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S.L. Narayanan wins the 1st Elllobregat Open 2019

by Sagar Shah - 12/12/2019

The 1st Elllobregat Open 2019 held in Spain from the 3rd to 11th of December 2019 was a very successful one for India. S.L. Narayanan won the championship with a performance of 2712. Polish GM Mateusz Bartel finished second and the young Indian talent Arjun Erigaisi was third. Out of the top ten spots, six went to Indians! A total of 55 Indians played in the A-group and entire contingent gained a whopping 778.6 Elo points. Harshit Raja and Rithvik Raja both scored their maiden GM norms. In the B-group we had Gopal KN who finished first. We bring you a huge final report of the tournament before the focus shifts to the Sunway Sitges Chess Festival beginning from the 13th of December 2019.

S.L. Narayanan is an unassuming GM, who likes to let his moves do the talking. He has steadily been improving his rating and now at the 1st Elllobregat Open 2019, he produced one of the best results of his chess career to win the event ahead of 22 other GMs.

S.L. Narayanan's score card. A 2700+ performance. +10 Elo takes his live rating to 2636!

Narayanan is just 21 years old and has recently completed his bachelors in education. The last time I met him at the Commonwealth Championships a few months ago, he was looking out for a job. A 2600+ rated GM not getting a job in any of the public companies of India under sports quota is quite disheartening. But every dark cloud has a silver lining. Narayanan has put all his cards into his chess career and that is bearing fruit. A couple of months ago he played at the World Cup 2019 where he lost his round one encounter to David Anton Guijarro. But it wasn't before he had already given his opponent a big scare coming back from 0-1 down in the match and very nearly winning the rapid tiebreak. While that elimination was heartbreaking it surely came in handy at the Elllobregat open where Narayanan had to face Mateusz Bartel in the final playoff to determine the winner.

Final standings

Rk.SNo NameTypsexGrFEDRtgIClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 Krtg+/-
GMBartel MateuszPOL2634Poland7,00,5544,5104,0
GMErigaisi ArjunIND2544AICF6,50,0549,01013,3
IMRaja HarshitIND2447AICF6,50,0543,51019,1
GMLagarde Maxime2651FRA2655CAT - CE Barcelona6,50,0541,510-6,6
IMSankalp GuptaAIND2365AICF6,50,0539,51026,8
IMZanan EvgenyISR2493Israel6,50,0446,01014,1
GMPuranik AbhimanyuIND2580AICF6,50,0445,0103,9
IMKjartansson GudmundurISL2448Iceland6,00,0545,51017,9
GMGagare ShardulIND2468AICF6,00,0543,0107,9
FMVerstraeten ReinABEL2365Dolle Toren Leuven6,00,0540,52039,0
GMAlonso Rosell Alvar2577ESP2548CAT - CE Gerunda6,00,0448,5101,6
GMKarthikeyan MuraliIND2611AICF6,00,0444,510-7,2
IMDhulipalla Bala Chandra PrasadIND2414AICF6,00,0439,51014,2
GMDel Rio De Angelis Salvador G.ESP2507VAS - C.A. Sestao6,00,0346,0102,5
IMRaja Rithvik RAIND2381AICF6,00,0345,51025,9
FMBryakin MikhailRUS2428Russia6,00,0337,5106,8
GMIniyan PIND2497AICF5,50,0548,0107,5
GMGukesh DIND2547AICF5,50,0545,010-11,8
IMKacharava NikoloziGEO2416Georgia5,50,0540,5105,5

Complete final standings

As both Narayanan and Bartel finished with the same score a playoff was organized. It was two games of 5+3. If the games ended in a 1-1 tie then we would move into the armageddon | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

There was also a match to determine the third place finisher of the event - it was between GM Arjun Erigaisi and IM Harshit Raja | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

As you can see the playoffs generate tangible interest at the event | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

The first two games between Narayanan and Bartel ended in a 1-1 draw. Bartel won game one, but Narayanan immediately struck back to level the scores. Meanwhile Arjun Erigaisi managed to win the playoffs for the third place with a 2-0 victory over Harshit Raja. The match between Bartel and Narayanan moved into the Armageddon phase. Narayanan chose the white pieces and an extra minute, but was in a must-win situation. A draw would mean that Bartel becomes the champion. The Kerala GM delivered when it mattered the most, won the game and clinched the first prize!

