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Hari in a hurry!

by Sagar Shah - 03/02/2016

Harikrishna played the London System against Vidit Gujrathi and was able to subdue him with some nice attacking moves. With this win, Hari moves into the leaders pack with 6.5/8. Sethuraman and Abhijeet Gupta follow him on six points. The reason why today can be a big day for chess in India is that Harikrishna has a chance to overtake Anand on the live Elo rating list. This and much more in our today's article from Gibraltar.

Pictures by Sophie Triay and John Saunders


The eighth round at the Gibraltar Masters turned out to be a mixed bag for Indians as many of them lost their games. But one result which stood out was Harikrishna's win against Vidit Gujrathi. With this win, Hari is now one of the joint leaders with 6.5/8 and two rounds to go.


Harikrishna opened with 1.d4 and essayed the fashionable (?!!) London System. It was a complex game where India number two kept his king in the centre and launched a decisive attack on his opponent's king


Here's the annotated game. Use the magnifying glass on the top right of the PGN file to maximize the board to a full screen and enjoy the analysis, or download the game on your computer using the save button and then play over it on your local ChessBase software.

[Event "Gibraltar Masters 2016"]
[Site "Caleta ENG"]
[Date "2016.02.02"]
[Round "8.3"]
[White "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Black "Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A48"]
[WhiteElo "2755"]
[BlackElo "2642"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "65"]
[EventDate "2016.01.26"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bf4 $5 {Inspired by Carlsen's win over Tomashevsky from
the Wijk aan Zee 2016, Harikrishna plays the London.} d6 4. c3 Nh5 $5 {This
seems like improvisation on the board by Vidit. No real games have been played
with this move before.} 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 g5 {A very common idea to win the
dark squared bishop for a knight. In return Black weakens his kingside. There
is one more factor which we must take into consideration here. After Nxg3, the
bishop on g7 will be unopposed. But it will not be very happy because he faces
this barricade of pawns b2-c3-d4 on the diagonal. Things could have been much
different had the pawn been on c4.} 7. Bg3 Bg7 8. e4 O-O 9. Bd3 e6 10. Ng1 $5 {
Harikrishna is in a creative mood! But he needed to do something about the
threat of f5. Is this move any good, I don't think so.} (10. Nbd2 f5 11. exf5
exf5 12. Qb3+ Kh8 13. O-O-O {is computer's way of playing this position.} f4
14. Bg6 Nf6 15. Nxg5 $1 hxg5 16. h4 $1 $16) 10... Nxg3 11. hxg3 c5 $1 {Black
has clearly equalised out of the opening and maybe much more.} 12. dxc5 dxc5
13. Qe2 Qc7 14. Nh3 (14. e5 $5) 14... Rd8 15. f4 $1 {Harikrishna's king is in
the center but he feels that it is the right time to launch an attack on his
opponent's king.} Qd6 16. Bc4 Qe7 $6 {This is just too tame. After this White
gets into the driver's seat.} (16... Nc6 $1 17. fxg5 $2 (17. e5 Qc7 {and the
position is still quite complex.}) 17... Qxg3+ $17) 17. Nf2 (17. fxg5 hxg5 18.
Qh5 $16 {would have caused immense problems to Black.}) 17... Nc6 18. Nd2 Na5
19. Bd3 c4 20. Bc2 (20. Nxc4 Nxc4 21. Bxc4 b5 22. Bxb5 Rb8 {Might have been
Vidit's idea to get some play. But the compensation looks quite insufficient.})
20... gxf4 21. gxf4 e5 22. f5 b5 {It is now a race but somehow White reaches
the gates faster than Black.} 23. Nf3 b4 24. Ng4 bxc3 25. bxc3 Rd6 26. Qe3 Rb8
27. Nxh6+ Kf8 28. Ng4 Kg8 (28... Rb2 {would have been desirable but doesn't do
much.} 29. Qc1 Rdb6 30. Rh7 $16) 29. Rb1 Rxb1+ 30. Bxb1 Qb7 31. Kf2 Rb6 32. Bc2
Rb2 $2 (32... Qe7 {And the position is still complex, white has a small edge
though.}) 33. Qg5 $1 {Giving up the bishop on c2, the two knights, queen and
rook are good enough to create a massacre!} (33. Qg5 Rxc2+ 34. Kg3 f6 35. Nxf6+
Kf8 36. Nh7+ Ke8 (36... Kg8 37. Qd8+ $18) 37. f6 $18) 1-0


An uncharacteristic loss for Vidit, who usually smells danger even when it is miles away 

Harikrishna, on 6.5/8, now leads with MVL, Etienne Bacrot and Anton Guijarro

After seeing many of Harikrishna's games from this event and past I have come to the conclusion that he hardly cares about the openings and is extremely strong in the middlegame and endgame. He doesn't even play mainstream openings, doesn't have any huge novelties prepared, but is still able to overcome the best of players. Something to learn for all the youngsters out there who put too much emphasis on the first phase of the game.

