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: