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Sitges Blitz: An Indian Talent announces his arrival

by Hinduja Reddy - 11/02/2017

12-year-old Nihal Sarin from Thrissur, Kerala was in scintillating form at the Sitges Blitz tournament held a month back in Sitges, Spain. In the first Sitges Blitz, he finished a respectable sixth, best among Indians, ahead of many titled players. In the second blitz event, he was in a different level — destroying 2500+ opponents at will. Breathtaking.

Sitges Blitz: An Indian Talent announces his arrival

12-year-old Nihal Sarin from Thrissur, Kerala was in scintillating form at the Sitges Blitz tournament held a month back in Sitges, Spain. In the classical tournament, Nihal played solidly and we offer our readers two of his games:


Focused in everything he does — Nihal Sarin playing Fussball, that too with so much dedication!

Here is his one game which he drew against the second runner-up GM Josep Martinez Lopez with a fine positional style. This boy knows his stuff!

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"]
[Site "Sitges ESP"]
[Date "2016.12.17"]
[Round "2.12"]
[White "Nihal, Sarin"]
[Black "Lopez Martinez, Josep"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D80"]
[WhiteElo "2340"]
[BlackElo "2552"]
[Annotator "soham.datar"]
[PlyCount "68"]
[EventDate "2016.12.16"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Ne4 5. Bh4 c5 6. cxd5 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Qxd5 8.
e3 cxd4 9. Qxd4 Qxd4 10. cxd4 Bg7 (10... e6 {this is another plan to play with.
Black tries to exchange white's better and active bishop with his slight
passive bishop. for example} 11. Rb1 Be7 12. Bxe7 Kxe7 13. Nf3 Nc6 14. Bd3 {
playing with a healthy pawn structure and a good bishop certainly favours
White .}) 11. Nf3 Nc6 12. Rb1 b6 13. Bb5 $1 Bd7 14. Ke2 {when there is a
possibility of maximum exchange of the pieces on the board, then the king
should be kept in the centre from which he can immediately take part in the
endgame for further action.} Na5 15. Rhc1 $1 {Black hasnt castled yet and is
busy solving his problems of the light-sqaured bishop. So white has time to
develop his pieces and aim towards entering in Blacks territory.} Bxb5+ 16.
Rxb5 e6 {We can see that Black's h8 rook is not participating in the battle .
Also, the knight on a5 is not impressive as it is awkwardly placed. knight on
the rim is bad!} 17. Rc7 $1 {Rook on the 7th rank is always good. So whenever
possible you should try to occupy 7th rank as it exerts pressure on base of
pawn chain and limits opponent's activity.} O-O 18. Rb1 {Improving the Rook's
position and getting ready to double the rooks on "c" file. Now white is much
better here.} h6 {Trying to kick off the bishop from h4-d8 diagonal .} 19. Be7
$1 Rfc8 20. Rbc1 Rxc7 21. Rxc7 b5 22. Nd2 {improving the postion of the knight and
preparing to place it on outpost c5 from which he has a greater scope of
action.} Bf8 23. Bxf8 Kxf8 {However black has been successful in minimizing
the threats by white by exchanging of the maximum pieces. Still, I think that
white's position is much better due to active position of rook and knight is
likely to occupy strong post on c5 ! .} 24. Kd3 {In endgame King is the Piece
with which you can attack!} a6 25. Kc3 Rb8 26. Kb4 (26. Ne4 $1 {is the best
way to play.} Nc4 (26... b4+ 27. Kb2 Rb6 28. Nc5 Ke8 29. Ra7 $18) 27. Ra7 a5
28. a4 $1) 26... Nc4 27. Ne4 a5+ 28. Kc5 {white has achieved great position..}
Nb2 29. Ra7 (29. Kc6) 29... a4 30. Nf6 {this gives Black chance to escape with
a draw.} (30. a3 {followed by Kb4-a5 was good to maintain the initiative} Nd3+
31. Kc6 Rc8+ 32. Kxb5 Rc2 $16) 30... Nd3+ 31. Kc6 Kg7 32. Nd7 Nb4+ 33. Kc5 Nd3+
34. Kc6 Nb4+ {Good game by Nihal Sarin. It shows that he has a deep understanding of positional concepts, unlikely for a kid of his age. He is truly a Prodigy!} 1/2-1/2


Nihal measuring the difference between him and Kamsky.

