National Juniors 2017: Harsha Bharathakoti and M. Mahalakshmi are Champions

The 47th edition of the National Junior Championship, sponsored by Khadi India, was held at the Patliputra Sports Complex in Patna under the aegis of All Bihar Chess Association. The tournament was an 11-player swiss league with the Open category having 111 players and the girls’ category having 69 players.

The Open also had four International Masters, and five FIDE Masters. The girls’ category had three Women’s International Masters.

The Open began with IM Md. Nubairshah Shaikh as the top seed with a rating of 2410. He suffered a string of upset draws in the middle of the rounds. He had clawed back into contention for a podium finish but suffered a loss in the final round at the hands of Raja Rithvik R (2237). Second seed IM Siddhant Mohapatra (2396) suffered a setback when he was held to a draw from the third to sixth rounds consecutively before he too managed to stage a minor comeback only to lose the final round to IM Krishna Teja N (2359).

Krishna Teja tied for with a bunch of players on 8.0/11 but was the best on tiebreak and took the third place. He lost only one game, which was to FM Karthik Venkataraman (2347) who had scored a GM norm last month.

Karthik on his part won 9 games, drew one in the final round to Shailesh Dravid, and lost only one game to the eventual champion to score 9.5/11, a full point and a half ahead of third place to take the Silver on tiebreak.

Karthik-Jayakumaar: 10… g6? {Black gives White a ‘hook’. It’s almost like showing red rag to the bull.} 11. h5 e5? (11… Nxh5 {looks extremely dangerous of course, but it’s more dangerous to leave the h-pawn alive, it’s like leaving Lord Petyr Baelish alive.}) 12. Bh6 Re8 13. hxg6 {This is what happens. Black cannot stop White from delivering mate in g6 now.} hxg6 14. Bxg6! fxg6 15. Qd3 e4 16. Nxe4 Rf8 17. Nxd6 1-0
Dhananjay-Karthik: Black is slightly better and pressing. The b7 pawn is no sacrifice. 28. Qxb7?? Ne5! 0-1

Harsha who had also scored  9.5/11, had beaten Karthik and that put him ahead in the head-to-head encounter tiebreak. The champion, IM Harsha Bharathakoti  (2394) of Telangana won eight games, drew three and lost none to take the Gold.

Raja Rithvik R-Harsha B.: 25. Qxc5 Rf7 26. Bd4 Rdf8 27. Ng2 e3! {opening up two bishops on the open board is like unleashing the Dothraki on the open field.} 28. Bxe3 Nxe3 29. Ncxe3 Bb6 30. Qd6 Qe4 {The queen, rooks, bishops, all into the action now. Much like the Lannister and Tarly forces against the Targaryen Dragons and the Dothraki’s.} 31. Qd3 Bxe3 {White, of course, has to bend the knee.} 0-1

In a curious case this year, out of the top five finishes, two were from Telangana and three from Andhra Pradesh. It is safe to bet that the Juniors from these two states will produce the next crop of Grand Masters for India.

In the girls’ category, top seed WIM M. Mahalakshmi (2185) played sedately to secure the gold by a half-point lead over the rest of the field. Even though she lost the penultimate round game to Isha Sharma, Mahalakshmi scored an impressive 9.0/11 to take the first place.

WIM Sakshi Chitalange had lost to Mahalakshmi in the crucial eighth round game and could score 8.5/11 to be second on tiebreak, ahead of Isha Sharma who had also scored 8.5/11 but had to be satisfied with third place.

Open Final Standings

Girls Final Standings

Positions analysed by GM Srinath Narayanan