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IOC A win the 32nd PSPB Inter Unit Rapid Team Championships

by Himank Ghosh - 14/03/2023

Grandmaster Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa did not have a particularly good tournament at the 32nd PSPB Inter Unit Rapid Team Championships 2023. We are so used to seeing him winning, 2 losses from IM Raahul VS and GM Abhijeet Gupta makes it seem like he was having a bad event! But the Chennai prodigy proved himself at the hour of need. In the finals between IOC A and ONGC A, Praggnanandhaa scored the decisive victory for his team - defeating the India no.2 Vidit Gujrathi! Thus, IOC A became the champions, ONGC A finished 2nd and BPCL stood 3rd. Read the detailed report of the final day below. Photo: Sagar Shah

Tournament Top seed grabs the trophy

It was a neck-to-neck battle between the two top seeds of the event - Team IOC A and ONGC A. Both the teams had the same points till the very final round! It was the tournament deciding match between IOC A and ONGC A in the 9th and final round of the 32nd PSPB Inter Unit Rapid Chess Championships.

GM SP Sethuraman (ONGC A) - GM Adhiban Baskaran (IOC A): 0.5-0.5 | Photo: Sagar Shah

GM Raunak Sadhwani (IOC A) - GM Mitrabha Guha (ONGC A): 0.5-0.5 | Photo: Sagar Shah

GM Murali Karthikeyan (IOC A) - GM Koneru Humpy (ONGC-A) : 0.5-0.5 | Photo: Sagar Shah

It all came down to the action at the top board where two of India's finest Grandmasters took on each other - Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa vs Vidit Gujrathi.

Adhiban wishes Pragg best of luck before his game against Vidit | PSPB 2023| Video: ChessBase India

Praggnanandhaa vs Vidit, Round 9

The top board clash in the final round. | Photo: Sagar Shah

The India no.2 Vidit Gujrathi employed his favorite Ragozin defense against Praggnanandhaa's 1. d4. Pragg maintained a slight advantage with the White pieces for a long time, then Vidit cracked under pressure:

Position after 31...Rg8?

...Rg8 turned out to be the decisive mistake. Vidit should've continued with ...Qc6!, forcibly dislodging the pin on the d7 Knight and holding on to all of the weak pawns. But 31...Rg8 allows 32. Nd5! Qe4 33. Nxc7 and White is simply a pawn up. Vidit managed to put up some resistance, but to no avail - Praggnanandhaa managed to convert without any difficulties.

Praggnanandhaa vs Vidit Gujrathi | PSPB Inter Unit Chess Championship 2023 | Video: ChessBase India

Round 9: IOC A - ONGC A: 2.5-1.5

Pragg's victory proved to be the decisive one. Winning the final round against ONGC A, Team IOC A won the PSPB Rapid Team Championships!

Champions of the 32nd PSPB Inter Unit Rapid Team Chess Championships - IOC A. From left to right: Praggnanandhaa, Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Adhiban Baskaran, Karthikeyan Murali and Raunak Sadhwani. | Photo: Sagar Shah
A peek into Praggnanandhaa's mind after he beat Vidit Gujrathi | PSPB 2023| Video: ChessBase India
Surya Ganguly's master plan of relaxed lunch before crucial round helps Indian Oil win PSPB 2023 | Video: ChessBase India

BPCL takes the 3rd spot

BPCL lost against IOC A in the semifinals, and they were facing Team ONGC B for the bronze medal matchup. It was a swift victory for the higher-rated team!

Abhijeet Gupta (BPCL) - Raahul VS (ONGC B): 1-0 | Photo: Sagar Shah

Vaibhav Suri (BPCL) - Neelotpal Das (ONGC B): 1-0 | Photo: Sagar Shah

Gopal GN (BPCL) - Ponnuswamy Konguvel (ONGC B): 1-0 | Photo: Sagar Shah

Round 9: WIM Isha Sharma (ONGC B) - GM Venkatesh MR (BPCL): 0.5-0.5

Among all her team members, Isha Sharma was the only one who could hold a draw, that too against experienced Grandmaster Venkatesh MR! It was a very chaotic game between the two, where Venkatesh had the upper hand for quite some time. But Isha is not without any tricks - she swindled her way into a drawn 2 Rooks vs Queen ending, thus saving the game! Check out the full game along with some important variations below:

Isha Sharma (ONGC B) - Venkatesh MR (BPCL): 0.5-0.5| Photo: Sagar Shah

Team BPCL defeated ONGC B 3.5-0.5, thus clinching the 3rd spot.

