Adhiban: From Challenger to Master – part two

by ChessBase
2/24/2016 – In the first part Indian GM B. Adhiban took us on a journey where, through powerful play, he was able to wrest the sole lead in the Challengers’ Group of this year’s Tata Steel tournament. In the second half things were not at all easy for the Indian youngster, as he grovelled to make a draw in many inferior positions. The second half showed Adhiban's real character – tough, strong with a never-say-die spirit.

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The 78th Tata Steel Chess Tournament took place from January 15 to 31, 2016, in the coastal village of Wijk aan Zee, North Holland. It was one of the most prestigious events in the international chess calendar. The tournament had two main player groups, each with 14 players: the Tata Steel Masters and the Tata Steel Challengers. The former was won by World Champion Magnus Carlsen, the latter by Indian GM Adhiban Baskaran.

Adhiban sent us a detailed account of his exploits in Wijk, with some superb game annotations. The two-part series on his victory will give you an insight into the mind of one of the best emerging talents in the world. Read part one here.

From a Challenger to a Master – part two

By GM Adhiban Baskaran

This is how the standings looked after seven rounds:

After taking over the lead comes the tricky part of maintaining it until the end, and also overcoming one obstacle after another. Definitely it was going to push my abilities to the limit, but luckily I had seen a nice quote which instantly became my desktop wallpaper: “You will only know your limits if you push yourself to them!”

Editorial note: Before you continue with Adhiban on his round by round journey we would like to let you know that the 23-year-old Indian has sent us some extremely meticulously annotated games from the first seven rounds, including training questions. For all those who have ChessBase software installed on your computer, (and those don’t can always use the free ChessBase reader) you can download the CBV file here and solve the training questions. We thoroughly recommend doing this and are of the opinion that this exercise will make you stronger by at least by 50 Elo points!

R8: Erwin l’Ami - B. Adhiban

First obstacle was in the form Erwin L’Ami. I used an idea which I had already played last year and got a very decent position out of the opening, since he hadn’t checked my games (!). But when the position was around equal I got too ambitious and almost lost the game. Luckily, I managed to pull through in the end and wriggled out with a draw.

Erwin l’Ami-B. Adhiban

White to play

If it was my move I would have blocked the kingside with …f5 over here. But it is White’s turn to play. Erwin couldn’t find the right move in the game, but Moiseenko came up with the right idea in the post-game conference.

[Event "Tata Steel Challengers"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.01.24"] [Round "8"] [White "L'Ami, Erwin"] [Black "Adhiban, B."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D31"] [WhiteElo "2627"] [BlackElo "2653"] [Annotator "Adhiban,B"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2n2k2/4rp2/1p3rp1/p1pPR2p/P1P2P1P/3BR1P1/6K1/8 b - - 0 40"] [PlyCount "18"] 40... Rd6 $1 {[%cal Rf7f5] Preparing f5 and completely locking down the kingside.} {[%tqu "Can you find the win for white?","","",f5,"Losing some more advantage.",0,g4,"",15,Kf3,"I thought this was the best winning attempt.",0]} 41. f5 $6 {Losing some more advantage.} ({I thought I had it covered and was confident about holding it, until in the post-mortem Moiseenko came up with} 41. g4 $1 hxg4 42. Kg3 {So easy!} f5 (42... Rdd7 43. Kxg4 {looks quite sad.}) 43. h5 $18) {[%tqu "White still has the advantage but find the strongest defence for black?","","",Rf6,"",0,Rxe5,"was probably more accurate since it takes one move less for the knight to reach d6.",10]} 41... Rf6 $6 (41... Rxe5 $5 {was probably more accurate since it takes one move less for the knight to reach d6.} 42. Rxe5 Rf6 {[%cal Gc8d6] with a possible fortress, although White can keep trying.}) 42. Rxe7 Nxe7 43. fxg6 fxg6 44. Rf3 Kg7 {Avoiding any d6 tricks.} (44... Kf7 45. d6 Nf5 46. Bxf5 gxf5 47. Rd3 $16) {[%tqu "White has one final chance to gain the advantage!","","",Re3,"",0,Rxf6,"",10]} 45. Re3 ({ Apparently White was still winning after} 45. Rxf6 Kxf6 46. d6 Nf5 (46... Nc6 47. d7) 47. Bxf5 gxf5 48. Kf3 Ke6 49. Kf4 $18) 45... Kf7 46. Re2 Nc8 $1 { [%cal Gc8d6]} 47. Rb2 Ke7 {[%cal Ge7d6]} 48. Re2+ Kf7 49. Rb2 1/2-1/2

R9: Adhiban–Jorden van Foreest

Next up was Jorden van Foreest, and I had the white pieces along with a full rest day to prepare against him. But unfortunately such things give rise to too many false hopes: I ran into big trouble and couldn’t save the game. But my nearest contender Eltaj Safarli (who was trailing me by half a point) drew his encounter. So I was still in the lead with him and we were due to meet in the next round. A battle which would decide the fate of the event!

