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How an 1826 player outplayed a 2545 GM

by Sagar Shah - 19/04/2017

At the third round of the Sardar Prakash Singh Memorial rating tournament that is in progress in Sonipat, Haryana, 12-year-old Aaryan Varshney was up against the top seed GM Swapnil Dhopade. The grandmaster from Maharashtra went to the game with great confidence. After all he is well known to win such Swiss tournaments in India. The crowd and Swapnil were in for a shock as Varshney displayed highest calibre of chess and managed to defeat his opponent rated 700 points above him! Check out the game to know how this happened.

Before we get into the specifics of the article, here is a position that I would like you to spend some time on. What according to you should Black play here:

Black to play. What would you do?

The first thought that comes to my mind when I read something like an 1800 player beating a 2500+ GM is "I need to see the game!" Of course it is quite possible for such results to occur every now and then in chess. After all chess is a sport and anything can happen when two players are locked with each other in a fight. However, it is also very important to see how the lower rated player was able to overcome an Elo difference of 700 rating points.


In the third round of the Sardar Prakash Singh Memorial tournament, that is taking place in Sonipat, Haryana, top seed GM Swapnil Dhopade (2545) was pitted against 12-year-old Aaryan Varshney.

GM Swapnil Dhopade is known as the swiss king of Indian chess. This is because of the tremendous number of tournaments he has won in the past and his excellent track record against lower rated players. His third round opponent was...

...Aaryan Varshney rated 1826

The game was a complete massacre. You would be forgiven to believe that it was Swapnil who had the black pieces. In reality it was the 12-year-old Aaryan who played some fantastic chess with black. From move 13 to move 44 he didn't make even one bad or substandard decision. All of his moves and ideas were the best! This is truly remarkable.


Swapnil, who was naturally upset after such a defeat, spoke to ChessBase India, "I went to game confidently since I have a heavy score against lower rated players in India. In the opening I felt I got a slight edge. I played a bit faster in the early middlegame trying to break his kingside structure. At one point I was threatening Ng4 and expected him to play g5 but he played Qc7 which was just an amazing move! I realized that I am going to have a hard time so I went to damage control mode trying to equalize. I also offered him a draw which he declined. There was absolutely no way back. I made a few more inaccuracies and I was finished with perfection."

The answer to the position at the start of the article is ...Qc7! A superb move accepting the broken kingside structure. A very deep idea to see that the kingside weaknesses cannot be exploited and the double bishops will reign supreme.


Here's the game where I have broken all the records for giving exclamations because Varshney kept making one strong move after another.