Round 8: Neelotpal Das (ONGC B) - SP Sethuraman (ONGC A): 0-1 

Sethuraman scored a fantastic win with the Black pieces against Neelotpal! | Photo: Sagar Shah

This game had one of the most exciting finishes in the semifinals! It was a very imbalanced game from the beginning, and one mistake by Neelotpal was enough to tip the scales:

Position after 23. b3?

b3 looks like an innocent move, but it's actually a big mistake. White should have continued with Rhd1, just centralising the Rook. After 23. b3, Sethuraman replied with 23...Bg5! 24. f4, and this is the move which Neelotpal had missed.

In comes 24...Nxf4+! After 25. gxf4 Qg4+ 26. Kf2 Bxf4, White is completely busted.

The White minor pieces are laying haywire on the other side of the board, and that is exactly why Sethuraman's combination works. Black went on to win the game in just a few more moves.

Round 8: ONGC B - ONGC A: 1-3

IM Raahul VS on defeating one of India's top Grandmasters, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa

One of the biggest upsets of the tournament was IM Raahul VS (ONGC B) defeating GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (IOC A) in the group stages! Tournament arbiter IA Deepti Shidore asked a few questions to Raahul about this momentous win:

IA Deepti Shidore: How was the feeling when you defeated Praggnanandhaa?

IM Raahul VS: Well, to be honest it was exciting and pressurizing not the mess up a winning position during the game, since this was also a team event. But after the game ended, I feel like I gained a lot of confidence and it gave me a positive attitude for the upcoming games.

The biggest win of IM Raahul's career so far. | Photo: Aditi Singh/PSPB

IA Deepti Shidore: Is this the biggest win of your career so far?

IM Raahul VS: Yes, I think elo wise the win against Pragg is my biggest win till now.


IA Deepti Shidore: Where did you think Praggnanandhaa made the decisive mistake?

IM Raahul VS: I think the main mistake was Bh3 and Bg2, during the game I was thinking he should play Be6 or Rb8 followed by Bb7, putting pressure on the d5 Knight. Because in certain lines, if the d5 Knight is not under pressure, Ng3 ideas might come, where the f6 square would be weak. During the game, I was thinking he should have played Be4. When I played Qb5, I was calculating Nf6 Kh8 Ne4 Re8 Qd3 Qe7 - here I thought Black has enough compensation, and I couldn't find a way to get a clear position during the game. I felt White had no risk of getting worse, but in the end he just blundered with ...Bg1 so it ended very quickly.

Replay Round 8 and 9 games

Photo Gallery

IM Sagar Shah made the ceremonial first move at the top board in the match between HPCL B and MRPL! | Photo: IA Vinita Shrotri

Tournament director Grandmaster Abhijit Kunte with his family! | Photo: Sagar Shah

The Grandmasters having light chats with each other after the event ends | Photo: Sagar Shah

A view of the busy tournament hall in the final day | Photo: Sagar Shah

The Grandmaster-quality food at the PSPB Championships! | Photo: Sagar Shah

In the evening, Ashwin Trimal threw a massive party for all the participants of the PSPB Chaampionships! The elo density in this room is out of the world | Photo: Sagar Shah

Angel Adhiban Baskaran can't stop laughing! | Photo: Sagar Shah

Check out the complete Photo collection of the PSPB Inter-Unit 2023 Rapid Team Championships here.

Round 1 (Semifinals) results

Round 1 on 2023/03/10 at 09:30 hrs
1  ONGC-B  ONGC-A1:3
3  OIL-A  MRPL3:1
4  IOC-B  HPCL-B4:0
5  NRL  EIL1:3
7  OIL-B  BCPL3:1
8  PETRONET LNG  not paired:


Round 2 (Small finals) results

Round 2 on 2023/03/10 at 11:15 hrs

Round 3 (finals) results

Round 3 on 2023/03/10 at 14:30 hrs
2  HPCL-B  MRPL2:2
5  IOC-B  OIL-A:½
7  OIL-B  not paired:
8  BCPL  not paired:
9  PETRONET LNG  not paired:


Final Standings

Team IOC A became the champions, ONGC A finished 2nd, and BPCL took the 3rd position. | Photo: IA Deepti Shirke

Individual medals for Board 1, 2, and 3. Abhijeet Gupta bagged the Gold medal in Board 1! | Photo: IA Deepti Shirke

SP Sethuraman and Deep Sengupta won the Gold medals in Board 4 and 5 respectively! | Photo: IA Deepti Shirke

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