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Aravindh Chithambaram is the Indian National Champion 2018

by Sagar Shah - 20/12/2018

In the year 2016 Aravindh finished runner-up at the Nationals, in 2017 runner-up once again. Was the 19-year-old from Chennai really incapable of winning the national title? Aravindh didn't think that way! He tried once again in 2018, gave it his all and this time emerged victorious. He not only won the title of the National Champion, but also gained a spot in the World Cup 2019. At the same time he won Rs.5,00,000 - the highest prize money ever won by an Indian at a National Championship. Second place went to IM CRG Krishna, third place was won by untitled Srijit Paul ahead of several GMs. In all five norms were made at the event - Stany made a GM norm, Niranjan, Ritviz, Srijit and Harshavardhan made IM norms. A detailed final report from the National Championship 2018.


The National Champion 2018 with his prized trophy and Rs.5,00,000 cheque! | Photo: Atul Kumar Gupta

"Really I cannot believe that I won the championship!" These are the words of the National Champion Aravindh Chithambram after winning the first unified National Championship. "It was similar to 2016 and 2017. But the pressure here was less, because a draw was enough to win the title." This was the first time that the National title was won by playing just one event. In the past Indian chess has been having the National Challengers which is a qualification tournament to the National Premier. Having just one Nationals meant that the prize money had improved. Aravindh become the highest paid national champion winning the cheque of Rs.5,00,000.


Aravindh's talent has never been in question. Right from the time he won the Chennai Open in 2013, which was held in parallel with the Anand - Carlsen match, people have known that there is something special in this boy. That was when he was just 13 years old. Five years later Aravindh is a full fledged GM, who has crossed the rating barrier of 2600 for the second time in his chess career now. Born in 1999, at the age of 19 Aravindh has already achieved the title of National Champion. His fighting approach to chess, along with over the board creativity makes him a fierce competitor. Just go over his games from the National Championship 2018 and you will find that he was ready for a struggle in each and every game!

Just have a look at the moves section. So many moves made! That's a fighter for you there!

One thing that Aravindh has lacked in the past, is the control on his nerves. In critical tournament situations, he seemed to buckle under pressure. This is quite surprising because over the board when the pressure reaches its pinnacle, Aravindh seems to be enjoying himself. But it's the off-the-board pressure which becomes too much for him. However, just like a champion, Aravindh is looking closely at his weaknesses and working on them. He had won the bronze medal at the World Juniors 2017 by beating GM Xu Xiangyu in the last round. Once again at the National Championship 2018, he showed great control on his nerves and got a winning position against CRG Krishna. It was only when he realized that Vaibhav Suri had lost his game that Aravindh agreed to a draw. In any case a draw was enough for Aravindh, as he had beaten Vaibhav in their individual encounter. But being the champion with half a point difference is always special.


This National title has not come easy for Aravindh. For two years - 2016 and 2017 he has been relegated to the second spot. In 2016 it was Karthikeyan who took home the trophy and in 2017 it was Lalith Babu. ChessBase India Power's Ankit Dalal reminisces, "After the last round at the National Challengers 2017, I approached Aravindh for an interview. He was the top seed and had finished tenth. The youngster was utterly dejected with his performance. It didn't matter to him that he had made it to the National Premier. He replied to me saying, "Bhaiya (Brother), I don't deserve to be interviewed as I didn't win the tournament. Let me work harder and win the premier and then you can take my interview!" Aravindh didn't win the premier that year but he did win it in 2018. What amazed me was his attitude. The attitude of a champion."


The final rankings when the National Championship was held in 2016 in Lucknow:

Final ranking in 2016:

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
111GMKarthikeyan MuraliIND2530T N10,50,066,757
28GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.IND2565T N9,50,062,257
312GMAdhiban B.IND2666PSPB9,00,557,504
45GMVidit Santosh GujrathiIND2689PSPB9,00,553,505
56GMLaxman R.R.IND2387RSPB8,00,049,254
67GMKunte AbhijitIND2494PSPB7,51,047,001
74GMBakre TejasIND2450I A7,51,044,253
89IMRavi Teja S.IND2384RSPB7,51,042,755
92IMNitin S.IND2415RSPB6,50,036,255
101IMAbhishek KelkarIND2389MAH5,50,030,752
113Dhulipalla Bala Chandra PrasadIND2316A P5,00,029,503
1210GMSriram JhaIND2426L I C3,00,013,250
1314FMPraneeth Surya KIND2388TEL1,00,05,001
1413IMMishra Neeraj-KumarIND2307JHAR0,50,03,500

