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Tata Steel India Round 1-3: Harikrishna, Mamedyarov and Aronian lead with 2.0/3

by Sagar Shah - 10/11/2018

The first day of the first super tournament in India was fascinating. Of course, having ten great chess players fighting it out always feels great, but what was even more heartening was the jam packed crowd. The ICCR auditorium which had a capacity of 200 people was filled to the brim with people waiting outside the auditorium to go inside and view the games. The players held nothing back to entertain the crowd and in the first round itself Vishy Anand had everyone on the edge of their seats as he fought for 145 moves against Wesley So. At the end of three rounds of rapid chess at the Tata Steel Chess India we have three players in joint lead with 2.0/3 - Harikrishna, Mamedyarov and Aronian. A detailed report from Kolkata. 

The nine round rapid event of Tata Steel Chess India kicked off on the 9th of November 2018. It is a 10-player event with each game having a time control of 25 minutes + 10 second increment. Hikaru Nakamura with a rating of 2844 is highest rated player in rapid section, while Nihal Sarin with a rating of 2127 is the lowest rated player. Although it is quite apparent that Nihal's rating of 2127 is not because he is a weak rapid player, it is just that he hasn't played enough rapid events.

The setting of the super tournament in the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) Kolkata | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The tournament hall reminded me of the settings of the London Chess Classic in Olympia. Some of the things that should be noticed are:

1. Two boards are placed in the front, three behind. In a way you can see all the players from any angle.

2. Excellent branding for the sponsors, especially the space below the fifth board

3. A packed auditorium!

It was so heartening to see people queuing up outside the tournament hall to get a glimpse of all the action! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Two wives cheering on their better halves! Arianne Caoili and Aruna Anand! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The entry fee of the tournament is priced at a very reasonable Rs.250 per person. The idea of the organizers in fixing this price, was that they equated a round of chess with an entertaining movie. If someone wanted to watch a movie in a theatre for couple of hours, he would be ready to pay something around Rs.250.

Of course, none of this excitement would have been possible without the protagonist - Vishy Anand! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Round one:

Bo.No.FEDRtg NameResultName FEDRtgNo.
GMHarikrishna Pentala½ - ½GMGanguly Surya Shekhar
GMMamedyarov Shakhriyar1 - 0GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi
GMNakamura Hikaru½ - ½GMAronian Levon
IMNihal Sarin½ - ½GMKarjakin Sergey
GMAnand Viswanathan½ - ½GMSo Wesley

Although the decisive game of the round was between Mamedyarov and Vidit, the most interesting battle was definitely between Vishy Anand and Wesley So. The game lasted for 145 moves and was drawn because of the 50 move rule. Vishy Anand said in the press conference, there are days when all three games of mine combined do not reach the 145 moves mark.

Vishy Anand vs Wesley So fight it out in round one | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vishy Anand vs Wesley So. Why is Anand's move a5 a blunder? (Don't miss out our cool friend, Mr. Blunderwala on right side of the board!)

After the move a5, all that Wesley had to do was play ...g6 and give the move to his opponent. Vishy would have no real waiting moves and would lose the game. Instead Wesley decided to push his pawn to e3. Even that was fine, but after Ke2, he should have played ...g6. But he went for ....Kc3 and in the end it became a race with Vishy's king running to the kingside and So's king on the queenside.

When Anand took the pawn on h5, the tablebases say that it is a draw, but it is very difficult both ways - for Black to draw the game, and for White to win it!

Although White's has made huge progress the game was still drawn. The tablebase says that ...Qd7 would have led to a draw, instead ...Qc7 is a losing move. You would try to deduce some logic behind why that is the case, but I guess it is just too complicated to understand. It would entail both sides making the best moves, and in such a position it is humanly impossible. I think the chances of White winning this position are much higher than Black drawing because to play accurately for several moves is not at all easy, but Wesley managed to do that and full credit to him for that. The last pawn move was on move 93. The 50 move rule was done with no pawn advances. The game was drawn.

After 145 moves, the players shook hands. Usually the player who was winning (Anand) would have been upset, but here it more sort of a relief | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vishy tells Wesley So about the pawn endgame victory that he had missed | Photo: Amruta Mokal
The Tablebases may show a win, but for humans it is extremely difficult to win this - post mortem interview with Vishy Anand. The five-time World Champion also tell us his take on the Carlsen Caruana match.

Vidit Gujrathi was the only casualty of round one as he botched up a very good position out of the opening to lose to Shakh Mamedyarov | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The Instant analysis feature of ChessBase 15 (which will be released on 13th of November) tells us that Vidit had a very good position out of the opening but then botched it up. You will also find that somewhere around move 52 Mamedyarov slipped up and Vidit could have drawn the game. Let's have a look:

Shakhriyar has just moved his knight to g5. Blunderwala asks you to stop, think and find the best move for Vidit (Black)

On any normal day Vidit would have taken the knight on g5 with his bishop. But here he decided to play ...g6. Of course it's not a losing move, but ...Bxg5 Bxg5 Ba6 would mean that Black has absolutely no problems.

In a totally winning position, Mamedyarov makes a completely understandable error. He moves his queen to e5 and hopes to push the g-pawn forward. It seems winning. But Vidit had a miraculous defence. Can you find it out? (check the answer in the game annotation below)
The biggest worry for Nihal Sarin fans was whether he would be able to hold these top GMs at bay. In the first round itself Nihal answered this with a confident draw against Sergey Karjakin. In fact there was a position where Nihal could have settled for a three-fold repetition but tried to play for a win.

