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Deepan Chakkravarthy is the National Challengers 2017 Champion

by Sagar Shah - 24/08/2017

In what could be called nothing short of Bollywood action, Deepan Chakkravarthy played a Karpovian (apologies to Smyslov fans) endgame and beat the leader Swapnil Dhopade to take the 55th National Challengers title. Swapnil, who led the tournament right from the start, had to be content with the 2nd spot. Himanshu Sharma took the third place. In this report we have detailed analysis of the game Swapnil vs Deepan and we also tell you about who qualified for the National Premier 2017.

The final round encounter at the 55th National Challengers was between Swapnil Dhopade who was on 10.0/12 against Deepan Chakkravarthy on 9.5/12

Things were going really smooth for GM Swapnil Dhopade at the National Challengers 2017. He began with 5.0/5 and in the next four rounds scored 3.5/4. With 8.5/9 he was almost unreachable. But then he slowed down a bit with three draws. Going into the last round he still had a half point lead over the second placed Deepan Chakkravarthy.


For Deepan the road to the top was much more tumultuous. He lost an instructive rook endgame against Mary Ann Gomes, which we analyzed deeply in our round four article and then he lost another game in round 8 against Fenil Shah. That really was enough of losing for Deepan in Ahmedabad. He got down to business and with some great fighting spirit won the next four rounds. He thus had confirmed his qualification spot with 9.5/12.


Usually when two players who have qualified for the National Premier face each other in the last round of the National Challengers, it results in a few moves followed by a quick handshake. But Deepan was in a different mood altogether. "I have been finishing second at nationals my entire life", said Deepan talking to ChessBase India after the game. "Except for National Sub-juniors, I have never won the national title. Today I wanted to play for a win. That's it!" And boy, did he play hard.

Swapnil's 1.d4 was met with 1...g6 by Deepan

Swapnil chose the exchange variation of the King's Indian. Considering that he just needed a draw to become a champion, one cannot reprimand the grandmaster from Amravati for his decision.

Was Deepan surprised by Swapnil's choice of opening? "Yes, I was not expecting the exchange variation. But then I remembered this ...Na6 line and knew that it was tricky. So I went for it."

....Na6 was Deepan's tricky line!

Swapnil was not well versed with theory and was not able to keep his miniscule edge which White is usually able to keep in these lines. Black equalized with ease and then we reached the following position:

As Deepan told us after the game, his knight and queenside pawn structure made him feel really comfortable. The white knight on e3 doesn't really have good squares to go to.

I think these are the positions that Deepan excels in. The positions where you have to feel your way through. Which piece would be best placed on which square. Add to it the fact that Swapnil had the pressure of winning the title, it all went downhill for the GM from Maharashtra. Deepan was able to slowly tighten the screws and win the game.


It is a commendable effort by Deepan. Usually in order to fight well in the last rounds with so much at stake you need strong nerves. And he was able to show exactly that. He thoroughly deserves this national championship. At the same time one does feel sad for Swapnil who played a gem of a tournament right from the start. Second place is not bad, but he must surely not be happy missing out on the title when he was so close.

The smile of a champion!

Another player whose fighting skills require no introduction is Himanshu Sharma. The Haryanvi GM had lost the previous round against Deepan and with 8.5/12, his qualification was in jeopardy. He was also playing the super solid Sriram Jha in the last round with the black pieces. But Himanshu showed that he doesn't buckle down under pressure. Jha had chances to get a huge advantage out of the opening on many occasions, but the didn't play it so well. In the end, Sharma was able to win a pawn and with it the knight endgame.


The top three finishers of the tournament: Deepan Chakkravarthy (centre), Swapnil Dhopade (left), and Himanshu Sharma (right)

Nine players qualified for the National Premier and they are (from left to right: Debashis Das, Lalith Babu, S. Nitin, Abhijit Kunte, R.R. Laxman, Deepan Chakravarthy, Bhavesh Patel (Secretary of Gujarat state), Swapnil Dhopade, Himanshu Sharma, Ankit Dalal (co-founder of ChessBase India Power), and S.L. Narayanan.

Debashis Das finished fourth. He drew his last round quickly against R.R. Laxman

After losing to Laxman in round 12, Lalith was in a must win situation against Saptarshi Roy Chowdhury. He managed to deliver and finished 5th.

