As he held the National Chess Championship trophy – that resembled a chess pawn – aloft, it also meant that India’s youngest Arjuna Awardee Parimarjan Negi had ended an otherwise disappointing year on a high.

But the euphoria that should come after a title drought was missing. “This win is satisfying after going through a year when I lost titles in Dubai, Poland and at the Commonwealth Championships after being in the lead. But my aim is much higher. Although you end up proving yourself in the nationals, with this win I can’t even say I’m the best in the country because a lot of top players like Sasikaran don’t even play here,” said Parimarjan.

Parimarjan remained undefeated in the 13 rounds of play in the tournament and felt it could be because the playing field did not pose too many challenges. “I didn’t have a single bad position throughout the event, I could have easily had a few more wins… just let some of my opponents escape with easy draws,” he said after winning six and drawing seven matches.

More than another feather in his cap, this victory is a ticket for him for the biennial Chess World Cup next year where playing in 2009, he lost in the first round because the qualifying rounds had drained him. “After the new rules, the national champion from India gets to play in the main draw and that’s what my aim was. Unless you test yourself against the world’s best, most of which I am expecting will come there, you can never really judge where you stand,” he says.

… contd.