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Fighting back like a true champion!

by Sagar Shah - 28/01/2016

Adhiban lost his previous round game to Jorden van Foreest. This meant that Eltaj Safarli caught up with him on the leaderboard with 6.5/9. As luck would have it Eltaj and Adhiban faced off against each other in the tenth round and the Indian player emerged victorious, thereby cementing his chances for a first place finish with three rounds to go. Pictures and game analysis from Wijk Aan Zee.

Picture by Alina l'Ami

5.0/6 - things were looking pretty good for Adhiban at the 2016 Tata Steel Challengers. And they got better when the 23-year-old from Chennai got the better of the co-leader Alexei Dreev in the seventh round to lead the tournament with 6.0/7. A slightly lucky draw in the eighth round round against Erwin l'Ami saw Adhiban still being the sole leader with 6.5/8 - half a point ahead of Eltaj Safarli. But what happened next must have thrown Adhiban completely off balance.

In the ninth round he faced the talented Dutch soon-to-be GM Jorden van Foreest.

Jorden van Foreest has proved again and again that he is not a player to be messed with


Adhiban had the white pieces and was high on confidence. But it is one thing to be confident and play objectively and quite another to just go for some tempting line of play that may or may not work.

Instead of taking fxe6, Adhiban played Bd2. Jorden confidently picked up the pawn on f5 with exf5. Now Nxf5 doesn't make much sense as after Bxf5 Rxf5 Nxd4 the bishop on c4 starts to hang. Hence Adhiban went Bd3 but after g6....

...he found nothing better than to sacrifice his knight for the pawn on f5. But this was more out of desperation than anything else. Van Foreest picked up the piece with gxf5 and after a few moves...

...with the knight coming to g6, Black had consolidated and from there on it was one way traffic. Adhiban tried hard but the position was just impossible to defend.

A heart-breaking loss for Adhiban who was now joined by Eltaj Safarli on the same score - 6.5/9.


The way people react to a loss decides the level of their greatness. Some people after a loss are just not able to maintain their balance. They feel dejected and depressed and this shows in their next games. These are the guys who usually say that the first half of their tournament was great but the second half was just terrible.

And then there are people like Adhiban. Every loss motivates them to play stronger. They cannot wait for the next game to begin and stamp their authority on the opponent. Such players are hard to find but believe me when I say that this is a quintessential quality to become a great champion.


When Adhiban lost to Jorden van Foreest, he must have gone back to the room and prepared really hard for his next encounter. And he must have relished the opportunity to meet the tournament co-leader Eltaj Safarli at the perfect moment. His destiny was now in his own hands. He could decide whether he would be the sole leader or not at the end of the tenth round. With great confidence and energy Adhiban pushed his pawn to d4.

