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World Cup 2015 Rd.2: Sethu beats Hari

by Sagar Shah - 16/09/2015

The underdog of the match S.P.Sethuraman was able to rise up to the occasion and beat his much higher rated opponent Pentala Harikrishna to advance to the third round of the World Cup 2015. After this match, Sethuraman is the only Indian left in the field and he will face the winner of the Mamedyarov-Hou Yifan match.


After a tense struggle yesterday, Harikrishna and Sethuraman sat against each other for their second classical game in the round two of the World Cup 2015. Hari true to his strategy of playing slow and solid chess went for the Berlin Defence with the black pieces. At the highest level, the Berlin is considered to be some sort of an unbreakable defence. So what did Sethuraman have up his sleeve against this indestructible opening? Nothing! Black (Harikrishna) equalized in the opening with ease and the pair of bishops were suddenly starting to look quite threatening.

In chess, like in boxing or martial arts, there are two ways to play a game. One is to be "pacemaker"- in this strategy you direct the flow of the game. You plan deeply or setup beautiful tactics and try to outplay your opponent. This is a style of play loved by all because a victory here gives you a lot of satisfaction and also makes you a crowd puller. But there is another style of play equally valid, but despised by many. Only experienced players know the true worth of it. It is called the "wait and watch" style of play. In this strategy, as the name suggests, you wait for your opponent to make a mistake and then take advantage of it. 
GM Maurice Ashley likes to call it the Aikido style of playing. Aikido is a Japanese martial art which uses the motion of the attacker. It requires very little physical strength, as the practitioner "leads" the attacker's momentum to his own advantage.

Maurice Ashley explains the Aikido concept brilliantly in his DVD entitled the secret to chess

Once Sethuraman realized that things hadn't gone well for him in the opening, he decided to adopt the Aikido style of play. He kept his pieces huddled in the centre, not overlooking any tactics. He made plain logical moves and put the onus of finding the plan on his opponent's shoulders. Seeing that the opening had gone his way, Hari tried to force the matters. He made plans so that he could punish White's play and gain a clear advantage. But in his bid to strike his opponent, he lost his balance. This was exactly the momentum that Sethuraman made use of. As alert as ever he picked up the central pawn with a nice petite tactic 37.Nxd5. Overlooking this and also the time pressure led to Hari committing complete hara-kiri.

Instead of going into a pawn down rook ending where he had some chances for survival, he blundered and simply lost a piece. A knight without any compensation. All that was left was to make a few spite moves before throwing in the towel.


A good position quickly turned bad for India number two

A sad loss for India's ace player at the event. But full credit to Sethuraman who played with great calm and composure. He hung in there and made sure to fight right until the end. He was the younger of the two opponents but if you see through the game, you will find that it was Sethuraman who played like the man with the grey hair!

The man in form S.P.Sethuraman

The Chennai lad now advances into the round of 32 and once again he avoids the tie-breaks, which is wonderful because he gets to rest a little while his prospective opponent who will be the winner between Shakhiryar Mamedyarov and Hou Yifan will be fighting it out in tomorrow's tie-breaks. Let us all wish Sethuraman the best for the next round! After all he is now the only Indian left in the field - the only man on whose shoulders rest the dreams of an entire nation!

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