Vidit Gujrathi scores first win; Sethu, Sasi and Aravindh retain good chances of a top 10 finish
Right before the final round, wins by Sasikiran, Sethuraman and Aravindh Chithambaram brought some good news for the Indian fans. Besides, there was one more important result: Vidit Gujrathi, who had drawn all his games so far, was finally able to win a game. With his win today, Sethuraman has made it back into the top boards of the event. If he wins his final round game against Bologan, he will make it into the top three! Another game that piqued the attention of chess fans from around the globe was the encounter between the two Indian child prodigies, R Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin. Round 8 report.
When I entered the tournament hall last morning, it occurred to me that there were only two more rounds remaining; time just flew past like a breeze! As a player, I have often had this feeling but whether or not I was happy depended on my performance at that event. I mean, if I had performed well, I would be sad that the tournament had finished. But if I had performed badly, I would be happy.
But as a writer, the feeling is that of excitement. Watching these masters battling it out right in front of you is a spectacle in itself. Sometimes, experienced masters make simple errors; sometimes, young guns show a masteresque flair. Being here as a reporter, therefore, is truly an exhilarating experience.
So walking into the venue, I had several questions running through my head. Will the higher rated Kovalev become the sole leader once again, or will it be the Iranian sensation, Amin Tabatabaei pull off another stunner? How many decisive games will the top 10 boards produce? What about the big game between the two Indian child prodigies, R Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin, who will prevail?
Let's begin by taking a look at some of the top games of the round.
True, it is slightly easier to play with the white pieces, but this much?
Result 1: Kovalev vs Tabatabaei
This was the game that attracted everyone's attention. This game began with a French Defence wherein Tabatabaei chose his queen's activity over his king's safety. Kovalev, in response, played in a balanced manner and put his opponent in a lot of pressure. As a result, the Iranian IM tried to exchange queens. He did succeed but the queen exchange cost him a pawn. In the ensuing endgame with rooks and bishops, Kovalev not only had an extra pawn but his pieces were also better than their counterparts. By move 39, the Belarusian GM had registered an emphatic victory.
After his scintillating win in the previous round, Anton Korobov played yet another game that put spectators on the edge of their seats in round 8. The game was a short one that featured the Gruenfeld Defence. Both players played in a sharp, aggressive manner. A mate in one move was threatened on the black king when Artemiev, Korobov's opponent, forced perpetual checks to hold the game to a draw.
Result 2: Victor Bologan vs Evgeny Najer
The game between Victor Bologan and Evgeny Najer was yet another intriguing battle. In the middlegame, the piece count for both sides equal but white was two pawns down. Both sides played aggressively from the very start in a Caro-Kann Defence but Bologan was the more successful of the two. Between moves 40-44, the Moldovan GM won a piece. However, the position turned pawnless on the 52nd move. Bologan had a rook, a knight and a light-squared bishop while his opponent only possessed a rook and a dark-squared bishop. The big question here was: would white's extra piece count despite there being no pawn on the board?
Result 3 - Sethuraman vs Murali Karthikeyan
Murali Karthikeyan, who had performed really well from the very start of this event, looked helpless against Sethuraman's imposing play in this penultimate round encounter. Both players, despite being teammates in the Indian Olympic team, went for each other's blood in this encounter. In a Two Knights Defence, Sethuraman was able to win a pawn on the 21st move and did not let his advantage slip away till the very end.
Finally a win for Vidit!
After 7 back to back draws in his first seven games, Vidit Gujrathi registered his first win against the Russian FM Aleksey Sorokin. Well, as they say, better late than never!
Game of the day - Praggnanandhaa vs Nihal Sarin
The two child prodigies from India and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu and Nihal Sarin were slated to play each other in round 8. The encounter (obviously) grabbed a lot of eyeballs not only because they were playing each other but also both of them are on the brink of scoring a GM norm.
Performance of Team India (Group A)
|2||GM||Vidit Santosh Gujrathi||2723||IND||½||½||½||½||½||½||½||1||4,5||31||2572||10||-14,80||Open A|
|11||GM||Sasikiran Krishnan||2671||IND||½||½||½||½||1||1||0||1||5,0||14||2649||10||-2,70||Open A|
|15||GM||Sethuraman S.P.||2646||IND||1||1||0||½||½||1||½||1||5,5||6||2706||10||6,20||Open A|
|25||GM||Aravindh Chithambaram Vr.||2617||IND||½||1||½||½||0||½||1||1||5,0||18||2598||10||-2,40||Open A|
|36||GM||Gupta Abhijeet||2598||IND||½||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1,5||91||0||10||1,90||Open A|
|43||GM||Karthikeyan Murali||2585||IND||1||0||1||1||½||½||½||0||4,5||21||2664||10||8,90||Open A|
|57||IM||Nihal Sarin||2532||IND||½||½||½||½||½||½||0||½||3,5||56||2588||10||5,80||Open A|
|67||GM||Aryan Chopra||2509||IND||½||1||½||0||1||0||1||0||4,0||43||2623||10||12,40||Open A|
|68||IM||Praggnanandhaa R||2507||IND||½||0||½||½||½||½||½||½||3,5||65||2526||10||1,70||Open A|
|70||GM||Debashis Das||2501||IND||½||0||0||1||0||½||0||½||2,5||86||2409||10||-9,70||Open A|
|72||GM||Gagare Shardul||2494||IND||½||0||1||0||½||0||0||1||3,0||80||2479||10||-2,20||Open A|
|87||IM||Iniyan P||2460||IND||½||½||0||1||½||1||0||0||3,5||63||2552||10||9,50||Open A|
|88||FM||Erigaisi Arjun||2458||IND||½||0||1||½||½||½||½||0||3,5||59||2561||10||10,20||Open A|
|91||IM||Raja Harshit||2448||IND||½||½||½||½||0||½||0||½||3,0||81||2483||10||3,10||Open A|
|92||IM||Karavade Eesha||2386||IND||1||½||½||1||0||0||0||0||3,0||76||2534||10||13,30||Open A|
A good news for Indian fans comes from Group B. Former National U-11 Champion, Fenil Shah, has completed the requirements for his final IM norm here at the Aeroflot Open. Now all that remains between him and the IM title is 18 rating points.
