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World Juniors 10+11: Aravindh Chithambaram tangoes to the top

by Aditya Pai - 26/11/2017

After eleven rounds of nerve-wracking chess, the World Junior Championship finally came to a close. Even though India's little star, R Praggnanandhaa was unable to win the event and clinch the GM title, he played amazingly well and proved yet again what a world class player he is. Not to mention, he finished fourth on the leaderboard. Aravindh Chithambaram, who had fallen prey to an upset in the very first round of the event, made a startling comeback. Winning both of his last two games, he finished joint first and clinched the bronze medal. Here's an illustrated report on the performance of the Indian battalion. 

What a spectacular finish it was to the World  Junior Championship! After eleven hard fought rounds, it was the Norwegian GM Aryan Tari who won the title of World Junior Champion. But the road to victory was hardly an easy one. Going into the final round, he was paired against the top seed of the tournament, GM Jorden van Foreest and was held to a draw. This gave a field of six players the chance to catch up with the leader by winning their game. Oh the six, however, only two were able to succeed -- Manuel Petrosyan and Aravindh Chithambaram.  The three were now tied for first. After the tiebreak was applied, Tari was declared first, Petrosyan second and Chithambaram third.

 

R Praggnanandhaa, who had been chasing not only the title but also the GM title (which is awarded to the winner if he is not already a Grandmaster), was only able to draw his game against German GM Rasmus Svane and finished fourth.

For Chithambaram, the tournament was quite a rollercoaster ride. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

After suffering a setback in the very first round of the tournament, he had made a strong comeback by winning his next four games. In the next three rounds, however, his pace slowed down as the Chennai lad conceded three draws in a row. But then on, there was no looking back. Making his way to the top once again, Chithambaram began demolishing one opponent after another and joined the leaders in the last round beating strong Grandmasters like Kirill Alekseenko and Xu Xiangyu on the way.

 

Chithambaram's tenth round game was a long struggle that lasted for 79 moves. Playing with the whites against the Russian GM Kirill Alekseenko, Chithambaram went for the Ruy Lopez. The game was fairly balanced post the opening but soon afterwards, on move 27, Alekseenko faltered and Chithambaram got an edge. Continuing energetically, Aravindh got a winning advantage within just three moves. Perhaps the players were in time trouble at this time as Aravindh blundered a piece in a complicated position on move 40, the last move of the first time control. After this, Aravindh was still better but far from winning. Also, the position was razor sharp. At several points, both GMs faltered. Although Chithambaram was never in trouble during the game, he did miss opportunities to finish the game off sooner.

In his final round game, again Chithambaram totally dominated his Chinese opponent, Xu Xiangyu. With the hope of getting a non-theoretical position and also to a certain extent to surprise his opponent, Chithambaram went for the Knight's Tango with the black pieces against 1.d4. The position eventually transposed into a kind of a Queen's Gambit later. From the opening itself, Xu had been playing ambitiously. Perhaps, this was justified given that if he won, he would finish among the tournament toppers. In order to avoid allowing his opponent get counterplay, Xu gave up his castling right and recaptured a bishop with his king, thus leaving his king in the centre. Aravindh was quick to take advantage of his opponent's misplay and soon began generating a menacing attack on the white king. A neat tactical stroke on the 37th move forced the Chinese GM to tap out.

IM R Praggnanandhaa also had a dream run at the event. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Being merely 12 years old in a field of opponents under 20 years of age, Praggnanandhaa finished fourth with an unbeaten score of 8.0/11. Also, this was his chance to earn the GM title for himself as the sole winner of this tournament is awarded the title if the concerned player is not already a GM. In his final two games, Praggnanandhaa was only able to secure draws. Of course, for any player, this is a very good finish given the strength of the field. However, a closer look at his last two games gives the impression that maybe Praggna could have bettered his score had he just been able to keep his nerves in control in the final moments.

 

Especially noteworthy was Praggna's penultimate round game against the Russian IM Semen Lomasov. With the whites in hand, Praggna went for the non-committal 1.Nf3 and the game soon transposed into the Chigorin Defence. In the middle game, the Russian deployed some sneaky tricks and maneuvres to get a slightly better position. But Praggnanandhaa defended tenaciously and reached an endgame where both sides had a queen, a rook and a bunch of pawns. By now Praggnanandhaa even seemed to be slightly better given that the Russian's king was exposed. And just then, Lomasov blundered horribly and allowed Praggna to get his pieces into the black camp. From the very face of it, it looked busted. It seemed Praggna will cruise to victory and join Tari in the lead.

 

Alas, that was not to be. Completely misevaluating the position on the 57th move, Praggnandhaa repeated the position and signed the truce with his opponent when he had a winning attack. If only he had seen how easily he could have won, he would have led the tournament and kept decent chances of becoming the sole winner and the world's youngest Grandmaster.

Despite this mishap, Praggnanandhaa kept excellent chances for himself to finish at least joint first. But for that to happen, he would have to win his last round game against the German GM Svane Rasmus. Rasmus went for a pawn sacrifice early in the opening to create chances. Praggnanandhaa also did not back down and took the pawn. But as things panned out, Praggnanandhaa ended up giving back his extra pawn and keeping equal chances. By the 24th move, the players had reached an endgame where neither side was able to generate any chances and by move 32, peace was signed.

This meant that Praggnanandhaa had missed a great opportunity to get his GM title. But on the brighter side, he was able to match the wits of players much higher rated than him. In the fourth round, he even beat the top seed of the tournament, Jorden van Foreest and finished fourth on the leaderboard with an unbeaten score of 8.0/11. Besides, the boy made a GM norm with a round to spare. For a 12-year-old, that is a mighty high achievement.

