chessbase india logo

Gukesh and Savitha Shri win National under-11

by Sagar Shah - 10/12/2017

"They are diamonds - raw and uncut, I went to discover them in their purest form!" That's how Sagar Shah describes his visit to the under-11 nationals held in Pune from the 22nd to 30th November 2017. Gukesh and Savitha Shri won the event and the duo are definitely two of India's finest talents at the moment. But there were so many more champions to be explored. Pranav, Pranesh, Leon, Raahil, Sreeswan, Jimmy, Nikhil, Dev, Shahil, Bharath, Aditya, these are some of the names that you will hear often in the years to come. Here's a detailed report along with one hour of a very entertaining ChessBase workshop.

The National under-11 was held from the 22nd to 30th of November in Balewadi, Pune. The organizers made it a part of the Pune Chess Festival which had a FIDE rating event and also a below 1600 tournament.

The entrance of the Balewadi stadium with a statue of Shivaji | Photo: Sagar Shah

What made the national under-11 special? If you just glanced through the first few boards of the last round, you could be sure that most of them would be grandmasters in four to five years from now. And I am dead serious about it. That's how good these players are. They chew their pens, they cannot sit on their chairs, they are glancing at the neighbours' board much more than their own, but when they execute a move you can feel their strength. You can feel the hours of hard work at home showing itself in the form of confidence. And that's why I love to visit such events. You get to see the future diamonds of Indian chess in their unpolished form. Raw and uncut but extremely valuable.

The final round scene: Starting from board one you have Gukesh and Raahil Mullick, board two which got over had Pranav V against Jimmy Jubin, board three: Leon Mendonca versus Sreeswan Maralakshakari, board four: Aditya Samant against Pranesh. M, board five Shahil Dey and Bharath Subramaniyam, board six Nikhil Maghizan versus Dev Shah. I wrote down all the names here because at least three out of these boys will be GMs in the next five years! Not that I have a lot, but I can bet my fortune on this!


The boys event was extremely hard-fought. Going into the last round we had the leader Raahil Mullick on 8.5/10. He was followed by six players on 8 points. However, Raahil had a very tough last round pairing. He was playing black against Gukesh. Gukesh who is just eleven and a half years old and already boasts of a rating of 2362 and one IM norm, played a powerful game to finish the tournament on 9.0/11.

Although three other players joined Gukesh at the top, at the end it was the young boy from Andhra Pradesh who emerged as the national champion on tiebreaks.

Gukesh and Savitha Shri are the national under-11 champions 2017 | Photo: Rajini Kanth

Final Ranking after 11 Rounds in boys

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4  TB5 
11CMGukesh DIND2362A P9,00,078,082,566,257,0
22Pranav VIND2263T N9,00,077,583,066,009,0
37Pranesh MIND1977T N9,00,074,579,562,009,0
43CMMendonca Leon LukeIND2130GOA9,00,074,079,563,758,0
514CMMullick RaahilIND1775MAH8,51,075,580,560,008,0
65CMBharath Subramaniyam HIND2050T N8,50,071,576,556,258,0
74Sreeshwan MaralakshikariIND2067TEL8,00,079,084,058,257,0
88AGMJubin JimmyIND1936KER8,00,074,579,553,757,0
919Manish Kumar (2006)IND1710ORISSA8,00,071,077,052,007,0
1017Harshad SIND1759T N8,00,070,075,551,007,0

Final rankings

Final Ranking after 11 Rounds in girls

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4  TB5 
12Savitha Shri BIND1594T N9,00,071,074,559,258,0
28Velpula SarayuIND1428TEL9,00,070,575,560,258,0
34Boramanikar Tanisha SIND1523MAH8,50,069,573,053,007,0
45Vincent AlainaIND1500MAH8,50,066,070,553,758,0
535Kaamyaa NegiIND1254DEL8,00,080,086,060,007,0
615Ratnapriya KIND1386T N8,00,074,580,057,757,0
723WCMWankhade SanskrutiIND1311MAH8,00,072,077,053,257,0
824Shivika RohillaIND1309DEL8,00,072,077,052,507,0
91Vishwa VasnawalaIND1613GUJ8,00,064,569,047,507,0
109Sinthia SarkarIND1423W B8,00,064,068,548,257,0

Final rankings

I would rate Gukesh as the next big thing from Indian chess after Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin. "I consider myself a positional player, but I am good at tactics also!" says Gukesh in an interview with ChessBase India after his victory. The boy aims to be the youngest World Champion. "I want to break Magnus Carlsen's record of becoming the youngest World Champion!"

The very interesting analysis session with Gukesh where in he shows some high class analysis of the double bishop sacrifice game against Praneeth Vuppalla. | Photo: Amruta Mokal
You cannot miss Gukesh's analysis!

Two proud fathers of the national champions. In the yellow shirt is Gukesh's father and next to him his Savitha Shri's | Photo: Sagar Shah

I met Rajini Kanth, Gukesh's father, who was thrilled about his son's progress, yet at the same time a little hesitant. "I am quite nervous about all the attention that Gukesh is getting right now. I hope he can fulfill the promise that he is showing and the expectation that people have from him." I told him about the excellent analysis session that I had with his son and Rajini could hardly believe it. "Gukesh spoke a lot? He hardly speaks. It must have been about chess. When it is chess, it is difficult to stop him!" Rajini Kanth attributes Gukesh's development to his past coaches, "Mr.Bhaskar was his first coach then Mr.Vijayanand who guided Gukesh for 4 years until this March. Then IM Karthikeyan helped for a short while and now currently he is under the guidance of GM Vishnu Prasanna. Also we are thankful to sports psychologist Mr. Krishnaprasad who is helping Gukesh recently."


