FIDE World Cup 2017: Viswanathan Anand unhurried in easy round one win, P Harikrishna suffers shock defeat
Anand looked relaxed and comfortable and his opponent choosing the Alapin Sicilian did not pose him too many problems. He came out of the opening without any difficulty.
For Indian chess fans, World Cup 2017 is a tournament to look forward to with great excitement. We have Viswanathan Anand leading from the front. It always a pleasure to see the five-time world champion in action.
In the tournament hall in Hotel Hualing in Tbilisi, Georgia, if you just walk a few steps from where Anand is playing, you see the only other Indian who has ever crossed 2,750 – Pentala Harikrishna. A few more boards later, you come across the newest addition in the 2,700 club, Vidit Gujrathi. And if that was not enough, you also have the 'Beast from Chennai', B Adhiban, the former Asian Champion SP Sethuraman and two nearly-2,600 Grand Masters Deep Sengupta and Karthikeyan Murali. It's quite a formidable contingent if you ask me. However, when it comes to tournaments where there is maximum pressure involved, after the World Championship and Candidates, it has to be the World Cup. One wrong move and you can be sent home packing. Such is the format.
Gujrathi put it perfectly, "When you play the Olympiad there is pressure, because you are fighting for your country. Yet, it is a team event and if something goes wrong in your game, you have someone else to cover it up. But in the World Cup, each one fights for himself. Everything depends on you. And this surely brings fair bit of pressure." The important thing in such a scenario is to get off to a good start. Four Indians look to have started well, while three have not.
The strong performers:
The only Indian player who won his game on Sunday was Anand. His opponent was the Malaysian No 1 Yeoh Li Tian. Anand came to the board in his orange and white shirt, which we have seen in numerous events before.
He looked relaxed and comfortable and his opponent choosing the Alapin Sicilian did not pose him too many problems. He came out of the opening without any difficulty. But it's one thing to get to an equal position with black and quite another to start pressing for a win. The conversion of a slight edge to a full point would not have been easy, but Yeoh made Anand's task simpler by giving up his queen in the hope of forming a fortress. But Anand used the powerful endgame weapon Zugwang and won without too many hassles.
Here's Anand speaking to us after his win over Yeoh Li Tian:
Although Yeoh lost the game, getting an opportunity to battle a five-time world champion is surely a life changing experience.
Elsewhere, Ukraine's Ruslan Ponomariov offered Sethuraman a draw after just 16 moves. This was a good result for the Indian who had the black pieces and has the ability to push for a win with white on Monday. Also the final position would have been favourable for white had Ponomariov found the key resource with move g3. In general, experienced players like Ponomariov like to feel their way into the tournament and do not want things to go out of hand. But knowing what a dangerous opening theoretician Sethuraman is, it might be a dangerous decision for the Ukrainian to settle for such an early draw. Only time will tell.
Sethuraman analyses his game against Ponomariov:
Like Sethuraman, Adhiban also drew his game against Nguyen Ngoc Truongson with the black pieces. Although Adhiban thinks he plays better with the black pieces, this is still a small moral victory as he will get to use some of the excellent preparation that he has worked with his coach Elizbar Ubilava and try to surprise his opponent with white. The wild card entrant was in good spirits after the game and made sure that he kept himself physically fit by going to the swimming pool and then to the gym. It only shows that Adhiban is determined to stay in Tbilisi for quite a few days.
Here's what Adhiban had to say after drawing his game against Nguyen Ngoc Truongson:
Another Indian player Sengupta was quite the underdog against a strong player like China's Wang Hao, but he did almost everything right on the first day. He chose a solid opening, didn't overstretch, put some pressure on his opponent and at the right moment agreed to a draw. Even though Sengupta had white, a draw is an excellent result for him because this was the first time he is playing at the World Cup. This half-a-point will surely boost his confidence for the second game.
India's big hope Harikrishna was not himself on day one. He played the Petroff and gained a small disadvantage out of the opening. Seeing his opponent's strong bishop on g2 and the plan to open the position with c4-c5, Harikrishna panicked. He burnt all the bridges for some tactical tricks, but the Cuban Grand Master was on top of his game. He simply made no errors and brought home the full point.
Harikrishna's loss was one of the biggest upsets of the tournament. Will he be able to make a comeback? He is in a must win situation and given that he has white pieces now we can surely expect him to beat an opponent who is rated 200 points below him.
Here's Deep Sengupta after his game against Wang Ho:
Players who have catching up to do
Gujrathi, on the other hand, gained an excellent position out of the opening. He was quite upset after the game that he was not able to make most of his chances. His two knights were nicely perched on outposts, while his Paraguayan opponent Neuris Delgado Ramirez's bishops weren't doing much. The 22-year-old blamed move f4 for losing all his positional advantage. After Anand and Harikrishna, Indians have great hopes from Gujrathi as he has shown some excellent form in the past few months.
Gujrathi analyses his game against Neuris Delgado Ramirez:
Murali, the other hand, played passively from the black side of a Catalan-like structure and was punished by Spain's Vallejo Pons who showed good technique to bring home the full point. Murali is a great talent in Indian chess. At the tender age of 17 years, he knocking on the doors of 2,600 Elo ratings and has already been the national champion twice. Will he be able to beat Vallejo with white pieces? If he does that, it would be a fantastic result.
Game two will take place on 4th of September at 16.30 hours and you can follow all the action live here.
Format of the event:
Two games of 40 moves for 90 minutes and an additional 30 minutes after that with 30 seconds of increment for the game.
If the mini-match ends in a draw, the tie-breaks will be held on the third day in the following format:
1) 2 games of 25'+10"
2) 2 games of 10'+10"
3) 2 games of 5'+3"
4) Armageddon with five minutes for the white player and four for the black with no increment until move 60. Three-second increment after that. White must win the game to qualify, while draw favours black.
The author is an International Master and CEO of ChessBase India.
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