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How playing online blitz helped Nihal win the Gazprom Brilliancy Prize

by Sagar Shah - 23/01/2021

Nihal Sarin recently won the Gazprom Brilliancy award for the best game from the World Youth online championships 2020. The youngster won the under-18 section. The game that was chosen as the best game was his semi-final victory over Francesco Sonis. But did you know, Nihal knew about this deep opening trap before the game itself? Did you know, he fell prey to this trap in an online game? Well, it's a wonderful story of how any work on chess is never wasted! Nihal's irrelevant blitz game helped him to win the World Youth under-18 Championships 2020. Read this amazing story!

Before we get going, let me pose a question to you. White to play. What would you do here?

Playing a lot of blitz chess online - is it helpful for your chess or not? This perennial question always evoked different responses from the experts. But one which became quite ubiquitous in my journey as an improving player was - "Playing blitz is fine, but don't overdo it. It helps to build up your speed and intuition, but it is bad for your deep calculations. So playing blitz is fine, but always do it in moderate amounts." And the world seemed to agree to this notion! But then came Nihal Sarin.

The little boy with his Kasparov like gaze on the chess board! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Nihal is now 16 years old and has a FIDE rating of 2620. He is the third youngest chess player ever to reach an Elo of 2600 and is very close to reaching 2700 on the blitz rating scale. This young boy has basically built up his chess career by playing online speed chess! Don't believe us? Check out how he won the Gazprom brilliancy prize at the World Youth online under-18 championships 2020.

India won four medals at the World Online Youth Championships 2020 with Nihal, Rakshitta and Gukesh winning the gold in the under-18, under-16 girls and under-14 respectively. Mrinmoy Rajkhowa won the bronze medal in the under-10 section.

Along with the gold medal, Nihal also won the brilliancy prize award that was sponsored by Gazprom. This beautiful shining trophy for his beautiful game against IM Francesco Sonis in the Semi-Finals

How Nihal won the brilliancy prize

Nihal was up against the talented Italian youngster Francesco Sonis in the semi-finals. The first game had ended in a draw and now we were down to the second and the final game of the mini-match. If this ended in a draw, then we would go to the Armageddon. Nihal opened the game with 1.d4 and Francesco played the Ragozin, which converted into the Vienna. Vienna is one of Nihal's favourite opening systems as black and he has extensively practice with it, especially in online games.

 

Nihal Sarin vs Francesco Sonis

One of the main positions of the Ragozin. Here Black took the pawn on c4

White has excellent development, but in return Black has the bishop pair. A well known position in modern opening theory.

Black has just castled here. The main move used to be Qe2 followed by Rad1, and often White would not think about recapturing the d4 pawn. But in this particular situation Nihal took the pawn on d4 with his knight.

Nihal had already reached this position before against Alexey Sarana at the Karpov trophy Rapid in 2019. In that game Nihal had pulled his bishop back to e7 and the game had ended in a draw.

While the result in the above game was fine, Nihal was looking at improvements for Black side after Nxd4. This is when he struck upon the move Qc7!

One of the most natural moves in the position which creates a double attack with the c4 bishop hanging and also the e5 pawn. 

A few months before the game when Nihal was playing online, just like any other day, he tried the move Qc7 against IM Sergey Drygalov. The Russian IM who has a FIDE rating of 2490 stunned Nihal with the move Nf6+! Nihal lost that game, but made a note of those lines in his head. The result? Well, just when it mattered the most - at an important event like the World Youth, the same opening transpired and Nihal managed to score the full point.

The knight jumps to f6 with a check!

The most important question now is whether the knight on f6 should be taken or you go just Kh8. If gxf6, Qg4+ Kh8 (Kh7 exf6 is game over).

White plays the powerful move Qf4! This leads to White recovering the piece. You can check out the analysis in the replayable board below.

Francesco played his king to h8, declining the knight sacrifice.

Nihal now moved his queen to c2. A mate is threatened on h7 and hence the knight has to be taken.

