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Pranav Anand and Rucha Pujari make norms at Aeroflot Open B

by Satanick Mukhuty - 04/03/2020

The category A Open of the recently concluded Aeroflot Chess Festival was mainly restricted to players rated 2550 or more, but the organizers encouragingly exempted a select group of talented youngsters from this requirement and welcomed them to contest on equal terms with the strongest Grandmasters in the event. The result of this well-intentioned concession proved a huge success as not only did the tournament see a spurt of promising juniors come to the fore but also a 14-year-old ended up clinching the championship ahead of many an experienced player in the field. However, perhaps not too surprisingly, the competition in B and C Opens as well were dominated by young players. In today's article we bring you the exploits of two young Indians, namely Pranav Anand and Rucha Pujari, who performed commendably well in the open B category and managed to return home with an IM norm and a WGM norm respectively.

Rucha stuns opponents rated more than 150 points higher!

Rucha Pujari hails from Kolhapur and is quite a multifaceted talent. Apart from being a strong player she is also a successful chess coach and an author | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Rucha's two most prominent victories in the Aeroflot Open B came against two Russians, namely Oleg Yaksin and Ilya Chekletsov, both of whom were rated more than 150 Elo points higher than her at the moment. The confidence with which she executed her ideas, especially in the first round encounter against Oleg, was particularly impressive. Against Ilya she did have a bit of luck by her side but as the saying goes, it is always the better player who is lucky. Let us now begin with the highlights!


Rucha Pujari - Oleg Yaksin, Round 1

The Indian exuded a lot of confidence in the very first round itself by going for this rare and ambitious 7.h4!? continuation. Of course, 7.Nc3, 7.Re1 etc are the more prosaic options in the position.

Instead of 7...c5 Black could have gone 7...c6 establishing a firm control on the d5 square. The game move certainly invited White to expand in the center with 8.d5

And thereafter there was no reverse gear for Rucha, she didn't hesitant to seize more space with e4 and f4!

Here was Black's chance to fight back. In the game Oleg retreated his threatened bishop to f6, can you do better? Hint: Find a way to challenge White's extended pawn chain on the kingside right away.

It was important for Black to slow down White's pawn storm in the above position with 17...h6 but Oleg continued with 17...Re8

And once Rucha got in g4-g5 followed by Qg4 she was completely in charge.

Even after the queens were traded off, White's connected passers in the middle of the board were menacing enough to bring the full point home.

Ilya Chekletsov - Rucha Pujari, Round 4

Ilya Chekletsov, on the other hand, was winning for the better part of his game against Rucha in round four. But it all ended in a tragedy for the Russian as he blundered in the above position with 28.gxh5, can you see what he missed?

Rucha, who is a WIM, made her second WGM norm in the event. She performed at an Elo of 2447 facing opponents rated 2370+ on an average. She went to Moscow with only 2189 Elo but returned home with a rating close to 2250!

Pranav upsets two Grandmasters 

14-year-old FM Pranav Anand of Karnataka scored his third and final IM norm at Aeroflot Open B. Pranav scored 5.0/9 with a performance rating of 2478. He also gained 40 Elo rating points in the process. He defeated two GMs Elina Danielian and Maxim Lugovskoy, drew against the following IMs - Platon Galperin, Pavel S Dvalishvili and Alexey Mokshanov.

An overview of Pranav's performance!

Pranav just needs to touch 2400 in live ratings to become the latest International Master of India | Photo: Niki Riga
The Bengaluru kid made his first IM-norm at Rilton Cup 2019, Rupali Mullick did the above interview with him afterwards...His second IM-norm came in Biel 2019.

Let us now get into the details of his encounter against Elina Danielian, who was the first GM he beat in the event. He also defeated Maxim Lugovskoy later in round eight of the tournament.


Pranav Anand - Elina Danielian, Round 3

The above position came out of a Pirc defense and although 8...Be6 is a popular move here, 8...Nb6 seems to give Black better chances to equalize.

In the game 8...Be6 allowed White the chance to exchange pieces on d5 and then lash out with c2-c4.

Pranav already had the edge with c4 and was soon going to get in d5!

And this was the critical moment that decided the fate of the game. Elina played 22...Nd4 here, can you see what she missed. Check out the full game with analysis below. 

An overview of all Indian performances

10GMVenkatesh M.R.2494IND111½010015,520Open B
28FMRathanvel V S2426IND1½101½11½6,58Open B
40Sammed Jaykumar Shete2389IND10111½00½5,026Open B
41WGMVaishali R2383IND½10101½105,028Open B
44Bhambure Shantanu2382IND1½½00½½1½4,553Open B
47Ajay Krishna S2378IND½1½1001½04,548Open B
52IMRajdeep Sarkar2354IND½10½0110½4,558Open B
53FMAudi Ameya2354IND101½1½1½½6,010Open B
59WGMGomes Mary Ann2344IND1½½½001½04,063Open B
63IMRakesh Kumar Jena2336IND01½½½10003,581Open B
66WIMDivya Deshmukh2322IND0½10½10014,073Open B
69FMNitish Belurkar2314IND1½½½011½05,027Open B
70FMPranav Anand2309IND½½101½01½5,034Open B
72FMMahitosh Dey2305IND000½1½½002,597Open B
77IMSangma Rahul2287IND½00½0½1002,599Open B
82WIMMahalakshmi M2255IND½½000½½1½3,575Open B
86WIMAakanksha Hagawane2230IND00½0110114,560Open B
88WIMPriyanka Nutakki2212IND½0½0½½10½3,584Open B
89WGMSrija Seshadri2205IND0010101½03,582Open B
97WIMPujari Rucha2189IND10½1½½01½5,035Open B
101Utsab Chatterjee2172IND½01001½104,071Open B
105WIMHarshita Guddanti2152IND010100½½03,089Open B

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