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Sasikiran wins the 52nd Capablanca Memorial

by Davide Nastasio - 08/06/2017

He is known as the Rahul Dravid of Indian chess - the unsung hero. Sasikiran Krishnan is truly one of the finest chess players that India has ever produced. He has a host of achievements to his credit, and now he adds another feather to his cap by winning the 52nd Capablanca Memorial 2017 ahead of Vasily Ivanchuk. Davide Nastasio speaks about the historical background of this famous tournament and we also show you Sasi's beautiful "light squared symphony" win over Samuel Shankland.

Thumbnail image on the front page by David Llada
This prestigious tournament began in 1962, under the initiative of Commander Ernesto "Che" Guevara... remember the third world champion: José Raúl Capablanca, who won the world title in 1921 in Cuba.

For those interested in knowing more about Capablanca, Chessbase has published an excellent DVD:

Know more about Master Class Vol.4 Capablanca from our online shop 

The first edition of this tournament, was won by the famous Don Miguel Najdorf, who we all still remember today, thanks to the famous variation of the Sicilian.

Here's a game from the first Capablanca Memorial, where Najdorf won thanks to his Sicilian:

[Event "Capablanca Memorial 1st"]
[Site "Havana CUB"]
[Date "1962.05.??"]
[Round "4"]
[White "J Gonzalez"]
[Black "Miguel Najdorf"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B92"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "1962.??.??"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. O-O
O-O 9. f4 Nbd7 10. a4 b6 11. Be3 Bb7 12. Qd3 Qc7 13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. exd5 Nf6 15.
c4 b5 16. cxb5 axb5 17. Rfc1 Qd8 18. a5 Bxd5 19. Qxb5 Qb8 20. Nd2 exf4 21. Bxf4
Qa7+ 22. Qb6 Qxb6+ 23. axb6 Bd8 24. Be3 Rb8 25. Ra6 Re8 26. Kf2 Bb7 27. Ra3 Nd5
28. Nc4 Nxe3 29. Nxd6 Bxb6 30. Rb3 0-1

This tournament is famous for many reasons. The main one could be that Fischer played in it, but due to tensions between US and Cuba, the American State Department prohibited Fischer from traveling to Cuba. Fischer, like always, undeterred, played it through telex. Practically he was alone, in a room of the Marshall Chess Club, with an arbiter, and he would transmit his moves via telex (nowadays an antiquated form of texting, to which our readers are likely not accustomed!).

This is a win by Fischer in that tournament, against the former World Champion Smyslov:

[Event "Havana"]
[Site "Havana CUB"]
[Date "1965.08.26"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Robert James Fischer"]
[Black "Vasily Smyslov"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C77"]
[PlyCount "86"]
[EventDate "1965.08.25"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. c3 Be7 7. Nbd2 O-O 8. Nf1
b5 9. Bb3 d5 10. Qe2 dxe4 11. dxe4 Be6 12. Bxe6 fxe6 13. Ng3 Qd7 14. O-O Rad8
15. a4 Qd3 16. Qxd3 Rxd3 17. axb5 axb5 18. Ra6 Rd6 19. Kh1 Nd7 20. Be3 Rd8 21.
h3 h6 22. Rfa1 Ndb8 23. Ra8 Rd1+ 24. Kh2 Rxa1 25. Rxa1 Nd7 26. b4 Kf7 27. Nf1
Bd6 28. g3 Nf6 29. N1d2 Ke7 30. Ra6 Nb8 31. Ra5 c6 32. Kg2 Nbd7 33. Kf1 Rc8 34.
Ne1 Ne8 35. Nd3 Nc7 36. c4 bxc4 37. Nxc4 Nb5 38. Ra6 Kf6 39. Bc1 Bb8 40. Bb2 c5
41. Nb6 Nxb6 42. Rxb6 c4 43. Nc5 c3 1-0

All Fischer's games, included those played in the 1965 Capablanca Memorial can be found in:

Check out Fischer's Master Class Vol.1 over here

Then of course, the best names of chess, have played in such tournament and won it, here we mention a few: Smyslov (in 1964, 1965, and 1973) the terrible Viktor (in 1963, 1969).

He made two beautiful dvds on his life available. Read Albert Silver's review about them on

And of course in more recent times the Capablanca Memorial has been won by Ivanchuk multiple times! (2005,2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016).

