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Ganguly wins Belt and Road 2019 and US$50,000!

by Satanick Mukhuty - 07/08/2019

It has been action-packed last few weeks for Indian Chess. First it was Sandipan Chanda's dominating performance in Leiden Open, then Vidit's scintillating win in Biel and Praggnanandhaa's unbeaten streak in Xtracon. The breakthroughs only get better and bigger as today Surya Sekhar Ganguly wins the super strong Belt and Road Hunan International Open, bagging home the first prize of a whopping 50,000 US Dollar! How big exactly is this amount? Well, just to put things into perspective, this is even more than what Maxime Vachier-Lagrave recently won (US $37,500) by securing first place at the Paris Grand Chess Tour 2019! Finishing ahead of six strong 2700+ Grandmasters with a score of 7.0/9, this is certainly the greatest tournament victory of Ganguly's chess career and arguably one of the greatest in Indian Chess. So how did he do it? We had covered Ganguly's rounds 1-5 in a previous article, in this we explore the champion's journey in last four. 

Two of the four players that Surya Shekhar Ganguly had to face in the last four rounds were 2700+ super GMs Bassem Amin and Wang Hao. The other two were the in-form Ivan Cheparinov, who in fact was the leader of the tournament till round six, and the Spanish no.1 Francisco Vallejo Pons. Ganguly's phenomenal score of 3.0/4 against such a stupendous opposition ensured a sparkling 2850+ rating performance and enabled him to gain 27.5 Elo points. After the individual gold in the World Teams 2019, this is the 36-year-old's second power-packed performance this year! 

A performance of 2876 and a gain of 27.5 Elo points! What a performance!

Final rankings

Rk.SNoNamesexFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 
115GMGanguly Surya ShekharIND26387,0268041,051,55
22GMYu YangyiCHN27366,5263238,549,54
35GMAmin BassemEGY27076,5261437,047,54
411GMCheparinov IvanGEO26666,0266940,050,55
53GMWang HaoCHN27256,0263936,547,05
69GMAnton Guijarro DavidESP26786,0263136,547,03
77GMVallejo Pons FranciscoESP26876,0261437,048,53
81GMWei YiCHN27376,0260035,547,04
96GMMatlakov MaximRUS27016,0258334,042,53
1017GMNguyen Ngoc Truong SonVIE26365,5263439,550,03
1150GMYu RuiyuanCHN24645,5262935,045,02
1223GMZhou JianchaoCHN26085,5255733,043,03
1320GMDeac Bogdan-DanielROU26215,5251033,041,53
1425GMJu WenjunwCHN25955,5245830,038,52
1529GMZeng ChongshengCHN25515,0265334,543,04
1644IMKhademalsharieh SarasadatwIRI24815,0264136,046,51
1718GMZhao JunCHN26365,0261936,045,52
1835GMLi DiCHN25235,0261735,545,02
1928GMXu YinglunCHN25625,0260131,540,02
2049Peng XiongjianCHN24675,0258830,539,03

India's No.2 Harikrishna Pentala also twitted about this phenomenal achievement. It's very nice to see how chess players in India boost each other, which shows a nice camaraderie building up:

Anish Giri was keen to have another AskSurya!

Speaking to ChessBase India after the win, Ganguly said, " I feel happy to win this strong event. Enjoyed every moment of it despite being physically sick throughout the event."

The secret supporter of Surya Ganguly - his wife Sudeshna. Note: That's no fun drink! That's Betadine for staying fit! | Photo: Surya Sekhar Ganguly

Excellent sense of humour by Wei Yi! For all those who are unaware of the context can check this video out! | Photo: Surya Sekhar Ganguly

Now, let's look into his games from the last four rounds, shall we? An overview of the event in the general from rounds 1 to 5 can be read here.

Round 6: A Valiant Save!

