Grandmaster M. R. Lalith Babu, who went to South Africa to defend his title at the 19th Commonwealth chess championship, was in joint second slot with 8.5 points alongwith nine players and finished at fifth rank.
The 20-year-old Siddhartha Arts and Science College student took the bronze medal as both Fedorchuk Sergey of Ukraine and Tivikov Sergei of the Netherlands, who finished second and third, were denied silver and bronze medals respectively as they were not from Commonwealth countries.
“To strengthen the field, the organisers had invited Grandmasters from other than Commonwealth countries. As many South Africans were taking part, the organisers preferred a strong field so that their players can get good exposure. The silver and bronze medals went to India’s Dibyendu Barua and Lalith,” said Lalith’s mother Padma.
For Lalith, the tournament did not go as per plan. He won the first five rounds without much sweat, but his loss to Abhijeet Gupta, the ultimate winner and later to Dibyendu Barua thwarted his attempt at retaining the title. “I was under tremendous pressure to retain the title. I committed a couple of crucial mistakes both against Barua and Gupta,” said Lalith in a telephonic conversation.
Lalith will travel to Czech Republic and later to the Netherlands to play two Grandmaster tournaments in which Pendyala Harikrishna and Dronavalli Harika will also take part. “I could not garner any points at the Port Elizabeth (South Africa) owing to two defeats against Gupta and Barua. I will try to improve my ratings in the European tourneys,” he added.
After participating in the two tourneys, Lalith would travel to Spain to train under veteran Grandmaster Elizbar Ubilava, former coach of World champion Vishwanathan Anand, for twenty days.
Incidentally, Lalith had trained under Ubilava in 2012 and used his newly acquired skills to win three major tournaments both in India and abroad.