April Tour – Part I

2018 was a challenging year for me. From the peak rating of 2723, it had stopped to 2693 at the end of 2018. After this, I made significant changes in my work ethics. This reflected at the start of the year. I had good performances in Tata Steel Masters & Prague Masters. At the end of these events, my rating was back above 2700 and was 2717. I reached a milestone and subsequently a low at the same time in April! Let me tell you about it in this blog.

Things started well in my first event of April, the Chinese League. I managed to increase some rating and became Indian number two on the live rating list. Before going to the Chinese League, I visited my good friend and CEO of ChessBase India, Mr.Sagar Shah. He is one of the most hardworking persons I know and is always very positive. His positive vibe rubbed off on me, and I started the trip on a friendly note. I like the saying “You are an average of the five people you surround yourself with.”

Through the lens of the fantastic photographer Amruta Mokal!
The Wonderful Shanghai Team

Usually, I am apprehensive about playing in China. Language is a barrier as not many people speak English. Also, being a Vegetarian, I struggle to find good food options in China. But everything was different this time. My colleagues Ni Hua and Ju Wenjun made sure that we find Vegetarian food in the city. Also, the team atmosphere was great. After our games, we used to sit down with chessboard and analyze our games and have a lot of fun. Talking about that, it has become so rare to see chessplayers carry a chess set with them nowadays. Everyone usually prepares on computers. But for me, the joy of moving the pieces around on a real chess set is irreplaceable. The positive atmosphere immediately reflected in my performance. As they say, good food and good company are important things in life!

Various Amazing Delicacies!
The traditional and my favorite, Chinese hotpot!
The Team made special measures to find a Vegetarian place in China. Trust me; it’s not easy to find one!

The chess part went quite well. The start wasn’t brilliant. I drew the first game with Black against Lin Chen, a 2500 GM. He exchanged Queens early on &played too solidly, and there was not much that I could do. Nowadays, It has become increasingly difficult to win with Black pieces against a decent Grandmaster. In the second game, being White, I put high pressure from the opening itself.

What would be the best way to proceed? I had first seen this idea in a game of Carlsen vs. Anand.
A4 the key move!
If Black gets a blockade on the Queenside, he will be fine. How can you stop it?
After bxa4 Qxa4 Nb2, the point is to play Rxc6! Now, black can’t take on a4 as after Rc8 he has bank rank issues. 
After exchanges on c6, this position was reached. The a-pawn looks unstoppable, but White is just in time with Nxd5!
I was able to block the pawn as after Nxd5 a3 Nb4. Now Black couldn’t play a2 as he still has back rank issues.

The position was still within the drawish range, but under consistent pressure, he eventually collapsed. Persistence pays. Here is the game below with very brief comments.

In the next round, I faced a 2380 rated player. I had the Black pieces, so it wasn’t easy to outplay. Hence, I took quite some risks in the opening. I played the Philidor defense, a line which I had never played in my life. I was apprehensive about it, but it worked. In an unusual middlegame position, he committed two positional mistakes one after the other. I took over the initiative and was able to convert the advantage. Here is the game.

In the last round, I made a draw against the World no 15, Yu Yangyi. With that game, I became Indian No.2  for the first time. I don’t know the exact details, but I imagine Harikrishna was Indian no.2 for about 15 years. If anyone knows, please do let me know. I love trivia.

Although this didn’t last for long, while I am writing this Hari is back to Indian no.2 as he is having the Tournament of his life in Shenzhen. Also, my next tournament didn’t go as planned.  But more about that in the second part of this article. I hope you enjoyed reading the blog! 

Became Indian no.2 for the first time

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