Both of them are still friends after the grueling encounter! Narayanan took home €3,500, while Bartel was richer by €2,500. Also in the picture are director of the event IM Marcelo Panelo (right) and the chief sponsor of the event Xavier Perez Lorca (left) | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

The top three finishers of the tournament S.L. Narayanan, Mateusz Bartel, and Arjun Erigaisi. Arjun took home the prize of €2,000. | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

S.L Narayanan with his very nicely designed trophy that was handed over to him by Xavier Perez Lorca  | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

A proud father! Narayanan with his father Sunilduth Padmanabhan | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

Narayanan could have avoided the tiebreaks had he taken his chances against Abhimanyu Puranik in the final round. He was unable to do so and had to settle for a draw after 40 moves. To show you what a shrewd thinker Narayanan is on the board, we take you to his round 8 encounter against Harshit Raja.


S.L. Narayanan vs Harshit Raja

The game was quite interesting in all aspects. However, the most surprising decision by Narayanan was to play 5.e3. It looks quite unambitious to lock down your bishop on c1. But the main idea is to enter fresh positions where the emphasis shifts from theory to practical playing skills. In this respect Narayanan did feel that he is superior to his opponent. 

In the final round Mateusz Bartel faced the strong Indian GM Arjun Erigaisi | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

It was the Sicilian Najdorf and after the opening it seemed like Arjun had equalized without too many difficulties. His knights were strong enough to match Bartel's bishops. The position's evaluation oscillated between equality and a slight plus for the Polish GM, but suddenly things changed. The rooks came off and in the queen+minor piece endgame it was Bartel's queen, bishop, king and pawns who all participated together to score the win.

A talent to watch out for in the days to come is definitely Arjun Erigaisi. At the age of 16 he has already crossed 2550 Elo and at the Elllobregat Open he finished third with a powerful performance. | Photo: World Youth Olympiad 2018

In round 8 Arjun scored a fine win against P. Iniyan. Some of the decisions which Arjun takes in his games shows his true strength - the ability to calculate accurately.


Arjun Erigaisi vs P. Iniyan, round 8

There is no doubt that White is better here. But what would you play as White?

I am sure that majority of the players would just 0-0 here. It keeps White's advantage. Black is passive and you can build up slowly. But Arjun saw that the knights on f6 and g6 are slightly clumsily placed. He began with the pawn thrust to g4! Yes, it weakens his king and Iniyan tried to take advantage of it with ...h5, but this is where Arjun's true skills came to the fore. He calculated everything accurately, seeing that he has the nice resource Qa4 at any point to exchange the queens and converted the plus position into win. g4! is not a move that players like Karpov or Petrosian would have played, but Arjun has his own way of doing things! 

The Rajas score GM norms!

Scoring GM norms is never easy at any event. You need a performance of 2600+ and often getting this means you finish in the top of the table of just about any event (apart from tournaments like the Gibraltar, Aeroflot, Isle of Man etc. which have several 2600+ players fighting it out). It was great news for Indian fans that two of our players managed to score their norms. Both Rajas! One is Harshit Raja and the other is Rithvik Raja.  

Harshit Raja receiving his GM norm from the chief arbiter of the event Hernan Siludakis | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

IM Rithvik Raja is just 15 years old and has already scored his maiden GM norm! | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

The only similarity I could find between the two GM norm makers was their second name! The way in which they achieved the norms was completely different. Rithvik was rock solid. He scored three wins at the event and six draws and didn't lose a single game. His play was strong and he went into a full fledged fight only when the situation demanded it. Harshit on the other hand was interested to play enterprising chess right from the word go. He attacked, sacrificed and overall played to the crowd! He even lost a game, but it didn't stop him from making his maiden GM norm.

Harshit Raja's 2605 performance included wins over Karthikeyan Murali, Alonso Rosell Alvar and D. Gukesh

Rithvik scored two wins against GM Marc Narciso Dublan and IM Tomas Sosa. Rest of the games against higher rated opponents ended in solid draws.

Perhaps Harshit's best game of the event and also maybe of his chess career was against GM Alvar Rosell. Harshit played a beautiful attack sacrificing his pieces right, left and center and to attack his 2548 rated opponent's king.


Harshit Raja vs Alvar Rossell, Round 5

Harshit jumped with his knight to d5! This is a common sacrifice in the Sicilian, but the way Harshit followed it up was very impressive.

Kb1! shows deep understanding of the position. You know that the material is not running away. Even though Harshit is a piece down, he finds the time for his king.

The final blow! f7 falls and the game comes to an end.

