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A heartbreaking miss for Harsha Bharathakoti in Sants International Open

by Satanick Mukhuty - 22/09/2019

India's 56th Grandmaster Harsha Bharathakoti has been in tremendous form lately. First he became the unbeaten champion of 3rd Warakomska Memorial held in Poland earlier in August; next he came very close to winning the Sants International title in Spain but, due to an unfortunate misapprehension, ended up finishing as runner up instead. The 21st Sants International Chess Open took place from the 23rd of August to 1st September in Cotxeres de Sants in Barcelona, Spain. A total of 18 Indians participated in the event, the highest rated among whom was Grandmaster Vaibhav Suri. Harsha started off as the 21st seed in the tournament but a string of strong performances enabled him to climb up the leaderboard and almost become the champion!   

So close yet so far for Harsha

After starting the tournament with two victories, Harsha lost his round three game against Daniel Ramos Garcia with the black pieces. But just after this defeat he made a phenomenal comeback by winning six games in a row and emerging as one of the leaders along with IM Maximilian Neef. In the ninth and penultimate round of the event the two leaders - Harsha and Neef - were pitted against each other. Even though the Indian GM was determined to give his best in this game as well but having played chess nonstop for the past 2 months, which included a total of 44 classical games, and approximately 25 blitz and 23 rapid games, he was quite tired and thus agreed to a draw when his German opponent offered one. He was under the impression that he would automatically win the event based on his better tie-break scores. 

Harsha and Neef both had 8.0/9 points at the end of round nine but the former was ahead in terms of tie-break scores.

But fate had something else in store. The Sants International Open has a tradition of play-off in case of ties - Harsha was completely unaware of this as it was his first time in the tournament, nor was he informed about the same by any tournament officials and thus he simply ended up missing the play offs which by default granted the title to Maximilian Neef. Speaking to ChessBase India about this unlucky incident Harsha said, "After the game I kept the score sheets on the board and stood beside watching the live games.  Arbiter came, took the score sheet and left. I didn't get any notification from him. Somehow in so many incidents, not even once I got the hint of a play off. We went out and reached the prize giving where we got to know about the tiebreaker play off and my opponent was awarded the title.  It came as a shocker".


In any case, it has to be said that Harsha's performance in this event was one of the best. After coming to terms with this upsetting development he wrote the following on twitter:

Now, let us have a look at Harsha's favourite game from the event which he has graciously sent us annotated in details. This encounter was with the black pieces against compatriot Rishi Sardana. The game opened with 1.e4 c5 and entered into the Moscow (3.Bb5+) variation which then led to a very rich positional struggle where both players kept meandering with slow waiting moves. It was on move 22 that White finally made a break but this only proved to be premature as the position soon liquidated into an ending where Black's pair of bishops were far superior to White's pair of knights.

Harsha also gained 17.2 Elo points from the event performing with a rating of 2640!  

Final Standings in the event

Rk.SNo NameGrFEDRtgIRtgNClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4  TB5 
IMNeef Maximilian2461GER24810USV TU Dresden8,5152,065,075
GMHarsha Bharathakoti2376IND248908,5253,565,585
GMHenriquez Villagra Cristobal2487CHI256208,0352,565,564
GMVaibhav Suri2552IND259108,0451,563,565
IMGokerkan Cem KaanTUR24210Pendik8,0552,064,075
GMBauer Christian2643FRA26262592Escola D'escacs De Barcelona7,5650,563,064
IMGines Esteo Pedro AntonioESP24172384Jaime Casas7,5753,066,574
GMAntal GergelyHUN25490DVTK7,5852,065,065
GMMurshed Niaz2163BAN240507,5048,559,565

Complete Standings

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