Shenzhen 2019 Round 7+8: Two Chinese players stand in between Harikrishna and his first super tournament victory
In 2001 when Harikrishna became a GM, he was the youngest one in India chess. He then went on to become the National Champion, Asian Champion, the Commonwealth Champion and the World Junior Champion. Hari has also won some of the most prestigious open tournaments across the world like the Biel Masters, Isle of Man International and many others. He also won the Tata Steel Challengers and qualified for the masters. In 2016, he reached to a career high Elo of 2770 breaking into top 10 in the world. In this illustrious career, if there is something missing, it's a super tournament victory. And currently at the Shenzhen Masters Hari is as close as he can be to his first super tournament victory. What stands in between him and the title are two of China's best players.
With four victories in a row, Harikrishna was on fire at the Shenzhen Masters 2019. It all began with Rapport, then Ding Liren, next was Yu Yangyi and after the rest day it was Jakovenko. We covered all of this in our previous reports. In round 7 Hari was up against Anish Giri. This was a critical encounter because Anish was just half a point behind Harikrishna in the standings. This is how things looked:
Harikrishna pushed really hard throughout the game. In fact at some point he was clearly better, close to winning. This would have Hari's fifth consecutive win in the event and would have literally sealed the tournament victory for him, but it was not to be. Anish defended with great resourcefulness and the game finally ended in a draw.
Some inaccurate moves were the reason why Hari couldn't convert such a promising position. Here's the entire game:
The contrasting styles of Harikrishna and Rapport make their encounter quite interesting. The Hungarian GM loves complex positions, while Harikrishna's style tends more towards finding elegant solutions in simplified positions and endgames. But Rapport had the white pieces and he could well dictate the pace of the game. Somewhere around move 40 it seemed as if the game would end in a draw. But Harikrishna played the endgame quite poorly. It was surprising because it is the last phase of the game that had given Hari excellent wins at this event. Rapport was in his element and finished the game with precision.
The position after move 39 is around even. Having the rooks on board makes Black's task easier as he has an active rook on d7 as compared to White's passive one on c1. The h5 pawn is passed, but the black king can take care of it. Harikrishna's choice of playing ...Nd5 here allowing Rd1 was not the best. White managed to get a small edge. And although the game was drawish right until the very end, Harikrishna's path to equality was always narrow. He finally slipped and Rapport registered the win.
Follow round 9 live at 11.30 a.m. IST on 26th April