Team India at the World Youth Under-16 Chess Olympiad
by Satanick Mukhuty - 01/11/2019
The World Youth Under-16 Chess Olympiad has begun in Corum, Turkey. Consisting of five players, the Indian contingent got off to a good start with clean 4-0 sweeps in the first two rounds of the event but the third and fourth rounds didn't go as desired as the team lost 1.5-2.5 and 0.5-3.5 to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan respectively. After four rounds, India has secured 10 points in all and 4 match points. Belarus is the sole leader with perfect 8.0/8 match points; while four countries, including the top-seeded Azerbaijan, follow them closely with 7 points each. In this illustrated article we bring you an overview of all the important Indian performances, games, analyses, and more.
The World Youth Under-16 Chess Olympiad has started from the 28th of October in Corum, Turkey and will continue till the 6th of this month. Organized by the Turkish Chess Federation (TCF), the tournament has attracted teams from 38 different countries this year featuring 234 participants in all. India is represented by five players in the event, namely Aronyak Ghosh, Srihari L, Ajay Karthikeyan, Utsab Chatterjee, and Lakshmi Chidambaram. The tournament regulations dictate that each team must have one girl participant and she must mandatorily compete in at least three of the total nine rounds. Each round consists of a match between two countries played across four boards and the time-control followed is 90 minutes for the entire game plus 30 seconds increment per move from move one.
Team India's clean 4-0 sweeps in rounds 1-2
The entire Indian team in Turkey. Names from left: Aronyak Ghosh, Utsab Chatterjee, Priyadharshan K (coach), Ajay Karthikeyan, and Lakshmi Chidambaram | Photo: Priyadharshan K
The Indian contingent started off pretty well in the first two rounds beating Thailand B and Turkmenistan by 4-0. In the first round, it was Srihari's quick win on board one that set the tone of the rest of the match. Lakshmi got the upperhand when her opponent blundered under time pressure, while Ajay and Utsab were both in control of their respective games right from the beginning.
At the start of round 1 - all set to take on Thailand B! | Photo: Priyadharshan K
In round two however things got trickier. On boards two and three, Srihari and Ajay both came under some pressure as they were surprised in the opening. But thankfully, they managed to fight back and score two important wins. Aronyak Ghosh played his first game on board one in the second round of the event and registered a fine positional victory, while Utsab Chatterjee didn't have any difficulties outplaying his much lower rated opponent on board four.
Srihari Lakshmi slipped into minus positions quite a few times against Allayar Shirliyev
in round two but managed to fight back and come out on the top in the end | Photo: Official website
Srihari Lakshmi - Allayar Shirliyev, Round 2
The Turkmenistani player went for the somewhat unusual 8...Qd7 in the Italian, preparing to castle long and initiate a kingside flank attack. The more popular continuations here are 8...0-0 and 8...h6
With 11...g5 clearly a double edged war was declared.
Black had to make a critical decision at this point, whether to open up the a-file with 17...axb5 or keep the tension with something like 17...Qe6 18.Rfc1 Rd6 was the question.
Black erred and chose the former which allowed White to infiltrate with his rook via the a-file.
Thus, White's attack on the queenside slowly intensified. In the above position Srihari played 26.Na3, can you suggest a more powerful move?
Finally, it was on move 29 the moment of truth arrived. In a highly complex position White played Rc5, can you see what both players missed here?
Black had the opportunity here to seize a decisive advantage with 29...Red8 30.Rxd5 (30.Bc3 Rxc5 31.dxc5 Nxb5) 30...Rxd5 31.Qb4 cxb5 where we see that he wins some material in all lines. But in the game 29...Kd7 was played and after 30.Rxd5+ Nxd5 31.Qc4 Nb6 32.Qf7+ White simply stood better and was forcing his way in. Check the full game below with detailed analysis.
In the same round Ajay Karthikeyan too played a topsy-turvy game. After getting into an inferior position out of the opening, he blundered on move 25 but fortunate for him, his much lower rated opponent failed to find the punishing continuation.
