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Thejkumar special: Winning the Liffre Open in style

by Sagar Shah - 03/01/2017

M. S. Thejkumar celebrates his 36th birthday on 2nd of January 2017. He is one of strongest IMs in the country. It's been nearly seven years since Thej has achieved all his three GM norms. He definitely has it in him to be a GM, and he proved it recently by winning the Liffre Open 2016 in France with a dominating performance of 8.0/9. Through this article and a few annotated games we show you why Thej can be called a great positional player, also known as the Indian Smyslov! 

For many years now Thejkumar has been one of India's top International Masters. His story is especially inspirational because, after stagnating in the 2200 zone for quite some, Thej made real progress when he was nearing his thirties. He scored three GM norms without even having an IM title. Like Kramnik, it was his ambition to achieve the grandmaster title without becoming an IM. However, the 2500 Elo mark has been elusive for him. He has been trying to achieve that for quite some years now. His peak rating has been 2479 in August 2015. Currently Thej has an Elo of 2459.

 

Known for his positional play, the 35-year-old from Karnataka excels in technical positions. When in good form he plays at a very high level and has scored wins over strong players like Melkumyan, Kovalenko, Ghaem Maghami, Mchedlishvili etc. Thanks to his humility, he is liked by everyone in the Indian chess circles and people are happy to see him succeed. Naturally, it was good to see him hit top-notch form at the Liffre Open in France from 21st to 27th of October 2016.

Thej started as the third seed and scored 8.0/9 to finish a full point ahead of his nearest rival

The final standings. Complete list can be found here.

Thejkumar goes to receive his prize of Euros 1400, as the entire crowd applauds his fantastic performance

Prize winners of the event

Liffre lies in northwest region of France. The population of the town is just 6745 people.

The beautiful playing hall

It's always a joy to play on wooden DGT boards

Provisions were made for food right outside the tournament hall

Being a very solid player it is surprising that Thejkumar often uses the Albin Counter Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5!?) successfully with Black
[Event "Liffre op"]
[Site "Liffre"]
[Date "2016.10.23"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Marie, Xavier"]
[Black "Thejkumar, MS."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D09"]
[WhiteElo "1860"]
[BlackElo "2445"]
[PlyCount "64"]
[EventDate "2016.10.22"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "FRA"]
[SourceTitle "Mega2017 Update 03"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2016.11.14"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. g3 Nge7 6. Bg2 Ng6 7. O-O Ngxe5 8.
Nxe5 Nxe5 9. Na3 Be7 10. Nb5 c5 11. Bf4 Bf6 12. Bxe5 Bxe5 13. e3 O-O 14. exd4
cxd4 15. Re1 Bf6 16. Bd5 Qb6 17. Re4 d3 18. Qd2 Bf5 19. Ree1 Rad8 20. Nc3 h6
21. Kg2 Bg5 22. f4 Bf6 23. Rad1 Rfe8 24. Na4 Qd4 25. Nc3 Qb6 26. Na4 Qc7 27. b4
Rxe1 28. Rxe1 b5 29. Nc5 bxc4 30. Bxc4 Qc6+ 31. Kf2 Bd4+ 32. Re3 Re8 0-1

Ojas Kulkarni was the other Indian at the event. He finished sixth.

