Batumi Chess Olympiad 2018: Viswanathan Anand-led India score impressive wins in both open and women’s groups

Almost halfway into the 43rd World Chess Olympiad, the Indian team, spearheaded by Viswanathan Anand, scored another emphatic win over Paraguay. While, with only one Grandmaster in its lineup, Paraguay were no match to the fifth seeded Indian team, a win against them did propel India back into the top ten on the leaderboard. By match-points, India stand third.

Anand, after his debacle against Fabiano Caruana in the previous round, played another quick game in the fifth round. The big difference this time was that Anand won. He had the white pieces against the only Paraguayan Grandmaster, GM Neuris Delgado Ramirez.

In the opening, Anand drifted away from the well-known lines of the Open Sicilian and chose the Rossolimo System. Very early in the game, Anand grabbed some extra space on the kingside. Perhaps, because of this, Ramirez chose to castle on the queen’s wing. Anand immediately castled on the opposite wing and mobilised his pieces to generate an attack on the black king. One of the major problems for Ramirez in setting up a strong defence was his lack of piece development.

Viswanathan Anand made a strong comeback in Round 6 defeating GM Neuris Delgado Ramirez in merely 26 moves. Image courtesy: Niklesh Jain

Viswanathan Anand made a strong comeback in Round 6 defeating GM Neuris Delgado Ramirez in merely 26 moves. Image courtesy: Niklesh Jain

Merely 15 moves into the game, Anand’s position had become overwhelmingly strong. Anand increased the pressure by creating threats against the enemy king and, on his 23rd move, Ramirez cracked. In what was already a dubious position, he allowed Anand’s queen an entry point into his position. Anand plunged in instantly and just two moves later, it was curtains.

Vidit Gujrathi was rested in the fifth round and Baskaran Adhiban was brought back to play on the third board. By rating, Adhiban was rated more than 300 points above his opponent, Antonio Almiron. The two discussed the Archangelsk variation of the Spanish Opening in which the Paraguayan FIDE Master pushed aggressively on the queenside. However, this aggression hardly accomplished anything. After black’s firepower had fizzled out, the position was still slightly better for Adhiban.

Almiron made a critical mistake on the 26th turn when he tried to break out of a pin on his knight by directing his queen towards the white king. While this lost Almiron a piece, he was counting on the counterplay he would gain after Adhiban had grabbed material. When the haze cleared, Adhiban simply returned the extra material and took over the initiative himself. After Almiron recovered his piece, Adhiban’s queen and rook rushed into the black camp threatening mate by force. There being no way to parry the threat, Almiron resigned on the 35th move.

On board four, GM Krishnan Sasikiran played the best game of the match against Paulo Jordokovsky Werjivker. Here again the Paraguayan was heavily overpowered by rating. Not only was Werjivker untitled, he was also rated 400 points below Sasikiran. What was amazing about the game was the brilliance with which Sasikiran conducted his attack in the game.

Sasikiran had the black pieces in the game and went for the aggressive King’s Indian Defence. Werjivker chose flung four of his central pawns forward and achieved a broad central pawn formation. However, after a few central skirmishes in the middle game, it was, in fact, Sasikiran who had a central pawn majority. By this point, Sasikiran had already achieved a better position and was poised to roll his central pawn majority down the board. However, on his 28th turn, Sasikiran decided to spice things up.

Werjivker had attacked the black queen at this point and just moving the queen away was a perfectly viable option. But Sasikiran simply gave up his queen for a rook and a minor piece and continued with his pawn march in the centre. By the 33rd move, Sasikiran had further given up an exchange, leaving himself with just two minor pieces against white’s queen. But his far advanced central pawns trumped everything else. Just two moves later, two black pawns were about to score a touchdown!

With three wins in the bag, chances were bright for India to score its first 4-0 blank as Pentala Harikrishna was playing against IM Guillermo Vazquez. Vazquez was another Paraguayan to be out-rated by almost 300 points by his opponent but he wasn’t going to be another Paraguayan to go down because of this. Despite his rating disadvantage, Vazquez stood strongly against Harikrishna.

Harikrishna had managed to equalise quite easily in a Nimzo-Indian Defence, but that was as far as he got. Trading pieces at regular intervals, Vazquez never let his position go out of hand. All through the game, Vazquez kept his counter-chances. After queens were traded, he further induced several pawn exchanges that rendered the position dead equal. After trying for almost 60 moves, Harikrishna decided it was time to call it a day and conceded the draw.

“My position looked a bit better for me but white’s position was also quite solid. So, I couldn’t avoid exchanging many pieces. But okay, my opponent also did not play badly,” Harikrishna told IM Sagar Shah after the game.

In the women’s segment, the Indian team continued its undefeated run beating Argentina in Round 5. Here again, the team won with a score of 3½-½. Interestingly, the only draw of the round was also played on the second board. But unlike the Vazquez-Harikrishna game, Dronavalli Harika was in a dead lost position against WGM Claudia Amura.

The game had begun with a Tarrasch Defence. Harika had the white pieces in the game and had the better position for a large part of the game. However, somewhere around the 35th move, Harika began to mishandle the position and lost her advantage. By the time the first time control was reached, Harika was already in a precarious position.

As play progressed, Harika’s position went from bad to worse. By the time the 60th move was reached, Harika was dead lost. It seemed Harika might resign at any moment. But the Indian No 2 showed great fortitude and played on, no matter how grim the position looked. And her courage paid off when Amura miraculously blundered on her 62nd move rendering the position equal. In one move, the evaluation of the position had changed from dead lost to dead equal. After playing just three more moves, the players decided to sign peace.

This miraculous draw has placed India 7th on the leaderboard. Round 6 will pit Indian women against the United States of America. While the American team isn’t as strong in the women’s segment as it is in the open, it has won all of its games so far and is currently the sole leader of the tournament. On the other hand, the Indian team is the higher rated of the two. In fact, India will have a rating advantage on every board if Humpy isn’t rested (which is quite unlikely).

The open team also has a tough task ahead of them. They will be playing the second seed of the tournament, Russia, in Round 6. Just like the USA, the Russian team also has every player rated above ELO 2600. Playing them will not be an easy task.

Saturday is a rest day in Batumi. Play will resume on Sunday, 30 September at 4.30 PM IST.

Aditya Pai is an editor at ChessBase India


Updated Date: Sep 29, 2018 15:24 PM

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