Next Nihal played his queen to c1. Hitting the h6 pawn. Note how bringing the king to h7 will only lose the queen to Bd3+. Sonis saw that there is no real danger and picked up the pawn on e5 with his queen.

Nihal has taken the pawn on h6 and has to figure out a way to continue the attack. Notice he is a piece down. Also to bring in another piece into the attack is not so easy. Qg5 is a threat. This is the same position given at the start of the article. Find the best move for White here.

f4!! A stunning move by Nihal. You are ready to give up the knight on d4 with a check, after which the bishop also hangs. The reason for it is that you get to lift the rook from f1 to f3 and then deliver a mate!

The only way in which Sonis could survive was to sacrifice his queen for the f1 rook. He managed to do that but he eventually lost the game!

A lot of people may just put down this game, by saying that it was merely preparation. Nihal did not find it on the board! But they miss the point - preparation is a part of chess! Didn't Nihal feel the pain when he lost the online game to Drygalov? He could have just left it as a bitter experience and carried on. But he decided to analyze the position. He kept the lines in his mind and his memory didn't let him down when it mattered the most. It also shows the attitude of Nihal - he is not afraid to lose. He learns from his mistakes and keeps improving as a player. Congratulations Nihal, well done!

 

When we analyzed the game with Nihal (the entire video given below), we also invited two of India's top visually impaired chess players - brothers Soundarya and Prachurya Pradhan. Soundarya had just made a new website which would prove to be a useful tool for all blind players. Nihal congratulated Soundarya for his excellent work. A scholarship of Rs.15,000 was awarded to Soundarya at the hands of Nihal Sarin. This amount was compensation that ChessBase India was to receive from Gazprom and FIDE for being the judge of the brilliancy prize contest. Soundarya, who receives this amount, will use it to make his website even better. Also, don't miss out on Prachurya's brilliant singing in the video. A big thanks to Nihal who is not just a champion on the board, but also takes out time to motivate and inspire others off the board.

Video analysis:

Nihal Sarin analyzes this game himself with IM Sagar Shah. Later, Soundarya and Prachurya Pradhan, two of India's top visually impaired chess players join in.
GM Daniel King analyzes on his well channel Powerplay Chess
Gothamchess - Levy Rozman's take on Nihal - the next Magnus Carlsen Rival!
IM Souleidis talks about Nihal's game

Fiona Steil-Antoni discusses about the game and also lets you know more about the prodigious Nihal


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भारत के सुनहरे भविष्य का संकेत : निहाल -प्रग्गानंधा

@ 03/09/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
फीडे - सयुंक्त राष्ट्र संघ बैठक - आनंद ने लिया भाग

@ 24/07/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
FIDE announces Online Olympiad 2020

@ 30/06/2020 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
71 Trainer Titles awarded for the FIDE Trainers Seminar held from 29-31st May 2020

@ 20/06/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
Sergey Karjakin in the 50th anniversary of Earth vs Space match

@ 04/06/2020 by Etery Kublashvili (en)
Nihal beats Carlsen for the very first time in a Blitz game

@ 29/05/2020 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Last chance to be a part of the FIDE Online Trainers Seminar taking place from 29th to 31st May

@ 25/05/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
कार्लसन और लागनों नें ही जीता फीडे स्टेनिज मेमोरियल

@ 19/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
स्टेनिज मेमोरियल :D2: डुबोव और लागनों निकले आगे

@ 17/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
स्टेनिज मेमोरियल - D1 : कार्लसन -कोस्टेनियुक बढ़त में

@ 16/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
फबियानों करूआना : सर्वश्रेष्ठ नेशन्स कप खिलाड़ी

@ 12/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
चीन बना फीडे ऑनलाइन नेशन्स कप का विजेता

@ 11/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
फीडे नेशन्स कप:R:9&10 - चीन और अमेरिका फ़ाइनल में ,भारत को खूब खली आनंद की कमी

@ 10/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
FIDE Trainers Online Seminar for Indian Subcontinent from 29th to 31st of May 2020