[Event "Sardar Prakash Singh Memorial"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.04.18"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Dhopade, Swapnil"]
[Black "Varshney, Aaryan"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D37"]
[WhiteElo "2545"]
[BlackElo "1826"]
[Annotator "Sagar,Shah"]
[PlyCount "88"]
[SourceDate "2017.04.18"]
[SourceVersionDate "2017.04.18"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 $5 {A much more
fighting line.} (6... c5 {is the other option.}) 7. Qc2 $5 (7. c5 {is the main
move.}) 7... dxc4 8. Bxc4 a6 9. a4 c5 10. dxc5 Bxc5 11. O-O {I already prefer
White's position. Not only does he have all his pieces developed, but also he
has more space. At this point Swapnil would have been very happy with his
position.} Qe7 12. Bg5 $6 {This slight error helps Black finish his
development. The way Aaryan plays from this point onwards is amazing.} (12. e4
{was a strong move.} e5 13. Bg5 $16) 12... h6 13. Bh4 b6 $1 {Solving the
problem of the least active piece.} 14. Ne4 Bb7 $1 15. Nxf6+ (15. Nxc5 Qxc5 $11
) 15... Nxf6 16. Ne5 Qc7 $1 {A tremendous move. A player is always worried
about his kingside weaknesses. But here Aaryan readily accepts his kingside
weakness and keeps faith in his bishop pair which is extremely strong.} 17.
Bxf6 gxf6 18. Ng4 Kg7 $1 $17 {A cool and calm move. And just like that White
is worse.} 19. Qc3 Be7 20. f3 Rac8 21. Rac1 Rfd8 $1 {Black brings in all his
pieces into game. All these moves are not difficult to make, but making one
strong move after another is surely not easy.} 22. Qe1 h5 $1 {Pushing the
knight back.} 23. Nf2 Bd6 $1 {Softening the king's position.} 24. h3 (24. Kh1
$5 Bxh2 25. Bxe6 Qxc1 26. Bxc8 $1 Qxe1 27. Rxe1 Bg3 28. Bxb7 Bxf2 29. Ra1 $15 {
would be possible to defend.}) 24... Bh2+ $1 {An important move pushing the
king to the corner.} 25. Kh1 Bg3 $1 {creating some discomfort for the knight.}
26. Rc3 Qd7 $1 {Attacking the a4 pawn and also threatening to enter d2.} 27. a5
Qd2 $1 {Creating some really huge problems for White.} 28. Kg1 b5 29. Bb3 Qxb2
$1 {Picking up the pawn and just like that the game is over.} 30. Rxc8 Bxc8 {
The bishop on b3 is trapped. Swapnil loses a piece.} 31. Nd3 Bxe1 32. Nxb2 Bxa5
{The rest is just a matter of technique, but even this part of the game is
played with amazing precision by Varshney.} 33. Rd1 Rxd1+ 34. Bxd1 Bc3 35. Nd3
a5 36. Kf2 a4 37. Ke2 Bb7 38. e4 Bc6 39. Nc1 b4 40. Kd3 Bb5+ 41. Kc2 Bd4 42.
Nd3 b3+ 43. Kd2 Bc4 44. Nb4 a3 {If one doesn't see the rating of players one
can be forgiven for believing that the ratings have been interchanged!} 0-1 

You have to agree that the way black played was excellent. He played much higher than what his rating suggests. In the evening round Varshney was pitted against the experienced G.B. Joshi. The 12-year-old had the white pieces. In this game he came nowhere close to the class that he had shown in the morning. The game wasn't live and was sent to us by chief arbiter Gopakumar Sudhakaran. Here's how it went.

[Event "Sardar Prakash Singh Memorial"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.04.18"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Varshney, Aaryan"]
[Black "Joshi, Govind Ballabh"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A85"]
[WhiteElo "1826"]
[BlackElo "2107"]
[Annotator "Sagar,Shah"]
[PlyCount "68"]
[SourceDate "2017.04.18"]
[SourceVersionDate "2017.04.18"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c6 4. e3 Bd6 5. Nf3 f5 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. O-O O-O 8. b3 Ne4
9. Bb2 Nd7 10. Qc2 Qf6 11. h3 $6 {I am not a big fan of this move which
creates a hook for the black g-pawn to advance and open lines.} g5 $5 12. Nd2
g4 {Black plays it in an aggressive style.} 13. hxg4 Qh4 $1 14. Nf3 Qxg4 15.
cxd5 exd5 {The position is fine for White here. He should relocate his c3
knight to e2 and then get his f3 knight to e5. Instead he makes an error.} 16.
Nh2 $2 Bxh2+ $1 {A good move accelerating the attack.} 17. Kxh2 Rf6 18. f3 $6 (
18. Rh1 $1 $11) 18... Qh4+ $1 19. Kg1 Ng3 {The rook cannot move because of Rg6
followed by Qh1.} 20. Ne2 (20. Rfe1 Rg6 $1 $19) 20... Nxf1 21. Rxf1 {The rest
is just easy.} Nf8 22. Nf4 Ng6 23. Nxg6 $2 {Such a move makes absolutely no
sense. It not only strengthens Black's pawn structure but also opens the
h-file.} hxg6 $17 24. b4 Bd7 25. a4 Re8 26. Bc1 Re7 27. Bd2 Rh7 28. b5 Qg3 29.
Rb1 g5 30. Be1 Qh2+ 31. Kf2 g4 32. Bf1 f4 33. exf4 Re7 34. Be2 g3+ {A pretty
easy win for the experienced G.B.Joshi.} 0-1

Of course there were plenty of moves made by White that I didn't like in the above game, but two moves which stood out were:

h2-h3. This move doesn't make much sense. In fact it just gives Black a hook to attack and this was exploited to perfection by G.B. Joshi with g5-g4.

