After the Parsvnath International tournament the chesswagon moved to the south Indian city of Chennai. The two cities, separated by 2000 Kilometres, have quite different climatic conditions. Most of the players would have preferred the warmer conditions of Chennai to the biting cold of New Delhi (Apart from the Russian players of course!)
The accelerated system of pairing was followed for the first 2 rounds just like in the Parsvnath tournament to boost norm chances. However, the players had a slightly easier schedule as there was only a single round on the first day. The tournament started in a very exciting fashion with quite a few unexpected results on the very first day. The top seed Areschenko ran into real trouble against the talented Chinese Zeng and that too with the white pieces.
No less than 8 GMs drew their games against their less fancied rivals and Grandmaster Chernyshkov was outplayed by International Master Vikramaditya Kamble in a quiet endgame. Such is the nature of competition these days. Around 7 or 8 years ago first rounds used to be cake-walks for the seeded players, but that has become a thing of the past.
The second round witnessed a similar pattern as a few IMs held their own against GMs. The top board game saw Israeli GM Postny grinding out Indian Subcontinent’s first Grandmaster Niaz Murshed of Bangladesh (yes, Niaz is the first Grandmaster from the subcontinent not world champion Viswanathan Anand!) in a 4 v 3 Rook endgame with pawns on the same side. For the record even this is not a trivial draw, as even Kasparov lost a similar endgame to Piket back in 2000.
(This endgame will be analysed in the special games section)
With the accelerated system of pairing coming to an end, the next few rounds saw fewer upsets compared to the first two. I drew my third round game (after winning the first two) against N. Surendran rated 2063 who showed admirable defensive skills to hold the position together in a marathon game which lasted for five and half hours and 109 moves. The endgame was quite interesting and it seems that I missed a clear win at the beginning of the Rook endgame.
At the end of the 4th Round, seven players ( 5GMs and 2 IMS) led the field with a one hundred percent score.
The 5th round saw one of the most dramatic upsets of recent times in Indian Open tournaments. Grandmaster Arun Prasad was defeated by a young girl Michelle Catharina rated 1959.The rating difference of a whopping 500 points, a 1900 rated player defeating a very strong Grandmaster with the black pieces makes this result even more remarkable. Earlier in the 4th round the young lass held Grandmaster-Elect Vijayalakshmi (who is also a WGM and an IM) to a creditable draw.
There were a lot of fighting games in the sixth round. Many Grandmasters reached 5.5 points and thereby led jointly at the end of this round. I would like to mention a singular result that happened on one of the lower boards. Grandmaster Sethuraman lost with the white pieces to a young lad by the name of Mohamad Nubairshah Shaik who had a modest rating of 2113. Of course young Indians are usually underrated, but even then this result was nothing short of unbelievable. White sacrificed a lot of material right from the opening, but his attack got nowhere. Black gobbled up all offered material and repulsed the non-existing attack and won the game in a seemingly simple manner.
GM Postny took the sole lead at the end of round 7 with a positional win typical of his style over GM Ziaur Rahman. He raised his tally to 6.5 points. The other leaders drew each other and thereby shared the second spot with. At this point I had a feeling that GM Postny was one of the clear favourites to win the title-- who would have thought that this was to be his last win in the tournament and that he would only score a half point
more from the remaining 4 games!
There were 2 notable blunders by Grandmasters in this particular round.
Remaining rounds and many more interesting games to follow........................