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Against all odds

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Winning spree Lalith Babu with his trophies
Winning spree Lalith Babu with his trophies

This teenager is a shining example of unflinching hard work and commitment despite hurdles

He is hardly 16 and he is at the threshold of creating history in the game of sixty-four squares in Andhra Pradesh. This chess prodigy M R Lalith Babu, fought against all odds to create a flutter recently in Spain by finishing ninth in the Balaneur International Open Tournament by garnering seven points. He also won the u-16 title along with the best player trophy in the 2300-2399 rating category.

Lalith exhibited his skills in a stupendous manner defeating Grandmasters from Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Philippines. More than the trophies he won, a bigger achievement for Lalith is to come closer to achieving the International Master title. He has also won the first Grandmaster norm at Spain.

Born in a middle class family, Lalith started playing chess in 2000 under the watchful eyes of a senior player G. Murali Krishna. As a youngster, he won applauds of the critics for his chess acumen. “After making an impact in the State tournaments, Lalith’s big day arrived at Kozhikode in 2007, when he lifted the National under-17 boys’ title. The Sports Authority of India, considering his potential, sent him to Spain to play three tournaments under the foreign exposure scheme,” recalls Lalith’s mother M. Padma.

But the big test is yet to be faced as Lalith needs to take part in as many rating tournaments both in India and abroad to enhance his ratings and achieve the remaining two GM norms. In the absence of sponsors the boy’s parents are running from pillar to post to ensure their child’s participation in the Abu Dhabi international open tournament. “He needs 20 points to become an International Master and 120 points to become a Grandmaster. If he plays rating tournaments continuously, he can become a Grandmaster by this year-end. And if that happens, he will be the third Grandmaster from Andhra Pradesh after Pendiyala Harikrishna and Koneru Humpy,” says his coach G. Murali Krishna.

Lalith spends six hours daily honing his skills, especially in the openings and middle game. “He often flatters in the middle game thus losing the initiative,” opines Murali Krishna.

An admirer of Russian legend Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov, Lalith analyses all his games on his laptop.

“Due to his commitment to chess, his education is suffering. Lalith is eager to join intermediate course but due to financial constraints, we are in a dilemma. But for cash crunch, the boy is capable of achieving his goal of becoming a Grandmaster. We could not afford Grandmaster coaching," says the hapless mother who travels with him.

The need of the hour is a helping hand to make the child prodigy realize his dream of becoming a Grandmaster, a feat which is rarity in the world of chess.

J. R. SHRIDHARAN

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