The Indian teams left for the Batumi Olympiad with high hopes. The return of Viswanathan Anand and Humpy Koneru to the teams after a long gap, and the return of Pentala Harikrishna after a shorter gap, adds firepower. In addition, there are top-class coaches in Ramachandran Ramesh (Open) and Jacob Aagaard (Women’s) and the luggage includes high-end servers to help with analysis.
The class of the “returnees” is unquestioned. But there could be questions about form. Anand’s form has been so-so in his last two classical events. Koneru has taken a two-year break from chess and she’s obviously likely to be rusty. Given that they’re holding the top boards, both will have to produce something approaching their best form.
In a team event, the top boards must go risk-free, as far as possible. Against weaker teams, they can actually look to hold draws and hope for wins scored on lower boards. However, against strong teams, they must try to score. So, paradoxically, they may need to take more risks against stronger opposition since there’s no route to medals without winning the big matches.
Meanwhile, more detail has come through about the Tata Steel India Chess 2018. It’s organised by Game Plan, (which manages the IPL team, Kolkata Knight Riders) and it will be held from November 9-14 in Kolkata across Blitz and Rapid formats. Anand, Harikrishna, Vidit Gujrathi and Surya Shekhar Ganguly will match up against Levon Aronian, Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Wesley So. In addition, the prodigies Nihal Sarin and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu will each play at least one section of the event. It’s great to have a super GM event in India and it should give the young guns some exposure at a level that’s unprecedented for them.
The World Juniors turned into a triumph for Parham Maghsoodloo who won with 9.5 points from 11 and an Elo 2800-plus performance. However, Maghsoodloo lost his last game to Andrey Esipenko, who kept creating pressure in a technical position. On Board two, Abhimanyu Puranik (8.5) beat Aram Hakobyan (7.5) in a clutch game to take the silver, with a 2640 performance. Aleksandra Maltsevskaya (8.5) of Russia won the girls section.
The Diagram, White to play, (White: Aram Hakobyan Vs Black: Abhimanyu Puranik, World Junior 2018) is a key last round position. White may pull back with 51. Kf5 but he chose to commit to 51. Kf7 Nxe6 52.Nxe6 c5 53.Kf6 Kd5 54.Kf5 c4 55.Nf4+?[ There’s a draw with 55.Nc7+! Kd4 56.Nb5+ Kc5 57.Nc3 Kb4 58.Ke4 Kb3 59.Kd4 Kxb2 60.Kxc4 a3 61.Na4+ Kc2 62.Nc3 Kb2 63.Na4+]
Now black wins with 55...Kd4 56.Kg4 Ke3 57.Nd5+ Kd3 58.Kxh4 Kc2 59.Ne3+ Kxb2 60.Nxc4+ Kc3 61.Na3 Kb3 62.Nb5 a3 63.Nxa3 Kxa3 64.Kg5 a4 65.h4 Kb4 0–1 [The queen a1 controls h8]
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player