Abu Dhabi Masters: Aravindh Chithambaram holds Vladimir Fedoseev
No Indian GM was able to register a win on one of the top ten boards in the third round of the Abu Dhabi Masters. However, Chennai lad, GM Aravindh Chithambaram did make a mark by holding the fifth seed of the tournament GM Vladimir Fedoseev to a draw on board 6. Despite being rated more than 100 points below his opponent, it was Aravindh who had the better position out of the opening and was able to hold to a draw quite comfortably. Something similar happened in the game between GM Vishnu Prasanna and Nigel Short. Prasanna hardly had to break a sweat to hold the FIDE presidential candidate in a French Defence game. Meanwhile on boards 22 and 23, WGM Soumya Swaminathan and FM Anand Nadar scored wins against Grandmaster opponents.
The third round of the Abu Dhabi masters came to a close on Thursday evening with the number of leaders thinned from twenty to just six. Out of the five 2700 rated GMs in the fray, only two – Richard Rapport and Wang Hao – were able to retain their perfect score. Daniil Dubov, Amin Bassem, Martyn Kravtsiv and Daniele Vocaturo also won their third consecutive games to join Rapport and Wang at the top.
On the top board, Rapport tried hard to get something to bite on in his game against Mads Andersen in a Closed Sicilian. The Danish Grandmaster, however, ensured that nothing went wrong. After the smoke had cleared, the players found themselves in a rook endgame where it was, in fact, Rapport who was a pawn down.
The endgame is just dead equal. Play continued 37.Kf2 g5 38.Rc6 gxh4 39.gxh4 Kh7. Now, 39…Kg7 would have kept equality but in moving the king to h7, black had an ambitious plan.
After 40.Kf3, black went Rg7 and Rg4, trying to create an outside passer. As it turned out, this was a bit too ambitious. White sought counterplay in his own central passer and white’s ‘e’ pawn was much faster.
On board three Wang Hao had the white pieces against SL Narayanan of India. The two discussed the Archangelsk variation of the Ruy Lopez in which Narayanan managed to bury white’s light squared bishop completely out of play in b1. However, in doing so, he had also weakened his queenside pawns.
Here, Wang went to grab the b5 pawn with 21.Ra5. In response, Narayanan correct countered in the centre with 21…d5. But after 22.Rxb5, the Indian GM faltered and played 22…fxe4 and remained down a pawn after 23.Bc5 Qe8 24.Rxb8 Rxb8 25.fxe4.
Narayanan could have kept things under control had he gone straight for the rook exchange with 22…Rxb5 23.Nxb5 and 23…Qb7. The game continuation, however, gave white a strong edge. White was eventually able to collect the c4 pawn as well and his queenside majority soon decided the day.
On board six, Nihal Sarin was pitted against the defending champion of the tournament, GM Amin Bassem. With the white pieces, Nihal had reached an equal position out of the opening and the players even hinted at a possible repetition right out of the opening.
After repeating twice with 16.Bb6 Rf8 17.Bc5 Rd8 18.Bb6 Rf8 19.Bc5, Bassem decided to play on by going with his rook to e8. This didn’t quite change the evaluation of the position, however, and soon the following position was reached.
Black might be slightly better here since white’s ‘a’ pawn would need to be defended constantly. Black’s ‘c’ pawn, on the other hand, is well defended by the d4 bishop. The computer suggests white should get rid of his doubled ‘f’ pawns with 31.f4 and after 31…f6 32.fxe5 fxe5 33.Nxd4 exd4 34.Rac2, white is just fine. However, Nihal missed this opportunity and chose 31.Kg2, allowing his opponent to shut down the possibility of f4 with 31…g5. Black was already better after this when on his 37th turn, Nihal fumbled again.
Nihal simply hacked off the d4 bishop here, perhaps, hoping to take on c5 at some point. But after 37...Rxc4 38.Rxc4 exd4, black’s too queenside passers in combination with an active rook proved to be quite overwhelming.
Arjun Erigaisi faced his first GM in the third round. He played on board five with black against Ukrainian GM Martyn Kravsiv. For this game, Kravtsiv chose a well-known exchange sacrifice in the Catalan and continued energetically in the middle game. By the time the queens were exchanged, Kravtsiv was still down an exchange but had harvested three white pawns as compensation and had little trouble winning.
The day, however, wasn’t all sad and low for team India. Aravindh Chithambaram, who was also facing his first GM opponent of the tournament, was able to hold the fifth seed of the tournament, GM Vladimir Fedoseev to a draw. Aravindh had the white pieces in the game and had the better position for a large part of the middle game. But as the haze cleared, an equal endgame was reached in which the Chennai lad hardly had to break a sweat to hold to a draw.
Like Aravindh, GM Vishnu Prasanna also held a higher rated GM. On board seven, he had the white pieces against GM Nigel Short. The game began with the Advanced variation of the French Defence in which queens were traded off quite early. Neither side was able to achieve much in the ensuing queenless middlegame and a draw by repetition was agreed 34 moves into the game.
WGM Soumya Swaminathan and FM Anand Nadar were the two Indian players who beat Grandmaster opponents in round three. While Anand defeated GM Andrei Istratescu on board 22, Soumya got the better of Russian GM Daniil Yuffa on the 23rd board. Unfortunately, due to some technical glitch, their games aren’t available.
After today’s rest day, Soumya will be pitted against the top seed of the tournament, GM Le Quang Liem. Anand, on the other hand, will play Georgian GM Levan Pantsulaia.
Standings after round 3
|9||28||GM||Aravindh Chithambaram Vr.||IND||2581||2,5||0,0||2554||5,5||3||2,5||1,93||0,57||10||5,7|
|13||11||GM||Short Nigel D||ENG||2659||2,5||0,0||2483||5,5||3||2,5||2,34||0,16||10||1,6|
|17||41||GM||Vishnu Prasanna. V||IND||2517||2,5||0,0||2441||4,5||3||2,5||2,07||0,43||10||4,3|
Round 4 Pairing
About the Author
Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He holds a Master's in English Literature and used to work as an advertising copywriter before joining the ChessBase India team.