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Vidit Gujrathi scores first win; Sethu, Sasi and Aravindh retain good chances of a top 10 finish

by Niklesh Jain - 28/02/2018

Right before the final round, wins by Sasikiran, Sethuraman and Aravindh Chithambaram brought some good news for the Indian fans. Besides, there was one more important result: Vidit Gujrathi, who had drawn all his games so far, was finally able to win a game. With his win today, Sethuraman has made it back into the top boards of the event. If he wins his final round game against Bologan, he will make it into the top three! Another game that piqued the attention of chess fans from around the globe was the encounter between the two Indian child prodigies, R Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin. Round 8 report.

When I entered the tournament hall last morning, it occurred to me that there were only two more rounds remaining; time just flew past like a breeze! As a player, I have often had this feeling but whether or not I was happy depended on my performance at that event. I mean, if I had performed well, I would be sad that the tournament had finished. But if I had performed badly, I would be happy.


But as a writer, the feeling is that of excitement. Watching these masters battling it out right in front of you is a spectacle in itself. Sometimes, experienced masters make simple errors; sometimes, young guns show a masteresque flair. Being here as a reporter, therefore, is truly an exhilarating experience.  

Moments after entering the playing hall | Photo: Niklesh Jain

So walking into the venue, I had several questions running through my head. Will the higher rated Kovalev become the sole leader once again, or will it be the Iranian sensation, Amin Tabatabaei pull off another stunner? How many decisive games will the top 10 boards produce? What about the big game between the two Indian child prodigies, R Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin, who will prevail?  

As has been my routine so far, I would first show you some highlights of the happenings of the round | ChessBase India YouTube

Let's begin by taking a look at some of the top games of the round.


True, it is slightly easier to play with the white pieces, but this much?

Result 1: Kovalev vs Tabatabaei

Amin Tabatabaei sem took a few too many risks in his game against Vladislav Kovalev in round 8 | Photo: Niklesh Jain

This was the game that attracted everyone's attention. This game began with a French Defence wherein Tabatabaei chose his queen's activity over his king's safety. Kovalev, in response, played in a balanced manner and put his opponent in a lot of pressure. As a result, the Iranian IM tried to exchange queens. He did succeed but the queen exchange cost him a pawn. In the ensuing endgame with rooks and bishops, Kovalev not only had an extra pawn but his pieces were also better than their counterparts. By move 39, the Belarusian GM had registered an emphatic victory. 

The game between Anton Korobov and Vladislav Artemiev was a short but spectacular draw | Photo: Niklesh Jain

After his scintillating win in the previous round, Anton Korobov played yet another game that put spectators on the edge of their seats in round 8. The game was a short one that featured the Gruenfeld Defence. Both players played in a sharp, aggressive manner. A mate in one move was threatened on the black king when Artemiev, Korobov's opponent, forced perpetual checks to hold the game to a draw.

Result 2: Victor Bologan vs Evgeny Najer

Bologan had an extra piece against Najer in the endgame but there were no pawns remaining on the board! Photo: Niklesh Jain

The game between Victor Bologan and Evgeny Najer was yet another intriguing battle. In the middlegame, the piece count for both sides equal but white was two pawns down. Both sides played aggressively from the very start in a Caro-Kann Defence but Bologan was the more successful of the two. Between moves 40-44, the Moldovan GM won a piece. However, the position turned pawnless on the 52nd move. Bologan had a rook, a knight and a light-squared bishop while his opponent only possessed a rook and a dark-squared bishop. The big question here was: would white's extra piece count despite there being no pawn on the board?

How exactly does white win here? | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Result 3 - Sethuraman vs Murali Karthikeyan 

Despite being teammates, Sethuraman and Murali Karthikeyan went all out against each other | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Murali Karthikeyan, who had performed really well from the very start of this event, looked helpless against Sethuraman's imposing play in this penultimate round encounter. Both players, despite being teammates in the Indian Olympic team, went for each other's blood in this encounter. In a Two Knights Defence, Sethuraman was able to win a pawn on the 21st move and did not let his advantage slip away till the very end.

In the queen endgame that arose, Sethuraman had an extra pawn, a solid pawn structure and an active king but Karthikeyan's stubborn defence made the game last 92 moves! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Both Gata Kamsky and Krishnan Sasikiran scored victories today and have a good chance of finishing among the top 10. However, to achieve this, they will have to win their final round game. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Aravindh Chithambaram scored yet another win today and has made his way into the top 15 or 20 | Photo: Niklesh Jain 

Finally a win for Vidit!



After 7 back to back draws in his first seven games, Vidit Gujrathi registered his first win against the Russian FM Aleksey Sorokin. Well, as they say, better late than never!

