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Hari scores his first win at Norway Chess!

by Sagar Shah - 25/04/2016

Harikrishna played a blinder of a game to beat Li Chao at the fifth round of the Noway Chess 2016. Hari displayed purposeful aggression along with a keen sense of prophylactic thinking in the game. With this victory he powers himself to a 50% score. We also have a very nice video of Hari playing the mindball game on the rest day. A well spent rest day might well be the secret to his success against Li Chao!

"If you want things you never had, you must do things that you have never done!" This is the quote which Harikrishna followed in the fifth round of the Altibox Norway Chess 2016. Hari is known as a positionally sound player who likes to grind down his opponents. But, on Sunday he went all out in his game against Li Chao, to score his first win at this super-elite tournament.


First he began with the same opening that Magnus had used to beat Li Chao at the Qatar Masters 2015: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3!? The f3 variation in the Grunfeld leads to dangerously imbalanced positions and this is exactly what Hari was looking for. He played some blistering chess, sacrificing pawns and breaking through the Chinese player's position.

With this win over Li Chao, Harikrishna is now on 50% score
[Event "4th Norway Chess 2016"]
[Site "Stavanger NOR"]
[Date "2016.04.24"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Black "Li Chao"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E60"]
[WhiteElo "2763"]
[BlackElo "2755"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "83"]
[EventDate "2016.04.18"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 {Hari goes for the same move that Magnus Carlsen used
to beat Li Chao at the Qatar Masters 2015.} c5 {This time instead of d5, the
Chinese player goes for c5 which in some ways transposes the game into Benoni/
King's Indian structures.} 4. d5 d6 5. e4 Bg7 6. Ne2 O-O 7. Nec3 $5 {Nec3 was
also used by Anand in his only Classical win against Boris Gelfand in the 2012
World Championship Match.This is how Igor Stohl describes this move. "Rather
unusual, but the underlying idea is sound enough. Instead of bothering to find
a good square for the Ne2, White will rather look for another post for his Nb1
- it might go to a3, or more probably to d2 after Be3(g5).} e5 {This is where
Harikrishna's opening preparation came to an end. This is a pretty rare move.}
8. g4 h5 $5 9. h3 {Looking to cause some major problems with the move Bg5 now.
Li Chao prepares for this.} Nh7 10. Be3 (10. h4 {Hari was looking in this
direction. But after} Bf6 11. gxh5 Bxh4+ 12. Kd2 g5 {He was not so sure about
his position. It looks like after} 13. Kc2 $16 {White should be better.}) (10.
gxh5 $6 Qh4+ $1 11. Kd2 Qxh5 $13) 10... h4 $5 {Black prepares a very
interesting idea of exchanging the dark squared bishops.} 11. Qd2 Bf6 12. Rg1
Bg5 13. Bxg5 Qxg5 (13... Nxg5 {would have been better than the game
continuation.}) 14. Nb5 $1 {This forces Black to retreat with the queen.} Qe7
15. g5 $1 {Blocking the g5 square so that it cannot be used by the black
pieces.} a6 16. N5c3 Nd7 17. Qg2 Kg7 (17... f6 18. gxf6 Rxf6 19. Qg4 g5 20.
Qxh4 Rxf3 21. Nd2 Rf4 22. Qg3 {is quite a messy position but no so bad for
Black.}) 18. Nd2 f6 19. gxf6+ Qxf6 (19... Rxf6 20. Qg4 $16) 20. Nd1 $1 {
A brilliant idea. Black's plan was to play Rf7, Nf8, g5 and Ng6. However, Hari
is quick to take measures against that and prepare Nd1-f2-d3 in order to break
in the centre with f4! This truly shows how strong he is.} Rf7 21. Nf2 Ndf8 22.
Nd3 b5 (22... g5 23. f4 $1 {A similar idea like in the game.} exf4 24. e5 dxe5
25. Ne4 $44 {With excellent compensation.}) 23. O-O-O $1 g5 24. f4 $3 {This is
clearly the best move in the game! Black's position is ripped to shreds after
this.} exf4 25. e5 $1 {Pawns are not really so important at this moment!} Qf5 (
25... dxe5 26. Ne4 Qh6 27. Nxe5 Re7 28. Nc6 $16) 26. e6 f3 (26... Re7 27. Qe4
$1 $18) 27. Qh2 Bxe6 {Black sacrifices the piece for a few pawns but it is not
enough.} 28. dxe6 Qxe6 29. Nf2 Qe3 30. Ng4 Qf4 31. Qxf4 Rxf4 32. Nxf3 $1 {
Always tactically alert!} bxc4 (32... Rxf3 33. Bg2 $18) 33. Ngh2 Ne6 34. Rxd6
Nd4 35. Rd7+ Kh8 36. Ne5 Nf8 37. Rf7 Re4 38. Rxg5 Rd8 39. Rxf8+ Rxf8 40. Ng6+
Kg7 41. Nxf8+ Kxf8 42. Rxc5 {A powerpacked game by Harikrishna. Especially the
moves f4 followed by e5.} 1-0

Two moments stand out from this game:

Harikrishna immediately realized that his opponent is looking to go for Rf7-Nf8-g5 followed by Ng6 and hence he found his own Knight manoeuvre with Nd1-f2-d3 with the idea of breaking through with f4!

On a square that was securely guarded, Harikrishna broke through with 24.f3-f4 and after exf4, sacrificed another pawn with 25.e5! and won the game in style!

The post conference saw Hari in good spirits. But credit to Li Chao for not being depressed and contributing his side of the story to the analysis.

You can check Harikrishna vs Li Chao press conference starting above at 3 hours and 23 minutes.

Standings after five rounds

On the rest day the players indulged in a sport which was not so different from chess: The Mindball game! This was for the first time that I saw or heard about something of this sort! Here is how the game works:

Mindball Game is contained in a table. On the table top a ball is moving back and forth during the game. The players wear headbands with electrodes which are connected to the table.

The electrodes are wired up to a biosensor system. The system that is used to measure the body's biological signals registers the electrical activity in the brain - so called EEG (Electroencephalogram is an electrical waveform that is recorded from the brain by using electrodes placed on the head).

The players and the audience can follow the players’ mental process during a game as the players’ brain activity is presented graphically if a monitor is attached to the game table. Mindball Game is an exciting and social game where the audience can follow the match by watching the ball on the table, the graphics and the players, thus giving biofeedback (neurofeedback) to the players.

Congratulations to Harikrishna for being the calmest and most relaxed mindball player amongst the elite grandmasters! 

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