Tata Steel Chess India Takes Off In Jam-packed Venue
Anand So draw the longest game of the day in front of a big crowd. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Tata Steel Chess India Takes Off In Jam-packed Venue

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Nov 9, 2018, 10:37 PM |
16 | Chess Event Coverage

Five thousand miles away and 6.5 hours before the start of the world championship match, 10 strong grandmasters made their moves in what was the first round of the Tata Steel Chess India tournament in Kolkata. Over 300 spectators came to watch.

During the opening ceremony on Thursday evening, at an open-air terrace of the luxurious Taj Bengal hotel in south-west Kolkata, journalists mostly asked questions to Viswanathan Anand, one of India's biggest sports stars.

Asked about the future of chess in India, Anand noted: "This tournament should be part of it."

Anand opening ceremony Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Anand speaking at the opening ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

And indeed, it was all that was missing in a country that has produced so many talents and rising stars in recent years. Many open tournaments and other types of events are being organized, but there just wasn't a super tournament yet.

Not counting events for the world championship cycle (matches with Gata Kamsky in 1994 in Sanghi Nagar and with Magnus Carlsen in 2013 in Chennai) it was in Kolkata 1992 when Anand last played a regular tournament on home soil. Sergey Karjakin, a seasoned grandmaster, had never been to India in his life.

Players Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Left-right Karjakin, Harikrishna, Vidit, Anand, Ganguly, So, Nakamura and Mamedyarov. Both Aronian and Nihal arrived a bit latter and missed this photo moment. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

After organizing company Gameplan had taken the plunge and started working on the tournament in the spring of 2018, somewhere in the summer a contract was signed with one of India's corporate giants: Tata Steel. It was a logical cooperation, since it's the same company that sponsors the famous event in Wijk aan Zee each year. That one is classical chess, and here in India rapid and blitz were chosen.

The field for each of the two events is a nice mix of western and Indian grandmasters, and includes two Indian prodigies: Nihal Sarin, who plays in the rapid, and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, who will play the blitz.

Anand Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Unsurprisingly, Anand got most of the media attention. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Tata Steel Chess India.

The rapid tournament runs for three days, with three rounds played on each day. Just like in Grand Chess tour events, the second round was scheduled to start 1.5 hours after the first, and the third 1.5 hours after the second—but everything changed when Anand and his first-round opponent Wesley So played a game that lasted for 145(!) moves and a bit longer than 1.5 hours!

Anand So Tata Steel Chess India 2018

That was a long game to start the tournament with! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

Three other games ended in draws as well, but there was one winner. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, picked as the favorite to win the event by commentator IM Lawrence Trent, took an early lead in the tournament thanks to the following win against Vidit Santosh Gujrathi.

The latter admitted that 15...g6 was a "very bad" move and suggested to take the knight, when he would have had "a very nice and comfortable position."

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Mamedyarov vs Vidit Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Mamedyarov before his game with Vidit. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

However, in the very next round Mamedyarov went down. It was sixth seeded GM Pentala Harikrishna who played a fine game.

It was about equal after the opening, but later Hari managed to outcalculate his opponent. "It was smooth after I won the pawn," he said.

Pentala Harikrishna Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Pentala Harikrishna. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Tata Steel Chess India.

With an official FIDE rapid rating of only 2127, Nihal is obviously heavily underrated. He started with an excellent draw against Karjakin and also drew Vidit in the third round, but lost to Levon Aronian. And even there, the 14-year-old showed his talent:

"He played very well and he's a very promising player. Everybody who played him can see that," said Aronian. "Online, if I play him I have to focus and even if I do that, sometimes I lose!" said Nakamura about his many encounters on Chess.com with Nihal.

Nihal Sarin Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Minus one with good play is a very respectable start for 14-year-old Nihal Sarin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

Mamedyarov didn't draw a single game on day one. "When I draw three games it is not normal, winning two and losing one is normal for me!" he said at the press conference.

He is back at the top of the leaderboard thanks to a win in round three:

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Watch the day 1 broadcast with IMs Tania Sachdev and Lawrence Trent.

Jeroen van den Berg Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Jeroen van den Berg, tournament director both in Wijk aan Zee and Kolkata. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

Hikaru Nakamura Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Speed chess specialist Hikaru Nakamura is the top seed in both events. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov at the drawing of lots. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

Surya Shekhar Ganguly Tata Steel Chess India 2018

A former second of Anand, Surya Shekhar Ganguy revealed that not only did he never play an official game against the Indian legend, but during the 1992 Kolkata tournament (Anand's last on home soil) he was "board boy," moving wooden pieces on a 2D demo board! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

Anand Aruna Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Anand and his wife Aruna enjoyed that little anecdote. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

Levon Arianne Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Levon Aronian also brought his wife: Arianne Caoili. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

Players Tata Steel Chess India 2018

Eight of the ten players , all in good spirits. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Tata Steel Chess India.

Playing hall Tata Steel Chess India 2018

The playing hall is the auditorium of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in Kolkata. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Tata Steel Chess India.


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