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Indian Maestro Harikrishna turns 30!

by Sagar Shah - 10/05/2016

He doesn't like to speak much, he prefers to be on the chess board where he can let the moves do the talking. Behind his calm and serene outlook lies intense determination to become the World Champion. Meet the crown prince of Indian chess - Pentala Harikrishna. The only player from India after Vishy Anand to break into the 2750+ league. And today, on 10th of May 2016, he turns 30. Just in case you were wondering what Yusupov and Rubinstein are doing in our thumbnail, read on to know the reason!

Pentala Harikrishna turns 30 today. We can safely say that after Vishy Anand he is the best chess player to have ever played for our country. When you go over Harikrishna's games there is something thoroughly unique about them. It's like standing on top of a mountain and breathing in fresh air. These days it is impossible to be at the top without the use of computer engines, but Harikrishna likes to use them to a minimum. In his games you always see the human element. He prefers to think with his own mind rather than look blankly at the computer evaluations. That's why you can hardly see him blundering. In many ways, his games are like the seventh World Champion Vasily Smyslov's. Smooth positional play with a keen eye to swift tactical finishes. You will be able to witness that in the positions that we present to you in this article.

Legendary chess photographer Fred Lucas captures Hari in a perfect pose: thoroughly concentrated and engrossed in the game!

A battle hardened fighter and the current World number 12, Harikrishna prefers that his moves on the board do the talking. What better way to pay our tribute and respects to this champion, than to watch some of the best games of his career. One day prior to his birthday we asked Harikrishna about his favourite game of chess and he gave us three options to choose from:

Harikrishna - Morozevich, 2002
Harikrishna - Mamedyarov, 2006
Harikrishna - Nakamura, 2014.

You can find all the three games in this article, but first let's begin with the Hari-Morozevich encounter.

Harikrishna - Morozevich

Can you find Harikrishna's (White's) highly original idea? We recommend that you take 10 minutes on the clock and write down the solution.
Before we go ahead and reveal the answer to you, we would like to rewind the clock by 30 years! 1986 - Artur Yusupov with the black pieces was facing Andrei Sokolov in Riga, Latvia.
Sokolov - Yusupov, 1986


Once again, take ten minutes for this one and find the best way for Black (Yusupov) to continue.
We know that you are currently dying to know the answer of not only Hari's position but also Yusupov's. But Patience is a virtue! Now that you have already travelled 30 years into the past, how about going back another 79 years - 1907! In the town of Karlsbad in Germany two great masters Janowski and Rubinstein sat against each other. Little did they know that the black player (Rubinstein) would play a game that would be used as training material by coaches all over the world even in the 21st century!
Janowski - Rubinstein, 1907
It's Akiba's (Black's) turn to play. Once again we would urge you to take ten minutes on the clock and find the best move for Black.

1986-Yusupov, 2002-Harikrishna, and 1907-Rubinstein. Great minds think alike!
Let us first deal with the Rubinstein game:
Janowski - Rubinstein
Akiba played the brilliant 29...Qd8! with the idea of activating his queen, not from g5 but from a7! With some excellent endgame technique he won the game!
Sokolov - Yusupov

Artur quickly spotted that c2 square is quite weak and hence came up with the ingenious 13...Kd7! The idea is to transfer the queen to h7 via g8 and to put pressure on the c2 pawn! Yusupov won the game in 72 moves.
And after the brief history lesson, we are back to the game of our hero:

Harikrishna - Morozevich

Harikrishna followed the footsteps of Rubinstein and Yusupov, played his king to d2 and activated his queen in this unorthodox fashion! Did Hari know these previous classical games?!! My guess is that he did, but it is not a question worth disturbing him on his birthday with! Play through this entire game where the master of creative chess, Alexander Morozevich, is beaten in creative fashion!