Words of praise fall short for this man - GM Abhijit Kunte. He wins games on demand. In the final round he had a very tough opponent in the form of defending champion IM S. Ravi Teja, but Kunte managed to outfox him and take home the full point

S.L. Narayanan was able to subdue Mary Ann Gomes to take the seventh spot

Nitin defeated local boy Fenil Shah in the final round and finished eighth. As rightly pointed out by IM-elect Rakesh Kulkarni Nitin will be the only International Master at the National Premier 2017.
National Blitz champion R.R. Laxman took the last qualification spot to the national premier

Nine qualify for the National Premier

Rk.SNoNamesexFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4  TB5 
110GMDeepan Chakkravarthy J.IND2466RSPB10,50,0101,0107,586,0010,0
25GMSwapnil S. DhopadeIND2516RSPB10,00,0106,5113,084,258,0
36GMHimanshu SharmaIND2514RSPB9,50,0106,0113,079,258,0
48GMDebashis DasIND2493ODI9,50,0104,5110,078,757,0
53GMLalith Babu M RIND2529PSPB9,50,0103,0110,078,757,0
67GMKunte AbhijitIND2505PSPB9,50,0101,0107,577,506,0
72GMSunilduth Lyna NarayananIND2564KER9,50,0100,0106,575,507,0
814IMNitin S.IND2421RSPB9,50,096,0102,071,507,0
917GMLaxman R.R.IND2397RSPB9,50,095,0100,071,757,0

The ones who missed out by a whisker (all on 9.0 points)

101GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.IND2579TN9,00,0102,5109,072,756,0
1115IMDas ArghyadipIND2419RSPB9,00,0102,0109,072,756,0
1234Sammed Jaykumar SheteIND2277MAH9,00,099,0105,068,508,0
1313IMShyaamnikhil PIND2447RSPB9,00,097,5104,071,005,0
1426IMPadmini RoutwIND2327PSPB9,00,096,0102,069,005,0
1561Surendran NIND2124TN9,00,092,597,566,756,0
1644Nayak RajeshIND2211ODI9,00,091,597,064,007,0

National Premier 2017

This is how the new rule by AICF looks:

National Premier (National ‘A’) Format (14 Players Round-Robin):
a)Immediate past National Challengers     – 09
b)Current National Champion                     – 01
c)Top ELO Rated Players                              – 04


(For ‘C’ category the published rating of players one month before the start of the National Challengers will be the criteria to decide top four ELO rated)


New Rules in force from 2017 National Challengers Championship: 
The players above 2650 ELO rating will get preference over National Challengers while filling up the vacancies caused by the non-participation of top four rated players who are directly seeded along with the National Champion. However if above 2650 players are also not available, players as per rankings in the National Challengers will become eligible.


Example: If the top rated player of the country is not participating in National Premier, then the number five player will get his seat provided the number five player is on or above 2650 ELO rating. If the National Champion is among the top four rated, then player number five from top rated will get a direct seeding provided he is on or above 2650 ELO rating.
If on or above 2650 players unavailable then the vacancy will be filled from the National Challengers as per rankings.

How this looks in practice:

Karthikeyan Murali is the reigning National Champion. He will play the National premier 2017. And nine players qualify from National Challengers. Now for the top rated players' spots. Vishy Anand will definitely not play, nor will Pentala Harikrishna.
Then we have four spots to be filled between five players. Parimarjan Negi will not play. Aravindh, who finished tenth at the National Challengers will only get a chance to play if anyone amongst Vidit, Sasikiran, Adhiban and Ganguy decide to give this event a miss.
A huge thanks to Gopakumar Sudhakaran who helped ChessBase India cover the National Challengers tournament round by round in an intensive manner.

An interview with the champion will soon follow.

We have the Dibyendu Barua Chess Academy online prize money tournament that will be held on 10th of September. The Champion Deepan Chakravarthy, Debashis Das and R.R. Laxman from National Challengers have already confirmed their entries. Two more GMs Vishnu Prasanna and Diptayan Ghosh are also playing. Join, what is going to be India's strongest online chess tournament.

More details about the DBCA online blitz tournament.

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