[Event "Tata Steel Challengers"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.01.26"] [Round "9"] [White "Adhiban, B."] [Black "Van Foreest, Jorden"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A40"] [WhiteElo "2653"] [BlackElo "2541"] [Annotator "Adhiban,B"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r2q1rk1/pp1b1ppp/2n1pn2/5P2/PpBP3N/4P3/1P4PP/R1BQ1RK1 w - - 0 15"] [PlyCount "16"] 15. Bd2 $2 {Missing a basic tactic!} (15. b3 {was better.}) {[%tqu "White just missed a easy tactic, can you spot it and also humiliate me?","","",exf5,"",10] } 15... exf5 16. Bd3 (16. Nxf5 Bxf5 17. Rxf5 Nxd4 18. Rxf6 Qxf6 19. Bxb4 { was finally equal is what I thought until I saw} Rfc8 $1) 16... g6 17. Nxf5 $5 {An interesting practical decision, but more out of desperation than inspiration!} Bxf5 18. Bxf5 gxf5 19. Rxf5 Qe7 {[%tqu "Black threatens Ne4 how would you prevent it?","","",Qf3,"",10]} 20. Qf3 Ne4 {[%tqu "I hope you saw the continuation...","","",Bxb4,"",10]} 21. Bxb4 $1 Qxb4 (21... Nxb4 22. Re5) 22. Qxe4 Rae8 {But even after missing this Bb4 tactic Black is just clearly better.} 0-1

A loss in such a crucial round is never a good feeling

Overcoming the limits!

When you are playing a great event it will look like everything is going your way and a loss can seriously dampen your spirits. A defeat can be the turning point and affect your play in the remaining games. The simplest thing to do is to accept that you have lost the game and concentrate on what’s coming next. You cannot change the past but you can control your future! And for me the easiest way to forget a loss is to win the next game. As simple as that!

It had all boiled down to the crucial tenth round which also played an important role in the standings. But by now I had learnt my lesson that focusing too much on the standings does more harm than good.

R10: B. Adhiban–Eltaj Safarli

With wins over Antipov, Bok, Sevian and Haast, Eltaj Safarli was having a great tournament

My opening choice Trompowsky was quite double edged. It could have gone either way. A fighting position was all I was looking for, and that is what I was able to get. It was a long grind, and although there were many ups and downs it was one of my best games in the event. And that, my friends, is how you forget a loss!

I have annotated the game in quite some detail below, but here is a nice position to test your
calculation on the method of exclusion. What is the only way for White to win in the above diagram?

