How playing online blitz helped Nihal win the Gazprom Brilliancy Prize
Nihal Sarin recently won the Gazprom Brilliancy award for the best game from the World Youth online championships 2020. The youngster won the under-18 section. The game that was chosen as the best game was his semi-final victory over Francesco Sonis. But did you know, Nihal knew about this deep opening trap before the game itself? Did you know, he fell prey to this trap in an online game? Well, it's a wonderful story of how any work on chess is never wasted! Nihal's irrelevant blitz game helped him to win the World Youth under-18 Championships 2020. Read this amazing story!
Playing a lot of blitz chess online - is it helpful for your chess or not? This perennial question always evoked different responses from the experts. But one which became quite ubiquitous in my journey as an improving player was - "Playing blitz is fine, but don't overdo it. It helps to build up your speed and intuition, but it is bad for your deep calculations. So playing blitz is fine, but always do it in moderate amounts." And the world seemed to agree to this notion! But then came Nihal Sarin.
Nihal is now 16 years old and has a FIDE rating of 2620. He is the third youngest chess player ever to reach an Elo of 2600 and is very close to reaching 2700 on the blitz rating scale. This young boy has basically built up his chess career by playing online speed chess! Don't believe us? Check out how he won the Gazprom brilliancy prize at the World Youth online under-18 championships 2020.
How Nihal won the brilliancy prize
Nihal was up against the talented Italian youngster Francesco Sonis in the semi-finals. The first game had ended in a draw and now we were down to the second and the final game of the mini-match. If this ended in a draw, then we would go to the Armageddon. Nihal opened the game with 1.d4 and Francesco played the Ragozin, which converted into the Vienna. Vienna is one of Nihal's favourite opening systems as black and he has extensively practice with it, especially in online games.
Nihal Sarin vs Francesco Sonis
While the result in the above game was fine, Nihal was looking at improvements for Black side after Nxd4. This is when he struck upon the move Qc7!
A few months before the game when Nihal was playing online, just like any other day, he tried the move Qc7 against IM Sergey Drygalov. The Russian IM who has a FIDE rating of 2490 stunned Nihal with the move Nf6+! Nihal lost that game, but made a note of those lines in his head. The result? Well, just when it mattered the most - at an important event like the World Youth, the same opening transpired and Nihal managed to score the full point.
The most important question now is whether the knight on f6 should be taken or you go just Kh8. If gxf6, Qg4+ Kh8 (Kh7 exf6 is game over).
Francesco played his king to h8, declining the knight sacrifice.
A lot of people may just put down this game, by saying that it was merely preparation. Nihal did not find it on the board! But they miss the point - preparation is a part of chess! Didn't Nihal feel the pain when he lost the online game to Drygalov? He could have just left it as a bitter experience and carried on. But he decided to analyze the position. He kept the lines in his mind and his memory didn't let him down when it mattered the most. It also shows the attitude of Nihal - he is not afraid to lose. He learns from his mistakes and keeps improving as a player. Congratulations Nihal, well done!
When we analyzed the game with Nihal (the entire video given below), we also invited two of India's top visually impaired chess players - brothers Soundarya and Prachurya Pradhan. Soundarya had just made a new website which would prove to be a useful tool for all blind players. Nihal congratulated Soundarya for his excellent work. A scholarship of Rs.15,000 was awarded to Soundarya at the hands of Nihal Sarin. This amount was compensation that ChessBase India was to receive from Gazprom and FIDE for being the judge of the brilliancy prize contest. Soundarya, who receives this amount, will use it to make his website even better. Also, don't miss out on Prachurya's brilliant singing in the video. A big thanks to Nihal who is not just a champion on the board, but also takes out time to motivate and inspire others off the board.