Harikrishna is now closing in on not only winning the Gibraltar Masters 2016, but also becoming the India number one on the live rating list.

A mere 1.3 points separate the two Indian greats. Our analysis shows that even if both of them win their games Harikrishna will be able to surpass Anand. A win against Anton Guijarro (2639) will give Hari 3.5 rating points while a win for Anand against his 2439 opponent just gives him 1.3 Elo. Of course, these live ratings keep fluctuating and are not something that should be looked into great detail, but Anand has been India number one for almost 30 years now and a change in that order is surely big news.


Anand drew his game against IM Marc Esserman
It is clear that Anand is not in great form. But his game was interesting because his opponent Marc Esserman is the author of the book Mayhem in the Morra (e4 c5 d4!? cxd4 c3!?). The American IM was fearless and employed his pet system against the five-time World Champion. Instead of accepting the pawn Anand went for the more well known 3...Nf6 that transposed the game into the Alapin. White played really well and in the last position where a draw was accepted Esserman surely had an edge. Here's the game without any annotations for you to replay.
[Event "Gibraltar Masters 2016"]
[Site "Caleta ENG"]
[Date "2016.02.02"]
[Round "8.18"]
[White "Esserman, Marc"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B21"]
[WhiteElo "2419"]
[BlackElo "2784"]
[PlyCount "45"]
[EventDate "2016.01.26"]

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. Nf3 e6 6. cxd4 d6 7. Bc4 Nc6 8. O-O
Be7 9. Qe2 O-O 10. Nc3 dxe5 11. dxe5 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Qc7 13. Qe4 Rd8 14. Re1 g6
15. Bg5 Bxg5 16. Nxg5 h6 17. Nf3 Qe7 18. h4 Na5 19. Bd3 Bd7 20. Nd4 Nc6 21. Nf3
Na5 22. Nd4 Nc6 23. Nf3 1/2-1/2


Another huge result of the day was Lalith Babu getting the better of Nigel Short
Sethuraman played a solid game and drew against Yu Yangyi with the black pieces
Abhijeet Gupta drew with Etienne Bacrot and is on 6.0/8. He is already gaining 15 Elo
IM Nisha Mohota, who has sent us some exclusive material from Gibraltar, is playing really well and is on 4.5/8. She beat higher rated Cristina-Adela Foisor in the eighth round.

Three stalwarts of Indian chess: Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Sandipan Chanda and P. Harikrishna
Join Tania Sachdev for the ninth episode of the Day's Play

Rank after Round 8

Rk. SNo   Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB1  w we w-we K rtg+/-
1 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2785 6,5 2837 6,5 5,95 0,55 10 5,5
2 11 GM Bacrot Etienne FRA 2697 6,5 2834 6 5,01 0,99 10 9,9
3 4 GM Harikrishna P. IND 2755 6,5 2803 6,5 5,98 0,52 10 5,2
4 24 GM Anton Guijarro David ESP 2639 6,5 2755 6,5 5,29 1,21 10 12,1
5 14 GM Ragger Markus AUT 2689 6,0 2780 6 4,98 1,02 10 10,2
6 33 GM Lenic Luka SLO 2611 6,0 2779 5,5 3,99 1,51 10 15,1
7 1 GM Nakamura Hikaru USA 2787 6,0 2750 6 6,23 -0,23 10 -2,3
  25 GM Sethuraman S.P. IND 2639 6,0 2750 6 4,76 1,24 10 12,4
9 8 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw POL 2727 6,0 2744 6 5,77 0,23 10 2,3
  32 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2613 6,0 2744 6 4,55 1,45 10 14,5


Round 9 on 2016/02/03 at 15:00 (19.30 IST)

Bo. No.   Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts.   Name Rtg No.
1 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2785   GM Bacrot Etienne 2697 11
2 24 GM Anton Guijarro David 2639   GM Harikrishna P. 2755 4
3 1 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2787 6   6 GM Gupta Abhijeet 2613 32
4 5 GM Li Chao B 2751 6   6 GM Lenic Luka 2611 33
5 26 GM Grandelius Nils 2635 6   6 GM Yu Yangyi 2747 6
6 25 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2639 6   6 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw 2727 8
7 12 GM Ni Hua 2697 6   6 GM Maze Sebastien 2591 35
8 14 GM Ragger Markus 2689 6   6 GM Lalith Babu M R 2553 45
9 7 GM Jakovenko Dmitry 2732   GM Sandipan Chanda 2583 36
10 9 GM Rapport Richard 2721   GM Tregubov Pavel V. 2582 37