National Chess: Lalit Babu wins maiden National crown

Fourth seed Lalit finished the 13-round event with nine points, half a point ahead of fellow overnight leader Aravindh while top seed M. Karthikeyan, looking for a hat-trick of National titles, topped a three-way tie for the third place.

M.R. Lalit Babu (left), winner of the National Chess Championship and runner-up Aravindh Chithambaram with their trophies.   -  Ranjeet Kumar

Odisha’s flamboyant young Grandmaster Debashis Das proved the 'kingmaker' in the coronation of Indian Oil’s M. R. Lalit Babu as the new National chess champion here.

After Lalit found it increasingly difficult to hold his nerves in the final round against Swapnil Dhopade and drew in just 14 moves by repeating moves, Debashis pushed a more desperate Aravindh Chithambaram to defeat in 28 moves.

With Aravindh’s defeat, Lalit deservedly claimed honours that came with Rs. 2.50 lakh and an unusually-designed wooden trophy.

For the record, fourth seed Lalit finished the 13-round event with nine points, half a point ahead of fellow overnight leader Aravindh. The effort was worth Rs. 1.40 lakh for the second seed.

Top seed M. Karthikeyan, looking for a hat-trick of National titles, topped a three-way tie for the third place and received Rs. one lakh. The victorious duo of Debashis and S. L. Narayanan followed Karthikeyan.

The final day also saw former champion Abhijit Kunte sign off with a victory before Himanshu Sharma scored his first triumph.

The final round, inaugurated jointly by veteran Grandmasters Pravin Thipsay and Dibyendu Barua, saw Lalit play nervous against a better-prepared Swapnil in Closed Catalan. At one point, the Vijaywada-youngster consumed almost an hour for a move before deciding to force a draw by repeating moves.

This left Aravindh needing nothing but a victory to pip Lalit at the post. But the pressure proved much for Chennai-boy.

With Debashis adopting a solid structure against Kings Indian Defence, Aravindh regretted his choice of opening. Since a draw or a defeat did not affect his runner-up finish, Aravindh went all out for a win.

However, he missed a tactical stroke from Debashis who offered his queen as part of a series of exchanges. Just when it became clear that Debashis would end up with an extra bishop on the board, a dejected Aravindh gave up.

Lalit, not happy with his play against Swapnil, was joyous with Debashis' victory that not only gave him the title but also ensured his presence in the Indian team for the next Olympiad.

RESULTS

13th round: M. R. Lalit Babu drew with Swapnil Dhopade in 14 moves; Debashis Das bt Aravindh Chithambaram in 28 moves; M. Karthikeyan drew with R. R. Laxman in 30 moves; S. Nitin lost to S. L. Narayanan in 55 moves; Arghyadip Das lost to Abhijit Kunte in 32 moves; Shyaam Nikhil drew with Deepan Chakkravarthy; Himanshu Sharma bt Sammed Shete in 47 moves.

Final standings: 1. Lalit (9 points), 2. Aravindh (8.5), 3-5. Karthikeyan, Debashis, Narayanan (7.5), 6-7. Nitin, Arghyadip (7), 8-9. Kunte, Laxman (6.5), 10-11. Deepan,  Swapnil (6), 12. Shyaam (5), 13. Sammed (4), 14. Himanshu (3).