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World Cup 2019 Rd.3.2: The end of India's journey at Khanty Mansiysk

by Sagar Shah - 18/09/2019

India's journey at the World Cup 2019 has come to an end after two classical games in the third round. Harikrishna in his bid to win against Alekseenko, overpressed and lost the game and the match 2-0. Vidit tried his best, but couldn't get anything substantial against Wesley So and lost the match 1.5-0.5. India began with 10 participants in Khanty Mansiysk. Five of them were eliminated in round one, three in round two and finally Harikrishna and Vidit in round three. Not the best result, but as Vidit wrote after the event, "I am down but not out. The spirit is still high." We have a look at the two critical games from round 3.2 and also try to understand whether Harikrishna's daring sacrifice actually worked or not.

After losing the first classical game, coming back and equalizing is always difficult. But both Harikrishna and Vidit had the white pieces, so it was surely a high possibility that they could beat their opponents.

For Harikrishna a big problem was that his opponent Kirill Alekseenko was playing some of the best chess in his career! | Photo: World Cup 2019

Harikrishna vs Alekseenko, Game 3.2

This position arose from 6.d3 in the Ruy Lopez. The move ...a5 from Alekseenko looked double edged. If White plays b5 then he gets a solid passed pawn, but at the same time Black gets the c5 square for his pieces and his pawn on c-file can both be a strength and a weakness.

When Black played the move ...Nh5!? Harikrishna thought for a while. Playing Bh2 would mean that Black gets ...f5! and will suddenly start to be better. Hence the piece sacrifice became kind of forced.

The knight takes the pawn on e5.

So what is the assessment of this position? Is White better? Well, he definitely has compensation, but things are not at all simple. The bishop attacks the rook on c7 and later it wants to move in order to make e5 possible. However, the Black queen is always swinging over to the g6 square to not only avert the mate but also create some chances of his own. At the same time the c3 pawn is also quite a trouble because the moment the bishop moves from c2, the pawn advances and forks the two rooks! Objectively White seems to be better if he finds the most critical line here after ...Rc8 g4! but the ideas and moves after it are quite complex. I have analyzed them in the ChessBase India replayer below.

How does this move b6 which looks quite disjoint, actually help White. Well, the truth is even though there are a lot of black pieces that can come and stop the b-pawn, it is not easy to win it. And having the pawn on 7th rank is quite a big nuisance for Black. Harikrishna actually understood this point and went for this position, which shows his fine feel for the game.

The final critical moment of the game where Hari had his chances. White had to give a check on b3 here, push the king to h7 and then take on f8. It would force the rook to take back on f8 and the b7 pawn would not be easy to capture. Instead, Hari immediately took on f8 in the above position and after Kxf8 was already worse.

Harikrishna tried hard, tried his best, but it was not enough. He lost the match 2-0. | Photo: World Cup 2019
Interview with Kirill Alekseenko after his 2-0 victory over Harikrishna

Vidit's opening choice with the white pieces gave him a very small edge, but it was not enough for a win | Photo: World Cup 2019

That feeling when you want to play for a win, but the resources in your position are not enough to create something tangible! | Photo: World Cup 2019

Wesley So was the stronger player and the clinical way in which he got his job done gives him two rest days to recover before facing Vitiugov in round 4 | Photo: World Cup 2019
Interview with Wesley So after he beat Vidit by Eteri Kublashvili

When that moment of elimination arrives, it's the worst feeling for a sports player. For players like Harikrishna and Vidit (in the picture) it is the end of their chance to qualify for the Candidates which will have to wait for another two years.

In many ways a serious chess player is akin to a soldier on the border. They sit at the board calculating for hours. They don't eat their food well because they are stressed about their next game. They do not rest well because the tension of the game gives them sleepless night. They don't talk to their near ones because they want to conserve every ounce of their energy. They lose weight after such an event because chess is after all a brutal sport.

In spite of all of this, these players love chess. They live the game. Chess is not just a sport or a game for them, it is a lifestyle. Elimination from a tournament is the end to all of this torture. They can now finally go back home, sleep well, eat well, speak leisurely to their near ones. But their mind is fixed as to when would they compete again. When will they be back on the field once again to showcase their talent.

Packing their bags, they make a solemn pledge to themselves that they are going to fix their weaknesses and come back stronger in the next event. That's the reason why they are champions and that's the reason why every Indian is proud of them! The World Cup has ended for Harikrishna and Vidit, but these guys will soon come back stronger than ever!

And the good news, they still have another shot at qualifying for the Candidates in just 20 days from now - at the FIDE Grand Swiss 2019! The winner of the event gets a direct entry into the Candidates. Wishing them the best!

We began with ten players - five of them were eliminated in round one (S.L.Narayanan, Abhijeet Gupta, Karthikeyan Murali, Sethuraman, Ganguly), three in round two (Nihal Sarin, B. Adhiban and Aravindh Chithambaram) and finally two in round three (Harikrishna and Vidit)

We hope that you enjoyed the coverage from ChessBase India.

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