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).
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.