Reykjavik Open 2018: Vaibhav Suri takes joint lead; Nihal Sarin, R Praggnanandhaa share 2nd spot with 20 others

Two rounds of classical chess were played on day two of the Aeroflot Open, on Wednesday. At the conclusion of the three rounds, three players – Yilmaz Mustafa, Vaibhav Suri and Elshan Moradiabadi – share the lead with a perfect score of 3.0/3. Half a point behind is the top seed of the tournament, Grand Master Richard Rapport at 2.5/3. But he is not alone on the second spot; he’s sharing it with 21 other players including the second seeded Pavel Eljanov and the third seeded Gata Kamsky.

 Reykjavik Open 2018: Vaibhav Suri takes joint lead; Nihal Sarin, R Praggnanandhaa share 2nd spot with 20 others

Grand Master Vaibhav Suri. Image Courtesy: Jeetendra Choudhary

In both rounds of the day, the top seeds did not seem as immune to losing against lower rated opposition as they did on Wednesday. The biggest upset of the second round was seen in the game between Erwin L’ami and the English International Master Ravi Haria where L’ami, the sixth seed of the tournament missed a back rank tactic and lost the game. In another important game of the second round, International Master Sundarajam Kidambi managed to hold the second seeded Eljanov to a draw.

Sundarajam Kidambi had the black pieces in his game against Eljanov who chose the English opening to kick off the game. In response, Kidambi went for one of the rather aggressive setups, the reversed Closed Sicilian. With his ambitious opening choice, Kidambi was able to open up some files but black’s attack was just not there. On the other hand, Eljanov had posted his knight deep into the black camp and had acquired an advantage in the position. However, Kidambi turned out to be quite resourceful in his defence. Generating an attack on his opponent’s king, Kidambi induced Eljanov into making a couple of errors and saved the position successfully.

Grand Master Midoux Sebastan was facing India’s Suri in the second round and went for a bland variation with the white pieces against his opponent’s French Tarrasch. A major liquidation occurred within the first 20 moves and it looked like this game too was heading towards a draw. However, in the ensuing bishop and knight vs double bishop endgame, Suri managed to carve out a win.

Little geniuses, Nihal Sarin and International Master R Praggnanandhaa also scored their share of upsets in the third round. Both played on the top two boards of the tournament against Richard Rapport and Matthieu Cornett respectively. Both players succeeded in holding their higher rated opponents to a draw.

The game between Richard Rapport and Nihal Sarin kicked off with an Anti-Meran. Both players tried generating an attack against their opponent’s king. While Sarin voluntarily allowed his pawn structure to be shattered to open up a file against the enemy king, Rapport seized the newly opened file with what Aron Nimzowitch, in his days, might have called ‘restricted advance’. Both players succeeded and therefore neutralized each other’s plans. 28th move onward, almost all of the remaining pieces were traded off and a draw was agreed on the 30th move.

As for Praggnanandhaa’s game against Matthieu Cornett, this was just as bland as Rapport against Sarin except that this game featured a Reti Opening unlike the Anti-Meran played in Sarin’s game. Starting on move 23, a series of exchanges rendered the position almost dead drawn by the 30th move. Both sides had a light squared bishop, a knight and six pawns each. With barely any chances for either side, and an almost symmetrical pawn structure, the two decided to sign peace.

The all India encounter between Sundarajam Kidambi and Adhiban Baskaran was also drawn. In this game too, there was a wholesale exchange of pieces in the middlegame that cropped out of a Symmetrical English Opening. Adhiban had an extra pawn after all of the exchanges in the sequence were carried out but this pawn wasn’t there to stay for long in the game. Kidambi was able to recover his pawn fairly easily and the players consequentially reached a position with both sides having a rook and four kingside pawns. At this point, they decided to sign the truce.

The one decisive game amid all of these draws was the one between Grand Master Vaibhav Suri and the American International Master John Bartholomew. Bartholomew, with the black pieces, opted for the Slav Defence to counter Suri’s Queen Pawn opening. After the middlegame skirmishes had fizzled out, the players reached a bishop endgame with four pawns each. On first glance, the position just looked dead equal. However, an important feature of the position was that Bartholomew had a passed pawn while Suri didn’t. On his 34th move, he decided to push the pawn down the board and see how far it goes. Suri, too, began pushing his semi-passed pawn on the queenside to get some counterplay and soon it became a race. Both sides were able to queen their pawns but Bartholmew had to sacrifice a bishop to keep up with the speed. However, despite this, the Indian GM was able to queen first and force a trade of queens again. After this Suri was a full piece up in an endgame with one vs no piece. Bartholomew resigned at this point.

With this win, Suri has put himself in joint first place alongside Yilmaz Mustafa and Elshan Mordiabadi with a score of 3.0/3. Just half a point behind is are Rapport,Sarin, Praggnanandhaa and nineteen other players! With six more rounds to go and so many players both in the lead and within striking distance, the contest is going to be nailbiting.

Updated Date: Mar 10, 2018 18:38:03 IST