Nihal Sarin wins the Serbia Chess Open

by André Schulz
7/8/2021 – After beating former co-leader Igor Kovalenko in round 8, Nihal Sarin only needed a draw in the last round to win the Serbia Open in Belgrade. The 16-year-old Indian prodigy scored 7½/9 points. A group of 9 players finished a half point behind. | Pictured: Vladimir Fedoseev (3rd), Nihal Sarin (1st) and Manuel Petrosyan (2nd) | Photo: Official site

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A second consecutive triumph

After 7 rounds, Nihal Sarin and Igor Kovalenko were tied atop the standings table at the strong Serbia Open, which took place on July 2-8 in Belgrade. The co-leaders faced each other in the eighth round.

Nihal came from winning the Silver Lake Open with a convincing 8/9 score, and could approach the match confidently. The game was balanced for a long time. Nihal had a slight initiative with the white pieces, out of a London System.

Nihal Sarin, Igor Kovalenko

Nihal Sarin (2620) - Kovalenko, Igor (2643) [D02]
Serbia Chess Open 2021 Belgrade, 07.07.2021

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Sf6 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.Nbd2 cxd4 6.exd4 Bf5 7.Bb5 Rc8 [Here often follows 7...e6, with very good results for White.]

8.Ne5 Bd7 A novelty. [8...Qb6 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Nb3 1–0 (38.) Abasov,N (2665)-Navara,D (2697) Prague 2021.]

9.Nxd7 Qxd7 10.c3 e6 Black is a bit behind in development, but stands solidly.

11.0–0 a6 12.Bd3 Bd6 13.Bg5 White wants to keep the bishop pair a little longer.

13...Be7 14.Re1 Qc7


15.Qf3 Threatening 16.Bxf6 and in case of 16...Bxf6 there would follow 17.Qxd5.

15...Nd7 [After 15...0–0 Black feared a kingside attack.]

16.Bxe7 Nxe7 17.Qh3 Qf4 18.Nf3 [18.Re3!? h5!?]

18...Rc6 19.Re3 g6 20.Rae1 The queens are glancing at each other on the kingside...

20...h5 21.g3 Qf6 22.Qg2 ...and are now retreating.

22...Nf5 23.Bxf5 gxf5 24.h4 Kd8 The black game is already a foretaste of No Castling Chess.

25.Ng5 Black will hardly get the knight away from that square — after f7-f6, the e6-pawn would become incurably weak. In addition, Black has to guard his h5-pawn.

25...Kc8 26.Qf3 Kb8 Castling long ‘on foot’.

27.b3 Ka7


28.c4 The time has come to open the position.

28...dxc4 29.d5 exd5 30.Qxd5 Nb6 31.Qxf7 cxb3 [31...Qxf7 32.Nxf7 Rg8 33.Ne5 Rcc8 34.bxc4 f4 and White only has a small advantage.]

32.Qxb3 Rhc8 33.Nh3 Rc1 34.Nf4 Qd4 [34...Qa1!? 35.Nd3 Rxe1+ 36.Rxe1 Qd4]

35.Kg2 R8c3 


36.Rxc1!? [36.Qe6!? Rxe1 37.Rxe1 Rc2 38.Re2 with an edge for White.]

36...Rxc1? [Black should focus on 36...Rxb3 37.Rxb3 Nd5 with queen against two rooks and the battle goes on. Presumably he was in time trouble at this point.]

37.Ne2 Losing the exchange. Game over.

37...Qa1 38.Nxc1 Qxc1 39.Re6 Qc7 40.Qe3 a5 41.f3 1–0

With this win, Nihal took the sole lead with one round to go. A draw against the tournament’s rating favourite, Vladimir Fedoseev, gave the youngster tournament victory. Nihal’s performance rating of 2786 gained him 17 more points in the world ranking.

Nihal Sarin

Nine players shared second to tenth place with 7 points each. It was a successful event for the Indian contingent, as Arjun Erigaisi (+11,1 rating points) and Aditya Mittal (21,2) were a part of this group.

Final standings (top 30)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Nihal Sarin 7,5 0,0
2 Petrosyan Manuel 7,0 0,0
3 Fedoseev Vladimir 7,0 0,0
4 Shevchenko Kirill 7,0 0,0
5 Bernadskiy Vitaliy 7,0 0,0
6 Sadikhov Ulvi 7,0 0,0
7 Erigaisi Arjun 7,0 0,0
8 Iskandarov Misratdin 7,0 0,0
9 Warmerdam Max 7,0 0,0
10 Aditya Mittal 7,0 0,0
11 Aleksandrov Aleksej 6,5 0,0
12 Ter-Sahakyan Samvel 6,5 0,0
13 Safarli Eltaj 6,5 0,0
14 Asadli Vugar 6,5 0,0
15 Nikitenko Mihail 6,5 0,0
16 Kourkoulos-Arditis Stamatis 6,5 0,0
17 Makhnev Denis 6,5 0,0
18 Damjanovic Vuk 6,5 0,0
19 Puranik Abhimanyu 6,5 0,0
20 Pichot Alan 6,5 0,0
21 Perunovic Milos 6,5 0,0
22 Zanan Evgeny 6,5 0,0
23 Nestorovic Nikola 6,5 0,0
24 Kovalenko Igor 6,0 0,0
25 Indjic Aleksandar 6,0 0,0
26 Pranav V 6,0 0,0
27 Hovhannisyan Robert 6,0 0,0
28 Sanal Vahap 6,0 0,0
29 Erenberg Ariel 6,0 0,0
30 Bjerre Jonas Buhl 6,0 0,0

...287 players

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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