Tournament leaders doubled from three to six after the sixth round of the Reykjavik Open. Co-leaders, Mustafa Yilmaz and Alexander Lendermann, who were facing each other in Round 6, fought it out for 67 moves but had to remain content with splitting a point after only kings remained on the board.
The third co-leader, Nihal Sarin also could not do better than scoring a draw in this round against five-time US champion Gata Kamsky. Kamsky, with the black pieces, essayed the King’s Indian Defence to counter Sarin’s 1.d4. Sarin responded with the Four Pawns Attack and got a broad central pawn formation. As a result of his opening choice, Sarin did get a nice space advantage. However, Kamsky, it seemed, was in absolutely no mood to exchange any pawns. Minor pieces, however, were exchanged. Right after the opening, Kamsky closed the position on all sides of the board and neither side had any chance of penetrating into the enemy camp as a result. After shuffling pieces back and forth for a few moves, the players agreed to sign for peace on move 30.
There was a 12-player field hot on the heels of the leaders sharing second place with only a half-point difference in score. It was but natural then that three more players – B Adhiban, Richard Rapport and Maxim Lagarde – joined the leaders after Sarin, Yilmaz and Lendermann drew their games.
Adhiban, who had started slowly with two draws in his first three games, won his third game in a row, in Round 6. Playing with the white pieces against American Grand Master Alejandro Ramirez, Adhiban scored a nice and quick win in just 27 moves. Ramirez played the opening quite ambitiously, deploying the Benko Gambit and pushed hard to gain the initiative. This, however, backfired as Ramirez had ignored his development and had asked for king safety in doing this.
Adhiban reacted in a masterly fashion to refute this overambitious play of his opponent. Having developed all his pieces, Adhiban caught the black king at the centre and launched a monstrous attack. By the 27th move, Ramirez was about to suffer a ruinous loss of material and decided to throw in the towel.
Another player inching towards the top spots is International Master R Praggnanandhaa. After his loss against Grand Master Alexander Lenderman in Round 5, the 12-year-old from Chennai has come back strongly, scoring two straight wins in his next couple of games. In Round 6, he was pitted against Icelandic FIDE Master Vignir Vatnar Stefansson. With the black pieces, Pragganandhaa went for the reversed Sicilian setup against his opponent’s English Opening. Out of the opening, Praggnanandhaaa gained space in the centre with his pawns and, as play progressed, was able to plant a bishop deep into his opponent’s position.
A queen trade by Stefansson on the 22nd turn gave Praggnanandhaa a strong passed pawn in the centre. Not to mention, the latter’s rook activity had also posed some difficult questions to his opponent. Stefansson tried bailing out by liquidating into an endgame but he lost two pawns in the process. The rest of the game was a cakewalk for Praggnanandhaa. By the 57th move, he had won a full piece and forced his opponent to resign.
In the next round, Praggnanandhaa will be playing the 2,613-rated Russian Grand Master Konstantin Landa. A good result in this game will not only help his tournament standing but will also play a big role in pushing him closer to one of the two Grand Master norms he has been chasing since the past two years. As of now, with this sixth round win, Praggnanandhaa has moved up to the joint second spot on the leaderboard and is only half-a-point behind the tournament leaders.
With just three rounds to go, the tournament is still wide open. Not only are there six players tied for the first place, there are also another 16 players just half-a-point behind on 4.5/6. Furthermore, one cannot discount the 27 players sharing third place with a score of 4.0/6. They might be a full point behind the leaders but with three more rounds to go, there have much more than a mathematical chance of catching up and contending for the top prize.
Aditya Pai is an editor at ChessBase India
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Updated Date: Mar 12, 2018 17:50:56 IST