Lalith Babu shares some of his secrets from the win at Shanghai Cooperation Cup 2018
Lalith Babu has had a topsy turvy year 2018. He started the year as the national champion, winning the premier title in 2017 ahead of many strong grandmasters. He won the national rapid championships 2018 and was the runner-up at the national blitz 2018. It seemed 2018 would be the year when he would break into 2600, but then things didn't pan out the way he had imagined. However, Lalith is a class act and can always come up with spirited performances in the strongest of events. AICF decided to send some of the top finishers at National Premier 2017 to the Shanghai Cooperation Cup 2018 in China. Lalith Babu, who started as the sixth seed, showed some superb chess and took home the first prize. In this report we have an interview with the winner where he speaks about his event and also shares with us a secret of why China is progressing at a rapid pace in the world of chess.
Players from six nations including China took part in this event. India sent three of its players to the tournament. They were GM Lalith Babu, IM Arghyadip Das and IM S. Nitin. The manager of the team was IM Atanu Lahiri. This is what Atanu had to write on his Facebook page about the arrangements at the tournament and the town of Xingtai, "A dry arid landscape at the base of Taihuan Range has been transformed to a rich eco farm which hosted the SCO Open Chess Championship in China. The huge farm employs more than 2000 people with apple orchards and parks. If there is a single reason why the country is propelling towards being the next superpower of the world,it is the people whose labour continues to produce miracle in every field."
Rankings after nine rounds
|1||6||GM||Lalith Babu M R||IND||2518||7,0||1,0||5||51,0|
|10||18||Chen Qi B||CHN||2425||5,5||0,0||4||47,0|
After the tournament ended ChessBase India got in touch with the champion and did an interview. Here are some insights into the mind of Lalith Babu:
Sagar Shah (SS): How did you decide to play in 2018 Shanghai Cooperation Organization Chess Open?
Lalith Babu (LB): I really wanted to play Isle of man but due to late registration I couldn't get entry so I decided to play the twin GM tournaments in India (Gujarat and Goa) and then 15 days before Gujarat open I got an email from AICF saying that we have received an email from China tournament and we are willing to send our National Premier players for this tournament and that is how I have decided to play in this event. I would like to thank AICF for giving me the opportunity to play in this tournament.
SS: You started off as the 6th seed, what were your expectations going into the tournament?
LB: Before this tournament I played in Gujarat GM open. Started off well but something went wrong at round 5 and from there its a downhill. Especially last round, Queen Blunder it's still a shock to me. Same day I started off to Beijing via Delhi from Ahmadabad. Swayams was traveling along with me till Delhi. We were discussing about the Tournament and my 'great' performance! It triggered legitimate introspective process. Sometimes the right thing gets done for wrong reason and sometimes, unfortunately, the wrong thing gets done for the right reason. And that blunder boasted my self-morale.
SS: People consider Chinese players to be under-rated. The same is said about Indians as well. As you have now played in both China and India, whose level is higher in general - Chinese players or Indian players?
LB: I feel both India and China players are quite strong and underrated. After SCO Open I had the privilege to visit one of their Federation office. I've witnessed a fantastic feat. All the national players work under the same roof as a team. They've always got each other's back and that gives them (Chinese) the edge. I think we should also experiment with the same idea.
SS: You played solidly in the tournament without losing a game! Which was your favourite game?
LB: The one with Nitin. I found an interesting trick. And also the one against Xu Yi.
S. Nitin vs Lalith Babu, round 4
Check out Lalith's fine win in the queen endgame against Xu Yi:
SS: How was it playing the last round with one of the most creative players of our era Vadim Zviaginsev?
LB: He is strong player and I had heard that endgame is his forte. I didn't have much time to prepare because the last round started a bit early at 8 a.m. The previous day during dinner I had a discussion with Arghyadip (Das) bhaiya and he said he might play g6 Bf5 line. I also thought it's not a bad opening for him to play (to win with black pieces). During the game, in the opening I got comfortable position. I could have achieved some advantage with Nd2, f3 and Bf2 plan but I chose another variation (which I thought I was slightly better at) he played strategically and the game ended in draw.
SS: You became the national champion in 2017 and then you also won the national rapid champion 2018 and national blitz runner-up. It seemed like the breakthrough year for you. But the year didn't pan out that way and your rating is still 2529, what is the missing element?
LB: Inconsistent performance and my poor choice of tournaments. And a lot of things needs to be tweaked in my chess play
SS: What are the next tournaments lined up for you?
LB: Next I will be playing in National Championship held at Jammu and hopefully in Gibraltar( if I get entry😀)