The game was highly exciting as you can see from the analysis given below. But in the above position Safarli who was black scored a self goal with 38...Rxd4. It was just better to play Ke5 and there was everything to play for. After the exchange sacrifice, the game was one sided in Adhiban's favour, although the Indian went wrong on many ocassions, and a draw was missed by the Azerbaijani plyer at least on three different moves.
[Event "78th Tata Steel GpB"]
[Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"]
[Date "2016.01.27"]
[Round "10.3"]
[White "Adhiban, Baskaran"]
[Black "Safarli, Eltaj"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A45"]
[WhiteElo "2653"]
[BlackElo "2653"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "123"]
[EventDate "2016.01.16"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 {The Trompowsky of course! Adhiban wants to play an
unconventional game of chess.} Ne4 3. Bf4 d5 4. e3 c5 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. c3 {
When I looked at this position five minutes after the game had started, I was
surprised that Adhiban chose the London System. Knowing the kind of
uncompromising player that he is, London just doesn't suit him. But then I
played the moves from the start and realized it was the Trompowsky. Things
were normal in Adhibanland.} Nc6 7. Nd2 Bg4 8. Ngf3 e6 9. Qa4 c4 $6 {Somehow
positionally this seems like a bad choice as e4 will really cause some issues
to Black. But Eltaj is a concrete player and he sees that Bc2 will cut off the
queen's route and if Bb1 then the rooks will be disconnected. Of course Be2 is
not something you would like when your bishop is on such a nice diagonal.} 10.
Bb1 Bd6 11. Bg5 O-O 12. O-O Be7 13. Re1 Rb8 14. b4 $5 {Takins some early
measures against the queenside pawn storm of b5-b4 before starting with his
own play in the centre with e4.} b5 15. Qd1 a5 16. a3 Ra8 17. Bc2 e5 {Safarli
is playing really some cool chess. With this move he makes White's idea of e4
less potent than what it was.} 18. h3 Bxf3 19. Nxf3 Ne4 (19... e4 $15 {would
also have been strong. I would surely give Black a slight edge for his space
advantage.}) 20. Bxe7 Qxe7 21. Bxe4 dxe4 22. Nd2 axb4 23. axb4 f5 24. d5 Rxa1
25. Qxa1 Nd8 26. f3 $1 {It is important to fight back and gain some space.}
exf3 27. Nxf3 Nf7 (27... Qb7 {was much better stopping the queen infiltration
to a6.} 28. Nxe5 Qxd5 $11 {should be around equal.}) 28. Qa6 $1 Qd7 29. Qe6 Rd8
30. e4 $1 {Once Adhiban has the initiave it is not so easy to face him.} fxe4
31. Rxe4 Qxd5 32. Rxe5 Qxe6 33. Rxe6 $16 {+/- ?? What exactly is going on? And
Why this evaluation? Well the answer to this is very simple. The black rook
would love to move down to d3 and attack the c3 pawn but Re8 mate is
threatened. If you prevent it, the knight comes to d4 and then attacks the b5
pawn, closing down the d-file at the same time! It's a game of one tempo and
currently Adhiban enjoys that advantage.} Kf8 34. Nd4 Rd5 35. Rc6 (35. Kf2 {
Bringing the king in was also good.}) 35... Ke7 36. Rc7+ Kf6 37. Rb7 Nd6 38.
Rd7 Rxd4 $6 {Some sort of a suicide in time pressure. It was not at all
necessary for Eltaj to sacrifice the exchange.} (38... Ke5 {And Black has
decent drawing chances.}) 39. cxd4 Ke6 40. Rc7 $18 {Now it is just winning for
White.} Ne4 41. Kf1 Kd6 42. Rc8 Kd5 43. Rd8+ Kc6 44. d5+ Kc7 45. Re8 Nc3 46.
Re7+ Kd6 47. Rxg7 Na2 48. Ke2 Nxb4 49. Rxh7 {The queenside pawns looks risky
but the rook and the king will take care of them. Meanwhile the kingside pawns
will be difficult to stop.} Nxd5 50. h4 b4 51. h5 b3 52. Rb7 (52. Kd1 $1 $18 {
was necessary and easily winning. For example} c3 53. Rb7 $1 b2 54. Kc2 $18)
52... Nf4+ 53. Ke3 Nxh5 $2 (53... Kc6 $1 {Would have saved the day for Eltaj.}
54. Rb8 Kc7 55. Kxf4 (55. Rb4 Nd5+ $19) 55... Kxb8 56. h6 b2 57. h7 b1=Q 58.
h8=Q+ $11) 54. Kd4 $2 (54. Rb5 $1 Nf6 55. Kd4 $18) 54... Nf4 $1 55. g4 Nd3 $2 (
55... Nd5 $1 56. g5 c3 57. Kd3 (57. Rxb3 c2 $19) 57... Nf4+ 58. Kxc3 Ke6 59.
Kxb3 Kf5 60. Rb5+ Kg6 $11 {And the knight will pick up the g5 pawn with a draw.
}) 56. g5 $18 {Now everything is back on track.} Kc6 57. Rb8 Kc7 58. Rb5 Nf4
59. Kxc4 Kd6 60. g6 Ne6 61. Rxb3 Ke7 62. Rf3 $1 {Just in time. The king is cut
off and the game is won!} 1-0


Some mistakes cost Eltaj Safarli the lead in the tournament

Still things are not really clear at the event as Dreev is right on Adhiban's heels. The Indian player has to face Nisipeanu, Batsiashvili and Sevian. So there won't be any strolling to the finish line!

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