[Event "Tata Steel Challengers"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.01.27"] [Round "10"] [White "Adhiban, B."] [Black "Safarli, Eltaj"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A45"] [WhiteElo "2653"] [BlackElo "2653"] [Annotator "Adhiban,B"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5rk1/4qnpp/Q7/1p1Ppp2/1Pp5/2P1PN1P/6P1/4R1K1 b - - 0 28"] [PlyCount "56"] 28... Qd7 (28... Nd6 29. Ra1 $1 {Finally I decided upon this, with intiative on the queenside, and Black will need some time to create something in the centre or on the kingside.} (29. Ng5 {[%cal Gg5e6] was the first try but after} Qxg5 30. Qxd6 Qg3 {White has to think about equalising.})) 29. Qe6 Rd8 { [%tqu "Find the strongest continuation for white.","","",e4,"I was able to find this nice resource which keeps the fight going on!",10,Ra1,"",0,Ng5,"was my main idea but totally forgot about",0]} 30. e4 $1 {I was able to find this nice resource which keeps the fight going on!} (30. Ra1) (30. Ng5 {was my main idea, but I totally forgot about} Qxd5 31. Qxf5 Nxg5 {is totally toothless.}) 30... fxe4 31. Rxe4 Qxd5 (31... Kf8 $1 {was the clearest way to equalise.} 32. Nxe5 Qxd5 33. Qf5 (33. Nxf7 Qxe6 34. Rxe6 Kxf7 35. Re5 Rd3 $11) 33... g6 34. Qf6 Rd6 35. Qf4 g5 36. Qf5 Kg7 37. Qxf7+ Qxf7 38. Nxf7 Kxf7 39. Re5 Rd3 $11) 32. Rxe5 {Thanks to this resource I am able to maintain a slight pull.} Qxe6 33. Rxe6 Kf8 34. Nd4 Rd5 (34... Nd6 35. Re5 Rb8 36. Rd5 Rb6 37. Kf1 {[%cal Gf1e1,Ge1d1,Gd1c2] with a strong grip.}) 35. Rc6 Ke7 36. Rc7+ Kf6 (36... Ke8 $5 {I wasn't sure how to proceed so I just decided to improve my king.} 37. Kf1 { with a nice advantage thanks to superior pieces.} (37. Rc5 Rxc5 38. bxc5 Kd7) ( 37. Rb7 Nd6 38. Rxg7 Ne4)) 37. Rb7 Nd6 38. Rd7 Rxd4 $5 (38... Ke5 39. Kf1 $1 { The black pieces are stuck.}) 39. cxd4 Ke6 40. Rc7 $1 {Not the accursed 40th move! It is only if you let it be!} (40. Rxg7 c3 {Surprisingly the knight is very strong here.} 41. Rg5 Nf5 $1 {This was the line which put me off from taking on g7, otherwise everything was totally under control.} 42. d5+ Kf6 43. Rg8 Nd6) 40... Ne4 41. Kf1 Kd6 42. Rc8 $5 {looked like the simplest, maintaining control over the c-file.} (42. Ra7 Kd5 43. Rd7+ {I thought would lead to the same.}) 42... Kd5 43. Rd8+ Kc6 44. d5+ Kc7 45. Re8 Nc3 46. Re7+ Kd6 47. Rxg7 Na2 48. Ke2 Nxb4 49. Rxh7 Nxd5 50. h4 b4 51. h5 b3 {[%tqu "Find the only move to keep a winning advantage.","","",Rb7,"",0,Kd1,"I missed this nice defensive idea only looking at Kd2.",10]} 52. Rb7 $2 (52. Kd1 $1 $18 {I missed this nice defensive idea only looking at Kd2.}) 52... Nf4+ $138 {My opponent was down to seconds here with 8 moves to make the third time control.} (52... Kc6 {was quite simple.} 53. Rb8 Kc7 {and now I make a draw with} 54. Rxb3 cxb3 55. Kd3 $11) 53. Ke3 Nxh5 54. Kd4 Nf4 55. g4 Nd3 $4 {The final error, after which there is no comeback.} (55... Nd5 $1 56. g5 c3 $11) 56. g5 {Finally after many adventures I got a clear winning position!} 1-0

Seeing it through to the end

So the lead was back and I had to face another strong challenge in the form of Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu (who was the top seed of the event). I lost a pawn straight out of the opening and didn’t have much compensation for it. But when you are pushed to the wall either you crumble or fight back! I chose the latter and luckily for me I was able to save a lost endgame!


Black to play – What exactly is White threatening? A strong prophylactic
thinker will not take too much time to find Black’s move here.

