Vintage Vishy wins blitz and hearts at Tata Steel Chess in Kolkata

by Sagar Shah
11/16/2018 – The strongest chess event on Indian soil was held from November 9th to the 14th, 2018 with three days of rapid chess and two days of blitz. Hikaru Nakamura had already won the rapid section with a dominating performance. In the blitz event, the American GM was racing ahead on the first day with 6½/9. It seemed as if Nakamura would take home both the titles, but Vishy Anand had other plans. The 48-year-old former World Champion showed his class as he notched up one win after another. By scoring 7½/9 on day two he tied with Nakamura for the top spot. We then had a blitz playoff in which Anand triumphed and won the Tata Steel Chess India Blitz 2018. IM SAGAR SHAH and AMRUTA MOKAL provide pictures, videos, game analysis from Kolkata.

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Moves at breakneck speed

Gone are the days when blitz was played just for fun. Nowadays, as the shorter formats of the game start becoming more and more popular, blitz has become something where players have started devoting time in their study rooms. Organizers are spending money for prizes at blitz events and spectators enjoy the comedy of errors made by top players. It doesn't come as a surprise that we had a packed crowd at ICCR for the Tata Steel Chess India Blitz 2018.

The picture above aptly describes the state of players in the blitz when they realize the mistakes they have made after a game! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

After Hikaru Nakamura won the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid, the attention shifted to the blitz format. The time control was 5'+3" increment. Nine players remained the same, but Nihal Sarin was replaced by another Indian prodigy: Praggnanandhaa.

Praggnanandhaa, the third youngest GM in history, got a great opportunity to fight it out with the best players in the business | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The tournament was held in a double round-robin format with nine rounds being played on day one and nine on the second day. In all 90 games were played and we saw a tremendous amount of excitement leading to a tiebreak and a tense finish. Let's see how it all unfolded.

Hikaru makes a dash on day one

With 6½/9 Nakamura played excellent chess on day one of the blitz. There were many nice games he played and the accuracy of his moves was something to learn from. Here's one of his victories against Mamedyarov from round five.


Double first was not to be | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Nakamura led throughout day one and at the end of it looked as if he had the best chances to win the blitz. If he did that it would have been a double for the American who had already won the rapid section.

With wins over Ganguly, Harikrishna, Mamedyarov, Wesley So and five draws Nakamura finished the day with 6½/9. There was one game where he was quite upset with himself for not having converted it into a win — against the youngest participant of the tournament Praggnanandhaa.


Aronian's gem against Anand

Aronian scored 5½/9 on day one, but special was his win over Vishy Anand in the ninth round:


Aronian in action | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Wesley So had a great day one with 6.0/9, but wasn't able to keep the momentum going on day two ending with 10.0/18 and fourth spot. Can you find something interesting about Wesley's dressing?| Photo: Amruta Mokal

Wesley So came with a nice ornament on his suit. Everyone asked Wesley about this and why he was wearing it! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The battle that everyone looked forward to

Can you guess who they are?| Photo: Amruta Mokal

India's youngest GM Praggnanandhaa fought for the first time against India's first GM Vishy Anand | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vishy Anand is the heart-throb of Indian chess. Pragg has caught the fancy of chess aficionados all over the world with his talent and ability to make huge improvement at such a young age. Naturally, everyone looked forward to the battles between the two of them with great interest.

After the tournament, Praggnanandhaa told us that if he would have gone for h5 instead of g4 he would have won the game. And the boy was very serious about it. "I am just a tempo up in all the variations of attack!" Let's have a look at the game:


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Volume one of the DVD deals with 9.Bc4, White's sharpest option, and shows how Black can counter this ambitious try by White with the main lines of the Soltis variation (12...h5), which was played by Magnus Carlsen regularly as well.

A battle between the world's youngest GM of all time and world's third youngest. Pragg managed to score his first win in the tournament by beating Karjakin| Photo: Amruta Mokal

Praggnanandhaa recaps his performance at the Tata Steel Chess India Blitz 2018. 5½/18 is respectable against the best players in the world 

We left you at the halfway mark in the tournament with Hikaru leading the event with 6½/9. On the second day, Nakamura played well and scored 6.0/9. Cumulatively he was on 12½/18. Aronian had slowed down and so had Wesley So. But there was one guy who made sure that Hikaru didn't take the blitz tournament home.