Besides Praggnanandhaa and Aravindh Chithambaram, GM Murali Karthikeyan also finished among the top 10. Winning his final round game against IM Evgeny Zanan, he scored 8.0/11 and was seventh in the final standings. Photo: Anastasia Balakhontseva

Also, India's overall performance at this event just goes on to show the powerhouse of talent the country possesses. Among the top ten finishers of the event, three were Indians: Aravindh Chithambaram finished joint first (third on the final standings), Praggnanandhaa was fourth and Murali Karthikeyan finished seventh! The only other country to get these many players among the top ten was Russia -- a country which has a rich chess legacy. As for Praggnanandhaa's Grandmaster title requirements are concerned, he still has around three and a half months to break Karjakin's world record. And even if Praggnanandhaa isn't able to break it, it doesn't change the fact that Praggna is a world-class player and will soon be seen locking horns with the creme-de-la-creme of the chess world.

Round 11 Results  

Bo.No. NameRtgPts.ResultPts.NameRtg No.
11
GMVan Foreest Jorden2616½ - ½8GMTari Aryan2581
5
221
IMXu Xiangyu25430 - 1GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.2572
7
311
GMAlekseenko Kirill25630 - 1GMPetrosyan Manuel2554
16
43
GMSvane Rasmus25877½ - ½IMPraggnanandhaa R2509
26
56
GMKarthikeyan Murali257871 - 07IMZanan Evgeny2471
37
630
IMLomasov Semen24907½ - ½7FMLiu Yan2422
56
745
GMKobo Ori246070 - 17FMSorokin Aleksey2483
32
833
GMGagare Shardul2482½ - ½GMOparin Grigoriy2606
2
929
GMMoroni Luca Jr25060 - 1GMMartirosyan Haik M.2561
12
1017
GMBai Jinshi25531 - 0IMLivaic Leon2470
40
1148
IMKevlishvili Robby24450 - 1GMSarana Alexey2543
20
1249
IMLobanov Sergei24350 - 1GMTran Tuan Minh2538
22
1372
Zhao Yuanhe23770 - 1IMTriapishko Alexandr2508
28
144
GMSunilduth Lyna Narayanan258561 - 0IMBilguun Sumiya2460
46
1535
GMSalomon Johan247660 - 16GMDonchenko Alexander2567
9

Final Standings

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4  TB5 Rpwwew-weKrtg+/-
15
GMTari AryanNOR25818,50,072,078,056,027188,56,581,921019,2
216
GMPetrosyan ManuelARM25548,50,067,072,567,026708,56,911,591015,9
37
GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.IND25728,50,066,070,557,026458,57,411,091010,9
426
IMPraggnanandhaa RIND25098,00,072,577,565,0268885,412,591025,9
51
GMVan Foreest JordenNED26168,00,071,077,057,0263187,780,22102,2
632
FMSorokin AlekseyRUS24838,00,069,575,067,0267385,242,761027,6
76
GMKarthikeyan MuraliIND25788,00,067,072,057,0265486,971,031010,3
830
IMLomasov SemenRUS24907,50,074,579,554,026307,55,362,141021,4
911
GMAlekseenko KirillRUS25637,50,074,079,557,026287,56,510,99109,9
1021
IMXu XiangyuCHN25437,50,072,076,555,025977,56,650,85108,5
1156
FMLiu YanCHN24227,50,071,575,065,026347,54,253,251032,5
1217
GMBai JinshiCHN25537,50,066,572,056,025877,56,960,54105,4
1328
IMTriapishko AlexandrRUS25087,50,065,070,065,025727,56,510,99109,9
1422
GMTran Tuan MinhVIE25387,50,064,569,066,025777,56,870,63106,3
1520
GMSarana AlexeyRUS25437,50,064,069,566,025577,57,230,27102,7
1612
GMMartirosyan Haik M.ARM25617,50,063,568,565,025997,56,930,57105,7
173
GMSvane RasmusGER25877,50,063,568,056,025467,57,91-0,4110-4,1
1845
GMKobo OriISR24607,00,070,576,056,0256375,431,571015,7
192
GMOparin GrigoriyRUS26067,00,069,073,064,0256477,38-0,3810-3,8
2033
GMGagare ShardulIND24827,00,068,072,554,0255975,831,171011,7

Previous Reports on World Junior Championship

Coverage in English

World Juniors 01: Event opens with early shocks

World Junior 02: Four on a perfect score

World Junior 03: Only one Indian remains at the top

Praggnanandhaa stuns top seed Jorden van Foreest at the World Juniors

World Juniors 04: Harsha Bharathakoti loses his lead

World Junior 05: Chennai champs win the day!

World Junior 06+07: Just past the half way mark Pragg is joint second

Truly "a wonder!" Praggnanandhaa scores his first GM norm

Live Games from World Juniors 2017: It's Aryan vs Pragg

World Junior 09: Two blunders and a missed opportunity

Coverage in Hindi

विश्व जूनियर चैंपियनशिप :भारत की युवा उम्मीद !!

विश्व जूनियर चैंपियनशिप 2017 - अभी तो ये आरंभ है !

विश्व जूनियर - क्या प्रग्गानंधा जीत सकते थे ?

Coverage on Firstpost

World Juniors: Harsha Bharathakoti quickly off the mark, Aravindh Chithambaram suffers shock defeat

World Juniors: 12-year-old R Praggnanandhaa chases youngest Grand Master dream, throws tournament wide open