Round two:

The second round was delayed by a few minutes because of the game between Anand and Wesley So which lasted for 145 moves. It began at 4 p.m. instead of the scheduled 3.30 p.m. The two most important games of the round were Harikrishna getting the better of Mamedyarov and Aronian managing to trick Nihal Sarin. 

Bo.No.FEDRtg NameResultName FEDRtgNo.
110IND2608GMGanguly Surya Shekhar½ - ½GMSo WesleyUSA28086
27RUS2792GMKarjakin Sergey½ - ½GMAnand ViswanathanIND27375
38ARM2802GMAronian Levon1 - 0IMNihal SarinIND21274
49IND2660GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi½ - ½GMNakamura HikaruUSA28443
51IND2743GMHarikrishna Pentala1 - 0GMMamedyarov ShakhriyarAZE27942

By beating Mamedyarov, Harikrishna made his intentions clear. He was here for the top prize! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

...c4 was a bad move by Mamedyarov. Can you find the best move for White?

Of course, Hari didn't have to be asked twice. He took on c4 with his knight and that was just a clean pawn up. Shakh didn't give up and kept fighting hard. But in mutual time trouble, he made a huge blunder.

Shakh took the pawn on b3 with his knight which was a huge blunder. You have to find a way for Hari (White) to win the game!

After his confident first round draw against Karjakin, all eyes were on Nihal Sarin vs Levon Aronian. Could the youngster play another great game against a world class opponent? | Photo: Amruta Mokal

10.b4!? was a cool innovation by Aronian

Nihal was upto the task and didn't let Levon get any advantage. One of his moves which showed his excellent feel of chess happened in this position:

The move ...h5 by Nihal was excellent. It stopped Qg4 and also prepared ...Rh7. At this point it seemed as if Nihal would be able to make a draw, but Aronian managed to trick him
The entire game between Levon Aronian and Nihal Sarin on camera by ChessBase India

Round three:

Mamedyarov continued his combative mood in the event by playing yet another decisive encounter, this time by beating Surya Sekhar Ganguly. Aronian drew his game against Anand and Harikrishna couldn't make most of his chances against Nakamura. Thus at the end of three rounds and day one we had three leaders - Harikrishna, Mamedyarov and Aronian.

Bo.No.FEDRtg NameResultName FEDRtgNo.
GMMamedyarov Shakhriyar1 - 0GMGanguly Surya Shekhar
GMNakamura Hikaru½ - ½GMHarikrishna Pentala
IMNihal Sarin½ - ½GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi
GMAnand Viswanathan½ - ½GMAronian Levon
GMSo Wesley½ - ½GMKarjakin Sergey

After a solid start with two draws against Harikrishna and Wesley So, Surya Sekhar Ganguly could not find his feet in the third round and lost to Mamedyarov | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Black's (Ganguly's) position is just overextended and an improvement must be found earlier in the game.

Rank after Round 3

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgIPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 nwwew-weKrtg+/-
GMHarikrishna PentalaIND27432,00,03,2510321,470,532010,6
GMAronian LevonARM28022,00,02,5010321,950,05201,0
GMMamedyarov ShakhriyarAZE27942,00,02,0020321,990,01200,2
GMNakamura HikaruUSA28441,50,02,500031,51,94-0,4420-8,8
GMAnand ViswanathanIND27371,50,02,500031,51,230,27205,4
GMSo WesleyUSA28081,50,02,000031,51,88-0,3820-7,6
GMKarjakin SergeyRUS27921,50,02,000031,51,98-0,4820-9,6
GMGanguly Surya ShekharIND26081,00,01,7500310,820,18203,6
IMNihal SarinIND21271,00,01,2500310,240,762015,2
GMVidit Santosh GujrathiIND26601,00,01,2500311,50-0,5020-10,0

Photo Gallery:

Apart from a draw against Karjakin (above), Nihal also drew his game against Vidit. 1.0/3 on day one is something to be proud of | Photo: Amruta Mokal

An opportunity to play against such top players helps a talent like Nihal mature faster | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Three draws in three games is uncharacteristic for a fighter like Hikaru, but he did play against two of the leaders of the event and 1.5/3 is not bad | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Shakh at the press conference: "It would be unusual for me if I had three draws in three rounds. Three decisive games is normal for me!" | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Friends since childhood, but have to fight over the board - Ganguly and Harikrishna | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Video Gallery:

Video from the press conference of day one
Levon Aronian might not have thought that he has so many fans in Kolkata! A place bumbling with chess energy! Look how he is swarmed by chess fans at the Tata Steel Chess India day one! You might be forgiven if you thought he was in Yerevan! :)


Blunderwala is the idea of COO and co-founder of ChessBase India, Amruta Mokal. When she was young she would read chess reports and feel that the chess analysis part could be made much more interesting. Instead of just the moves, there should be some expressions and life which makes chess analysis more lively. Blunderwala is a little pawn fascinated by the world of chess analysis. He has different expressions and as you can see we have used the appropriate ones next to the chess board! This idea was executed by ChessBase India's graphic designer Jeevan Karandikar. We plan to do this more often, but before that it would be nice to have some feedback from our readers. How did you like this new concept?

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