The game between Thejkumar and Ojas ended in a win for the senior
[Event "Liffre op"]
[Site "Liffre"]
[Date "2016.10.26"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Thejkumar, MS."]
[Black "Ojas, Kulkarni"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D71"]
[WhiteElo "2445"]
[BlackElo "2405"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "2016.10.22"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "FRA"]
[SourceTitle "Mega2017 Update 03"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2016.11.14"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Nf3 Nb6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8.
Bf4 O-O 9. e3 Be6 (9... h6 {is the critical test of this line.} 10. h4 Bg4 11.
O-O e5 12. dxe5 Qe7 13. Qc2 Bxf3 14. Bxf3 g5 15. hxg5 hxg5 16. Kg2 $3 {Using
the h-file.} gxf4 17. Rh1 Rfd8 18. Qh7+ Kf8 19. gxf4 $16 {White has a clear
advantage and went on to win the game. My friend Sohan Phadke watched this
game live and was so impressed by Korchnoi's play. According to him, even at
such an advanced age Korchnoi was just so sharp and did not hesitate even for
a bit to sacrifice the piece.} Qe6 20. Ne4 Qg6+ 21. Qxg6 fxg6 22. Nc5 Rd2 23.
Nxb7 Ne7 24. Rad1 Rxb2 25. Nc5 c6 26. a4 Nbd5 27. Rd3 Kf7 28. Bd1 Rh8 29. Rxh8
Bxh8 30. Bb3 Ke8 31. Kf3 Nb4 32. Rd6 Na6 33. Nxa6 Rxb3 34. Nc7+ Kf7 35. e6+ Kf6
36. Rd8 Bg7 37. Ne8+ Kxe6 38. Nxg7+ Kf7 39. Rd7 a5 40. f5 Kxg7 41. Rxe7+ Kf6
42. Re6+ Kxf5 43. Rxc6 {1-0 (43) Kortschnoj,V (2558)-Rodriguez Lopez,R (2287)
Caleta 2012}) 10. O-O Nd5 11. Ng5 $1 Nxc3 12. Nxe6 Nxd1 13. Nxd8 Nxd8 14. Raxd1
$16 {White is clearly better - the reason is simple. The bishop pair. Against
a technical expert like Thej, this is as good as lost.} c6 $6 (14... Ne6 $1 {
It is important to be active and take out one of the bishops.} 15. Bxb7 Rab8
16. Bd5 Nxf4 17. gxf4 Rxb2 18. Bb3 $14 {The rook on b2 is sort of trapped, but
difficult to win it. Thanks to the opposite coloured bishop position, there
are some chances for a draw, but it goes without saying that White is better.})
15. e4 (15. g4 $5) 15... Ne6 16. Be3 Nc7 (16... Rfd8 17. d5 $16) 17. Rd3 Rfd8
18. Rb3 b6 19. e5 Nd5 20. Rc1 Rac8 21. Bxd5 $1 Rxd5 22. Rbc3 f6 23. f4 Rb5 24.
e6 $1 (24. b3 fxe5 25. dxe5 c5 26. Rd3 $16) 24... Rxb2 25. Rxc6 Rxc6 26. Rxc6
f5 $2 (26... Rxa2 27. Rc8+ Bf8 28. d5 Kg7 29. Kf1 $16) 27. Rc8+ Bf8 28. d5 Rb1+
29. Kf2 Rd1 30. Rd8 $18 {There is no way to prevent Ke2 followed by d6.} 1-0

When we asked Thejkumar to send his favourite game from the tournament with annotations he decided that it would be his eighth round victory against Velislav Kukov. If you are looking out for an option with black against the London System, this game could be very useful.