Just when everything was going according to plan for Harshit, he succumbed to a loss against S.L. Narayanan in the penultimate round. This put him in a precarious situation where he had to win his game against Gukesh in the final round to get his GM norm. This was a big test for Harshit, as Gukesh loves such high pressure situations. The game developed just as one would have imagined with both players going for uncompromising chess. At some point it seemed like they would repeat the position and agree to a draw, but Harshit was determined to achieve his GM norm. Even at the risk of being worse, he decided to continue. He was rewarded for his bravery when Gukesh's king was caught in a mating net! Have a look at the final position:


Harshit Raja vs D. Gukesh, Round 9

White to play and win

Now that's an easy one! Harshit picked up the knight with his rook and Gukesh resigned the game. No matter how he recaptures on d4, White will execute a mate in one with b5!

With this win Harshit achieved his maiden GM norm. A memorable moment for the youngster from Pune.

Rithvik with his proud mother and first GM norm! | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

Rithvik won two games against two higher rated opponents and both of them were very interesting.


Rithvik Raja vs Marc Narciso Dublan, Round 2

The rook on e1 has just been attacked. How did Rithvik win the game?

There are several ways to win. Even Bxf4! is strong. But what Rithvik did was reminiscent of the famous Botvinnik vs Capablanca game from AVRO, 1938. Don't you remember the move?


Botvinnik vs Capablanca, AVRO 1938

How did Botvinnik win the game?

Botvinnik played the brilliant Ba3!! deflecting the black queen and after Qxa3 continued with Nh5+ gxh5 Qg5+ and later went on to win the game!


Rithvik Raja vs Marc Narciso Dublan, Round 2

Rithvik followed in Botvinnik's footsteps and got his bishop to a3. After Bxa3 exd5, he won the queen and later the game.

Rithvik's second win agains a higher rated opponent came against IM Tomas Sosa (2520). Check out the annotated game below:

Four GMs of Indian chess - On the left we have Karthik Venkatraman and Girish Koushik, while on the right it is Harsha Bharathakoti and Karthikeyan Murali. All four of them were not able to perform upto their expectations at the event! They will be looking forward to a better show at the Sunway Sitges 2019 in Spain. | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

A special mention must be made of Sankalp Gupta, the young IM from Nagpur | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

Sankalp won all of his last four rounds, but it wasn't enough to get the GM norm. He finished sixth.

The First edition of the Elllobregat Open ended successfully! Aaron Bendayan Claros and  Xavier Perez Lorca are naturally happy with the outcome! We look forward to the second edition! | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

The photo says it all! Indians had a great time and it is obvious to be excited when you have Pepe Cuenca in the same frame. The Spanish GM is one of the most lively commentators that you will find out there. From (left to right): Harshit Raja, S.L. Narayanan, Pepe Cuenca, Atharva Godbole and Abhimanyu Puranik. | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

Another Good news for the Indians was Gopal KN winning the B-group of the Ellobragat Open | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

Final rankings after round 9 in B-group

Rk.SNo NameTypsexGrFEDRtgIRtgNClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 Krtg+/-
113CMGopal K.N.DIND18400AICF- Andhra Bank7,50,0743,02040,4
27Fabregas Fontanet Antonio2096ESP19211937CAT - CE Sant Adria7,00,0644,52020,8
35Flores Mendoza Jose Antonio2120ESP19521981CAT - CE Villadecans7,00,0643,02010,2
48Amellal Sofiane AnisALG19140Argelia6,50,0642,02025,0
521Madrid Sole AntonioD1980ESP17591764CAT - CE Jake6,50,0537,52042,2
66Manco David Jonatan AndresITA19260Italia6,00,0644,5205,6
72Viguera Garcia Ferran2098ESP19711984CAT - CE Granollers - Canovelles6,00,0544,020-17,6
827Mrithyunjay MahadevanDIND17350AICF6,00,0538,54088,0
919Aryan B JoshiDIND17700AICF6,00,0445,04038,8
109Venturino FedericoITA18950Italia6,00,0440,020-6,2

A final goodbye! It is now time for the Sunway Sitges event in Barcelona which begins from the 13th of November! | Photo: Patricia Claros Aguilar

Overview of the Indian performance at the event:

55 Indians played in the A-Group and gained a whopping 778.6 Elo points from the event. However, it has to be mentioned that the heavy hitting came from the players below the Elo of 2200. Above that rating a lot of Indian players lost and gained rating which sort of evened out the calculations.

