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Nihal Sarin clinches Capechecs Online Trophy

by Shahid Ahmed - 29/10/2020

Just days after winning Junior Speed Chess Championship, Nihal Sarin was competing for both team India at the Asian Nations Cup as well as Capechecs Online Trophy. He helped team India get into the Knockout stage and then eventually win Silver at the Finals. That's not all, at the same time, he dominated the Capechecs Online Trophy by remaining unbeaten in the Knockout stage of the tournament. The 16-year-old wunderkind from Kerala scored 8.5/14 in the group stage, beat Bacrot and Cheparinov 2-0 each in the Quarter-finals and Semi-finals respectively. He almost beat Sarana 2-0 also in the Finals but settled for a draw in the second game as it was sufficient for him to win the event. Photo: FIDE

Nihal dominates the Karpov Trophy

Nihal Sarin beat GM Alexey Sarana (RUS) in the finals of Capechecs Online by 1.5-0.5 to win the Karpov Trophy and earn €3000. He defeated Georgia no.1 Ivan Cheparinov in the Semi-final 2-0 and France no.2 Etienne Bacrot in the Quarter-final 2-0. The 16-year-old boy from Kerala finished second in his group, two points behind Parham Maghsoodloo at 8.5/14. The group stage was a double-round robin format of 10 mins + 3 seconds increment. The Knockout stage also had the same time control with the tie-breaker being a blitz of 3 mins + 2 seconds increment. However, none of Nihal's games went to the tie-breaks. Total 16 players participated from all over the world in two groups of eight players each. Both groups comprised of four male and four female players.

Nihal continues his impressive run | Photo: FIDE

Group Stage

Nihal was drafted into Group A with a stellar line-up including former Women's World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova and former Women's World Championship Challenger Aleksandra Goryachkina. The group also had Africa's first GM Egypt no.1 Bassem Amin and former World Junior champion, Iran no.1 Parham Maghsoodloo.

Group A was definitely a stronger one | Photo: Europe-Echecs

Group - B was also quite strong | Photo: Europe-Echecs

In Round 8, Nihal defeated France no.4 GM Romain Edouard in just 22 moves after he made a miscalculation in chain exchange.

Nihal - Edouard

Position after 17.Nxd5

The game continued with 17...Qxc2. Find out why it is a blunder and what black should have played instead.

In the penultimate round of the group stage, Nihal faced Parham Maghsoodloo who eventually topped Group A. But the Iranian made a strange king maneuver in the middle game which gave Nihal the upper-hand.

Nihal - Maghsoodloo

Position after 23...Kf8

Black could have played 23...Bxd4 or e5 and then things wouldn't have been that bad. However the strange decision to play 23...Kf8, helped Nihal to capitalize on the initiative. Give it a thought and find out how should white continue here.

Nihal finished at the second position in his group with 8.5/14 | Photo: Europe-Echecs

Group B standings - Cheparinov, Sarana, Bacrot and Tsolakidou advanced to the Quarter-finals | Photo: Europe Echecs


Nihal faced France no.2 GM Etienne Bacrot in the Quarter-Finals. He won both Rapid games and advanced to the Semi-Finals. The first game had a bizarre finish. Nihal made a mistake which Bacrot didn't capitalize and then Bacrot made a bigger mistake and lost the game.

Nihal - Bacrot

Position after 30.h6

At a first glance 30.h6 might look menacing but actually it's just the opposite. It's a mistake, find out why.

Position after 32.Bf3

It is still not over. Black could have continued with 32...Bb7 and it would have been fine. However black made the final mistake in the game with 32...Rd8 and Nihal pushed for a win with 33.e6

In the second game, Bacrot made an early mistake and made unforced tactical error on move no.15

Bacrot - Nihal

Position after 15.Bxb7

15.Bxb7 reeks of a disaster. Find out why.

Maghsoodloo, Sarana, Nihal and Cheparinov won their respective Quarter-final battles | Photo: Europe Echecs


Nihal faced Georgia no.1 and Group B topper Ivan Cheparinov in the Semi-finals. Once again he managed to win both of his games to advance to the finals. Cheparinov had a winning position in the Rook and many pawns endgame but he misplayed and lost the first game.

Cheparinov - Nihal

Position after 50...Kd4

Can white take on g7 now with 51.Rxg7 ?

Position after 66...Rb4+

Which way should white move its king up or down to save the game?

In the second game of the Semi-final, Cheparinov lost a pawn in the middle game, for which he couldn't get enough compensation. Nihal kept the connected passed pawns rolling which became surmountable and the Georgian sacrificed an exchange which caused him to have a lost position.

Both Nihal and Sarana won their respective Semi-finals 2-0 | Photo: Europe Echecs


Nihal faced the defending champion GM Alexey Sarana in the final round. He won the first game, drew the next one to win Capechecs Online.

Nihal - Sarana

Position after 42...Rxh4

The Rook-Bishop and few pawns ending seemed to have going towards a draw until Sarana captured a wrong pawn with 42...Rxh4. Why was it a mistake?

Position after 51.b6

Can black save the game after 51.b6 ? If yes, find out how.

Nihal had Sarana on the ropes in the second game of the Finals too. However he didn't take too much of a risk as a draw was enough for him to win the tournament.

Sarana - Nihal

Position after 23.Bxc6

23.Bxc6 was certainly not the correct choice for white as his own king is already in danger and the a1-rook is virtually dead. Instead white should have gone with 23.Bd5. Maybe white was concerned about the Nd3 threat looming large.

Position after 28.Kc1

White is still in danger because of his terrible king's position and disconnected rooks. However black's rooks are absolutely deadly. How should black capitalize on that fact after 28.Kc1 ?

Nihal remained unbeaten in the knockout stage and the only draw he made was in the Final | Photo: Europe Echecs
Twelfth World Champion Anatoly Karpov shares his message for the participants | Photo: Europe Echecs

Tournament poster | Photo: Europe Echecs

Replay all Nihal's games from the tournament


Official site

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