The final rankings when the national championship was held in Patna, Bihar in 2017 

Final ranking in 2017

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
17GMLalith Babu M RIND2525PSPB9,00,057,756
23GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.IND2573TN8,50,049,006
313GMKarthikeyan MuraliIND2578TN7,51,048,253
411GMDebashis DasIND2494ODI7,51,046,253
56GMSunilduth Lyna NarayananIND2568KER7,51,043,504
68IMNitin S.IND2415RSPB7,00,543,003
712IMDas ArghyadipIND2434RSPB7,00,542,003
82GMKunte AbhijitIND2503PSPB6,50,541,752
91GMLaxman R.R.IND2392RSPB6,50,536,253
105GMDeepan Chakkravarthy J.IND2477RSPB6,01,035,003
1114GMSwapnil S. DhopadeIND2516RSPB6,00,036,252
129IMShyaamnikhil PIND2422RSPB5,00,034,001
134Sammed Jaykumar SheteIND2310MAH4,00,026,002
1410GMHimanshu SharmaIND2510RSPB3,00,017,501

The final rankings of the current nationals that were held at Jammu in 2018!

Final ranking in 2018:

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 nwwew-weKrtg+/-
14GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.IND2584TN10,00,099,5106,013108,321,681016,8
216IMKrishna C R GIND2464RSPB9,50,093,099,0139,58,980,52105,2
345Srijit PaulIND2298WB9,50,091,597,0139,55,763,742074,8
48GMVenkatesh M.R.IND2528PSPB9,50,088,092,5139,510,56-1,0610-10,6
55GMSengupta DeepIND2565PSPB9,00,0101,5109,01398,990,01100,1
63GMVaibhav SuriIND2589PSPB9,00,0101,5107,51398,870,13101,3
710GMVishnu Prasanna. VIND2518TN9,00,096,5102,51398,450,55105,5
822IMAkash GIND2443TN9,00,094,5100,01398,040,96109,6
96GMChanda SandipanIND2555WB9,00,092,598,513910,36-1,3610-13,6
1012IMStany G.A.IND2509AAI8,50,0100,5107,0138,57,700,80108,0
111GMGupta AbhijeetIND2597PSPB8,50,099,5105,5138,510,10-1,6010-16,0
1224GMBakre TejasIND2433AI8,50,099,0105,0138,57,540,96109,6
137GMDeepan Chakkravarthy J.IND2550RSPB8,50,098,5105,0138,59,19-0,6910-6,9
1418IMVignesh N RIND2455TN8,50,095,0102,0138,58,320,18101,8
1514GMSwapnil S. DhopadeIND2490RSPB8,50,094,5101,0138,58,75-0,2510-2,5
1625GMNeelotpal DasIND2412PSPB8,50,094,5100,5138,57,770,73107,3
1739Ritviz ParabIND2338GOA8,50,094,599,5138,56,921,582031,6
1855FMNavalgund NiranjanIND2240KAR8,50,094,599,5138,54,174,332086,6
1926IMRajesh V A VIND2402TN8,50,093,599,0138,57,660,84108,4
209GMKarthik VenkataramanIND2527AP8,50,092,097,0138,59,89-1,3910-13,9

Aravindh receiving his trophy and cheque from the dignitaries | Photo: Atul Kumar Gupta

I would like to cover Aravindh's journey at the National Championship in a separate report that will have the interview with the national champion. However, if there was one game that I had to choose which would be my favourite Aravindh victory in the tournament, it would be his win in the rook endgame over Abhijeet Gupta.


Aravindh Chithambaram vs Abhijeet Gupta, Round 5

The position is even. Look how Aravindh manages to create play.

The pawn break of d4-d5 created some chances to begin with

The second pawn sacrifices was very thematic

The king activated itself and used the f-pawn as an umbrella

Abhijeet too played excellently to hold the balance until this point. Here ...Ke8 would have drawn the game, while ...Kg8, what Gupta played, was a mistake. His king was cut off and he lost the game.

Did you enjoy the endgame? Well, while analyzing it, I realized that this endgame of Aravindh vs Abhijeet resembles very closely with the famous Capablanca - Tartakower endgame, where the World Champion Capablanca, gave up his pawns just like Aravindh did, used his opponent's pawns as an umbrella and won the game! Here's the famous endgame:

Second place and a cheque of Rs.4,00,000 was won by IM CRG Krishna | Photo: Atul Kumar Gupta

What is quite interesting is the way in which Krishna came from behind and scored a massive 6.0/7 towards the end to finish second.