[Event "FIDE World Cup-D"]
[Site "Hyderabad"]
[Date "2002.10.14"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Harikrishna, Penteala"]
[Black "Morozevich, Alexander"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D07"]
[WhiteElo "2551"]
[BlackElo "2707"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "95"]
[EventDate "2002.10.05"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "5"]
[EventCountry "IND"]
[EventCategory "15"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2003.02.06"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 {Morozevich of course opts for his favourite Chigorin
Defence!} 3. Nf3 Bg4 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 f6 6. cxd5 exd5 (6... fxg5 7. dxc6 $14)
7. Bf4 Bb4 8. e3 Nge7 9. Be2 {Harikrisha tries to play as solidly as possible
against a highly creative player like Moro.} Qd7 10. Rc1 {Not yet determining
the position of his king with 0-0 as then the pawn storm with g5 and h5 would
be very strong.} g5 11. Bg3 h5 12. h3 Be6 13. Nd2 Bf7 14. Bd3 h4 15. Bh2 Bd6
16. Bxd6 cxd6 $5 {A typical Morozevich move that tries to control the c5
square. He understands that he is weakening the pawn structure but in return
gains control of some crucial squares.} 17. a3 O-O-O $5 {A bold decision. But
Black has his mind set on the kingside pawn storm.} 18. b4 Kb8 19. Nb3 Rc8 {
It is time for White to come up with a plan as to how is he going to continue.
b5 will be met with Nd8-e6. It is time to bring the queen and the h1 rook into
the game but 0-0 would be just too risky as f5-g4 would extremely strong.
Harikrishna comes up with a completely creative solution!} 20. Kd2 $3 {The
idea is not to jog the king over to b2 or a2, but to get the queen in an
attacking position. From where? The h2 square! Don't really bank of computer's
evaluation here. It is much more important to find such original ideas than to
keep making dull moves to maintain a +/- evaluation.} Bh5 21. Qg1 $1 f5 22. Qh2
{The queen puts maximum pressure from this square and cannot be dislodged. She
is like a sniper on top of a tower! A move like Nc5 is a threat.} Ka8 23. Na2 {
b5 and Nb4 coming up. Look how the rooks are also perfectly connected.} Rcf8
24. b5 Nd8 25. Nb4 f4 {Black tries to shut down the queen's action and at the
same time hope for some play down the f-file.} 26. Kc2 fxe3 {was it necessary
to open up the queen's diagonal? White was trying to play his king to b2 and
double the rooks on the c-file. Hence, Morozevich tries to do something at
this very moment.} 27. fxe3 Rf2+ 28. Kb1 Bf3 29. Rc2 $1 Rxc2 30. Bxc2 Be4 (
30... Be2 31. a4 Bc4 $15) 31. Bxe4 dxe4 32. Rc1 $1 {Some of the pieces have
been exchanged and now each of White's piece is better than its black
counterpart!} Ne6 (32... Qxb5 33. Qxd6 Ndc6 34. Qc5 Qxc5 35. Rxc5 $16) 33. a4
Nf5 34. Qg1 (34. Nd5 Ng3 $15) 34... Rc8 35. Qf2 Rxc1+ 36. Nxc1 Nc7 37. Kb2 Kb8
38. Nca2 a5 39. bxa6 bxa6 (39... Nxa6 40. Nd5 $14) 40. d5 $1 {capturing the c6
square.} Ne7 41. Qf7 Kc8 42. Nc3 a5 43. Nc2 Nexd5 $2 44. Qg8+ $1 {The d5
knight is hanging.} Qd8 (44... Qe8 45. Qxe8+ Nxe8 46. Nxd5 $18) 45. Nxd5 Qxg8
46. Ne7+ Kd7 47. Nxg8 Nd5 48. Kb3 {A very creative game by the Indian genius.}

To show such skills at the age of 16 is simply awesome!
(picture by Christian Bossert)

We have two more fine combinations of Harikrishna played against the absolute elite. The first one was against the Azerbaijani genius:

Harikrishna - Mamedyarov

You have to put yourself in Harikrishna's (White's) shoes. You have 15 minutes to find the best move and work out all the details and then compare your answer with the solution given below.
Harikrishna - Nakamura

In 2014, Nakamura was one of the best players in the world (he still is!) But Hari shows that when it comes to tactical finishes, he is the best in the business. This one is tricky and you should take at least 20 minutes to work out the details.
Solution to Hari - Mamedyarov
[Event "Foros Aerosvit"]
[Site "Foros"]
[Date "2006.06.22"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Harikrishna, Penteala"]
[Black "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C47"]
[WhiteElo "2680"]
[BlackElo "2699"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r5k1/pppq1rpp/3p2b1/2n3R1/2P2PN1/8/PB1Q2PP/4R1K1 w - - 0 24"]
[PlyCount "17"]
[EventDate "2006.06.17"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "UKR"]
[EventCategory "18"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2006.07.31"]

24. f5 $1 Rxf5 (24... Bxf5 25. Nh6+ $18) 25. Nh6+ $1 {A sacrifice that opens
up the b2-h8 diagonal.} gxh6 26. Qd4 $1 Ne6 {covering the e-file so that
Qh8-g7 is not a mate.} (26... hxg5 27. Qh8+ Kf7 28. Qg7#) (26... Re5 27. Rgxe5
dxe5 28. Qxe5 $18) 27. Qh8+ Kf7 28. Rxf5+ Bxf5 29. Qf6+ (29. Qxa8 {was also
winning.}) 29... Kg8 30. Qxf5 $1 {With some powerful blows White has regained
the material and maintains a killer attack.} Nf8 31. Qd5+ Qf7 32. Re7 $1 (32.
Re7 $1 {A nice finish to an excellent game.} Qxd5 33. Rg7+ Kh8 34. cxd5 $18 {
With a deadly discovered attack coming up.}) 1-0

Solution to Harikrishna-Nakamura

[Event "Tata Steel-A 76th"]
[Site "Wijk aan Zee"]
[Date "2014.01.21"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Harikrishna, Penteala"]
[Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B51"]
[WhiteElo "2706"]
[BlackElo "2789"]
[Annotator "Mekhitarian,K"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "1r3bk1/R4p1p/3p2pB/1bqPp3/2n1P3/2P2NNP/5PP1/2Q3K1 w - - 0 30"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2014.01.11"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "NED"]
[EventCategory "20"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2014.03.17"]
30. Nh5 $1 {Now it's all over, Black can't stop the multiple mating threats.
In some ways Hari's games resemble a lot with Smyslov. The battle is
positional but the finish is abrupt.} Bg7 (30... Qxa7 31. Nf6+ Kh8 32. Bxf8 {
with Qh6 to come} Ne3 33. Bxd6 $18 {and it all falls apart.}) 31. Bxg7 Qxa7 32.
Qh6 f5 (32... f6 33. Nxf6+ Kf7 34. Ng5+ Ke7 35. Ne6 $18 {would also be deadly.}
) 33. Ng5 1-0


When your play is as good as that, your hands are bound to be full with trophies! (Photo by Alina l'Ami)
ChessBase India wishes Harikrishna a very happy 30th birthday! We hope that you continue to play such beautiful games which we can enjoy and learn from!