Karthikeyan Murali: aiming to become a world champion

"Had I thought it was all over after losing the first two rounds, I wouldn’t have reached the top position. I only thought of giving my best in the remaining 11 rounds," says Karthikeyan Murali, the newly crowned National champion.

Karthikeyan Murali... looking to achieve 2600 Elo rating by the end of next year.   -  Special Arrangement

At 16, Grandmaster Karthikeyan Murali displays a maturity that belies his age. He remains unperturbed even in adversity, and his determination to fight his way out of the situation stands out.

“Had I thought it was all over after losing the first two rounds, I wouldn’t have reached the top position,” said the newly crowned National champion. “I only thought of giving my best in the remaining 11 rounds.”

In the ONGC 53rd National Premier Chess Championship in Tiruvarur (Tamil Nadu) recently, Karthikeyan, after losing the first two rounds, won three on the bounce and drew in the sixth to move into the top three. And by the time he met the front-runner, GM Vidit Gujrathi, in the 10th round, Karthikeyan had moved to the second spot.

In the 10th round, adopting the c5 line in the Tarrasch variation of the French defence, Vidit decided to exchange the queens on the 21st move. He lost his rook for a knight after four more moves. Karthikeyan then held on to the advantage and gave back the rook for a bishop and pawn.

It culminated in a passed-pawn for him, which could not be stopped, and Vidit resigned on the 63rd move.

The loss proved crucial for Vidit in the end. Karthikeyan and Vidit finished with 8.5 points each after the 13th and final round. However, Karthikeyan was adjudged winner since he had defeated Vidit in the 10th round.

Karthikeyan said he was expecting stiff competition coming into the tournament. “My idea was to concentrate on each round and not to worry about the outcome. It helped me focus better,” said the youngster, who is coached by K. Visweswaran, a FIDE trainer. A Standard XII student of Velammal Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Mogappair, Chennai, Karthikeyan’s long-term goals are to achieve 2800 Elo rating and become a World champion like his idol Viswanathan Anand.

“But my immediate goal is to achieve 2600 Elo rating by the end of next year,” he said.

Karthikeyan, who swims and performs yoga regularly, unwinds by watching Tamil comedies. “It makes me feel relaxed, and that, in turn, helps me come up with new ideas,” he said with a smile.