Vintage Vishy wins blitz and hearts in Kolkata
The strongest chess event on Indian soil was held from the 9th to the 14th of November 2018. Three days of rapid chess and two days of blitz. Hikaru Nakamura had already won the rapid section with a dominating performance. In the blitz event, the American GM was racing ahead on the first day with 6.5/9. It seemed as if Nakamura would take home both the titles, but Vishy Anand had some other plans. The 48-year-old five time World Champion showed his class as he notched up one win after another. With 7.5/9 on day two he tied with Nakamura for the top spot. We then had a blitz playoff in which Anand triumphed and won the Tata Steel Chess India Blitz 2018. In this report we bring you pictures, videos, game analysis from Kolkata.
Gone are the days when blitz was played just for fun. Nowadays, as the shorter formats of the game start becoming more and more popular, blitz has become something where players have started devoting time in their study rooms. Organizers are spending money for prizes at blitz events and spectators enjoy the comedy of errors made by top players. It doesn't come as a surprise that we had a packed crowd at ICCR for the Tata Steel Chess India Blitz 2018.
After Hikaru Nakamura won the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid, the attention shifted to the blitz format. The time control was 5'+3" increment. Nine players remained the same. Nihal Sarin was replaced by another Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa.
The tournament was held in a double round-robin format with nine rounds being played on day one and nine on the second day. In all 90 games were played and we saw tremendous amount of excitement which led to tiebreak and a tense finish. Let's see how it all unfolded.
Hikaru makes a dash on day one:
With 6.5/9 Nakamura played excellent chess on day one of the blitz. There were many nice games he played and the accuracy of his moves was something to learn from. Here's one of his victories against Mamedyarov from round five.
With wins over Ganguly, Harikrishna, Mamedyarov, Wesley So and five draws Nakamura finished the day with 6.5/9. There was one game where he was quite upset with himself for not having converted it into a win - against the youngest participant of the tournament Praggnanandhaa.
Aronian's gem against Anand:
The battle everyone looked forward to
Vishy Anand is the heart-throb of Indian chess. Pragg has caught the fancy of chess aficionados all over the world with his talent and ability to make huge improvement at such a young age. Naturally, everyone looked forward to the battles between the two of them with great interest.
ChessBase India managed to film both the blitz games between Anand and Praggnanandhaa in rounds six and fifteen and they went viral on YouTube and Facebook. The first game in round six received over 100 thousand views and is one of the most popular chess videos online right now. You can watch the duel below.
After the tournament Praggnanandhaa told us that if he would have gone for h5 instead of g4 he would have won the game. And the boy was very serious about it. "I am just a tempo up in all the variations of attack!" Let's have a look at the game:
We left you at the half way mark in the tournament with Hikaru leading the event with 6.5/9. On the second day Nakamura played well and scored 6.0/9. Cumulatively he was on 12.5/18. Aronian had slowed down and so had Wesley So. But there was one guy who made sure that Hikaru didn't take the blitz tournament home.
Vishy finished day one with just 5.0/9. But on the second day he was on fire as he scored 7.5/9 and finished off with 12.5/18 tying with Nakamura for the top spot. How did he do it? Anand started day one with two fine wins over Wesley So and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. He then drew a better game against Sergey Karjakin and with 7.5/12 suddenly seemed to be doing well. In round four he was clearly better against Ganguly, but then blundered and the Ganguly had a chance to finish off the game. He missed it and Vishy Anand brought home the full point. Check the game below.
Vishy had no intention of slowing down! He beat Vidit Gujrathi in the next round with some fine opening play and Praggnanandhaa by swindling him in a drawn endgame.
These two wins by Anand was followed with a solid draw against Hikaru Nakamura with the black pieces and in the crucial penultimate round Anand scored a fine win in the Breyer variation of the Ruy Lopez with the white pieces.
In the final round Anand drew his game against Aronian and Nakamura had the white pieces against Praggnanandhaa. If Prag managed to beat Hikaru Anand would be the champion. If Hikaru won the game he would win the tournament and if the game was drawn, then we would go into the playoffs between Anand and Nakamura. It seemed likely that Nakamura would win the game. Not only did he have the white pieces but in the knight endgame he had more space and was clearly better. But Pragg defended with all his might and magically managed to hold.
When Nakamura's game ended in a draw Vishy had no idea that their scores had been tied. In fact he was greatly surprised when the organizers and Maria Emelianova told him that he had to play a tiebreak match of 3'+2" increment against Nakamura to decide who the champion would be.
For Anand who had already mentally agreed to a second place, this was a fresh hope to win the tournament in front of the home crowd. But Hikaru is one of the best blitz players out there. It was not going to be easy. Vishy got the white pieces in game one and played an excellent game to score the first win!
The entire 200 capacity burst into applause after Vishy won the mini-match and the blitz title. The fans who were riveted to their seats during the blitz games heaved a sigh of relief. Anand who was playing a tournament in India after 26 years had won the title in front of his home audience. It meant a lot both to the spectators and also to Vishy himself.
Final rankings after round 18:
|7||8||GM||Vidit Santosh Gujrathi||IND||2727||8,0||1,5||62,75||4||4||18||8||8,76||-0,76||20||-15,2|
|9||10||GM||Ganguly Surya Shekhar||IND||2547||6,0||0,0||53,25||4||1||18||6||4,60||1,40||20||28,0|
Note: Vishy Anand finished first and Nakamura second which is not reflected on chess-results after their tiebreaks!
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