The first super tournament on Indian soil begins!

by Sagar Shah
11/10/2018 – The first day of the first super tournament in India was fascinating. Of course, having ten great chess players fighting it out always feels great, but what was even more heartening was the jam-packed crowd. The ICCR auditorium which had a capacity of 200 people was filled to the brim with people waiting outside the auditorium to go inside and view the games. The players held nothing back to entertain the crowd and in the first round itself, Vishy Anand had everyone on the edge of their seats as he fought for 145 moves against Wesley So. At the end of three rounds of rapid chess at the Tata Steel Chess India we have three players in joint lead with 2.0/3 — Harikrishna, Mamedyarov and Aronian. A detailed report from Kolkata.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


The nine round rapid event of Tata Steel Chess India kicked off on the 9th of November 2018. It is a 10-player event with each game having a time control of 25 minutes plus 10 second increment. Hikaru Nakamura with a rating of 2844 is highest rated player in rapid section, while Nihal Sarin with a rating of 2127 is the lowest rated player. Although it is quite apparent that Nihal's rating of 2127 is not because he is a weak rapid player, it is just that he hasn't played enough rapid events.

The setting of the super tournament in the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) Kolkata | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The tournament hall reminded me of the settings of the London Chess Classic in Olympia. Some of the things that should be noticed are:

  1. Two boards are placed in the front, three behind. In a way you can see all the players from any angle.
  2. Excellent branding for the sponsors, especially the space below the fifth board
  3. A packed auditorium!

It was so heartening to see people queuing up outside the tournament hall to get a glimpse of all the action! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Two wives cheering on their better halves! Arianne Caoili and Aruna Anand! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The entry fee of the tournament is priced at a very reasonable Rs.250 per person. The idea of the organisers in fixing this price was that they equated a round of chess with an entertaining movie. If someone wanted to watch a movie in a theatre for a couple of hours, he would be ready to pay something around Rs.250.

Of course, none of this excitement would have been possible without the protagonist, Vishy Anand! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Round one

Name Result Name
Harikrishna Pentala ½ - ½ Ganguly Surya Shekhar
Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 1 - 0 Vidit Santosh Gujrathi
Nakamura Hikaru ½ - ½ Aronian Levon
Nihal Sarin ½ - ½ Karjakin Sergey
Anand Viswanathan ½ - ½ So Wesley

Although the decisive game of the round was between Mamedyarov and Vidit, the most interesting battle was definitely between Vishy Anand and Wesley So. The game lasted for 145 moves and was drawn because of the 50 move rule. Vishy Anand said in the press conference, there are days when all three games of his combined do not reach the 145 moves mark.

Vishy Anand vs Wesley So fight it out in round one | Photo: Amruta Mokal  


After the move a5, all that Wesley had to do was play ...g6 and give the move to his opponent. Vishy would have no real waiting moves and would lose the game. Instead, Wesley decided to push his pawn to e3. Even that was fine, but after Ke2, he should have played ...g6. But he went for ....Kc3 and in the end it became a race with Vishy's king running to the kingside and So's king on the queenside.

The queen endgame that arose was very interesting from a theoretical standpoint:


When Anand took the pawn on h5, the tablebases say that it is a draw, but it is very difficult both ways — for Black to draw the game, and for White to win it!


Although White's has made huge progress the game was still drawn. The tablebase says that ...Qd7 would have led to a draw, instead ...Qc7 is a losing move. You would try to deduce some logic behind why that is the case, but I guess it is just too complicated to understand. It would entail both sides making the best moves, and in such a position it is humanly impossible. I think the chances of White winning this position are much higher than Black drawing because to play accurately for several moves is not at all easy, but Wesley managed to do that and full credit to him for that. The last pawn move was on move 93. The 50 move rule was done with no pawn advances. The game was drawn.

Usually, the player who was winning (Anand) would have been upset, but here it more sort of a relief.

After 145 moves, the players shook hands | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vishy tells Wesley So about the pawn endgame victory that he had missed | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The tablebases may show a win, but for humans, it is extremely difficult to win this, as Anand explains:

Post-mortem interview with Vishy Anand, who also gives us his take on the Carlsen Caruana match


Vidit Gujrathi was the only casualty of round one as he botched up a very good position out of the opening to lose to Shakh Mamedyarov | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The Instant analysis feature of ChessBase 15 (which will be released on 13th of November) tells us that Vidit had a very good position out of the opening but then botched it up. You will also find that somewhere around move 52 Mamedyarov slipped up and Vidit could have drawn the game. Let's have a look:

Instant analysis!

In the diagram below Shakhriyar has just moved his knight to g5. Stop, think and find the best move for Vidit (Black):


On any normal day, Vidit would have taken the knight on g5 with his bishop. But here he decided to play ...g6. Of course it's not a losing move, but ...Bxg5 Bxg5 Ba6 would mean that Black has absolutely no problems.