[Event "78th Tata Steel GpB"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2016.01.29"] [Round "11.2"] [White "Nisipeanu, Liviu-Dieter"] [Black "Adhiban, Baskaran"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B50"] [WhiteElo "2679"] [BlackElo "2653"] [Annotator "Adhiban,B"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/5kP1/1pr4K/1R6/5P2/8/8 w - - 0 54"] [PlyCount "16"] [EventDate "2016.01.16"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "NED"] [EventCategory "13"] 54. Kh6 Rf5 $1 55. f4 $2 {A most natural but decisive mistake, after which I can save the game with a study like defence!} ({Just when I thought I had made a draw, I found this amazing resource. As it turns out in the post mortem analysis, even this move is drawn.} 55. Rg4 $1 Rxf3 56. Kh7 Rh3+ 57. Kg8 b4 $1 (57... Kf5 $2 {This was my inspired defence, but it loses to} 58. g7 $18) 58. g7 b3 59. Rf4+ Ke7 60. Rf7+ Ke6 61. Kf8 Rg3 62. g8=Q Rxg8+ 63. Kxg8 Kd5 $11) 55... Rd5 $1 {It is important to prevent a Rd4-d6 plan.} 56. Rb1 Rd8 $1 (56... Rd2 57. Rxb5 $18) 57. g7 Rd3 $1 {Now this is much stronger, since White can't capture the b5-pawn anymore.} 58. g8=N+ Kf5 59. Rb4 (59. Rf1 {was winning on the spot (or so I thought)! But the computer disagrees as usual.} b4 $1 (59... Rd4 60. Ne7+ Kf6 61. Ng6 $18) 60. Kg7 (60. Ne7+ {achieves nothing due to} Kf6) 60... Rd7+ $1 (60... b3 61. Ne7+) 61. Kf8 b3 62. Nh6+ Ke4 (62... Kf6 63. Ng4+ Kf5 64. Ne5 Rb7 {is a more complicated draw.}) 63. Ng4 Ra7 $1 {[%cal Gb3b2]} 64. f5 b2 {with a easy draw.}) 59... Re3 $1 {Now White can't hold onto his pawn anymore! A miraculous escape!} 60. Rd4 Re4 61. Rd5+ (61. Rxe4 Kxe4 62. Kg5 b4 63. f5 b3 64. f6 b2 65. f7 b1=Q 66. f8=Q {I thought would have been more fun.}) 61... Kxf4 {and we drew after some time.} 1/2-1/2

I was happy to survive such a game but little did I know, I would have defend another lost position in the very next game due to my over ambitious play!

R12: Adhiban–Nino Batsiashvili

4.Bg5!? in the footsteps of Boris Spassky! But it wasn’t a particularly good idea on that particular day

And that’s exactly what happened. Another miraculous save and I was still sharing the lead as Dreev also drew (thanks to Abasov this time – a friend in need is a friend indeed!)


H.O.P.E = Hold on pain ends! You are in a desperate situation. The position is completely lost
but you need to put up the maximum resistance here. What will you play as White?

[Event "78th Tata Steel GpB"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2016.01.30"] [Round "12.4"] [White "Adhiban, Baskaran"] [Black "Batsiashvili, Nino"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E31"] [WhiteElo "2653"] [BlackElo "2485"] [Annotator "Adhiban,B"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4R3/8/3p1k2/2pP2p1/2P2pb1/8/5K2/8 b - - 0 50"] [PlyCount "12"] [EventDate "2016.01.16"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "NED"] [EventCategory "13"] 50... Bh3 {[%tqu "White can force a draw now, can you find how?","","",Kf3, "Literally forcing her to improve the placement of the bishop.",0,Rf8+,"It was high time to launch the rook attack since the bishop is placed on the worse square possible!",10]} 51. Kf3 $6 {Literally forcing her to improve the placement of the bishop.} (51. Rf8+ $1 {It was high time to launch the rook attack, since the bishop is placed on the worst square possible!} Ke5 52. Re8+ Kd4 (52... Kf6 53. Rf8+ $11) 53. Re6 g4 54. Rxd6 g3+ 55. Kf3 Bf5 56. Re6 { with an easy draw.}) 51... Bf5 (51... Bf1 {would be very bad due to} 52. Kg4) 52. Re1 {I need to prevent the king from entering the queenside via e5, since the bishop is really on the best square available.} (52. Rf8+ Ke5 53. Re8+ Kd4 54. Re6 Kxc4 55. Rxd6 Kd4 {and Black wins the d5-pawn and I think Black should be winning here.}) 52... Bd7 $1 (52... Bd3 53. Kg4 {is the simplest, forcing} Bf5+ 54. Kf3 {returning to the game position.}) 53. Ke4 $1 {Preventing Kf5.} ( 53. Re2 Kf5 $1 {It is suicidal to allow the black king to support the advance of the pawns.} 54. Re7 g4+ 55. Kf2 Bc8 $1 (55... Ba4 56. Re6 (56. Rf7+ $1 Ke5 57. Re7+ $11) 56... g3+ 57. Kg2 Bc2 58. Rxd6 Kg4 {and the pawns roll on!}) 56. Re8 Ba6 57. Rf8+ Ke4 58. Re8+ Kd3 $17) 53... Bg4 $1 {Catching the king and putting White in a difficult situation, since moving the rook from e-file would allow penetration and also moving the king away from the pawns cannot be a good idea! So once you put through all these things you hit upon...} 54. Re2 $3 {Definitely one of the most beautiful moves I have ever played! A study like defence! And importantly I keep my control of the e5-square.} Bf5+ (54... Bxe2 {is one of the prettiest stalemate position I have seen so far, at least in my games!}) (54... Bh5 55. Re1 {Maintaining the position.}) (54... Bh3 $1 55. Kf3 Kf5 56. Re6 {Since the bishop is badly placed on h3 it is time to go after the pawns.} g4+ 57. Kf2 g3+ 58. Kf3 Bf1 59. Rxd6 {(I was confident that this was a draw)} Bd3 $1 {(As usual the computer laughs at my calculations)} ( 59... Bxc4 60. Rd8 {with a draw.}) 60. Re6 Bxc4 $19) 55. Kf3 Bh3 56. Re8 $1 { and I brought home the half-point!} 1/2-1/2