White is already worse because he is an exchange down. But taking on g6 just helped black to improve his pawn structure and solve all his structural issues.

There was a huge difference in level in the games played in the morning against a 2545 rated player and in the evening against 2107. At the age of 12 years such fluctuations are surely possible. It will be interesting to follow how Aaryan manages to fare in this and his next tournaments. Congratulations to him for an excellent victory in round three against a very strong grandmaster.

Rank after Round 4

Rk. SNo   Name Typ sex FED Rtg Club/City Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4   TB5 
1 6 GM Roy Chowdhury Saptarshi     IND 2345 RLYS 4,0 0,0 9,0 11,0 11,00 4,0
  15   Joshi Govind Ballabh     IND 2107 AI 4,0 0,0 9,0 11,0 11,00 4,0
3 9   Pradeep Kumar R A     IND 2316 TN 4,0 0,0 9,0 10,5 10,50 4,0
4 18   Vinay Raj Bhatt     IND 2041 UTT 4,0 0,0 8,5 11,0 11,00 4,0
5 3 IM Krishna C R G     IND 2393 RLYS 4,0 0,0 8,5 10,5 10,50 4,0
  12 IM Deshmukh Anup     IND 2228 LIC 4,0 0,0 8,5 10,5 10,50 4,0
7 10 FM Srinath Rao S.V.     IND 2312 MAH 4,0 0,0 8,5 10,0 10,00 4,0
8 7 FM Rakesh Kumar Jena     IND 2340 ODI 4,0 0,0 8,0 9,5 9,50 4,0
  11 IM Sharma Dinesh K.     IND 2262 LIC 4,0 0,0 8,0 9,5 9,50 4,0
  16   Singh Arvinder Preet     IND 2099 PUN 4,0 0,0 8,0 9,5 9,50 4,0
11 5   Saravana Krishnan P.     IND 2347 KVB (TN) 4,0 0,0 7,5 9,0 9,00 4,0
12 4   Hemant Sharma (del)     IND 2375 RLYS 4,0 0,0 7,0 9,0 9,00 4,0
13 22   Doshi Moksh Amitbhai     IND 1974 GUJ 4,0 0,0 7,0 8,5 8,50 4,0
14 46   Bhanot Stuti F18 w IND 1838 HAR 3,5 0,0 8,5 11,0 9,75 3,0
15 13 IM Gokhale Chandrashekhar     IND 2205 AI 3,5 0,0 8,5 10,0 8,25 3,0
16 21   Agarwal Brajesh     IND 1993 LIC 3,5 0,0 8,0 9,5 7,75 3,0
  38   Rahul Ubadhyay     IND 1888 UP 3,5 0,0 8,0 9,5 7,75 3,0
18 68   Sahil Dhawan     IND 1737 HAR 3,5 0,0 8,0 9,0 7,25 3,0
19 33   Ashutosh Kumar     IND 1901 BIH 3,5 0,0 7,5 9,0 8,00 3,0
20 47   Singh Jagpreet     IND 1836 PUN 3,5 0,0 7,5 9,0 7,75 3,0
21 40   Srikanth K.     IND 1886 IAF 3,5 0,0 7,0 9,0 7,75 3,0
22 45 IM Wazeer Ahmad Khan S60   IND 1846 UP 3,5 0,0 7,0 8,5 7,25 3,0
23 28   Akshay Anand     IND 1933 PUN 3,5 0,0 7,0 7,5 6,25 3,0

Pairings for round 5

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