And here is another game, annotated by the little boy himself (he can type quite fast for a 12-year-old):

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.12.22"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Nihal Sarin"]
[Black "Angelo Damia"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A60"]
[WhiteElo "2340"]
[BlackElo "2233"]
[Annotator "Sarin,Nihal"]
[PlyCount "45"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
1. d4 Nf6 {My opponent was much more experienced than me and he could play
anything. Here he opted for 1...Nf6. He has played many other openings like
Slav, Wade (d6 and Bg4) and many lines.} 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 $5 {This is a very
very popular move, but it came as a surprise for him, as I used to play 3.Nf3
much more often.} (3. Nf3 {I have played it quite a lot of times.} a6 $5 {
My opponent has played this move before. Black's idea is something like....} 4.
Nc3 d5 {And this is an interesting QGD idea for black.}) 3... c5 {Played after
a 12 minute thought.} (3... d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 {This is an interesting
position with some attractive plans.}) 4. d5 Bd6 {He goes for the Snake Benoni,
that is not very popular but intreresting. Usually the black players go first
exd5 and then Bd6.} 5. g3 {This is an interesting setup.} exd5 6. cxd5 {
After thinking for approximately 2 minutes, I decided to take back naturally
with the pawn.} O-O 7. Bg2 Re8 8. Nf3 {So far, normal developing moves from
both sides.} a6 $6 {I considered this move to be dubious as my feeling is that
the inclusion of a6 and a4 favours white. I think that black should have used
the a6 square for the bishop.} 9. a4 Bc7 10. d6 $1 {This is an impotant move.
If black is allowed to play d6, he is very fine.} Ba5 {This is why the opening
is called Snake Benoni. The bishop's path looks like the movement of a Snake.
(Avrukh's comments in one of his famous opening books by Quality Chess.)} 11.
Nd2 {Quite natural. Bringing the knight closer to the e4 square.} (11. O-O {
is a very natural move, but...} Bxc3 12. bxc3 Ne4 {Seems to give black some
counterplay. The point of 11.Nd2 is revealed.}) 11... Nc6 {Black's idea is
understandable. He wants to play b5 inorder to free his bishop on c8, which is
doomed due to the pawn on d6.} 12. O-O {I thought for sometime here, and
played the most natural move here.} (12. Nc4 {This was the other move I was
thinking of, but....} Ne4 13. Nxa5 Qxa5 {Seemed to give him some play, though
white still is better.}) 12... Rb8 (12... b6 13. e4 {White is already much
better.}) 13. e4 $1 {This natural move is very strong here. White wants to
play f4 and e5.} b5 14. f4 {The natural follow-up.} Kh8 {Black has nothing
better.} (14... b4 {is an interesting try, but after...} 15. Ncb1 $1 (15. Ne2
$6 c4 16. e5 Bb6+ 17. Kh1 Ng4 {Gives black some counterplay.}) 15... c4 16. e5
{White controls the g4 square.}) (14... h5 15. h3 {Just creates a weakness.})
15. e5 Ng8 {The position is pathetic for black. White has a tremoundous space
advantage, and black has five pieces on the back rank!} 16. Nde4 f6 {Only
attempt for some counterplay.} 17. Nd5 fxe5 {Here I sank into deep thought.}
18. f5 {This move looks interesting, with ideas of f6, Bg5.} Rf8 (18... Nf6 19.
Ng5 Rf8 20. Nxf6 Qxf6 21. Nxh7 Kxh7 22. Qh5+ Kg8 23. Bd5+ Rf7 24. Bg5 {was the
idea.}) 19. f6 gxf6 (19... Qe8 $5 20. fxg7+ Kxg7 21. Rxf8 Qxf8 22. Qg4+ Kh8 23.
Qh5 Bd8 24. Bg5 {White is winning.}) 20. Nexf6 {A small tactic.} Rf7 21. Qh5
Rxf6 (21... Qf8 22. Nxh7 Rxh7 23. Qxh7+ Kxh7 24. Rxf8 $18) 22. Bg5 $1 Rh6 (
22... Rxf1+ 23. Rxf1 {The queen is trapped.}) 23. Bxh6 {Black's queen, bishop
and knight are in their starting positions!} 1-0