Now we finally come to the winner of the 2017 edition, GM Sasikiran Krishnan

Krishnan Sasikiran was also born in Chennai, just like five-time World Champion Vishy Anand. In fact he was Anand's second during the 2013 World Championship. He has won multiple times the Indian Championship, and many international tournaments. Sasikiran reached a peak rating of 2720 in 2012!

Sasikiran has won the 52nd edition of the Capablanca Memorial with 6.5 points out of 10 games.

Obviously his main rival was Ivanchuk who began the tournament with 3 draws, but then had two beautiful wins in rounds 4 and 5! Before enjoying one of Ivanchuk's games, let me show you the following diagram:

White has just played 38.Qg7, attacking the Rook on h8 and the pawn on f7, what would you play as Black?

Here's the game for those who just want to enjoy the great Ivanchuk!

[Event "Capablanca Memorial (Elite)"]
[Site "Matanzas CUB"]
[Date "2017.05.30"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Isan Reynaldo Ortiz Suarez"]
[Black "Vassily Ivanchuk"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B66"]
[WhiteElo "2570"]
[BlackElo "2738"]
[PlyCount "76"]
[EventDate "2017.05.26"]
1. Nf3 d6 2. e4 Nf6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8.
O-O-O Be7 9. f4 Nxd4 10. Qxd4 b5 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Be2 Rb8 13. Bf3 Qc7 14. Kb1
a5 15. Qd2 b4 16. Ne2 h5 17. h4 a4 18. Rc1 Bd7 19. c4 Qc5 20. Ng3 Rg8 21. Nxh5
f5 22. Qe2 b3 23. a3 Bc6 24. e5 Bxf3 25. gxf3 Rh8 26. Nf6+ Bxf6 27. exf6 Kd7
28. h5 Rbg8 29. Qd2 Rg3 30. h6 Rh7 31. Rc3 Kc7 32. Rcc1 Rg6 33. Rh5 Rgxh6 34.
Rxh6 Rxh6 35. Qg2 Qe3 36. c5 dxc5 37. Rd1 Rh8 38. Qg7 Qd3+ 0-1

Sasikiran in round one crushed the Polish Champion - GM Piorun, in just 28 moves!

Piorun is born in 1991, but is already a four-time World Champion in problem solving
[Event "52nd Capablanca Mem Elite"]
[Site "Matanzas CUB"]
[Date "2017.05.27"]
[Round "1.3"]
[White "Sasikiran, Krishnan"]
[Black "Piorun, Kacper"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C96"]
[WhiteElo "2669"]
[BlackElo "2638"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "57"]
[EventDate "2017.05.27"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3
O-O 9. h3 Na5 {The Chigorin variation.} 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Nd7 12. a4 exd4 13.
axb5 axb5 14. cxd4 b4 15. Nbd2 Nb6 16. Nf1 c4 17. Ne3 d5 18. exd5 (18. e5 {
gives White space in the centre and the kingside but also let's black expand
on the queenside unhindered.}) 18... Bb7 (18... Nxd5 $2 19. Nxd5 Qxd5 20. Rxe7
$18) 19. Ne5 Nxd5 20. N3xc4 {White has won a pawn, does Black have enough
compensation for it?} Nxc4 21. Rxa8 Bxa8 22. Qd3 $1 (22. Nxc4 Bg5 {Black has
some compensation.}) 22... g6 23. Qxc4 Bf6 24. Bd2 Qd6 25. Bb3 Kg7 26. Ng4 Rd8
27. Bh6+ Kg8 28. Qc5 {There is no way to keep the f6 bishop defended.} Qa6 29.
Bc4 $18 1-0

And now a last game, to congratulate GM Sasikiran for his win in such prestigious tournament, against GM Shankland from USA. Shankland last year worked with Carlsen in preparation for the world championship and is one of the top grandmasters of America!

Samuel Shankland, with a rating of 2676, was the second seed of the tournament

Often many amateurs believe opposite color bishop endgames to be drawish, but this game shows how at GM level, the will to win, and discovering hidden resources in a position, can make the difference! This is truly a beautiful game showing light squared symphony.

