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Giri commits 'Hari'kiri!

by Sagar Shah - 26/04/2016

In the sixth round of the Norway Chess 2016 Harikrishna did something that not even the best in the business have been able to achieve! He beat the super solid Anish Giri with the black pieces! It's true that the Dutch grandmaster was off colour today, but Harikrishna was in top form taking advantage of every mistake made by his opponent and giving Giri absolutely no scope to create complications. It was smooth victory for Hari in his favourite French Defence. With this win the Indian GM now has +1 and is in joint second position in the tournament behind Magnus Carlsen!

Just to give you an idea of how solid Anish Giri is with the white pieces, here are some statistics: Prior to the Norway tournament the last time that Anish lost with white was in the FIDE World Cup semi finals in September 2015 against Peter Svidler. So that's nearly seven months ago. And before that he lost his white game to Yu Yangyi at the Qatar Masters Open in December 2014! So logically Anish had lost only two games with white in classical chess in the last one year!

The unbelievably solid Anish Giri

However, things have changed in Anish's world after he drew all his 14 games at the Candidates. It seems he has come to the Norway Chess 2016 with only one aim. To play aggressive and risky chess and try for decisive results. He already burnt his hands once in the second round when he was crushed by MVL in the Najdorf.

Giri came well prepared for the game!

In the sixth round, Anish had all the reasons to be positive against Harikrishna. In their last three encounters where Giri had the white pieces he had scored 2.5/3 against the Indian. The Dutch GM began the game with 1.e4 and Harikrishna replied with his trusted French Defence. In the 3.Nc3 Variation, Hari went for a relatively unexplored idea. Not developing his knight to c6 and quickly exchanging the light squared bishops with Ba6. Positionally Black seemed perfectly alright and the critical positon of the game was reached after 14 moves.

It is White's turn to play. After 15 minutes of thought Giri decided to take the pawn on e6 with 15.fxe6. This was a poor decision as that took off the pressure from the kingside. Good or bad, Anish had to go for 15.f6!? and try to attack the black king. 

The final position tells the entire story. White could do absolutely nothing on the kingside while Black's a2 pawn successful reached the queening square!
Cool and calm Hari does the job!
Here's the entire game with analysis. You can click on the magnifying glass (for laptop and desktop users) for a full screen view:
[Event "Altibox Norway Chess 2016"]
[Site "Stavanger"]
[Date "2016.04.25"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Giri, Anish"]
[Black "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2790"]
[BlackElo "2763"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "72"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]

1. e4 e6 {Harikrishna sticks to his French Defence which gave him a nearly
winning position against Nils Grandelius in the fourth round.} 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3
Nf6 4. e5 (4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Be7 6. Bxf6 gxf6 {is one of Hari's favourite
line with black. And that is the reason why Giri goes for direct 4.e5.}) 4...
Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Be7 $5 {Developing the knight to c6 is of course the most
natural idea. However, with this move order Hari keeps his knight on b8 and
uses it for a different purpose, as we shall see.} 7. Be3 O-O 8. Qd2 b6 {
The idea is slowly coming to light. Black would like to exchange the light
squared bishops with Ba6. The young German GM Bluebaum is the biggest exponent
of this line.} 9. Nd1 {A natural move, getting the knight to f2 and also
bolstering the pawn chain with the move c3.} a5 10. c3 (10. a4 {is the other
option here.}) 10... a4 11. Bd3 (11. a3 Nc6 12. Nf2 Na5 13. Rd1) 11... Ba6 12.
O-O Nc6 13. Bxa6 (13. Nf2 Bxd3 14. Nxd3 c4 {followed by a3 gives Black an
excellent position.}) 13... Rxa6 14. f5 $1 {Anish is of course in a hurry! He
perfectly understands that Black has dangerous counterplay on the queenside
and he must do something on the kingside as soon as possible.} b5 $1 {With
nerves of steel Harikrishna is not afraid of the pawn coming to f6.} (14...
exf5 {was the normal move, so that you do not have to deal with f5-f6. However,
White gets some attacking chances after} 15. Bf2 {with the idea of Ne3 is also
interesting.} (15. Qd3 {is the natural move regaining the pawn.} Ra8 16. Qxf5
g6 17. Qh3 {and White looks better.})) 15. fxe6 $6 {15 minutes of thought
before making a move that he was not at all happy in the press conference.
According to Anish, Hari and Peter Svidler, all three of them agreed, that
White should sacrifice the pawn with f6.} (15. f6 {is surely the most critical.
After} gxf6 16. exf6 Bxf6 {White has many ways to attack. Black's main
defensive idea lies in dropping back his bishop to g7 and then pushing his
pawn to f5.} 17. Bh6 (17. dxc5 {is also an option.}) 17... Bg7 18. Bxg7 Kxg7
19. Nf2 Kh8 (19... f5 20. Rae1 $44 {gives White excellent compensation for the
pawn.}) 20. Rae1 {and Black seems to be alright here but with a slightly
exposed king, he can never really breathe easy.} (20. Ng4 f5 $17)) 15... fxe6
16. Qe2 Qb6 {Black's queenside play is much easy to execute now that White has
no attack on the other wing.} 17. Nf2 a3 18. b3 (18. b4 $5 {Giving up a pawn
could have been a good idea to stabilize the situation on the queenside.} cxb4
19. cxb4 Nxb4 20. Rab1 {with counterplay.}) 18... b4 $1 {Black keeps up the
pace of his queenside play.} 19. dxc5 (19. cxb4 Nxb4 $15 (19... cxd4 $2 20.
Nxd4 $1 Nxd4 21. Bxd4 Qxd4 22. Qxa6 Rxf2 23. Qxe6+ Rf7+ 24. Kh1 Nxe5 25. Rxf7
Nxf7 26. Rf1 $18)) 19... Bxc5 20. Bxc5 Nxc5 21. c4 Ne4 22. cxd5 exd5 23. e6 (
23. Kh1 {doesn't work now due to} Nxf2+ 24. Rxf2 Nxe5 $1 $17) 23... Ne7 24. Kh1
Nc3 25. Qd3 h6 26. Nd1 Qb5 $1 {With the queen exchange the position is already
lost for White. The e6 pawn is falling and the a2 is a fixed weakness.} 27.
Qxb5 Nxb5 28. Nf2 (28. Re1 Rf6 $19) 28... Rxe6 29. Nd3 Nc6 30. Rfc1 Nc3 31.
Nxb4 Nxb4 32. Rxc3 Re2 {The a2 pawn is falling.} 33. Rc7 Ra8 $1 {An accurate
move preventing Ra7.} 34. Nd4 (34. h3 Rxa2 35. Re1 Rc2 $1 $19) 34... Rxa2 35.
Rf1 Rd2 36. h3 a2 {A very nicely played game by Hari and a completely bad day
at the office for Anish.} (36... Rxd4 $2 37. Rff7 $11) 0-1
Hari's press conference begins at 2 hours and 35 minutes

Standings after round six