CHESS #1345

Vidit Gujrathi had an interesting progression at the Prague Masters. He beat Boris Gelfand in round 2, and he beat David Navara in the ninth and last round, with six draws and a loss to Sam Shankland in between. The score of 5 points (performance rating of 2760 Elo) was enough to take second place behind Nikita Vituigov (5.5). P Harikrishna had a sub-par result with 4 points. 

The individual European Championships have started in Skopje, Macedonia. The top seed is the rising star “Vlad Jr” aka Vladislav Artemiev. The Euro has decent prize money of ^100,000 and 22 qualifying places for the 2019 World Cup, which is a Wimbledon-style 128-player knockout to determine two spots for the 2020 Candidates.

The Petroleum Sports Promotion Board team championships is on at Mangaluru. This is very strong, since with the exception of Viswanathan Anand, almost every top Indian player is on the payroll of some oil PSU. Several of the PSUs have two teams in the fray. 

Team ONGC A has an average Elo of 2644 with Gujrathi, Sasikiran Krishnan, Koneru Humpy, Deep Sengupta and S P Sethuraman. The Team BPCL’s average rating is 2628 with Harikrishna, Abhijeet Gupta, Vaibhav Suri, Gopal G N, and M R Venkatesh, while IOCL has an average Elo of 2621 with Harika, Lalith Babu, Adhiban, Surya Ganguly and Karthikeyan Murali. The “weakest”, IOCL would have been seeded 18 at the last Olympiad.  

It’s a six-round event with accelerated controls (45 minutes +30 seconds increment) and two rounds per day. After four rounds, IOCL A and BPCL are tied at the top with 7 points each. The two leaders have still to clash while ONGC A (6) has played, and drawn both leaders. 

The details of the last round disappointment at the World Team Championships bear repeating in detail. Ganguly was a piece up against Ian Nepomniachtchi from move 20, and somehow allowed the Russian GM to flim-flam a draw in 61 moves. Aravindh Chithambaram forced perpetual check against Dmitry Andreikin in a position where he could have won. Sethuraman was gradually worn down by Grischuk’s determination in an objectively drawn but difficult to defend position. An Indian victory would not only have clinched silver; it would have been the first time an Indian team beat the Russians. 

The Diagram, White to Play 
(White: Aravindh Chithambaram Vs Black: Andreikin, World Teams 2019) is where the teenaged Chennai GM went astray. 

He played 24.Qe3? exf5 25.Rxf5 g6 26.Rxh5 gxh5 27.Qg5+ Kh8 28. Qf6+ Kg8 29. Qg5+ Kh8 30.Qf6+ Kg8 (1/2-1/2). Instead either 24. Qh3! g6 25. f6 Qxc3 26. g4 or 24. Qg5 g6 25. f6 (or 26. g4) wins. The variations aren’t complex.     

Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player

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