With 3.5/6, no one would have imagined that CRG could fight for the top prizes! But he did and he beat some really strong players like P. Konguvel, Praveen Thipsay, Raahul VS and Stany GA on his road to the runner's up position

CRG Krishna's best game in the tournament was surely his win at a critical juncture over Stany G.A. In the penultimate round, Stany had an excellent chance of winning the title, but CRG's queen sacrifice in the game became a bit too much to handle!

Stany GA vs CRG Krishna, round 12

The queen is attacked by the bishop on f2. CRG took on h5 and sacrificed his queen for a rook, piece and a pawn

CRG Krishna now has a rating of 2469 and two GM norms. Judging from the way he is playing, he might become a GM very soon.

Srijit Paul played a splendid tournament, scored 9.5/13, gained 75 Elo points and made an IM norm | Photo: Atul Kumar Gupta

Srijit Paul is a 17-year-old youngster from West Bengal. His start to the tournament was not so great as he drew against 1760 opponent. But in the third round he beat India's 56th GM Harsha Bharathakoti. This was followed by a loss against GM Laxman and GM Abhijeet Gupta. Until round 7 it seemed like a normal tournament for Srijit. But that's where his tournament stopped being normal and became an amazing one! First he beat IM Swayams Mishra in round 9, this was followed by a win against GM Sundarajan Kidambi and then in the penultimate round agaisnt GM Anurag Mhamal. His last round opponent was GM Vaibhav Suri who was fighting for the top spot. Srijit once again maintained his cool and beat his opponent with the black pieces! Thus ended a splendid tournament for the West Bengal youngster. Third place, three lakh rupees, 75 Elo points, IM norm and loads of experience! What more can one ask for from a single event! 

The amazing performance of Srijit Paul. He gained 75 Elo points and also scored an IM norm

Top three places at the National Championships 2018: 1st: Aravindh Chithambaram (centre), 2nd: IM CRG Krishna (right), 3rd: IM Srijit Paul (left) | Photo: Atul Kumar Gupta

GM M.R. Venkatesh finished fourth | Photo: Atul Kumar Gupta

Deep Sengupta had to settle for fifth spot | Photo: Atul Kumar Gupta

Prize money won by top 10 players (source: AICF):

This was the highest prize money nationals ever. A total of Rs. 20,00,000 was at stake in the tournament. These are the prizes won by the players:

1GM Aravindh ChithambaramTN10 ptsRs. 5,00,000/-
2IM CRG KrishnaRSPB9.5 ptsRs. 4,00,000/-
3Srijit PaulWB9.5 ptsRs. 3,00,000/-
4GM Venkatesh M RPSPB9.5 ptsRs..2,00,000/-
5GM Deep SenguptaPSPB9.0 ptsRs. 1,50,000/-
6GM Vaibhav SuriPSPB9.0 ptsRs. 1,00,000/-
7GM Vishnu PrasannaTN9.0 ptsRs. 1,00,000/-
8IM Akash GTN9.0 ptsRs. 1,00,000/-
9GM Sandipan ChandaWB9.0 ptsRs. 75,000
10IM Stany G.AAAI9.0 ptsRs. 75,001

All prize winners and norm makers and officials captured in one frame | Photo: Atul Kumar Gupta  

Norm makers:

The tournament was a big success from the point of view of norm makers. As chief arbiter Dharmendra Kumar informed us, "A total of five norms were made at the event. One GM norm and four IM norms."

Stany GA made a GM norm. He also became India's 58th GM

Srijit Paul achieved an IM norm. This was his third norm.

Niranjan Navalgund made an IM norm

Harshavardhan GB scored an IM norm. Harshavardhan is the son of the famous Indian Bank player K. Gopalakrishnan

Ritviz Parab from Goa scored an IM norm

Winner of the Trivia:

In our first report on the National Championship we had asked you who would win the National title. We got many different answers, but only one could guess the winner correctly. Aakash Dalvi guessed the right answer - Aravindh Chithambaram. Congratulations Aakash, you win one month ChessBase Premium Account. Please write to us at to claim your prize!

Aakash Dalvi wins 1 month Premium ChessBase Account for guessing that Aravindh Chithambaram would win the tournament at the beginning of the event