World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships: Vidit Gujrathi shines for India; Vassily Ivanchuk is the Champion

Vidit Gujrathi turned out to be the hero for India as he scored 9.5/15 and finished eighth at the World Rapid Chess Championships 2016 in Doha, Qatar. Finishing eighth in a field where he started as the 51st seed is a great achievement and despite not winning any medal or prize money, his confidence would have received a tremendous boost. Young talents like Vidit do not get the chance to play against world class opponents like Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Vassily Ivanchuk, Sergey Karjakin and co. who are used to playing Round Robin events against each other. Tournaments like World Rapid, open up the doors for unestablished players like Vidit to match their wits against the best. And this is exactly what Gujrathi did.


 World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships: Vidit Gujrathi shines for India; Vassily Ivanchuk is the Champion

The boy from Nashik fought tooth and nail against the World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Few mistakes at the end allowed the Norwegian to win. (Image courtesy: Maria Emelianova)

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Top players like Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Ian Nepomniachtchi, David Anton and Ivan Cheparinov are spell-bound by Vidit’s gritty defence (image courtesy: Maria Emelianova)


An interesting fact pointed out by GM Sriram Jha was that Vidit had the highest average rating of the opponents in the tournament. This is a clear indication of the difficulty of the opposition he faced. Gujrathi wasn’t particularly happy with how his rounds 12 and 13 went. Speaking to Firstpost, he said, “Today was a very mixed day. I started off poorly - 0.5/3. The way I lost was especially painful. It was a close game against Magnus and losing in a completely drawn game against Melkumyan was a pity. But I am happy with how I bounced back in the last two games. 2.0/2, and that too in a convincing way is something I am quite happy about.”

Vidit gained rapid Elo points for his play. This is huge! With this gain he has crossed the 2700 barrier, which many consider as the starting point of the super-elite grandmasters. Vidit’s live rapid rating is now 2718.

Slowly but surely, the younger generation is taking over Indian chess. A clear indication of this was the fact that Vidit finished half a point ahead of the five-time World Champion Vishwanathan Anand. Anand scored 9.0/15 to finish 15th. Vishy was playing extremely solid chess and with 8.5/13 and two rounds to go, had excellent chances of a podium finish. His tournament was derailed in the penultimate round when he botched up a better position against Vassily Ivanchuk and blundered an entire piece.


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Anand made the horrible mistake of moving his rook from f6 to f5. Ivanchuk chopped off the knight with Rxe5 and Anand had lost a piece due to the fork on f3.


One could say that a fifteen-round event is quite tiring for Anand, who is now 47 years old. However, the winner of the tournament, Vassily Ivanchuk was born in 1969 as well and is just as old as Anand. The Indian would not be too happy with his performance and will look forward to the blitz tournament to redeem himself. But 21 rounds of speed chess in two days is once again extremely tough and requires great stamina.


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Vishy Anand’s blunder against Vassily Ivanchuk cost him dearly. The Ukrainian used this opportunity to clinch the gold medal. (image courtesy: Maria Emelianova)


Surya Shekhar Ganguly’s tournament ended well with wins over Evgeny Tomashevsky and Sergei Zhigalko as he finished 21st. The young and ambitious B.Adhiban also started showing good form as the tournament neared the end. This augurs well for Indian fans, as the blitz tournament will begin immediately on the next day and the players can make use of their superior board vision.


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Final standings in the open section


In the women’s section Humpy finished the last four rounds of the rapid well with 3.0/4, but it was not good enough to finish on the top three spots. She had to be content with the 10th position. Harika scored 6.5/12 and finished 16th.


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Finals standings in the women section


The tournament can't be concluded without with a few words for the newly crowned eccentric genius Vassily Ivanchuk:

He picks his nose in front of an elite audience, he is lost in some chess variations when the interviewer asks him about his plan on the rest day, he is ridiculously truthful, he thinks it was only due to luck that he won the tournament, instead of basking in glory his heart yearns to visit the checkers' club in Doha. Childlike enthusiam, God-like play and a character that brings colour in the black and white world of chess!

It requires some doing to earn praise from the great Garry Kasparov. According to him, Ivanchuk is truly a great player.

Sagar Shah, is an international Master and co-founder of ChessBase India

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Updated Date: Dec 29, 2016 19:35:01 IST