FIDE World Cup 2017: Viswanathan Anand faces threat of exit after shock defeat to Canada's Anton Kovalyov
Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Canadian Grandmaster Anton Kovalyov and now faces the threat of an ouster from the World Chess Cup in Tbilisi.
Tbilisi, Georgia: Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Canadian Grandmaster Anton Kovalyov and now faces the threat of an ouster from the World Chess Cup in Tbilisi.
Having struggled in the second game of the first round that he eventually managed to draw, Anand's dip in form continued against Kovalyov, who kept his nerves in a thrilling game after a speculative piece sacrifice by the Indian ace.
For the records, it was a Sicilian Najdorf wherein Anand continued with a typical variation he has been using off-late. Kovalyov got a slightly worse position in the middle game but stayed put with some fine defensive manoeuvres.
After the trade of queens, the Canadian Grandmaster was surprised by a knight sacrifice by Anand but again held on to his guard despite his king taking a walk around the centre.
As it turned out, Anand's sacrifice was not enough to get any advantage and in the end Kovalyov's extra piece had the final say.
Down a point in the two-game mini-match, Anand will now have to win with black pieces in the return game. If Anand wins, tiebreak games of shorter duration will be played to determine the winner.
Meanwhile, Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi made a strong bid for the third round by winning his game as black against Vietnam's Le Quang Leim. Gujrathi now just needs a draw in the next game which should not be a tall order with white pieces.
Gujrathi employed the Ragozin defense to draw first blood. The opening gave nothing to Quang Leim and he even offered an early draw that was rejected by the Indian. As it happened, Gujrathi won a pawn in the ensuing endgame and made the technicalities look like child's play.
Grandmaster SP Sethuraman showed his first round victory against Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine was no flash in the pan and easily held higher-ranked compatriot P Harikrishna to a draw with black pieces.
The other remaining Indian, B Adhiban was up to the task in a deep opening preparation and drew with higher-rated Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia. Sacrifice and counter sacrifices ensued right from the beginning in this spectacular game and in the end the draw was agreed through repetition of moves.
In the other top matches, world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway outclassed Aleksey Dreev of Russia while Vladimir Kramnik put it across his Russian counterpart Anton Demchenko. There were just seven decisive games out of a possible 32 in the first game of the second round.
The World Cup is a knock out event with two games under normal time control followed by Rapid or blitz games to determine the winner. The total prize money at stake is $1.6 million and the two will qualify to the next candidates' tournament.
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