[Event "Liffre 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.10.27"]
[Round "8"]
[White "kukov Velislav"]
[Black "Thejkumar MS"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D00"]
[WhiteElo "2358"]
[BlackElo "2445"]
[Annotator "Thejkumar"]
[PlyCount "68"]
[SourceDate "2016.11.06"]
{Before the start of this round I was leading by half point ahead of Kukov.} 1.
d4 d5 2. Bf4 Nf6 3. e3 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nd2 Bf5 6. Qb3 Qd7 7. Ngf3 (7. dxc5 e5
8. Bg3 (8. Bg5 Bxc5 9. Bxf6 gxf6 {is fine for black.}) 8... Bxc5 9. Bb5 Qe7 10.
Ngf3 Bd6 11. c4 a6 12. cxd5 (12. c5 Bb8 13. Ba4 O-O 14. O-O Rd8 15. Rfd1 h6)
12... axb5 13. dxc6 bxc6 14. Qc3 c5 $17) 7... c4 8. Qd1 e6 9. Nh4 (9. Be2 Be7
10. Ne5 Nxe5 11. Bxe5 O-O 12. g4 Bg6 13. h4 Qb5 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. h5 Bd3 16.
Bxd3 cxd3 17. Qb3 Qc6 18. Nf3 b5 19. Kd2 b4 {1/2-1/2 Berkes F Vs Shulman Y
Dresdan 2008}) 9... Bd6 10. Nxf5 exf5 11. Bxd6 Qxd6 12. b3 b5 13. a4 b4 14.
cxb4 (14. Rc1 O-O 15. bxc4 f4 16. c5 (16. Bd3 fxe3 17. fxe3 Rae8 18. O-O Rxe3
19. c5 Qe7 20. Nf3 b3 21. Rb1 Na5 $11) 16... Qe6 17. Bb5 fxe3 18. fxe3 Qxe3+
19. Qe2 Rae8 20. Qxe3 Rxe3+ 21. Kd1 bxc3 22. Nf1 Re6 $15) 14... c3 15. Nf3 (15.
Nb1 Qxb4 16. Qc2 O-O 17. Qxc3 Rac8 18. Bb5 Qxc3+ 19. Nxc3 Nxd4 20. exd4 Rxc3
21. Rb1 Rfc8 22. O-O g6 23. f3 Nh5 24. g3 Ng7 {Black is fine}) 15... O-O (15...
Nxb4 $5 16. Bb5+ Ke7 17. O-O Rhc8 18. Ne5 a6 19. Bd3 g6 20. Rc1 Ne4 21. Bxe4
fxe4 22. Qg4 {White gets some play due to black king in the centre.}) 16. b5
Nb4 17. Bd3 f4 18. exf4 (18. O-O fxe3 19. fxe3 Ng4 20. Bxh7+ Kh8 21. Re1 Rae8 {
Black is better}) 18... Qxf4 19. O-O Rac8 20. Bc2 Ne4 21. Re1 (21. g3 Qh6 22.
Re1 f5 $17) 21... Nd2 22. Re3 Nxf3+ 23. Rxf3 Qd2 24. Bd3 Rfe8 25. h4 g6 26. h5
Kg7 27. a5 Re6 28. Kf1 $4 $19 Rce8 29. Re3 Rxe3 30. Qxd2 cxd2 31. fxe3 Nxd3 32.
Ke2 Nc1+ 33. Kd1 Nxb3 34. Ra3 Rxe3 0-1

It is highly commendable that Thejkumar played for a win in the final round when a draw would have given him the title. He destroyed Brendon Bubok's King's Indian with ease.
[Event "Liffre op"]
[Site "Liffre"]
[Date "2016.10.28"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Thejkumar, MS."]
[Black "Durand Le Ludec, Brendan Bubok"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E74"]
[WhiteElo "2445"]
[BlackElo "2128"]
[PlyCount "51"]
[EventDate "2016.10.22"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "FRA"]
[SourceTitle "Mega2017 Update 03"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2016.11.14"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Bg5 c5 7. d5 e5 8. Qd2 Na6
9. Nf3 Nc7 10. O-O Rb8 11. Ne1 Qe8 12. f4 Nd7 13. f5 f6 14. Be3 g5 15. a4 Kh8
16. Nd3 a5 17. h4 gxh4 18. Rf3 Rg8 19. Rh3 Bf8 20. Rxh4 Be7 21. Bh5 Qd8 22. Kf2
Nf8 23. Rah1 Ne8 24. Bh6 Qd7 25. Bxe8 Qxe8 26. Bxf8 1-0

After Stany's victory in the Sautron Open, it's Thej who continues the Karnataka domination in France!

Thejkumar and his wife Jayashree

Today, 2nd of January 2017, is Thejkumar's 36th birthday. Thejkumar is married to Jayashree. The two of them are pursuing two important goals in their career. While Thej is trying to become a grandmaster, Jayashree is working hard to be a Chartered Accountant. Thej has already achieved his three norms. He just needs 41 Elo points, while Jayashree has cleared her one group out of the two required to be a CA. We hope that the year 2017 would be a successful for both of them and that they will achieve their respective aims in life! ChessBase India wishes them the best.

 

Pictures from the official website

Official website


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