That's Vishy Anand! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vishy finished day one with just 5.0/9. But on the second day, he was on fire as he scored 7½/9 and finished off with 12½/18 tying with Nakamura for the top spot. How did he do it? Anand started day one with two fine wins over Wesley So and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. He then drew a better game against Sergey Karjakin and with 7½/12 suddenly seemed to be doing well. In round four he was clearly better against Ganguly, but then blundered, giving Ganguly a chance to finish off the game. He missed it and Vishy Anand brought home the full point anyway. Check out the game below.


What happened? How did I not win the blitz, Hikaru wonders | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vishy had no intention of slowing down! He beat Vidit Gujrathi in the next round with some fine opening play and Praggnanandhaa by swindling him in a drawn endgame.


The support team — Aruna for Vishy Anand, Sunil Weeramantry and Kris Littlejohn for Nakamura and Ramesh for Praggnanandhaa | Photo: Amruta Mokal


These two wins by Anand were followed by a solid draw against Hikaru Nakamura with the black pieces and in the crucial penultimate round, Anand scored a fine win in the Breyer variation of the Ruy Lopez with the white pieces.

In the final round, Anand drew his game against Aronian and Nakamura had the white pieces against Praggnanandhaa. If Prag managed to beat Hikaru, Anand would be the champion. If Hikaru won the game he would win the tournament and if the game was drawn, then we would go into the playoffs between Anand and Nakamura. It seemed likely that Nakamura would win the game. Not only did he have the white pieces but in the knight endgame he had more space and was clearly better. But Pragg defended with all his might and magically managed to hold.


When Nakamura's game ended in a draw Vishy had no idea that their scores had been tied. In fact, he was greatly surprised when the organisers and Maria Emelianova told him that he had to play a tiebreak match of 3'+2" increment against Nakamura to decide who the champion would be. 

Really I have to play the tiebreak? | Photo: Amruta Mokal

For Anand who had already mentally agreed to a second place, this was a fresh hope to win the tournament in front of the home crowd. But Hikaru is one of the best blitz players out there. It was not going to be easy. Vishy got the white pieces in game one and played an excellent game to score the first win!


The final moment of Nakamura resigning the game and Vishy led the mini-match 1-0 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

In game two Vishy kept his cool when subjected to pressure by Nakamura and managed to hold the draw | Photo: Amruta Mokal


The entire 200 capacity burst into applause after Vishy won the mini-match and the blitz title. The fans who were riveted to their seats during the blitz games heaved a sigh of relief. Anand who was playing a tournament in India after 26 years had won the title in front of his home audience. It meant a lot both to the spectators and also to Vishy himself.

The winners (top two in both rapid and blitz) were given silver plaques. Vishy Anand (blitz champion), Hikaru Nakamura (rapid champion and blitz runner-up), and P. Harikrishna (rapid runner-up) | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Anand receiving his winner's award from the Vice President of Tata Steel Chanakya Chaudhary | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A (detailed) interview with Vishy Anand after he became the champion!

Photo gallery

Praggnanandhaa gets mobbed by his fans | Photo: Amruta Mokal

After many minutes of signing autographs and taking selfies, we bring a chair for the young boy, but he is not keen on sitting down! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

This was the first time that such a mammoth event was held in the country! The venue was the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in Kolkata | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Beautiful drop down banners made quite an impression | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The five arbiters of the event | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The role of the arbiters must never be underestimated, especially in blitz. (Left to right) Gopakumar Sudhakaran, Dharmendra Kumar, R. Anantharam (chief arbiter), Vasanth B.H and Mrinal Ghosh. They worked tremendously hard standing for hours, keeping an eye out for the smallest of mishaps taking place. The result was a flawless tournament without any appeals or issues.

Two men who have worked very hard to make this event a grand success: Guru Ramabadhran and Jeet Banerjee from GamePlan, the company that organized the entire show together.| Photo: Amruta Mokal


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.


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