3GMNarayanan.S.L2626IND111½1½½1½7,01109,70Group A
4GMKarthikeyan Murali2611IND11½½0½11½6,01310-7,20Group A
5GMPuranik Abhimanyu2580IND½111½½½1½6,58103,90Group A
7GMGukesh D2547IND1100111½05,51910-11,80Group A
8GMErigaisi Arjun2544IND111½1½½106,531013,30Group A
9GMHarsha Bharathakoti2523IND1½½1½0½105,04210-14,50Group A
14GMGirish A. Koushik2506IND1½½½1½0105,04310-11,60Group A
18GMIniyan P2497IND111½011005,518107,50Group A
22GMKarthik Venkataraman2470IND1011½1½0½5,526101,60Group A
23GMGagare Shardul2468IND11011½01½6,010107,90Group A
28IMRaja Harshit2447IND1½½11½1016,541019,10Group A
32IMKulkarni Bhakti2418IND½011½½10½5,04410-5,80Group A
34IMAkash Pc Iyer2415IND1½10½10½04,55110-3,10Group A
35IMDhulipalla Bala Chandra Prasad2414IND0111½½½½16,0141014,20Group A
37FMRathanvel V S2410IND10101½1015,521104,90Group A
41FMMoksh Amit Doshi2399IND1000111½15,52320-11,40Group A
43IMMendonca Leon Luke2398IND101½½1½½½5,5371010,40Group A
45IMKrishna Teja N2383IND10½½1011½5,53110-0,30Group A
48IMRaja Rithvik R2381IND11½1½½½½½6,0161025,90Group A
52IMSankalp Gupta2365IND1½½½011116,561026,80Group A
57FMManush Shah2341IND1010½0½1½4,56010-12,40Group A
59Bhambure Shantanu2340IND1½0½½1½0½4,56620-14,60Group A
62IMSidhant Mohapatra2338IND1½0½½10115,533103,00Group A
64WIMDivya Deshmukh2332IND1010110½04,545100,60Group A
68FMDixit Nikhil2318IND01½1½½0½04,076207,80Group A
69Samant Aditya S2309IND001110½104,54820-6,80Group A
70FMKrishnater Kushager2308IND½½011½½0½4,5622025,20Group A
71FMMatta Vinay Kumar2300IND010011½115,52420-4,40Group A
76WIMRakshitta Ravi2260IND0½1½001½½4,08020-21,20Group A
79WIMPratyusha Bodda2253IND0011½01½½4,558200,40Group A
80FMDushyant Sharma2247IND½011001½15,0412040,00Group A
81Panesar Vedant2247IND½1½00101½4,5524063,60Group A
84CMDev Shah2242IND0101001½½4,07240-8,00Group A
86Rohit S2234IND10010½1014,5464061,60Group A
89WIMPriyanka Nutakki2229IND10½1000½½3,593205,20Group A
90WIMVarshini V2227IND0000000000,0126200,00Group A
93CMPrraneeth Vuppala2221IND0111000½03,58840-3,20Group A
94WFMCholleti Sahajasri2216IND½0½1½½0½03,5104207,80Group A
98IMMohota Nisha2191IND00½½1001½3,510010-6,90Group A
99Bartakke Amardeep S.2190IND0½0½1½01½4,0822011,60Group A
100Sekar B2176IND10½½½10003,5942025,60Group A
103Godbole Atharva2148IND00100½0113,59120-17,80Group A
106CMShahil Dey2135IND0110½001½4,0714067,60Group A
109WIMTejaswini Sagar2128IND½0010½½1½4,0842030,20Group A
111Darpan Inani2117IND½0011½½003,5962029,60Group A
112WIMGagare Shalmali2100IND0½½00½01½3,010820-9,40Group A
114WCMSharma Isha2099IND010½001114,5502026,40Group A
117Toshali V2083IND00½½½10103,5984032,40Group A
118Kishan Gangolli2078IND0½00½10½13,51032012,00Group A
119CMMohamed Anees M2056IND½0½1000013,01054038,40Group A
123Ghelani Dhairya2027IND0000000000,0129400,00Group A
124Potluri Saye Srreezza2013IND0½01001002,5110206,00Group A
126Ayushh Ravikumar1982IND½½½½½½½½½4,56940141,60Group A
127WFMSavitha Shri B1968IND001½001013,5924070,00Group A
128AIMKomal Srivatsav Sajja1907IND10½½0100½3,59740106,40Group A

A big thanks to our Patricia Claros Aguilar who provided us with pictures from the venue