How Ponnur helped Lalith Babu reinvent himself

When chess Grandmaster M.R. Lalith Babu was low in self-esteem after a series of disappointing outings early this year, he decided to shift his base to Ponnur, a tranquil town in Guntur District...

Lalith Babu after winning the National Chess Championship in Patna.   -  Ranjeet Kumar

When chess Grandmaster M.R. Lalith Babu was low in self-esteem after a series of disappointing outings early this year, he decided to shift his base to Ponnur, a tranquil town in Guntur District.

The rating of the Indian Oil Corporation officer plummeted from 2598 to 2525, forcing him to get back to his mentor, guide and first coach G. Murali Krishna, who runs an academy at Ponnur.

“For nearly three months I rented out an apartment and lived in a complete chess atmosphere which helped me erase my negative thoughts and infused a new lease of life,” recollected Lalith, who emerged as national champion at Patna after five attempts. The champion said the stay in the tiny town gave him time and energy to reinvent himself.

“For nearly three months I rented out an apartment and lived in a complete chess atmosphere which helped me erase my negative thoughts and infused a new lease of life.”

 

“Chess was the only bonding factor in the academy as we, players, literally celebrated the eat-breathe-sleep ambiance. More than improving technique, the stay helped me emerge stronger emotionally and psychologically. A bit of yoga and few games of table tennis allowed me to relax and fortify my preparations,” told Sportstar Lalith after landing at Gannavaram airport.

G. Murali Krishna, an unassuming chess coach, is one of the most respected coaches in Andhra Pradesh. The 46-year-old has had a close association with celebrity players like Koneru Humpy, Pendyala Harikrishna, Dronavalli Harika and other stars of Indian chess.

“I went to him because he knew me thoroughly. He knows by the standard of play, my strengths, and shortcomings. More than me, he (Murali Krishna) is happy for my achievement,” said the new national champion.

The 25-year-old finished third in the national championship held in 2013 and in his other three attempts he was able to finish at top ten. “I did not do anything exceptional except help him regain his confidence and smile.  This victory gives him the tag as a national champion and will provide a good number of opportunities to play big tournaments.  He will also be part of the Indian team for the next Olympiad which will provide him a chance to rub shoulders with celebrity players Viswanathan Anand, P. Harikrishna, and others,” said Murali Krishna.

Incidentally, Lalith, a Commonwealth champion, took a 10-day coaching stint at Belgium under the Russian Grandmaster Vladimir Chuchelov in 2016 as his financial inadequacy prevented him to stay longer. The trip was sponsored by Andhra Cricket Association.

  Dugout videos