Martyn Kravtsiv wins the 1st Gujarat GM Open

by Aditya Pai
10/15/2018 – Ahmedabad, the fifth largest city in India, concluded its first International Grandmaster Open on October 12th. The ten round Swiss league attracted about 250 participants from more than 15 different countries. Although the field included some strong grandmasters, the event was dominated by Indian youngsters for the most part. At the end of ten rounds, the tournament's top seed, GM Martyn Kravtsiv won the event by defeating the overnight leader IM Vignesh NR in the final round. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

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Gujarat International Grandmaster Open 2018

After successfully organizing the World Youth U-16 Olympiad in December, last year, the city of Ahmedabad hosted its first Grandmaster Open from October 5th to 12th. The ten-round Swiss was held at the Karnavati Club with a time control of 90 minutes for the entire game with a 30-second increment from move .

The tournament attracted a total of a total of 250 participants from more than fifteen countries. GM Martyn Kravtsiv from Ukraine was the top seed in the field which included 18 Grandmasters, 24 International Masters and four Women Grandmasters.

After ten gruelling rounds, GM Martyn Kravtsiv emerged as the champion with scoring 8½/10, half a point ahead of his nearest rival. But on his way to the top, Kravtsiv suffered his fair share of setbacks and was even unsure if he would win the tournament at one point.

"When I lost the game (to Stany) I thought I had no more chance" - GM Martyn Kravtsiv

Stany’s early lead

Despite there being some very strong and experienced grandmasters in the fray, Indian players were dominating all through the tournament. After the first seven rounds, IM G.A. Stany had taken the sole lead and was a full point ahead of the field with a perfect 7/7 score.

In the round seven, Stany defeated the top seed of the tournament, GM Kravtsiv with the black pieces. Stany was already the sole leader by this point and the onus to win the game was on Kravtsiv if he wanted to overtake Stany on the leaderboard. And he was well on his way as he got Stany into a passive position.

Trying to bail out, Stany offered a pawn but Kravtsiv declined to grab it. After the game, Stany pointed out that his opponent also missed some tactics after declining this pawn sacrifice. Due to this, Kravtsiv landed in an inferior position and gave up a piece. Once a piece up, Stany hardly gave his opponent any chance and scored a convincing win in 52 moves.

Stany explains his wins from rounds 6 and 7 | ChessBase India Youtube


In round eight, Stany was paired against 17-year-old IM Vignesh NR. Rated 2447, Vignesh was the 20th seed of the tournament and compared to Kravtsiv, he was definitely a much easier opponent for Stany. But from this round onwards, Stany began to falter. In a Sicilian Najdorf, Stany mixed up some lines of his preparation and gave his opponent a decisive advantage right out of the opening.


Vignesh plunged in immediately with an exchange sacrifice and generated a strong attack on the white king. Stany managed to save his king from being checkmated but had suffered a decisive material deficit. 

Despite his loss, though, Stany had reached the required score for his second Grandmaster norm. Since he has already crossed Elo 2500, he only needs one more norm to become a GM. Vignesh, too, completed his norm with this win. For Vignesh, this was his third norm but he still needs to touch the 2500 rating mark to get his title.

IM Vignesh NR at the 1st Gujarat GM Open 2018

With his eighth round win, Vignesh not only joined Stany in tournament lead but also earned his final GM norm | Photo: Niklesh Jain


In the ninth round, Vignesh won again. This time, he had overcome a rating difference of almost 100 points to defeat Vitaly Sivuk. Sivuk had the black pieces in the game and went for the Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defence.


White avoided going into the lines starting with 9.Bc4 and allowed his opponent the central pawn break, 9.d5. After this, the game liquidated into an endgame, rather quickly. Vignesh had a slight advantage in the ensuing position due to black’s clumsily placed pawns. White’s own pawns weren’t in the best shape either but back had no means of organizing an attack on them.


By the 40th move, Vignesh managed to exchange a pair of rooks and pocket the c6 pawn. Black’s position had begun to look lost by this point. All of his pawns were weak and isolated and the white rook, which had landed on the seventh rank of the board looked poised to harvest them all. Towards the end of the game, Vignesh found a nice tactical nuance to exchange rooks and won a third pawn in the process.

