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One move blunder spoils Hari's tournament

by Sagar Shah - 05/06/2016

Harikrishna finished sixth at the Shamkir Chess 2016. Things could have gone much better had the Indian converted the clear winning position he had against Eltaj Safarli in the final round. He made a blunder which would be quite apparent to even a beginner. Thus he ended the tournament with -1, and lost eight elo points. Mamedyarov won the event in a thrilling tiebreak against Caruana. Hari had actually beaten Shakhriyar in the second round! One can only be in awe of the Azeri player's fighting skills!  

Harikrishna's stoic look says it all. Instead of a strong finish with +1, he had a not so great event. And this was all because of just one single move in the last round against Safarli.

Round Eight - Radjabov - Harikrishna

Radjabov came with a gun to the game, but forgot to fill it with bullets!
[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem 2016"]
[Site "Shamkir AZE"]
[Date "2016.06.03"]
[Round "8.1"]
[White "Radjabov, Teimour"]
[Black "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E15"]
[WhiteElo "2726"]
[BlackElo "2763"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "71"]
[EventDate "2016.05.26"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. Qc2 Bb7 6. Bg2 c5 7. d5 exd5 8. cxd5
Nxd5 9. O-O Nc6 10. Rd1 Be7 11. Qa4 Nf6 12. Nh4 O-O 13. Nf5 d5 14. Nc3 Nd4 15.
Nxd4 cxd4 {All of this has been seen in the game Nakamura- Harikrishna. Here
Naka had taken on d4 with the rook. Radjabov tries to improve with Qxd4. But
this hardly seems to be an improvement. Black is able to equalize with ease.}
16. Qxd4 (16. Rxd4 Qe8 17. Qc2 $5 Bc5 18. Rh4 {is an interesting idea
suggested by Simon Williams on his DVD on beating the Queen's Indian.}) 16...
Bc5 17. Qh4 Ne4 18. Qxd8 Raxd8 19. Bxe4 dxe4 20. Be3 Bxe3 21. fxe3 Rxd1+ 22.
Rxd1 Bc6 23. Nd5 Bxd5 24. Rxd5 Rc8 25. Rd7 h5 26. Rxa7 Rc2 27. Kf2 Rxb2 28. a4
g6 29. a5 bxa5 30. Rxa5 f5 31. h4 Kg7 32. Ra7+ Kf6 33. Ra6+ Kf7 34. Ra7+ Kf6
35. Ra6+ Kf7 36. Ra7+ 1/2-1/2

Simon Williams discusses this exact position in his DVD on the Queen's Indian and thinks that taking on d4 with the rook has more venom than the queen.
Beat the Queen's Indian: The Modern Fianchetto line by Simon Williams is one of the latest DVDs by ChessBase
If you have had problems against the Queen's Indian, then this DVD is just for you. This product is available in the ChessBase India shop for Rs.999/- All you have to do is send us an email at

Round nine: Harikrishna vs Eltaj Safarli

Harikrishna had the white pieces against Eltaj Safarli in the last round
4.0/8 is a pretty good score at an event of this stature. Having the white pieces and facing a player who is not one of the best in the world, Harikrishna would have been raring for a +1 finish. Everything pointed towards this direction. The Indian player got a fantastic position out of the opening and was nearly winning.
Everything looks perfect for White. He has absolutely no weaknesses and Black's position has so many! It doesn't come as a surprise that Harikrishna is completely better here.

Here's a question for you to test your technique and polish the art of winning winning positions! It's White to play. What would you do?
The best move here is 30.Rf2! When you have all your pieces in active position and opponent as only a few, the best technique is to exchange off opponent's most active piece. Here the rook on f6 is Black's best piece and after Rf2, White is just winning! Harikrishna didn't play that and went 30.Re7. But it wasn't so bad. The real blunder came on the 32nd move.
White still has a clear advantage but can you imagine what Harikrishna played? He went 32.Bh3?? Safarli could not believe his luck as he jumped with his knight on f2 forking the bishop on h3 and rook on d1.
From being completely better Harikrishna went into a minus position. It was not completely lost but such a huge psychological shift is not so easy to digest.
[Event "Vugar Gashimov Mem 2016"]
[Site "Shamkir AZE"]
[Date "2016.06.04"]
[Round "9.2"]
[White "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Black "Safarli, Eltaj"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E15"]
[WhiteElo "2763"]
[BlackElo "2664"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "124"]
[EventDate "2016.05.26"]