@ 10/05/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
फीडे नेशन्स कप :R-7&8 भारत की मिली पहली जीत

@ 09/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
फीडे नेशन्स कप:R-5&6: आनंद की दहाड़ पर फिर भी नहीं जीते हम

@ 08/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
फीडे नेशन्स कप:R 3 & 4 : यूरोप और चीन से हारा भारत

@ 07/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
फीडे नेशन्स कप:राउंड 1 & 2:अमेरिका से बराबरी तो रेस्ट ऑफ द वर्ल्ड से हारा भारत

@ 06/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
फीडे नेशन्स कप :D1:अमेरिका और रेस्ट ऑफ वर्ल्ड से खेलेगा भारत मुक़ाबला

@ 05/05/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
The biggest rating gainers in Indian chess in the last year

@ 01/05/2020 by Dnyansagar Gadgil (en)
Emil Sutovsky discusses FIDE's policy during the Covid19 pandemic

@ 28/04/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
फीडे ऑनलाइन नेशन्स कप - विश्वनाथन आनंद के नेत्तृत्व में खेलगी मजबूत भारतीय टीम

@ 24/04/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
Test your calculation with Nihal Sarin

@ 11/04/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
जॉर्जिया की नाना दगनिडजे बनी लोसेन ग्रां प्री विजेता

@ 13/03/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
फीडे महिला ग्रां प्री R 9 - जॉर्जिया की दगनिडजे को एकल बढ़त

@ 12/03/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लोसेन महिला ग्रां प्री R6:कोस्टेनियुक से हारी हरिका

@ 08/03/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लोसेन महिला ग्रां प्री R5:हरिका गोरयाचकिना मैच ड्रॉ ,बढ़त बरकरार

@ 07/03/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लोसेन महिला ग्रां प्री R4:हरिका ने दगनिडजे को हराया , बढ़त बरकरार

@ 06/03/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लोसेन महिला ग्रां प्री R3 : विश्व चैम्पियन जु वेंजून को हराकर हरिका सयुंक्त पहले स्थान पर पहुंची

@ 05/03/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लोसेन महिला ग्रां प्री R2- गोरयाचकिना बनी विश्व नंबर 3

@ 04/03/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लोसेन महिला ग्रां प्री R1:हरिका नें क्रमलिंग से ड्रॉ खेला

@ 03/03/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
भारत के प्रग्गानंधा बने लंदन फीडे ओपन विजेता

@ 07/12/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लंदन फीडे ओपन - प्रग्गानंधा खिताब जीतने के करीब

@ 06/12/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
प्रग्गानंधा नें रचा इतिहास :सबसे कम उम्र में 2600 पार !

@ 05/12/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लंदन फीडे ओपन:प्रग्गानंधा की 5वी जीत,2600 के करीब

@ 04/12/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लंदन फीडे ओपन - चार जीत के बाद प्रग्गा नें खेला ड्रॉ

@ 03/12/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लंदन फीडे ओपन - प्रग्गानंधा की बेहतरीन जीत

@ 01/12/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
लंदन फीडे ओपन - अरविंद -प्रग्गा की अच्छी शुरुआत

@ 30/11/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
हिमल गुसैन नें जीता सुनीता सिंह मेमोरियल फीडे रेटिंग

@ 14/11/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
Stranded in the Italian

@ 08/11/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Grand Swiss final: Wang Hao is the all taking winner

@ 23/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Grand Swiss R10: Who will qualify for the Candidates 2020?