So it was time to take stock, as these last two games were really not up to my standards. What exactly was happening? I can’t claim it was due to the loss, since I came back in the next round itself. I had to ask myself, “So what was the real reason?” It was always the lead and the standings which was the culprit! I just forgot about it and focused on only making the best moves in the last game of the tournament.

R13: Samuel Sevian-Adhiban

Funnily the only person whose style I didn’t understand a bit, during my preparations before the event, was Samuel Sevian. Somehow his repertoire is very misleading. Hence, my trainer and I discussed a couple of things about him when I was in Chennai. I mean out of all the 13 players why him specifically? As things turned out, those few minutes of discussion on Sevian’s playing style played the most important role in my path to winning the Tata Steel Challengers! Coincidence or Destiny? I like to think it was the latter!

Samuel Sevian is not a guy to be messed with!

Before the start of the round I was tied with the same score as Dreev and half a point ahead of Safarli. In case of equal points I had the best tiebreak, as I had beaten both of them.

Samuel tried an interesting idea in the Najdorf, 6.Bg5, but I was able to get a highly promising position. He defended tenaciously and got a defensive fortress. I was quite disappointed that it didn’t turn out the way I had wanted, but then I remembered what my coach had told me way back in 2008: ”You don’t have to do all the job, you can count on friends to deliver when it is needed and help you out!” So I got up to see the other crucial game Admiraal-Dreev, and great was my surprise when I saw that Miguoel was playing his best game of the entire event! He was clearly in the driver’s seat and it was Dreev who was fighting for a draw! I smiled to myself and returned back to my game and decided to continue until things became more clear in Dreev’s game. Soon they drew and that meant it was time to offer a draw, which Sevian immediately accepted (sparing me some anxious moments where you wait for your opponent’s reaction).

[Event "78th Tata Steel GpB"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2016.01.31"] [Round "13.5"] [White "Sevian, Samuel"] [Black "Adhiban, Baskaran"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B94"] [WhiteElo "2578"] [BlackElo "2653"] [Annotator "Adhiban,B"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r3k2r/5p2/p2R1bpp/2n1p3/1p2bP2/5NP1/PPP3BP/2K4R w kq - 0 20"] [PlyCount "4"] [EventDate "2016.01.16"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "NED"] [EventCategory "13"] 20. Rxf6 {[%tqu "With two strong moves black can take over, Can you find it?", "","",exf4,"",10]} exf4 $1 21. Rxf4 {[%tqu "How to prevent white from coordinating his pieces and also take advantage of the badly placed rook on f4? ","","",Rc8,"Now white is in a difficult situation since the threat to c2 is not easy to defend against.",10]} Rc8 $1 {Now White is in a difficult situation since the threat to c2 is not easy to defend against.} 1/2-1/2

That moment when you know you have done the job but try and contain your excitement!

Receiving the winner’s trophy

Looking forward to crossing swords with Magnus in January 2017! [Click on image for high-res version]

It didn’t strike me immediately what I had achieved. Slowly the realization that I had actually qualified into the Masters next year began to sink in! Following up on the path showed by my great predecessors Harikrishna and Wei Yi I will do my best in Wijk in 2017! I look forward to your support. I would like to dedicate this victory to my father and my coach K. Visweswaran. Both of them have been my pillars of strength.

A huge thanks to Alina l’Ami, who took some amazing pictures
at the event and truly made it memorable for one and all.


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