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National Premier 2017 Round 13: "I am the happiest man!"

by Sagar Shah - 10/11/2017

Those were Lalith Babu's words when asked as to how he felt after winning his first national seniors title. The Andhra boy has had a rough period in his life since 2013. Four years had passed and he hadn't won a single tournament. Winning this National Premier meant a lot for Lalith. Earlier in the day he had agreed to the shortest draw in the tournament - 14 moves. Aravindh, who was jointly leading with him, however slumped to a disastrous loss. As a result Lalith was crowned the Champion with 9.0/13. We have pictures, videos, stories and all the happenings from the final day of 55th National Premier Championship in Patna, Bihar.

Lalith Babu is the 55th National Premier champion 2017

25 years ago Patna hosted the National Premier in 1992. Pravin Thipsay was the Champion. Now 25 years later the National Championship was held in the city once again! And it went without saying that Pravin Thipsay had to be present in the closing ceremony of this historic occasion. Along with Thipsay, Dibyendu Barua was also invited, which made it a show to remember.

Rarely would you see India's second and third grandmaster seated next to each other like this! |Photo: Amruta Mokal

The organizers took it as an opportunity to host a show named "Blast from the Past" where the two legends - Thipsay and Barua shared their chess experience on and off the board with the audience. We have also video recorded the entire show which will be released soon.


Earlier in the day, Pravin Thipsay and Dibyendu Barua inaugurated the all important final round of the tournament. Lalith Babu and Aravindh Chithambaram were leading the tournament with 8.5/12. Things could go either way, but Lalith surely had the edge. Firstly he was white against Swapnil Dhopade as compared to Aravindh having black against Debashis Das. Also Lalith had a better tiebreak score thanks to his victory over Aravindh earlier in the tournament.

Dibyendu Barua watching the all important Lalith vs Swapnil battle  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

The tension in the room was quite palpable. Swapnil came to the board with a line in the Catalan that he had never played before. Lalith panicked as he had very little idea of what had to be done. He started taking loads of time on his clock. Very soon he was 45 minutes down on time. But things were fine for Lalith because on the adjoining board, his rival Aravindh Chithambaram had put himself in a horrible situation by playing a highly inferior line in the King's Indian. One look at the b7 bishop was easy to convince everyone that Aravindh was going to need a miracle to win this one. Seeing that he was low on time and outprepared, Lalith took a draw in fourteen moves.

Aravindh has a smile on the face. He knows that it's all over.  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

When it comes to milking positional advantages, you can count on Debashis to get the job done. He made one powerful move after another and before you knew it, the game was already over.

Final moments of Aravindh losing his game to Debashis captured by ChessBase India

For Aravindh this was a hearbreaking result. However, like a true gentleman he maintained his smile and composure.  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

"I think my opponent's opening choice was very bad. After the game Aravindh told me that he has had very bad results in the last round. Even in the last national premier he lost the last round to R.R. Laxman," said Debashis. Aravindh also was unhappy with his final round game, but with great maturity, speaking with ChessBase India he said, "I am happy with what I got. The last round game was not great, but I am in general happy with the quality of my play in other games." Many experts including India number three Vidit Gujrathi point out that Aravindh's talent is off the charts. Reaching 2650 is something that we can expect from him in the near future. The only thing that needs polishing is his psychological toughness. If he can achieve that, then sky is the limit for this young lad.


Aravindh's defeat meant that Lalith Babu was now the only player on nine points out of thirteen and he had become the 55th National Premier Champion 2017. If there was someone who deserved this title it was surely Lalith Babu. As Debashis rightly pointed out, "Aravindh is just 18 years old. He will win the National Premier for sure in the years to come. However, for Lalith this was an extremely crucial breakthrough." Lalith was ecstatic after the victory. He spoke with his mother (which we captured on a video) and his coach G. Muralikrishna, the two main pillars of his victory.

55th National Premier Champion M.R. Lalith Babu | Photo: Amruta Mokal

After the event ended we spoke with Lalith about his maiden national premier victory. "I am the happiest man", said Lalith. "I trained very hard for two months with my coach G. Muralikrishna in Ponnur. He along with recently minted IM Dhulipala Bala Chandra Prasad helped me to prepare for this event. I would like to thank my coach, my mother and my sister for always supporting me."

The winning trio - coach G. Muralikrishna, IM Dhulipala Bala Chandra Prasad and GM Lalith Babu | Photo: archives of G. Muralikrishna

Exclusive ChessBase India interview with 55th National Premier Champion: 

Replay all the games of round 13

S.L. Narayanan managed to down S. Nitin in a long struggle  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

Arghyadip Das had a great event, but slumped to a last round defeat against Abhijit's Kunte. Abhijit Kunte covered good ground and finished with 50% score.  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

One of the most inspirational moments of the tournament - Himanshu Sharma fighting hard for his first win after eight losses in the tournament and finally achieving it!  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

In the background Deepan, Lalith and Swapnil had their share of fun seeing Himanshu win!  |Photo: Amruta Mokal
Himanshu analyzes the reason of his dismal result. A tournament where Haryana's first GM loses 40 Elo point is rare! Maybe once in a lifetime thing!