In a totally winning position, Mamedyarov makes a completely understandable error. He moves his queen to e5 and hopes to push the g-pawn forward. It seems completely winning. But Vidit has a miraculously defence. Can you find it out? (Check the answer in the game annotation below.)


The biggest worry for Nihal Sarin fans was whether he would be able to hold these top GMs at bay. In the first round itself, Nihal answered this with a confident draw against Sergey Karjakin. In fact there was a position where Nihal could have settled for a three-fold repetition but tried to play for a win.

Sarin vs Karjakin

Round two

The second round was delayed by a few minutes because of the game between Anand and Wesley So which lasted for 145 moves. It began at 4 p.m. instead of the scheduled 3.30 p.m. The two most important games of the round were Harikrishna getting the better of Mamedyarov and Aronian managing to trick Nihal Sarin.

Name Result Name
Ganguly Surya Shekhar ½ - ½ So Wesley
Karjakin Sergey ½ - ½ Anand Viswanathan
Aronian Levon 1 - 0 Nihal Sarin
Vidit Santosh Gujrathi ½ - ½ Nakamura Hikaru
Harikrishna Pentala 1 - 0 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar

By beating Mamedyarov, Harikrishna made his intentions clear. He was here for the top prize! | Photo: Amruta Mokal


...c4 was a bad move by Mamedyarov. Can you find the best move for White?

Of course, Hari didn't have to be asked twice. He took on c4 with his knight and that was just a clean pawn up. Shakh didn't give up and kept fighting hard. But in mutual time trouble, he made a huge blunder.


Shakh took the pawn on b3 — find a way for Hari (White) to win the game!


After his confident first round draw against Karjakin, all eyes were on Nihal Sarin vs Levon Aronian. Could the youngster play another great game against a world class opponent? | Photo: Amruta Mokal


Nihal was upto the task and didn't let Levon get any advantage. One of his moves which showed his excellent feel of chess happened in this position:


The move ...h5 by Nihal was excellent. It stopped Qg4 and also prepared ...Rh7. At this point, it seemed as if Nihal would be able to make a draw, but Aronian managed to trick him.

The entire game between Levon Aronian and Nihal Sarin on camera by ChessBase India


Round three

Mamedyarov continued his combative mood in the event by playing yet another decisive encounter, this time by beating Surya Sekhar Ganguly. Aronian drew his game against Anand and Harikrishna couldn't make most of his chances against Nakamura. Thus at the end of three rounds and day one we had three leaders — Harikrishna, Mamedyarov and Aronian.

Name Result Name
Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 1 - 0 Ganguly Surya Shekhar
Nakamura Hikaru ½ - ½ Harikrishna Pentala
Nihal Sarin ½ - ½ Vidit Santosh Gujrathi
Anand Viswanathan ½ - ½ Aronian Levon
So Wesley ½ - ½ Karjakin Sergey

After a solid start with two draws against Harikrishna and Wesley So, Surya Sekhar Ganguly could not find his feet in the third round and lost to Mamedyarov | Photo: Amruta Mokal


Black's (Ganguly's) position is just overextended and an improvement must be found earlier in the game.


Standings after round 3


Apart from a draw against Karjakin (above), Nihal also drew his game against Vidit. 1.0/3 on day one is something to be proud of | Photo: Amruta Mokal

An opportunity to play against such top players helps a talent like Nihal mature faster | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Three draws in three games is uncharacteristic for a fighter like Hikaru, but he did play against two of the leaders of the event and 1½/3 is not bad | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Shakh at the press conference: "It would be unusual for me if I had three draws in three rounds. Three decisive games is normal for me!" | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Friends since childhood, but have to fight over the board — Ganguly and Harikrishna | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Video from the press conference of day one

Levon Aronian might not have thought that he has so many fans in Kolkata! A place bumbling with chess energy! Look how he is swarmed by chess fans at the Tata Steel Chess India day one! You might be forgiven if you thought he was in Yerevan!

Spectacular Opening ceremony

Read the complete report on the opening ceremony on ChessBase India.

Here's one video from the opening ceremony which was liked by a lot of people: 

Everyone knows that Levon Aronian is a class act on the chess board. But through this video, you also get to know what a well-read person he is. Levon was confronted by a special quiz prepared by the ChessBase India team — the India quiz, in which we asked the International players a few things about India. Levon was simply unstoppable as he answered questions related Taj Mahal to the prime minister of India, with ease!

Levon also recounts his experience of World Youth Olympiad in 1998 where he was able to trick Pentala Harikrishna with a very nice idea off the board. In the end of the video Levon tells us his take on the World Championship Match beginning in London from today and at the same time wishes all the viewers of ChessBase India a very happy Diwali.


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register