15-year-old Ajay Karthikeyan is the only Indian player who has remained unbeaten so far in the event playing all four games | Photo: Swati Biswas
The above position was reached out of a London system, can you see what Black missed when he played 25...Qf3?
Black could have played 25...Qe4+ 26.Qxe4 Nxe4 instead and played on with a slightly worse position but 25...Qf3? was a damaging error as it allows 26.Nd4! with threat on the queen and after 26...Qg2+ 27. Kb1 Black is forced to give up his c5 knight. The point is 27... Nd7 is not possible because of 28.Nf5+ gxf5 29.Rxd7+ etc leading to inevitable mate. In the game White missed all these possibilities and went for the meek 26.Qd5? and the Indian player was relieved to equalize with 26...Ne4 27.Qd7+ Rf7. Funnily, the Turkmenistani blundered soon enough after this and slipped into an almost lost position.
Disappointments in rounds 3-4
In rounds 3 and 4 India was up against Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan respectively. Grandmaster Priyadharshan Kannappan who has accompanied the team to Turkey summarised the happenings of these two rounds as follows for ChessBase India:
"Rounds 3 and 4 certainly didn't go the way we wanted it to go. In Round 3, Aronyak got into trouble early in the opening and was lucky to get away with the half point. On board 2 Assaubayeva was just too strong for Srihari, as he had no chance right from the opening in the King's Indian defense. On board 3 Ajay played a flawless game to beat his opponent. The biggest disappointment was when Utsab overestimated his chances and lost a drawish rook ending.
In Round 4, nothing went in favor of us, as Utsab's opponent played a brilliant attacking game with moves like...g5!! and...Bf4!! to score a full point. On board 2 the rating difference was too huge between Srihari and Sindarov and even though Srihari steered the position to a Queen and Bishop endgame. The activity of the pieces and king safety was enough for the GM to convert the point. On board 1 Aronyak miscalculated some variations and his GM opponent took advantage of the fact that the black king was on the center of the board. And on board 3 Ajay had a nice edge and was outplaying his opponent, but in time trouble he couldn't convert his edge and had to settle for a draw."
Team India in action against Team Uzbekistan in round four | Photo: Official Website
Though Round 3 against Kazakhstan didn't go well for the Indian players, still Ajay Karthikeyan's emphatic victory proved to be a saving grace in the match. Ajay had the white pieces in this round and went for the king's pawn opening. His opponent, Arystan
Isanzhulov, replied with the allegedly dubious Scandinavian Defense. The 15-year-old former National Sub-junior Champion played on actively and kept his opponent on a tight leash until he yielded.
Ajay Karthikeyan -
Isanzhulov, Round 3
Even though White had gained more space, Black still was doing just fine until he pushed 17...c5
Black could have held onto the position passively with 17...Ne8 but the attempt to break free with 17...c5? proved dangerous.The game continued 18.Nxd7 Nxd7 19.dxc5 Nxc5 20.Qg3 Nd7 21.c5 and White's advanced c-pawn became a monster.
Position after 21.c5: Black really can't take on c5 with the knight because that allows 22.Be5 with tremendous pressure on the dark squares around the black king. White completely took over the game from here on and registered a fine 33-move win!
Utsab Chatterjee had the white pieces in round 4 but his opponent, Mukhiddin Madaminov, played some very enterprising chess to launch a vicious kingside attack with the black side of Spanish | Photo: Shahid Ahmed
Utsab Chatterjee - Mukhiddin Madaminov, Round 4
White was fine at this point and could have continued solidly with 14.Nxb6 but a couple of slow moves like 14.Bc2 and 15.Ncd2 allowed Black to take control of the game with ...Qf6 ... Be6 ...Rad8 and finally ...Nh4!!
Black's bishops were soon breathing fire on the white king.
The game was brought to a nice finish with the stunning 25...Bf4!! ... White gave up his queen here with 26.Qxf4 and resigned only two moves later. Of course, 26.gxf4 was also not possible as it allows 26...Bxh3 and leads to inevitable mate after that.