Vitaly Sivuk playing against Vignesh NR in round 9 of the Gujarat GM Open

Vignesh NR took sole lead in the tournament after his win over Vitaly Sivuk | Photo: Niklesh Jain


Meanwhile, Martyn Kravtsiv also recovered from his loss and made it back into title contention with back-to-back wins in rounds eight and nine. In the penultimate round, Kravtsiv defeated Harsha Bharathakoti with the white pieces in a Pirc defence.

Martyn Kravtsiv during his game against Harsha Bharathakoti at the 9th round of the Gujarat GM Open

Martyn Kravsiv kept himself in contention for the title with his win over Harsha Bharathakoti in round 8 | Photo: Niklesh Jain


This win put Kravtsiv back on board one where he was to face Vignesh NR with the white pieces. Vignesh was the sole leader going into the round and only needed a draw to clinch the title.

Kravtsiv was half a point behind Vignesh and had to win at all costs if he wanted to bag the title prize. With an almost 200 point rating advantage over his opponent and the white pieces in hand, this looked very much possible. On the other hand, Vignesh had not lost a single game so far and had also beaten some very strong grandmasters in the fray. So pushing too much could easily have backfired.

In the game, Kravtsiv drifted away from a mainline Sicilian with 3.Bb5. Vignesh came out of the opening fine but a pawn break in the centre lost him a pawn on the 26th move. After the game, Vignesh said that he had simply overlooked the fact that he would lose a pawn in the variation. The position, though, still remained equal.


Vignesh simply hacked off the b4 knight here with 26…Nxb4 and remained significantly worse. Perhaps, taking the bishop on e3 would have given Vignesh a better chance of putting up a stiff resistance. But after this, Vignesh simply collapsed. In an attempt to get some counterplay, he gave up another pawn. After the initial fireworks had fizzled out, Kravtsiv liquidated into a queen endgame where he had two extra pawns. Vignesh had no compensation or counter play against this and had to resign on the 48th move.


Martyn Kravtsiv and Vignesh NR during their final round game at the Gujarat Grandmaster Open 2018

Kravtsiv defeated IM Vignesh NR in the final round to bag the title | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Harsha Bharathakoti becomes India's 56th GM!

At the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi Masters, earlier this year, IM Harsha Bharathakoti had already completed his final Grandmaster norm. All he needed now was to breach the 2500 Elo threshold to complete all requirements for his title. In the first three rounds of the Gujarat Open, he had faced lower rated opposition and had won all of his games. His big opportunity came in the fourth round when he was pitted against Farrukh Amonatov, the second seed of the tournament. While a win would have been desirable, it wasn't necessary. But, in the game, Harsha went for it anyway.

The game, which had begun with a Pirc Defence, quite characteristically drifted into sharp lines that involved opposite wing castles. By around the 23rd move, Amonatov was hard-pressed to take concrete measures with white as the black pawns, in conjunction with the black queen and knight, were poised to wreak havoc in the white camp, otherwise.


The computer evaluates this position to be equal but the way to retain equality is 21.Nxh7! Amonatov tried 21.Rh2 but after 21...c4 22.Be2 Na4, black just had too many threats.

Talking to ChessBase India, Harsha said after the game that it was due to Amonatov's opening inaccuracies that he was in time to strike in the centre and plonk his knight on c4. He also pointed out that Amonatov should have sacrificed his knight on the 21st move in order to remain in the game. 

"I don't have words. I am very happy now" - Harsha Bharathakoti | ChessBase India Youtube


Final Standings (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Kravtsiv Martyn 8,5 0,0
2 Vignesh N R 8,0 0,0
3 Stany G.A. 8,0 0,0
4 Bernadskiy Vitaliy 8,0 0,0
5 Predke Alexandr 8,0 0,0
6 Harsha Bharathakoti 7,5 0,0
7 Sivuk Vitaly 7,5 0,0
8 Amonatov Farrukh 7,5 0,0
9 Neverov Valeriy 7,5 0,0
10 Ter-Sahakyan Samvel 7,5 0,0
11 Karthik Venkataraman 7,5 0,0
12 Popov Ivan 7,5 0,0
13 Rakesh Kumar Jena 7,5 0,0
14 Malakhatko Vadim 7,0 0,0
15 Babujian Levon 7,0 0,0
16 Akash G 7,0 0,0
17 Pranav V 7,0 0,0
18 Raahul V S 7,0 0,0
19 Rahman Ziaur 7,0 0,0
20 Gukesh D 7,0 0,0

Tournament poster of Gujarat GM Open


Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He holds a Master's in English Literature and used to work as an advertising copywriter before joining the ChessBase India team.


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