qh4 54.Rgc1 Bg4 55.Bf1 Qh5 56.Re1 Qh1 57.Rec1 Qh5 58.Kc3 Qh4 59.Bg3 Qxg5 60.Kd2 Qh5 61.Rxb6 Ke7 62.Rb7+ Ke6 63.b6 Nf6 64.Bb5 Qh3 65.Rb8 1–0





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