Performance of Team India (Group B)
|5||GM||Kunte Abhijit||2499||IND||½||½||1||1||½||1||½||1||6,0||8||Open B|
|20||IM||Harsha Bharathakoti||2443||IND||1||0||0||½||0||½||1||1||4,0||69||Open B|
|26||GM||Sundararajan Kidambi||2427||IND||1||½||½||1||½||0||1||½||5,0||29||Open B|
|36||IM||Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh||2413||IND||1||1||1||½||0||½||½||1||5,5||14||Open B|
|39||Rahul Srivatshav P||2408||IND||0||1||1||½||0||0||1||0||3,5||93||Open B|
|53||IM||Krishna Teja N||2371||IND||½||1||1||0||0||½||½||1||4,5||42||Open B|
|54||IM||Abhishek Kelkar||2370||IND||1||0||1||0||0||1||½||1||4,5||45||Open B|
|63||WGM||Soumya Swaminathan||2349||IND||1||½||½||0||1||0||½||1||4,5||43||Open B|
|67||FM||Fenil Shah||2346||IND||½||0||1||1||1||1||0||½||5,0||21||Open B|
|69||WIM||Vaishali R||2342||IND||0||1||0||1||½||½||0||0||3,0||94||Open B|
|71||FM||Sadhwani Raunak||2339||IND||½||½||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||3,0||95||Open B|
|75||WGM||Gomes Mary Ann||2329||IND||½||0||0||1||½||0||0||0||2,0||116||Open B|
|76||IM||Padmini Rout||2325||IND||1||½||½||0||1||1||½||½||5,0||31||Open B|
|77||Muthaiah Al||2325||IND||0||1||½||½||½||1||½||1||5,0||23||Open B|
|79||IM||Kathmale Sameer||2320||IND||0||½||0||1||½||1||½||½||4,0||73||Open B|
|80||CM||Gukesh D||2320||IND||½||0||0||0||1||1||1||1||4,5||44||Open B|
|85||Raahul V S||2305||IND||0||0||½||1||0||1||0||0||2,5||115||Open B|
|86||FM||Mitrabha Guha||2303||IND||1||1||0||1||1||0||0||1||5,0||20||Open B|
|90||Pranav V||2284||IND||0||1||0||0||0||1||½||½||3,0||101||Open B|
|92||WIM||Monnisha G K||2281||IND||0||0||1||0||1||1||1||0||4,0||64||Open B|
|95||Navalgund Niranjan||2270||IND||0||0||½||1||0||½||0||1||3,0||103||Open B|
|96||FM||Anand Nadar||2262||IND||½||½||0||½||1||½||½||0||3,5||82||Open B|
|100||IM||Mohota Nisha||2256||IND||1||0||0||0||0||½||0||1||2,5||111||Open B|
|101||WIM||Mahalakshmi M||2252||IND||0||½||½||0||½||0||0||1||2,5||106||Open B|
|102||FM||Shailesh Dravid||2246||IND||1||1||0||0||1||0||½||0||3,5||80||Open B|
|103||WIM||Nandhidhaa Pv||2241||IND||0||½||0||½||½||0||0||½||2,0||119||Open B|
|107||IM||Praveen Kumar C||2228||IND||0||½||1||0||0||0||1||1||3,5||89||Open B|
|108||FM||Raja Rithvik R||2227||IND||1||0||0||½||½||½||1||0||3,5||86||Open B|
|109||Moksh Amit Doshi||2221||IND||½||0||1||½||0||0||1||0||3,0||97||Open B|
|110||Kulkarni Chinmay||2215||IND||0||0||½||1||0||1||0||1||3,5||88||Open B|
|114||CM||Aditya Mittal||2206||IND||1||½||0||0||1||0||½||0||3,0||98||Open B|
|116||Manush Shah||2202||IND||½||1||½||½||½||0||½||½||4,0||57||Open B|
|121||WIM||Pujari Rucha||2171||IND||0||1||0||0||0||½||1||1||3,5||91||Open B|
|122||Narendran Gouthaman||2165||IND||0||½||0||0||0||½||½||0||1,5||124||Open B|
|124||WFM||Divya Deshmukh||2138||IND||0||0||½||0||0||½||½||½||2,0||117||Open B|
|125||Pranav Anand||2024||IND||½||0||½||1||½||½||0||1||4,0||59||Open B|
|126||WIM||Gagare Shalmali||2001||IND||0||1||½||0||0||0||½||0||2,0||120||Open B|
Stay tuned for our next report!