Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa is the fourth youngest Chess Grandmaster in the world and the World Youth Championships is another feather in his cap. (Photo Credit: Twitter)
Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa emerged as unconquered king in the World Youth Chess Championship in Mumbai, claiming the gold in the Under-18 Open category on Saturday. The 14-year-old Grand Master from Chennai settled for a cautious draw in the 11th and final round against ValentinBuckels (Germany) to top the charts with nine points. He, however, will also have to thank compatriot, International Master Arjun Kalyan for achieving a crucial draw against top seeded Shant Sargsyan (Armenia). Praggnanandhaa would have been under pressure if Grand Master Shant had won. But Shant could not unravel a determined Arjun, allowing Praggnanandhaa to annex the title.
The Championship ended on a high note for India, with six other medals, including three silver, coming their way. Only the Under-16 Girls category proved tough for India, although B M Akshaya gave a good account of herself. Akshaya lost the medal to Anousha Mahdian, sufferingan unexpected defeat to her in the final round. But Indian girls in the Under-14 segment compensated for it, with Divya Deshmukh and Rakshitta Ravi winning two medals.
Top seed Womens International Master Divya, who seemed to be out of contention midway through the event, pulled off a well thought-out victory in the last round to clinch silver. Rakshitta too beat overnight leader Bat-Erdene Mungunzul on the top board to earn the bronze. Kazakhstan's Meruert Kamalidenova, however, was the star of this category, registering five straight wins to clinch the gold. Fide Master L R Srihari (Under-14 Open) and Vantika Agrawal (Under-16 Girls) collected other two silver medals for India, playing out draws in their respective matches. Vantika had an outside chance of pocketing the gold, especially after top seed Polina Shuvalova (8.5) settled for a draw.
Vantika, with eight points, however, couldn't beat Alexandra Obolentseva of Russia, and finished half a point behind Shuvalova. Srihari (8), who was in contention for the gold at the start of the penultimate day, endured draws in the last two rounds to slip to the second position. S Maralakshikari won the bronze, after beating the surprise package of the championship, R Abinandhan. CM Aronyak Ghosh (8) claimed the other bronze for the country in the Under-16 Open category after drawing withIran's Arash Daghli. He will, however, look back at the WYCC as a missed opportunity, after accepting a quick draw in the penultimate round.
Winners: U18 Open: Praggnanandhaa R (IND) 9.0; Shant Sargsyan (ARM) 8.5; Artur Davtyan (ARM) 8.0
U18 Girls: Polina Shuvalova (RUS) 8.5; Vantika Agrawal (IND) 8.0; Alexandra Obolentseva (RUS) 7.5
U16 Open: Rudik Makarian (RUS) 8.5; Stefan Pogosyan (RUS) 8.0; Aronyak Ghosh (IND) 8.0
U16 Girls: Leya Garifullina (RUS) 8.5; Nurgali Nazerke (KAZ) 8.5; Anousha Mahdian (IRI) 8.0
U14 Open: Aydin Suleymanli (AZE) 9.0; Srihari L R (IND) 8.0; Sreeshwan Maralakshikari (IND) 8.0
U14 Girls: Meruert Kamalidenova (KAZ) 8.5; Divya Deshmukh (IND) 8.0; Rakshitta Ravi (IND) 8.0.