For the girls champion Savitha Shri, this is not her first national title. She had also won it in the under-9 section. The girl is surely one of those players that you have to keep an eye out for. She idolizes Judit Polgar and wants to reach the same heights as the Hungarian champion. From the time I spent analyzing her game I realized that the girl was very resilient and resourceful. These are the qualities that many of our top women players possess in plenty, be it Humpy, Viji or Padmini. I think Savitha will also walk that same path.

Savitha Shri shows her win over Kriti Patel and how she was able to trick her opponent

The second place in the event went to Pranav Venkatesh of Tamil Nadu | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Pranav Venkatesh has already made it to our newspage when the young boy beat Salem Saleh a 2650+ grandmaster at the Dubai Open. His talent is unquestionable and his understanding of the game is also very high. Three months ago he had a rating of 2372, which has now come down to 2263. Although Pranav's father Venkatesh is not very happy about this rating drop, he clearly understands that his boy needs to work harder to stabilize in that range. Pranav, who was earlier trained by WIM N. Raghavi, is also currently working with GM Vishnu Prasanna. It seems as if the GM from Chennai is the force behind all these young talents doing so well!

The winning duo - Pranav with his father Venkatesh | Photo: Sagar Shah

Third place went to Pranesh M of Tamil Nadu | Photo: Amruta Mokal

While Gukesh and Pranav were two boys that I had met on many occasions in the past, Pranesh is someone that I saw for the first time. The boy was sitting in an unusual way on the chair, it was as if he was almost going to fall off it. He was continuously chewing his pen and while making his moves he would hover his hand over the pieces for a little too long. However, the moves that he made show that he is surely a force to be reckoned with. Clearly under-rated at 1977, Pranesh played a very nice game in the final round to beat Aditya Samant. Although the middlegame and endgame play could have been improved by both sides, particularly impressive is Pranesh's solid opening play.

Aditya Samant did lose the above game, but he gave his opponent a tough fight. Have you read Aditya's article where he explains why he thinks Gukesh, who has been his competitor in the past, is so special. Read it here. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Fourth place in the tournament went to Leon Mendonca | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Leon Mendonca of Goa is just 11 years old but he is already an experienced campaigner over the board. All of this experience came to good use in the final round. His opponent Sreeswan Maralakshakari had a completely better position, close to winning. If you went up to the board, you could see a restless Sreeswan standing up and getting all excited about the win. Leon on the other hand was a picture of calmness as he sat in his chair and made his moves without much ado. Sreeswan made a lot of errors in the endgame and Leon won the game. He had won the game and reached 9 points, but the boy maintained his calm. This shows how level-headed he is.

For Leon the win meant joint first position, while for Sreewan, his excellent tournament had just been spoilt | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Sreeswan Maralakshakari with his parents | Photo: Sagar Shah

When interviewing Gukesh after the tournament, the young lad said, "If there was someone who played really well in the tournament it had to be Sreeswan. He played some fantastic games." Truly Sreeswan was unlucky to have missed out on a strong finish. In the last round he lost a winning game against Leon. But if there was one game where Maralakshakari was completely outplayed it had to be his tenth round game against Raahil Mullick:

Fifth place went to Raahil Mullick | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Raahil is surely one of the biggest finds of the event. With a rating of just 1775 no one gave him a chance. However, at the end of ten rounds he was leading the tournament with 8.5/10. The Mumbai boy lost to Gukesh in the last round, but surely made his mark with an Elo increase of 136. Raahil, who is trained by IM Prathamesh Mokal of Pune, is also the reigning under-10 Commonwealth Champion. His aim is to become the World Champion in the future and I see no reason why the boy should settle for something less. Have a look at the short interview + analysis session that I had with him:

Raahil shows his game against Sreeswan Maralakshakari

The final two winners in each category : Gukesh and Pranav in boys and Savitha and Sarayu in girls | Official photo

Mixed Organization:

The organizers of the event wanted to make it a week to remember. Hence, along with the nationals they kept two additional events - open FIDE rated tournament and also under-1600. The entire show was called the Pune Chess Festival. This saw a huge number of players coming together to play chess, which was essentially what the organizers intended. However, the infrastructure was not the best possible. The under-1600 event saw nearly 500 entries and it was held in the same playing venue as the nationals. This created quite a bit of chaos which is usually not expected at an important event like the national championship. The organizers, however, fixed this issue and the round timings of two separate events were adjusted so that they wouldn't clash with each other.

The playing hall was huge for the national championship, but if the under-1600 is added in there then things start to get cramped. Photo: Amruta Mokal

One of the best things introduced in the tournament was live broadcasting via youtube. The organizers tied up with Mobisportz. They posted a good quality DSLR camera in the stands and relayed the video live to their youtube channel. I think this is for the first time such a live relay was done in any national event. This was simply a fantastic achievement. On the last day I and Chandrashekhar Gokhale also did some live commentary and you can see that in the video below:

Youtube video of the final round with commentary by IMs C.S. Gokhale and Sagar Shah

This is a great step forward by the All Marathi Chess Association (AMCA) and we hope that they continue to improve the quality and get commentators to make these events truly world class.

ChessBase Workshop at the venue:

On 30th November Amruta and I did a ChessBase workshop at the venue. The Facebook post below explains to you what happened before the workshop and the video below gives you the entire footage of the one hour session:

Video of the workshop:

I think there is a lot of content in this video that can help you to become a stronger player. Let us know in the comment's section if you do enjoy it. The main thing I wanted to convince the players was to look around and see that there are gems everywhere! It need not be just in the games of super GMs. Hence I chose the game between Leon and Gukesh as my starting example:

If you did watch the video and are convinced that ChessBase 14 + Mega Database 2018 is important to take your game to the next level, then you can buy it from here: