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India's strongest tournament National Premier 2017 is here!

by Sagar Shah - 28/10/2017

What makes the National Premier 2017 truly a special event is the average age of top three seeds - 18 years! Two time National Champion Karthikeyan Murali is back to defend the title. He will be given a tough fight by Aravindh Chithambaram and S.L. Narayanan. We also have experience in the field in the from of Swapnil Dhopade, Himanshu Sharma, Abhijit Kunte, Lalith Babu and many others. The National Premier is being held in Patna, Bihar from the 28th of October to 10th of November 2017. We bring you players' views and a preview of the event. 

The National Premier Championships 2017 is here. From 28th of October to 10th of November, some of the best players of Indian chess will fight it out in Patna, Bihar for the title of the National Champion. It is a 14 player round robin tournament. A lot is at stake here, a possible place in the Indian team for Olympiad 2018. Here's the players list:

S.No Title Name Rating
1 GM Karthikeyan Murali 2578
2 GM Aravindh Chithambaram 2573
3 GM S.L. Narayanan 2568
4 GM Lalith Babu 2525
5 GM Swapnil Dhopade 2516
6 GM Himanshu Sharma 2510
7 GM Abhijit Kunte 2503
8 GM Debashis Das 2494
9 GM Deepan Chakkravarthy 2477
10 IM Arghyadip Das 2434
11 IM P. Shyaam Nikhil 2422
12 IM S. Nitin 2415
13 GM R.R. Laxman 2392
14   Sammed Jayakumar Shete 2310

One thing which is a tad disheartening is the fact that there is no player above 2600 playing at this event. It surely has to do with the latest announcement by AICF regarding the selection of the Olympiad team based on ratings. Here's an excerpt from the announcement:


"It has been decided to select Indian Men and Women team for Olympiad/World/Asian Team Championships on the basis of ELO rating.  However the National Champion will get an added a bonus of 50 rating points and Women Champion 25 rating points.


Consequentially, the existing Rule of awarding 75 ELO points for players who participate in the National Challengers/Premier and National Women Challengers/Premier stands withdrawn with immediate effect and as such no ELO points will be added. For the purpose of calculating the rating, three months average rating of the player prior to the selection month will be taken in to account. The teams will be selected 3 months prior to the scheduled month of event."

Significance of National Premier

If the Indian team is selected on the basis of the rating for the Olympiad 2018, this is the list that we have to be looking at:

We can safely assume that Vishy Anand would not play. Harikrishna, Vidit, Sasikiran and Adhiban seem to have confirmed their spot for the Olympiad thanks to a high rating. However, for the fifth player there could be a good fight between the National Champion and Ganguly or Negi. If a player like Karthikeyan Murali (2578) becomes the champion and gains around 30 Elo points in a few months, he would be in an ideal situation to overtake Surya Sekhar Ganguly with his additional 50 points as the national champion 2017. 


But this does explain why a lot of our top guys have refrained from playing the National Premier 2017. The field consists of the reigning national champion (Karthikeyan) + 13 players from national Challengers. We asked the players what they thought about the strength of the event and their personal ambition at the tournament. Let's have a breakdown of the players.

Karthikeyan Murali (2578):

Karthikeyan Murali | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Karthikeyan would be looking to achieve his third national title in a row. It's simply phenomenal what the 17-year-old has been able to achieve in the last two years. Two national championships in spite of some big names taking part. Speaking to ChessBase India he said, "It is going to be a very good tournament. There are many new players. New experiences to gain. I don't want to pressure myself for defending the title. As usual, I will give my best in every single game. So looking forward for the new experience!"

Aravindh Chithambaram (2573):

Aravindh Chithambaram | Photo: Amruta Mokal

In 2016 the person who was a favourite to win the national title was Aravindh Chithambaram. A few bad moves at the end and he finished second. Aravindh would be looking to win the title this time around. This is what he said to ChessBase India when we contacted him: "Everyone is rated above 2300. Definitely, it is going to be a strong tournament and as usual I don't have any aim I just want to play good chess!"

S.L. Narayanan (2568):

S.L. Narayanan | Photo: ChessBase India archives

S.L. Narayanan has quietly climbed up the ladder and now has a healthy rating of 2568. Whenever he plays a strong tournament, we see him beating a big name at the event. With his excellent opening preparation and calm demeanour he is surely a favourite to win the title. It's very nice to see three youngsters Karhtikeyan, Aravindh and S.L. Narayanan being the top seeds at this national premier 2017.

Lalith Babu (2525):

Lalith Babu | Photo: Sophie Triay

Lalith has shown always tremendous promise. Instead of being well into 2600 and aiming to cross 2700 like Adhiban or Sethuraman, he is currently languishing at a rating of 2525. But all of this could change if he wins this national title. Speaking to ChessBase India Lalith said, "Even though the top Indian line up is not playing, many strong grandmasters are participating in this event. It will be a strongest national premier chess. I want to play better chess than ever."