Coach and his student (Vidit Gujrathi and Abhijeet Kunte), who both won their games today were seen having a happy dinner after the round | Photo: Niklesh Jain 

Game of the day - Praggnanandhaa vs Nihal Sarin 

The two child prodigies from India and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu and Nihal Sarin were slated to play each other in round 8. The encounter (obviously) grabbed a lot of eyeballs not only because they were playing each other but also both of them are on the brink of scoring a GM norm.

Everyone was curious to see who wins! | Photo: Niklesh Jain
Some highlights from the game | ChessBase India YouTube
Post-game analysis and interview with both players | ChessBase India YouTube


Performance of Team India (Group A)

2GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi2723IND½½½½½½½14,531257210-14,80Open A
11GMSasikiran Krishnan2671IND½½½½11015,014264910-2,70Open A
15GMSethuraman S.P.2646IND110½½1½15,562706106,20Open A
25GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.2617IND½1½½0½115,018259810-2,40Open A
36GMGupta Abhijeet2598IND½100000001,5910101,90Open A
43GMKarthikeyan Murali2585IND1011½½½04,5212664108,90Open A
48GMNarayanan.S.L2573IND½01001½½3,568252310-6,00Open A
57IMNihal Sarin2532IND½½½½½½0½3,5562588105,80Open A
67GMAryan Chopra2509IND½1½010104,04326231012,40Open A
68IMPraggnanandhaa R2507IND½0½½½½½½3,5652526101,70Open A
70GMDebashis Das2501IND½0010½0½2,586240910-9,70Open A
72GMGagare Shardul2494IND½010½0013,080247910-2,20Open A
87IMIniyan P2460IND½½01½1003,5632552109,50Open A
88FMErigaisi Arjun2458IND½01½½½½03,55925611010,20Open A
91IMRaja Harshit2448IND½½½½0½0½3,0812483103,10Open A
92IMKaravade Eesha2386IND1½½100003,07625341013,30Open A

A good news for Indian fans comes from Group B. Former National U-11 Champion, Fenil Shah, has completed the requirements for his final IM norm here at the Aeroflot Open. Now all that remains between him and the IM title is 18 rating points. 

Performance of Team India (Group B)

5GMKunte Abhijit2499IND½½11½1½16,08Open B
20IMHarsha Bharathakoti2443IND100½0½114,069Open B
26GMSundararajan Kidambi2427IND1½½1½01½5,029Open B
36IMMohammad Nubairshah Shaikh2413IND111½0½½15,514Open B
39Rahul Srivatshav P2408IND011½00103,593Open B
53IMKrishna Teja N2371IND½1100½½14,542Open B
54IMAbhishek Kelkar2370IND101001½14,545Open B
63WGMSoumya Swaminathan2349IND1½½010½14,543Open B
67FMFenil Shah2346IND½011110½5,021Open B
69WIMVaishali R2342IND0101½½003,094Open B
71FMSadhwani Raunak2339IND½½10001003,095Open B
75WGMGomes Mary Ann2329IND½001½0002,0116Open B
76IMPadmini Rout2325IND1½½011½½5,031Open B
77Muthaiah Al2325IND01½½½1½15,023Open B
79IMKathmale Sameer2320IND0½01½1½½4,073Open B
80CMGukesh D2320IND½00011114,544Open B
85Raahul V S2305IND00½101002,5115Open B
86FMMitrabha Guha2303IND110110015,020Open B
90Pranav V2284IND010001½½3,0101Open B
92WIMMonnisha G K2281IND001011104,064Open B
95Navalgund Niranjan2270IND00½10½013,0103Open B
96FMAnand Nadar2262IND½½0½1½½03,582Open B
100IMMohota Nisha2256IND10000½012,5111Open B
101WIMMahalakshmi M2252IND0½½0½0012,5106Open B
102FMShailesh Dravid2246IND110010½03,580Open B
103WIMNandhidhaa Pv2241IND0½0½½00½2,0119Open B
107IMPraveen Kumar C2228IND0½1000113,589Open B
108FMRaja Rithvik R2227IND100½½½103,586Open B
109Moksh Amit Doshi2221IND½01½00103,097Open B
110Kulkarni Chinmay2215IND00½101013,588Open B
114CMAditya Mittal2206IND1½0010½03,098Open B
116Manush Shah2202IND½1½½½0½½4,057Open B
121WIMPujari Rucha2171IND01000½113,591Open B
122Narendran Gouthaman2165IND0½000½½01,5124Open B
124WFMDivya Deshmukh2138IND00½00½½½2,0117Open B
125Pranav Anand2024IND½0½1½½014,059Open B
126WIMGagare Shalmali2001IND01½000½02,0120Open B

What remains to be seen today is if Kovalev could clinch the title prize | Photo: Niklesh Jain

If Sethuraman wins his last game against Bologan, he will have good chances of finishing among the top three! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Stay tuned for our next report!

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