Category: Tournaments

Chess.com IOM Final: Nihal misses 2nd GM norm

This evening Nihal was paired against Armenian Grandmaster Gabriel Sargissian, in the last and final round of Chess.com Isle of Man. Nihal gave his all in the game, however, his opponent’s experience triumphed over the unseasoned 13-year-old’s moves. Consequently, losing this game came with a cost of missing his second GM norm.

The game started with Queen’s pawn opening, and Black opted for Queen’s Indian setup. After both Kings castled, the tension began on the center with White threatening to checkmate Black’s King by trying to elevate the f6 knight. In the commentator’s box, GM Peter Leko hailed 15..c5 as a brave move and praised Nihal for his mature positional understanding.

Photo: chess.com/ Maria Emelianova

Tension on the board reached a peak point when Nihal sacrificed a pawn on c4 and this time Black was the one who threatens mate on White’s kingside. However, the Armenian GM played skillfully and Queens were off the board. Nihal went into an opposite-colored bishop ending with a pawn down. After making few inaccurate moves, Nihal succumbed to a loss.

Chess.com IOM Rd. 05: An Oversight that cost dearly

After a loss to Adhiban yesterday, Nihal was paired against Konstantin Kavutskiy of U.S.A in the fifth round of Chess.com Isle of Man, Douglas.

Kostya at the 2016 Autumn Invitational U.S.A, Photo by Aman Hambleton

According to his bio, IM Kostya Kavutskiy is a professional chess player, author, and coach currently residing in Mountain View, California. His first book, Modernized: The Open Sicilian, was published in February 2015.

Kostya chose Nimzo-Indian Opening: 6.g3 setup. The fight was mostly in the center until Nihal began to slyly advance his pawns on Kingside. The grueling 6 hours of play (for the second consecutive day!) took a toll on Nihal as he missed to grab a pawn with 31..Rxc4, in immense time-trouble. Kostya swiftly defended the c4 pawn and Nihal’s attack on the Kingside began to collapse.

This oversight dearly caused Nihal to resign on move 72.  Indeed, a heartbreaking loss in the toughest Open tournament in the world.

Chess.com IOM Rd.04 : Nihal loses to Adhiban after Six Hours of Battle

Photos by Maria Emelianova

Nihal faced GM Adhiban Baskaran in the fourth round. Both were reasonably well placed in the tournament with 2.0/4 and Adhiban was determined to propel himself in the standings.

Nihal chose English symmetrical opening against his Indian counterpart.  After 7. e4,  Adhiban maneuvered his f6 Knight to e8-c7-e6 to seize control the d4 hole.

At the outset, the game was looking roughly equal but Adhiban, known for his aggressive style, kept on pressing to squeeze the advantage in the middlegame. He based his strategy around the d4 square. Slowly but steadily he placed his pieces to gain complete control in the center.

Nihal used all his resources to activate his pieces, soon major pieces were off the board. The black knight overpowered the white bishop in a classic example of a good knight against the bad bishop. Though he kept defending as if his life depended on it, Nihal was forced into resignation move 64 after six hours of battle.

Chess.com IOM Rd.3: “Somehow I just got lucky and saved it!”

Photo and Video by Maria Emelianova

Nihal went into round three with a respectable 1.5/2 and was up against the legendary Israeli Grandmaster Emil Sutovsky.

Emil is one of the most creative chess players alive and is also the President of the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP). He is also well known as the second of Gata Kamsky and helped him in his World Cup campaign in 2007 (Kamsky won). He is most famous for his dazzling game against GM Daniel Gormally from the 2005 Gibraltar Masters.

After the pairings came out, the question was what would Nihal choose to defend against Emil’s 1.e4. Nihal’s first reaction was to take the fight to his opponent and play a sharp battle in a Sicilian, or a French or a Caro-Kann, all of which Nihal has played several times in the past.

However, it soon dawned upon him that playing for two results in a ‘barren battlefield’, where Sutovsky will not have too many chances to let his creativity flourish, would give him more chances. And hence, the Berlin Defence was summoned!

“I did not know the opening,” Nihal admitted after the game and that explains why he was 40 minutes behind Sutovsky on the clock. However, in the late middle-game, Sutovsky slumped to deep thought on several occasions entering time trouble himself.

Sutovsky was not happy about missing 30. f3 after Nihal went astray with 28…Qc3, with both players under time pressure (Nihal was down to the last minute while Sutovsky had five-six). But then on, Nihal played precisely to create threats and there was nothing better than a perpetual.

“Somehow I just got lucky and saved it,” observed Nihal, succinctly.

Watch the game with analysis by Shailesh Dravid:

Chess.com IOM Rd.2: Najdorf against Thilakarathne GMH of Sri Lanka

Photo & Video by Maria Emelianova

The Isle of Man Masters 2017 teed off with some interesting moments as the first round pairings were completely random. While this saw some lopsided clashes, there were some interesting battles as well–Vladimir Kramnik lost to Fabiano Caruana, for example. Nihal had the black pieces against GM Varuzhan Akobian and he accepted the draw offer as he has nothing better to do.

In the second game, Nihal played Thilakarthne GMH of Sri Lanka, rated 2053. Thilakarathne is one of the upcoming talents from the Island nation is a big hope for the country (he is aged 14).

Sicilian Najdorf, Harry Attack? Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova

Before the pairings came out, Nihal was seriously considering if it was a wise idea to play 1.h4 or some other weird thing like the Crab Juice Opening (1.a4, 2.Ra3, 3. Re3). After the pairings came out, common sense prevailed and he decided to play h4. But on the sixth move.

It was a Sicilian Najdorf with 6.h4. “It looks innocuous but is more interesting than that,” said Nihal about his opening. The players eventually reached an opposite coloured bishop middlegame where Nihal had all the tools he needed to put pressure on Black. “We both went below 1 minute on the clock, but I was not worried–I just had to find the win,” he said about the finish.