Results of round 13

Round 13 on 2017/11/10 at 10:00 AM
172525GMLalith Babu M R½ - ½GMSwapnil S. Dhopade251614
282415IMNitin S.0 - 1GMSunilduth Lyna Narayanan25686
392422IMShyaamnikhil P½ - ½GMDeepan Chakkravarthy J.24775
4102510GMHimanshu Sharma1 - 0Sammed Jaykumar Shete23104
5112494GMDebashis Das1 - 0GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.25733
6122434IMDas Arghyadip0 - 1GMKunte Abhijit25032
7132578GMKarthikeyan Murali½ - ½GMLaxman R.R.23921

Final Ranking crosstable after 13 Rounds

Rk.NameRtgFED1234567891011121314Pts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
1GMLalith Babu M R2525IND*10111½½1½½½1½9,00,057,756,0
2GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.2573IND0*½01½½½1½11118,50,049,006,0
3GMKarthikeyan Murali2578IND1½*½½½½½½1½0½17,51,048,253,0
4GMDebashis Das2494IND01½*½½½½1½½½½17,51,046,253,0
5GMSunilduth Lyna Narayanan2568IND00½½*11½½½½½117,51,043,504,0
6IMNitin S.2415IND0½½½0*½1½11½½½7,00,543,003,0
7IMDas Arghyadip2434IND½½½½0½*0½1½1½17,00,542,003,0
8GMKunte Abhijit2503IND½½½½½01*½½½½016,50,541,752,0
9GMLaxman R.R.2392IND00½0½½½½*1½½116,50,536,253,0
10GMDeepan Chakkravarthy J.2477IND½½0½½00½0*1½116,01,035,003,0
11GMSwapnil S. Dhopade2516IND½0½½½0½½½0*11½6,00,036,252,0
12IMShyaamnikhil P2422IND½01½½½0½½½0*0½5,00,034,001,0
13Sammed Jaykumar Shete2310IND00½½0½½10001*04,00,026,002,0
14GMHimanshu Sharma2510IND½0000½0000½½1*3,00,017,501,0

Closing ceremony:

Lalith receiving the winner's trophy and cheque of Rs. 2,50,000 from justice A.K. Tripathi who was the chief guest at the ceremony  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

The winner and the runners-up  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

Elegant wooden trophies were kept as prizes  |Photo: Amruta Mokal
A video of places 14 to third receiving prizes

The closing ceremony was great fun as jokes were cracked all around!  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

Bharat Singh, the AICF Secretary, was due to arrive at the closing ceremony. However, due to fog issues his flight was circling between Kolkata and Patna. He travelled for nearly eight hours. As Dibyendu Barua jokingly said, "Now all of us should entertain each other by giving speeches!" Abhijit Kunte was invited to speak about his experience of playing the 20th National Premier.

In his inimitable style Kunte said, "Lalith was my room mate!" and the crowd burst into laughter!  |Photo: Amruta Mokal
"When it comes to organizing National Premier, this can be taken as a model tournament!" says Abhijit Kunte

Two time National Champion Karthikeyan Murali couldn't make it a hat trick and finished third  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

After some great difficulties AICF Secretary Bharat Singh finally arrived  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

The chess lover in Bharat Singh was quite visible when he was asked to speak, " I had a long flight. However I didn't miss the game between Aravindh and Debashis. White broke in the centre with d5 and it was a nice win by Debashis." A very short yet apt speech by the Secretary which showed that he is completely involved in the sport that he is promoting.

Yours truly receiving a prize from the organizers on behalf of the entire team of ChessBase India for coverage during the event  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

The badminton nationals was in progress during the same time as the National Premier, but ace Hindu reporter Rakesh Rao chose chess over badminton! We thank him for his wonderful gesture!  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

Three people who worked extremely hard to make this tournament successful (left to right) - IA Dharmendra Kumar, Tournament Director Arvind Kumar Sinha, chief of Bureau of the Pioneer Navin Upadhyay.  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

Special mention must be made of Nishant Sinha (right), son of A.K. Sinha, who put his heart and soul to ensure the success of the event. Milan Jha (left) also worked really hard throughout the tournament.  |Photo: Amruta Mokal

A perfect group selfie!

Lalith's after party! There are some stories which need to be kept off record!

Previous reports:

India's strongest tournament National Premier 2017 is here!

R1: Deepan carries his Challengers form to the Premier

R2: How to beat Ruy Lopez Exchange

R3: Capablanca's theorem helps Aravindh

R4: King is an active piece!

R5: Shete scores a stunning win

R6: Aravindh Chithambaram is the sole leader

R7: Unrest after the rest day

R8: Winning this tournament is not Aravindh's aim

R9: Lalith Babu throws the tournament wide open

R10: Can Lalith win his maiden National Premier title

Hindi coverage by Niklesh Jain:

नेशनल प्रीमियर-R1- दीपन के प्यादों में उलझे हिमांशु

नेशनल प्रीमियर R-2- जब राजा निकला घूमने !

अरविंद - अर्घ्यदीप की पहली जीत

नेशनल प्रीमियर R-4 - अब आया खेल का मजा !

नेशनल प्रीमियर-R-5 : उलटफेर अभिजीत कुंटे हारे

नेशनल प्रीमियर-R-6 -अरविंद निकले सबसे आगे !

नेशनल प्रीमियर-R-7-विश्राम के बाद :जमकर हुए प्रहार

नेशनल प्रीमियर-R-8 -अरविंद के कदम खिताब की ओर

नेशनल प्रीमियर-R-9-ललित के कमाल से अरविंद बेहाल

नेशनल प्रीमियर R10 -ललित का विजयरथ क्या दीपन रोकेंगे !

नेशनल प्रीमियर R11 :रोमांचक हुई खिताब की दौड़