@ 21/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Grand Swiss R09: An array of strong performances with Vishy leading the way

@ 20/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Grand Swiss R08: Vishy inches closer to the top

@ 19/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
प्रदीप पाठक बने सीनियर उत्तर प्रदेश शतरंज चैम्पियन

@ 19/10/2019 by Nitesh srivastava (hi)
Ramesh wins Mark Dvoretsky Award

@ 19/10/2019 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Grand Swiss R07: Aronian joins the lead, a mixed day for Indians

@ 18/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Breaking news! Raunak Sadhwani is India's 65th GM

@ 18/10/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Grand Swiss R06: Vishy Anand's instructive lesson in Spanish

@ 16/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Grand Swiss R05: The resurgence of the World Champion

@ 15/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Grand Swiss R04: Magnus Carlsen survives a massive scare

@ 14/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Grand Swiss R03: Adhiban and Vidit lead the Indian contingent

@ 13/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Grand Swiss R02: Adhiban on a roll, Vishy bounces back

@ 12/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Grand Swiss R01: Vishy's misfortune and Raunak's bravado

@ 11/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Live games of Grand Swiss 2019

@ 10/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Anand's last chance to make it to the Candidates 2020

@ 08/10/2019 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Humpy wins Skolkovo FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2019

@ 23/09/2019 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Humpy takes sole lead in Skolkovo FIDE Women's Grand Prix

@ 20/09/2019 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Humpy is now World no.3

@ 19/09/2019 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Humpy and Harika make a solid start at Skolkovo FIDE Women's Grand Prix

@ 15/09/2019 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Nihal Sarin - The second highest paid player in the history of Indian chess?!

@ 04/09/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Nihal reveals one of his favorite books

@ 23/07/2019 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Vishy Anand welcomes Nihal Sarin to the 2600 club!

@ 03/06/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
जून फीडे रेटिंग:आनंद,हम्पी शीर्ष 10 में, निहाल 2600 पार

@ 02/06/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
FIDE Women`s Candidates Tournament kicks off in Kazan

@ 31/05/2019 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
Rating of Indian chess players reinstated by FIDE

@ 27/05/2019 by FIDE (en)
मॉस्को फीडे ग्रांड प्रिक्स - शुरू हुई सेमीफ़ाइनल की जंग

@ 24/05/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
Nihal Sarin crosses 2600 on the live rating list at Tepe Sigeman & Co.

@ 05/05/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
मई फीडे रेटिंग - भारतीय टीम का बढ़ता कद

@ 03/05/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
FIDE Women's Candidates: Drawing of lots

@ 02/05/2019 by Shahid Ahmed (en)
The consistency of Nihal Sarin

@ 01/05/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
FIDE's gesture to support seniors above the age of 65

@ 25/04/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Harikrishna is the only Indian in the FIDE Grand Prix series 2019

@ 21/02/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
फीडे ग्रां प्री में पेंटाला हरिकृष्णा होंगे अकेले भारतीय

@ 20/02/2019 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
Chess in Olympics 2024?

@ 14/02/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
Breaking: FIDE announces an additional qualification path to Candidates 2020 - FIDE Grand Swiss!

@ 11/01/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)
दिलीप त्रिपाठी ने जीता शिवानी यूपी स्टेट फीडे रेटिंग

@ 04/01/2019 by Nitesh Shrivastav (hi)
Seven Indians are members of FIDE commissions from 2018-2022

@ 31/12/2018 by Sagar Shah (en)
14-year-old Nihal Sarin's blitzkrieg in Saint Petersburg!

@ 30/12/2018 by Sagar Shah (en)
World Rapid Championship: Anand closes in on the tournament leaders going into the final day

@ 28/12/2018 by Aditya Pai (en)
जू वेंजुन बनी फिर विश्व महिला शतरंज चैम्पियन

@ 25/11/2018 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
विश्व महिला शतरंज - हरिका द्रोणावल्ली भी हुई बाहर

@ 11/11/2018 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
World Championship Game 2: Caruana's homework "scares" Carlsen

@ 11/11/2018 by Sagar Shah (en)
विश्व महिला शतरंज 02- हम्पी -हरिका दोनों ने खेला ड्रॉ

@ 07/11/2018 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
विश्व महिला शतरंज - हरिका बढ़ी आगे : पद्मिनी की विदाई

@ 05/11/2018 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
विश्व महिला शतरंज - हम्पी अगले दौर में,भक्ति हुई बाहर

@ 04/11/2018 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
11-year-old Nihal Sarin has a plan!

@ 27/04/2016 by Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam (en)