In the sixth round Ganguly was up against the strong Egyptian Grandmaster Bassem Amin. With black pieces, he found quite a passive position out of the opening, which only worsened in the further course but the Bengal Grandmaster unbelievably kept fighting. Sure enough, the effort wasn't in vain!

Bassem Amin - Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Round 6

After 35...Ng7 the engines even suggests a mate in 7 moves for White! But shockingly, Bassem kept losing the thread of the attack from this completely winning position.

40.Nxh7 was played here and this was the final blunder of the game. After 40...Nxh7 41.Bc2 Nf5 White's initiative completely sublimated!

Surya's off the board rituals, helped him to keep his calm over the board, even in such a lost position! | Photo: Surya Sekhar Ganguly

Round 7: Toppling the leader

It was in the seventh round that Ganguly took the sole lead for the first time, beating Ivan Cheparinov, the leader of the event at that point. Playing the White side of an English, he found an advantage as early as move 16. Next, he went on to liquidate into a pawn-up ending and which then was converted with impeccable technique. This was also Ganguly's favourite game from the event.


Surya Sekhar Ganguly - Ivan Cheparinov, Round 7

16.b3 was a forceful thrust on the loose d5-c4 structure. After 16...Nb4 17.Bxc4! White simplified things into the following pawn-up ending.

White's kingside pawn structure was ruined but this wasn't really a liability. In fact, White only saves a tempo through this resolving his bank-rank issue. Ganguly went on to register a fine victory from here to emerge as the sole leader of the tournament.

Round 8: Winning the game of nerves!

In the penultimate round of the event against Wang Hao, it was all a game of nerves. The Chinese super-GM and the rating favourite was only half a point behind Ganguly and had every chance at becoming the new sole leader. In such situations of high tension, it is not just about the moves made on board but also the psychology, the mindsets of the players that determine the ultimate result. In the video below IM Sagar Shah explains the nitty gritties of this game in full detail:

And here is the fully annotated game for you to peruse:

Round 9: Coming out strong!

In the final round Ganguly only needed a draw to seal his first spot and therefore he went for a super-solid line with the White pieces against Francisco Vallejo Pons' Sicilian defense. But what started as very quiet soon turned reckless!

Surya Sekhar Ganguly - Francisco Vallejo Pons, Round 9 

24.g3 was certainly not the most solid choice. In the next few moves, Black was able to rip open White's King and things started to look very precarious. 

Black was pushing with 33...Be5, but here Vallejo made a poor choice of exchanging off his bishop. 34.Qf2 g6 35.Be2 Bxd4?! was played and this really saved the day for Ganguly and ensured his first place!

In spite of his bad health, Surya was very kind with his time! | Photo: Surya Sekhar Ganguly

Surya won USD 50,000 (less 20% tax) which effectively comes to USD 40,000. This might well be the second highest prize money amount ever won by an Indian player in a single event after Vishy Anand.| Photo: Surya Sekhar Ganguly

Now that's a pretty trophy! | Photo: Surya Sekhar Ganguly

Yu Yangyi finished second, half a point behind Ganguly | Photo:

Bassem Amin was third. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Performance overview of all Indian players

12GMAdhiban B.2665IND0½½01½½½14,545Category A
15GMGanguly Surya Shekhar2638IND11½½1½11½7,01Category A
19GMSethuraman S.P.2630IND½1½10½10½5,022Category A
22GMNarayanan.S.L2616IND101½½½½105,025Category A
61IMRaja Harshit2434IND½½000½1½½3,559Category A
69IMGusain Himal2407IND½½½½0½1½04,049Category A


On a parting note, we would like to congratulate the organizers of the Belt and Road International 2019. They are coming up with world class tournaments that is making China one of the major hubs for chess events in the world.

Related news:
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Belt and Road Open: Will Ganguly take home US$ 50,000?

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Harika wins $15,000 at Belt and Road Women Open 2019 in China

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Belt and Road Women Open Round 4-6: Pratyusha maintains her impressive run

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