Curtain-Raiser MCL 2015!

The 3rd edition of the Maharashtra Chess League is held from June 11 – 14, 2015 at the PYC Hindu Gymkhana, Pune. It will be a 6 team, 6 players-a-side rapid tournament with fast time controls, where the teams play a Round-robin with each other in the first 3 days, followed by Knockouts leading upto Semi-finals and Finals in the last two days. This is the first and only professional Chess League of India, with the participation of prominent Grandmasters and star chess players of the country, and the cream of chess talents of the state of Maharashtra.

The six confirmed teams of the league are: Pune Attackers (Owned by Goel Ganga Group), Jalgaon Battlers (Jain Irrigation Systems Pvt. Ltd.), Thane Combatants (MEP Infrastructures), Ahmednagar Checkers (RBS SportEthics), Mumbai Movers (Shri Hari Extrusion Limited) and Pune Tru Masters (Tru Space).

The initial part of the League starts with the open auctioning of players on 22nd May 2015 at Mumbai. MCL follows a set of rules for team compositions and auction, which are influenced by the tournament regulations. In a gist:

  • The Category of players who consist a team: Men Players to include Grandmasters, International Masters and Rated Players and at least two Women Players.
  • Each team has to field at least 3 players from Maharashtra in every round, apart from fielding 2 Women players compulsorily.
  • There are No General Board Orders for teams during the event! This means that, players with equal strengths will may or may not play each other in every round.
  • For the 3rd edition, Each team has a total maximum kitty of Rs.400,000 (US $ 6275 appr) from which it is mandatory to bid for a minimum of 6 players with 2 women players. This should include minimum 1 GM, 1 IM, 1 rated Male player and two women players. If managed well, the Franchise may bid and acquire as many players as possible with as high a rating / title.
  • Each player who has registered to play in the League quotes a Base Price for himself and further revised by the organising committee, which will be the lowest amount of his bid. Whichever the player gets as his final bid, the bidding amount is paid to the player by the franchise, apart from his covering costs to participate in the event.
  • There is a policy of retaining players from the previous year:
    1. Players decide if they wish to be retained to their previous teams from last year. When they do, it is in turn upto the teams to decide which players to retain, subject to a maximum of 2 per team.
    2. Retained players get an extra 10% from their previous year’s fees, which is deducted from the total kitty of each franchise.

All such rules lead to lots of thinking and strategies behind the bidding process. Just a few examples:

  1. Since there are bound to be lesser number of titled players from Maharashtra (compared combinedly from all the other states), during the auction, teams bid aggressively for GMs, WGMs, and IMs from Maharashtra..
  2. If the teams are lucky enough to `catch’ a GM or WGM from Maharashtra first, then they can pick another GM or WGM from another state for a cheaper price, thus loading your team with strong titled players.
  3. At the same time, while bidding for stronger players, teams also will have to keep in mind that, he can bring maximum of only 1 point every round, which can also be brought by a strong non-titled player. So, instead of spending too much of the kitty on a strong GM, they can go for modest rated players in the GM category, and aggressively bid for untitled players among men and women from Maharashtra later on.
  4. Because of the `No Board Order’ rule, non-titled players who can play solid with Black pieces are more in demand, which means that the team owners and coaches had to do their homework before coming to the Auction…

Last year, GMs Abhijit Kunte and Vidit Gujrathi of Maharashtra were the highest auctioned players, both netting Rs,1,20,000 each – they jointly broke the record Rs.1,15,000 paid out to GM Surya Ganguly as the highest priced player from the first year. This year, with the hiking of a team’s kitty by an extra half a lakh rupees, that record might get broken again, too :-)