Banter Blitz Cup: Gallant Narayanan falls in the semifinals

After an incredible run, S. L. Narayanan fell at the threshold of the title-clash against Magnus Carlsen for the Banter Blitz Cup late on Friday night.

S.L. Narayanan, who gate-crashed into the semifinals with some resounding victories over some of the better known names, lost to Iranian Alireza Firouzja in the best-of-16 game format. (File picture)   -  Rakesh Rao

After an incredible run, S. L. Narayanan fell at the threshold of the title-clash against Magnus Carlsen for the Banter Blitz Cup late on Friday night.

Narayanan, who gate-crashed into the semifinals with some resounding victories over some of the better known names, lost to Iranian Alireza Firouzja in the best-of-16 game format.

After Carlsen reached the final by beating Russia’s Sanan Sjugirov 9-0, Firouzja, playing under the FIDE flag, proved his superiority over Narayanan with a 9-6 margin.

“I think it (the margin) should have been much closer,” said Narayanan, who saw the checkmate coming in the final game, even before his rival could make the rook-move.

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“Horrible,” was how the country’s 10th-ranked player described his blunder in the final game where he was clearly better.

Even after the painful finish, this soft-spoken Grandmaster from Thiruvanathapuram smiled and remained gracious. “This is my favourite time-control, (three minutes for a player, for a game, with no increment) and I’m thankful to Chess24.com for giving me the opportunity to play against some of the best players.”

Indeed, Narayanan gained the respect of the chess world by pulling off some sensational victories in the 128-player knockout tournament, that offers $50,000 as the prize-fund with $14,000 going to the winner.

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In ensuring $4,000 by performing beyond his rating of 2618, Narayanan defeated Spain’s Ivan Salgado Lopez (2584) 8.5-0.5, Egypt’s Bassem Amin (2686) 8.5-4.5, Carlsen’s 'second' Norway’s Jon Ludvig Hammer (2608) 8.5-2.5 and Germany’s Alexander Donchenko (2646) 8.5-6.5 to reach the quarterfinals.

He beat Venezuela’s Eduardo Hurrzaga Bonelli (2607) 8.5-6.5 in a tough quarterfinal before facing formidable Firouzja, rated 2728. The online event began on September 25 with no fixed schedule as matches were played at times convenient for both players. If the score was tied 8-8, another pair of 3-minute games was played, and again, if needed, to find a winner. If the tie persisted, 1-minute games were scheduled to produce a winner. Interestingly, players were required to stream their games live and commentate on them while playing.

Other Indians in the fray were, Nihal Sarin (lost in the third round), Vaibhav Suri, R. Praggnanandhaa (second round), S. P. Sethuraman, Abhijit Gupta and Surya Shekhar Ganguly (first round).

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