1. d4 {This is the first game in the tournament that Harikrishna opened with 1.
d4.} Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. Nbd2 {Harikrishna is a quick learner!
He uses the same line that Carlsen used to beat him in Norway Chess 2016.} Bb4
6. Qa4 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Bg2 Bb7 9. b4 Be7 10. Bb2 O-O (10... a5 $5 11. b5 d6
{followed by Nbd7-c5 would not have been a bad idea.}) 11. O-O Nc6 $6 {I think
Black should have played a5. The way he has played gives him quite a passive
position without much control in the centre.} 12. a3 a6 13. Qc2 $14 {White has
the perfect harmonious position that he would have wanted out of the opening.}
h6 14. Rad1 Qc7 15. Ne4 $1 {Exchanging one of the best placed black pieces
with one which was not so well placed on d2.} (15. e4 d6 $11 {gives Black a
fine position.}) 15... Nxe4 16. Qxe4 f5 $6 {The thing with Safarli is that he
loves to play aggressively. Even though the position doesn't really warrant
aggressive play. Here this move only makes things worse.} (16... Rfd8 {
followed by Bf8 and holding the position was much better but not in the style
of the young Azeri.}) 17. Qe3 Rad8 18. Rd2 $1 {Harikrishna's plan is simple.
To double on the d-file and put more pressure.} Bf6 19. Bxf6 Rxf6 20. c5 bxc5
21. Qxc5 d6 22. Qc4 Qb6 23. Rc1 d5 24. Qc5 Qxc5 25. Rxc5 $16 {A dream position
for a technical player like Harikrishna. He has absolutely no weaknesses while
weak pawns and squares abound in plenty in Black's position.} g5 26. e3 f4 {
Safarli tries to stir up things} 27. Nd4 fxe3 28. fxe3 Ne5 29. Rc7 Ba8 {
White is completely dominating and is close to winning. As pointed out by
Albert Silver on ChessBase website, the best way for White to win here is to
exchange the most active Black piece that is the f6 rook.} 30. Re7 (30. Rf2 $1
Rxf2 (30... Rdf8 31. Rxf6 Rxf6 32. Bh3 $18) 31. Kxf2 Rf8+ 32. Ke2 $18 {And
everything will fall apart soon.}) 30... Rc8 31. Rd1 (31. Rf2 $1 {was still
the best.}) 31... Ng4 32. Bh3 $4 {This can be attributed to nothing else than
fatigue. How else can Harikrishna miss such a simple knight fork?} Nf2 $1 33.
Bxe6+ (33. Rxe6 Nxh3+ 34. Kg2 Rxe6 35. Nxe6 g4 $19) 33... Rxe6 34. Rxe6 Nxd1
$17 {Black is a piece up and although White can still fight on because the
pawns on a6 and h6 are falling and the bishop on a8 is passive, I think
Harikrishna had already mentally resigned. It is extremely difficult to cope
with such a transformation where in a couple of moves you went from completely
winning to a difficult position.} 35. Nf5 Rc1 36. Re8+ Kh7 37. Kg2 Bc6 38. Re7+
Kg6 39. Nd4 Bb5 40. h4 Bd3 41. Re6+ Kf7 42. Kf3 Be4+ 43. Ke2 Nc3+ 44. Kd2 Rd1+
45. Kxc3 Rxd4 46. Rxa6 Rd3+ 47. Kb2 Rxe3 48. b5 Ke7 49. Rxh6 d4 50. b6 Re2+ 51.
Kb3 d3 52. b7 d2 53. Rd6 Bxb7 54. Rd4 g4 55. Kc3 Rg2 56. h5 Rxg3+ 57. Kxd2 Rg1
58. h6 g3 59. Rh4 g2 60. h7 Rd1+ 61. Kc3 g1=Q 62. h8=Q Qc5+ 0-1

Harikrishna finished sixth losing nine Elo points
Mamedyarov went on to win the tournament in a thrilling tiebreak against Fabiano Caruana. The full report of how that happened can be read on the ChessBase International newspage.
It can only be said that Harikrishna didn't make most of his chances in this tournament. The man whom he beat in the second round went on to win the tournament!
Pictures from the official website