He showed his true colours in the two blitz tournaments that were held alongside the main event where he cleaned up a field full of titled players!

In the first Sitges Blitz, he finished a respectable sixth after a loss to GM Ivan Ivanasevic.

Ranking after eight rounds:

Rk. SNo   Name Gr Rtg Pts.
1 6 GM VAN FOREEST Jorden A 2492 7,0
2 2 IM GOLUBOV Saveliy A 2526 6,5
3 3 GM LOPEZ MARTINEZ Josep Manuel A 2513 6,5
4 19 FM LOPEZ MULET Inigo A 2206 6,0
5 1 GM IVANISEVIC Ivan A 2549 6,0
6 33 FM NIHAL Sarin B 1965 6,0
7 9 GM CIFUENTES PARADA Roberto A 2470 5,5
8 4 GM SWAPNIL S. Dhopade A 2502 5,5
9 11 IM CRUZ Filemon A 2380 5,5
10 5 FM BEERDSEN Thomas A 2496 5,5


Nihal on his way to a crucial victory over Israeli GM Evgeny Postny (2604).

In the second blitz event, he was in a different level — beating opponents at will, except the top seed GM Miguel Munoz (2651), with whom he drew. He finished with two crushing wins over Postny and Saveliy Golubov (2526). Speaking to ChessBase India about his win against Postny, Nihal commented,"I wanted to win the tournament, but he is a good player. So, I decided to just play symmetrically, maintain the first move advantage, and press in the endgame — it worked."


Thanks to Sushir Lohia, who was there at the tournament as a spectator, we have the exclusive video of Nihal playing against Evgeny Postny. Sushir wrote to ChessBase India saying, "I have the priceless video of Nihal's game against Israeli GM Evgeny Postny! Just check out how Nihal whips out the moves!" says Sushir.


He continues, "I started taking his video when Nihal was down to just 20-30 seconds on the clock. Surviving just on the time increments. And check out the reaction of the crowd at the end. Everyone was stunned and had the goose bumps witnessing a 12-year-old decimating super GMs at 1.30 am! Nihal was on a roll in this blitz tournament and I followed my gut and just followed him with my camera for the last four rounds!"

Nihal vs Evgeny Postny

Ranking after Round eight:

Rk   Name Gr Rtg Pts
1 GM MUNOZ Miguel A 2651 7,5
2 FM NIHAL Sarin B 1965 7,0
3 IM PETROV Nikita A 2407 6,5
4 GM POSTNY Evgeny A 2604 6,0
5 IM HERNANDO RODRIGO Jose Maria A 2361 6,0
6 FM EXPOSITO AMARO Josue A 2301 6,0
7 FM GARRIGA CAZORLA Pere A 2476 6,0
8 IM GOLUBOV Saveliy A 2526 5,5
9 GM ALSINA LEAL Daniel A 2411 5,5
10 GM LEMOS Damian A 2476 5,5

 A memorable tournament for many players!

Also Read:

  1. Sunway Sitges: Chess on the Catalonian Beach
  2. The Modern Pirc: A Mix of Tactics and Strategy
  3. Famous trainer and author Jacob Aagaard to visit India & Asia
  4. Gibraltar Masters: The Indian Performance

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