Hyderabad: Musunuri Lalith Babu, who has an Elo rating of 2525, finally broke the jinx. The 24-year-old Grandmaster from Vijayawada annexed his first ever National Premier chess championship in Patna on Friday. He scored nine points at the end of 13 rounds, edging past Aravindh Chithambaram of Tamil Nadu. “It is amazing to win my first-ever National championship. It is dream come true. It has been years since I have been eyeing this premier tournament and when I finally won, I was very happy. It is a long process. It needs a lot of hard work from qualifying for the championship to the 13-round premier tournament,’’ said Lalith Babu of PSPB, while talking to N Jagannath Das on Saturday.
On his near misses in the championship
In 2013, I thought I was very close to winning the championship but somehow I missed the bus. I didn’t participate in the last two years as I could not qualify. It is a fresh beginning for me. This year, I was well prepared. I was very relaxed not worried about the results most of the time. I’m a more matured player now. It was more a psychological battle.
On his preparations for National championship
The championship was very tough. There were a lot of young guys and plenty of Grandmasters. We had to play five to six hours every round. I was training under G Muralikrishna and in last two months I was in Ponnur working hard for the championship.
On turning points in the championship
The matches against SL Narayanan in 12th round and in 11th round against Grandmaster Deepan Chakkravarthy were crucial. I won with black pieces against Chakkravarthy.
On his bad start
In fact, I played very badly in the first six rounds and I got only 3.5 points. I lost to last year’s champion Grandmaster Karthikeyan Murali. But after the rest day, I concentrated hard and I got my momentum back. I scored 5.5 points from seven rounds. That was a big comeback. My main strategy was to strike with white pieces which I was not able to do, so I started winning with black pieces.
On importance of this Nationals
It is a big break for me. The last time I won big tournaments was in 2013 and after that I could not win a single one. It was a long drought. I was a little disappointed as I thought of reaching top 50 or 100 in World ratings which was not happening. The big blow was early this year when I lost a good chunk of points in two tournaments. Overall, it was a bad phase and now with this National title, it is a new start for me.
On Indian chess
It is getting tough in Indian chess. There are a few exciting players coming up in the horizon and with help of technology, the preparations are becoming tougher. I’m happy I will be in Indian Olympiad team.