[Event "52nd Capablanca Mem Elite"]
[Site "Matanzas CUB"]
[Date "2017.06.04"]
[Round "8.2"]
[White "Shankland, Samuel L"]
[Black "Sasikiran, Krishnan"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A20"]
[WhiteElo "2676"]
[BlackElo "2669"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "118"]
[EventDate "2017.05.27"]
1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nc6 3. Bg2 {Mihail Marin considers this to be a slight
inaccuracy. He felt that White should play Nc3 here. So that 3...f5 can be met
with 4.Nf3 and a quick d4. However, Shankland has his own ideas and has surely
analyzed them deeply.} f5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. e3 e4 $1 (5... d5 {When I had prepared
this variation I had found this to be an ideal way to equalize for Black.
However, modern computers quickly show} 6. cxd5 Nb4 7. d3 Nfxd5 8. Nxd5 Nxd5 9.
Nf3 Bd6 10. O-O Qe7 (10... O-O 11. Qb3 $14) 11. e4 $1 Nf6 12. exf5 Bxf5 13. Re1
$16 {with a clear edge.}) 6. d3 Bb4 7. Nge2 d5 {Sasikiran plays in concrete
style and makes use of his quick development.} 8. cxd5 Qxd5 9. dxe4 Qxd1+ 10.
Kxd1 O-O $1 (10... fxe4 11. Nxe4 {seems like insufficient compensation for a
pawn.}) 11. f4 (11. exf5 Bxf5 {Things are getting scary for White. The king
can no longer hide on c2 and all of black pieces are in the game.} 12. e4 Rad8+
13. Kc2 Be6 14. Bf4 {It seems to be that White is going alright here, but after
} Ng4 {Black has good play going.}) 11... fxe4 12. a3 Rd8+ 13. Ke1 (13. Kc2
Bxc3 14. Nxc3 Bf5 $15) 13... Bxc3+ 14. Nxc3 Bf5 {I already prefer Black. He
has more space and free development. It is true that the e4 pawn is slightly
weak, hence White too has his chances.} 15. Bf1 Be6 16. b4 a5 17. b5 Ne7 18.
Bg2 Bf5 19. Ra2 Rd3 (19... Ned5 $5 20. Rc2 Nxc3 21. Rxc3 Rac8 $11) 20. Rc2 Rc8
$5 {Sasikiran prepares to break open the position with c6.} 21. Bf1 c6 $1 22.
Bxd3 $6 (22. bxc6 Rxc6 23. Bd2 {was the more conservative and correct way for
White to approach the position.}) 22... exd3 23. Rb2 Ned5 $1 {It could be
possible that Shankland missed this move.} 24. Nxd5 (24. bxc6 Rxc6 $19) 24...
cxd5 {Although Black is a pawn down, the quality of his pieces is much
superior to White's. He has complete light squared control on the position.
This is a clear case where quality trumps quantity.} 25. Bd2 Ne4 26. Rg1 h5 27.
Rg2 a4 28. Rb4 Rc4 $6 (28... Rc2 $1 {would have been much stronger.} 29. Rxa4
Ra2 $1 (29... Rb2 $6 30. Rxe4 Rb1+ 31. Kf2 dxe4 $19 {is also a winning
position.}) 30. Rxe4 dxe4 $19 {Black is completely winning.}) 29. b6 (29. Rxc4
dxc4 $19) 29... Kf7 (29... Rc2 $1 $19) 30. Rf2 g6 31. Rg2 Ke6 32. Rf2 {
Shankland sees that he has absolutely no plan and keeps moving his rook.} Kf6
33. Rg2 Kf7 34. Rf2 Ke6 {Sasikiran triangulates and takes his time. There is
no need to hurry.} 35. Rg2 Kd7 36. Rf2 Kc6 37. Rb1 Rc2 38. Rc1 Nxf2 39. Kxf2
Kxb6 40. Ke1 Kc5 (40... Ra2 $19) 41. Rxc2+ dxc2 42. Bb4+ Kc4 43. Kd2 Kb3 44.
Kc1 b6 {White is in a zugzwang. He has to either give up the a3 pawn or the c3
square.} 45. Be7 Kc3 46. Bd8 b5 47. Be7 Kd3 48. Bc5 Ke2 {Black king is free to
roam all over the board and White is simply stuck.} 49. h4 Kf3 50. Kd2 Kxg3 51.
Be7 Kg4 (51... b4 {is winning straight away. Sasikiran strikes on this plan
after a few moves.} 52. axb4 a3 53. Bf6 a2 54. b5 d4 $1 55. Bxd4 Kxh4 56. b6
Be4 $19 {And now the h-pawn queens.}) 52. Bg5 Be4 53. Bf6 Bd3 54. Be7 b4 $1 55.
axb4 a3 56. b5 a2 57. Bf6 d4 $1 {Classic deflection + interference!} 58. Bxd4
Kxh4 59. b6 Be4 {The h-pawn goes through. Black is just winning. A great win
by Sasikiran showing light square symphony.} 0-1