Tag: 2017

London Chess Classic FIDE Open: So close yet so far

Thumbnail photo by Maria Emelianova/ Chess.com

London Chess Classic has been traditionally creating a wonderful chess environment for players, it is a perfect platform for young and upcoming talents. There are simultaneous exhibitions, Grandmaster lectures and of course world’s top class players contending in Grand Chess Tour.  It’s always an honour to play next to the elite.

Nihal started the London Chess Classic FIDE Open on a good note. Here are few pictures showcasing the environment.

GM Jon Speelman playing simul exhibition
Nihal loves comics. Naturally, he was pleased to see Asterix chess pieces.
Intriguing wooden chess-set. Who doesn’t want to start playing right away?
Nihal with the legendary John Nunn.  Dr. Nunn is a grandmaster, three-time world champion in chess problem solving, a chess writer and publisher, and a mathematician. He is one of England’s strongest chess players and was formerly in the world’s top ten.

The FIDE Open was a pretty strong tournament, Nihal started off as a 22nd seeded player.

First four rounds ended in little “Taz’s” favour.

Second round game against WIM Yuan Yuanling. Photo: Lennart Ootes

The fourth game kept him in hooks as he was paired against top-seeded player—GM Hrant Melkumyan. Hrant showed his strength and class to take home the point. Nevertheless, playing the game proved to be a valuable experience.

“Red Sweater” the new nickname from his regular chess followers.  Photo: Lennart Ootes

The sixth round game was against compatriot Raja Harshit.  Nihal fared well with white.


The second GM norm is so close yet so far. At the end of sixth round, he needed 2 points to score the norm but luck has not been in his favour.  The seventh and eight rounds were tough and at the same time crucial. All three games ended in a draw. Nonetheless, these are his favourite games of the tournament.

On a positive note, the European trip ended with the thirteen-year-old collecting a bunch of rating points. His live rating is 2517!


What next?

Nihal is back in India. He is currently playing the World Youth  U16 Olympiad— his second tournament on home soil this year, the previous one was  ChessMine Rapid & Blitz in August. His teammates are Praggnananadhaa, Aryan Chopra, Vaishali and Iniyan.

Team India Green

Northern Lights Open 2017: Nihal misses GM norm again

Young prodigy IM Nihal Sarin played the Northern Lights Open between 10th November to 15 November 2017 in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Iceland is a special place for Nihal, because he gets to relive the moments of Bobby Fischer vs. Spassky Matches, World Chess Championship 1972. Right from the early years of playing chess, Fischer’s games have always been an inspiration for Nihal.  And his style is something Nihal feels to emulate in his games.

“I’m happy to be back here in Iceland.”

The temperature was -10 °C . Every day, the chilly atmosphere was a challenge off the board.  But the challenges on the board kept him going forward.

The opening speech by Mr Gunnar Bjornsson / Photo:  Northern Lights Open

The organization was excellent; heartfelt thanks to Gunnar Bjornsson, the enthusiastic organizer of Northern Lights Open, and also, a very humble down-to-earth person.

Spacious and comfortable tournament hall / Photo: Northern Lights Open

Nihal was close to achieving his second GM norm but he missed it by a whisker. On a good note, his live Elo rating has pumped up to 2497, just three more points away from magical 2500 mark!

The first round ended in a draw / Photo: Northern Lights Open

Nihal managed to stay undefeated throughout the event. All nine rounds were equally challenging and exciting but 6th round game remains his favorite.

Black was pressing on the Kingside throughout the game. Nihal had to come up with creative counter play to end the game in his favor.

Click Here to watch the game

Score card

This tournament has been a great learning experience. Nihal is already looking forward to coming back (hopefully, as a GM) next year for more exciting chess!

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.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.