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Nihal Sarin leads Karpov Trophy 2019 with three others

by Satanick Mukhuty - 27/10/2019

Nihal Sarin is currently playing in the Anatoly Karpov Trophy 2019 which is taking place from the 25th of October to the 1st of November in Cap d'Agde, France. The tournament consists of two parts. It begins as an eight-player rapid double round-robin but after the completion of fourteen rounds the top four go on to play two-game knockout semi-finals and a final. Nihal is incidentally the last seed of the event with a rapid rating of just 2285. Obviously this figure doesn't reflect the true strength of the youngster as he has already displayed some very steady chess to emerge as one of the four leaders at the end of six rounds with 4.0/6 points. Etienne Bacrot, Hou Yifan, and Amin Bassem - all 2600+ rated strong rapid players - are others who share the lead with the same score. In this consolidated report on rounds one to six of the tournament we give you a comprehensive overview of Nihal's performance so far.

The 17th Edition of Anatoly Karpov Trophy is being held from the 25th of October to the 1st of November in the beautiful Mediterranean town of Cap d'Agde. There are eight players competing against each other in rapid format following a time control of twenty minutes for the entire game plus ten seconds increment per move starting from move one. The outcome of the first fourteen games will determine the four players (top four) who will thereafter fight it out in the knockout part of the tournament. The players and their starting ranks are given as follows:

3GMBacrot Etienne605506FRA2671
7GMAmin Bassem10601457EGY2633
6GMSarana Alexey24133795RUS2628
4GMHou Yifan8602980CHN2607
8GMSebag Marie617822FRA2452
5IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat12512214IRI2421
2IMPaehtz Elisabeth4641833GER2381
1GMNihal Sarin25092340IND2285


The games are taking place in the now famous arena of the Molière room of the CCAS holiday residence. Interestingly, Nihal Sarin started the event as the lowest rated player in the field having a rapid rating of only 2285. However, the fact that this figure is far below the Indian's actual playing strength has become clearly evident in the first six rounds where the fifteen-year-old has shown some top class rapid play.   

Cap d'Agde is a bubbling seaside resort of sizzling blue beaches in Southern France | Photo:

The playing hall looks quite intense and interesting | Photo: Capechecs

The first round of the event itself started with a shock as the strong Egyptian Grandmaster and second seed of the event went down against Elisabeth Paehtz of Germany. Nihal too began with an emphatic win against Marie Sebag of France with the white pieces. Marie, who is a 2452-rated Grandmaster, defended well in a miscellaneous sideline of the queen's pawn opening and entered into an even rook-pawn ending but just when things seemed to be fizzling out into a draw, she erred around move 36 giving away full control of the open d-file to her opponent. Nihal seized his opportunity with both hands, infiltrated the kingside with his rook via the d-file, and not long after found a winning passed f-pawn. The game was resigned by the French player on move 55.

After drawing against Elisabeth Paehtz in Round 2, Nihal once again proved his mettle by defeating the top rated player of the event Etienne Bacrot with black pieces in the third round. Bacrot had found a tangible initiative against Nihal by move 28 in this encounter but he squandered away his chances in the next few moves and the game returned back to equality. Next, on move 34 he made a premature pawn push which suddenly started to tilt the position in Black's favour. The final mistake was however 37.d4? which allowed the Indian to completely turn the tables with the tactical 37.Rxa3!!

Nihal Sarin at his work! | Photo: Pierre Textoris

In the very next round (round four) Nihal had to suffer a setback in the hands of Hou Yifan of China. Although in this occasion the story was entirely reversed - it was the Indian with the white pieces who found a large advantage quite early in the game and by move 23 was clearly dominating. But slowly things started to go awry for him, he first blundered on move 26 to blow away his initiative and then after a long struggle erred again around the 50th move to lose the encounter.

Nihal drew his sixth round game against Alexey Sarana but before that in round five registered a crushing victory with black pieces against Sarasadat Khademalsharieh of Iran. This was a King's Indian Defense fianchetto variation and the Indian started to push for the advantage after move 19 when Sarasadat missed a strong continuation for herself.


Sarasadat Khademalsharieh - Nihal Sarin, Round 5

Black already had better play at this point with his excellent rooks on open c and d-files but 24.Qe4 allowed the h5 knight too to bounce back in the game with a tempo. After 24...Nf6 25.Qh4 Rc2! White was clearly subdued.

27.b4? was the final blunder in the game. Can you guess how Nihal finished off from here? See the full game below.

Results of first six rounds

Round 1 on 2019/10/25 at 14:00
112285GMNihal Sarin1 - 0GMSebag Marie24528
222381IMPaehtz Elisabeth1 - 0GMAmin Bassem26337
332671GMBacrot Etienne1 - 0GMSarana Alexey26286
442607GMHou Yifan1 - 0IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat24215
Round 2 on 2019/10/25 at 17:00
182452GMSebag Marie1 - 0IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat24215
262628GMSarana Alexey0 - 1GMHou Yifan26074
372633GMAmin Bassem1 - 0GMBacrot Etienne26713
412285GMNihal Sarin½ - ½IMPaehtz Elisabeth23812
Round 3 on 2019/10/25 at 21:00
122381IMPaehtz Elisabeth0 - 1GMSebag Marie24528
232671GMBacrot Etienne0 - 1GMNihal Sarin22851
342607GMHou Yifan½ - ½GMAmin Bassem26337
452421IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat0 - 1GMSarana Alexey26286
Round 4 on 2019/10/26 at 14:00
182452GMSebag Marie0 - 1GMSarana Alexey26286
272633GMAmin Bassem1 - 0IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat24215
312285GMNihal Sarin0 - 1GMHou Yifan26074
422381IMPaehtz Elisabeth0 - 1GMBacrot Etienne26713
Round 5 on 2019/10/26 at 16:00
132671GMBacrot Etienne1 - 0GMSebag Marie24528
242607GMHou Yifan½ - ½IMPaehtz Elisabeth23812
352421IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat0 - 1GMNihal Sarin22851
462628GMSarana Alexey½ - ½GMAmin Bassem26337
Round 6 on 2019/10/26 at 18:00
182452GMSebag Marie0 - 1GMAmin Bassem26337
212285GMNihal Sarin½ - ½GMSarana Alexey26286
322381IMPaehtz Elisabeth1 - 0IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat24215
432671GMBacrot Etienne1 - 0GMHou Yifan26074

Standings after six rounds

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
13GMBacrot EtienneFRA26714,012,000,04
24GMHou YifanCHN26074,010,500,03
37GMAmin BassemEGY26334,09,500,03
41GMNihal SarinIND22854,09,000,03
52IMPaehtz ElisabethGER23813,08,000,02
66GMSarana AlexeyRUS26283,06,000,02
78GMSebag MarieFRA24522,03,000,02
85IMKhademalsharieh SarasadatIRI24210,00,000,00

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