Swapnil Dhopade (2516):

Swapnil Dhopade | Photo: Amruta Mokal

After his excellent performance at the Isle of Man International 2017, Swapnil is surely a favourite to win the title. He has been working hard on chess lately and this is what he has to say about the tournament, "The field is very even. There is no 2600+ this time but it doesn't make the championship any less tougher. I think all the games will be hard fought. My personal aim is to play each and every game as well as I can. I want to give my 100% in every game."

Himanshu Sharma (2510):

Himanshu Sharma | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Himanshu is one of those guys who doesn't indulge in too much of theory. He likes to play original chess and put his mind to work at the board. Will he be able to sustain with this approach of 13 rounds against opponents who are going to come for his throat with excellent preparation? Himanshu spoke to ChessBase India: "National Premier is always a strong and powerful tool - great test of all of your game skills. Few words can never fully define the strength of such a major event. I always aim to perform as strongly as possible over the board."

Abhijit Kunte (2504):

Abhijit Kunte | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Abhijit Kunte is a veteran of many battles. His presence adds colour to the tournament. At 40, he is the oldest participant at the event. Kunte is a pragmatic player. He chooses carefully the rounds in which he has to give his all. That is why he is always very solid and dangerous. Speaking to ChessBase India, Kunte said, "This is my 20th National Premier. Field is quiet strong with a mixture of talented youngsters, and seasoned players. I will try to play my best."

Debashis Das (2494):

Debashis Das | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A talented youngster in Indian chess filled with great knowledge of theory and classics. However, when it comes to practical chess Debashis has more often than not faltered at crucial moments. With his solid playing style he can pose problems to each and every participant in the competitiion.

Deepan Chakkravarthy (2477):

Deepan Chakkravarthy | Photo: Lennart Ootes

His victory at the National Challengers was nothing short of a fairy tale. Showing truckloads of self belief and will power he beat Swapnil Dhopade with the black pieces to claim the championship. Deepan considers this National Premier to be extremely strong. "I want to give my best." is his personal ambition at the event. Whether he will be able to weave his National Challengers magic once again remains to be seen.

Arghyadip Das (2424):

Arghyadip Das | Photo: unknown

Arghyadip had some very interesting observations to make about the event: "I played already 2-3 national As before and only this time I realized except Kunte Dada, Himanshu and Laxman I am one of the older participant here. The players are very young and it is a very good sign for Indian chess." What are Das' personal ambitions at the event? "I want to finish within top 3. I like this event as all the players are very strong and it will be a tough and enjoyable fight in each game." 

Shyaam Nikhil (2422):

P. Shyaam Nikhil | Photo: ChessBase India archives

P. Shyaam Nikhil has surpassed the 2500 rating barrier in the past. This goes to show how strong he really is. He is a man of few words but he makes sure that his moves do the talking. It will be interesting to see how he fares at this event.

S. Nitin (2415):

S. Nitin | Photo: Lennart Ootes

S. Nitin is an aggressive player. He is going to add spice to this competition. It will be interesting to see if he can avoid going overboard with his aggression and pose problems to some of the super solid guys in the competition. Nitin spoke to ChessBase India and said the following, "About the field - everyone knows it’s a quite strong field .Each individual will be well prepared and motivated to give their best. It’s going to be a real excitement. My aim: I want to play my best chess in all 13 rounds." 

R.R. Laxman (2392):

R.R. Laxman | Photo: Shahid Ahmed

With Laxman you can never be sure of what he is capable of achieving. One day he could play a bad game with a lot of errors while on the next he is quite capable of a flawless performance. Speaking to ChessBase India, Laxman said, "The field is very strong and well balanced with  players of more or less equal strengths participating. On his day anyone can outclass anyone. As far as my personal ambition is concerned I am eager  to put in my best effort and increase as much rating as I can."

Sammed Jayakumar Shete (2310):

Sammed Jayakumar Shete | Photo: Ankit Dalal

Sammed is the only untitled player in the event. While this will be a big test of his character, we are sure that after this event he would be a stronger player than what he was before.


It's going to be 14 player Round Robin event of 13 rounds. The players are fighting for a prize pool of Rs. 10,00,000. Round one will be played in the afternoon at 1300 hours on 28th of October:

Pairings for round one:

Round 1 on 2017/10/28 at 01:00 PM
112392GMLaxman R.R.GMSwapnil S. Dhopade251614
222503GMKunte AbhijitGMKarthikeyan Murali257813
332573GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.IMDas Arghyadip243412
442310Sammed Jaykumar SheteGMDebashis Das249411
552477GMDeepan Chakkravarthy J.GMHimanshu Sharma251010
662568GMSunilduth Lyna NarayananIMShyaamnikhil P24229
772525GMLalith Babu M RIMNitin S.24158

View more information about the tournament on Chess-results

ChessBase India will provide in-depth coverage of the event. Our reporters will be present at the venue from sixth round onwards.

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