For Viswanathan Anand, the moment of triumph in the Tata Steel blitz chess took a while coming. In a tense environment, filled with suspense and intrigue inside a packed Satyajit Ray Auditorium, here, when Anand overpowered hot favourite, Hikaru Nakamura, the wait was truly worth it for all.
It was the kind of day Anand never had in his long, illustrious career. Trailing Nakamura by 1.5 points at the half-way stage, Anand won six games and drew three to force a two-game tie-break with the hot favourite.
Saving his best for the last, Anand prevailed 1.5-0.5 to emerge a worthy champion. In a reduced time-format of three minutes plus a two-second increment for every move made, Anand won in 55 moves in a perfect finish with white pieces. In the next, playing black, Anand defended superbly and eventually drew in 72 moves to seal the title.
“This is very special, considering I have not done well in the blitz format this year. I am happy to show something special for the Kolkata crowd. I was disappointed that I could not do for the crowd in Chennai (in the 2013 World championship match). But today, I feel, I played some very good games. What happened was something magical,” said the reigning World blitz bronze-medallist.
Anand, who expectedly drew his last round with Aronian, owed the playoff to R. Praggnanandhaa who came out undefeated against Nakamura for the second time in 24 hours. Showing precise defensive skills in testing positions, the 13-year-old forced a ‘stalemate’ in 72 moves, that too, with black pieces, much to the joy those expecting a playoff for the title.
Anand, whose six victims included the other four Indians, owed it to Hari and Praggnanadhaa for slowing down Nakamura’s march. Before fading out, Hari avenged the second-round defeat, while Praggnanandhaa exceeded all expectations by holding the top seed in both their games.
Anand, whose reputation as a ‘lightning kid’ is still fresh in memory, reproduced the magic on what coincidently, was “Children’s Day”. He opened the day by stopping Wesley So and gained the momentum by beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. After a drawing with Sergey Karjakin, Anand repeated his hat-trick of wins over compatriots Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Vidit Gujarati and Praggnanandhaa.
At this point, Anand and Nakamura shared the lead, with Aronian trailing by half a point. What followed was Anand’s draw with joint leader Nakamura, a result that helped Aronian rejoin the leaders, at 10.5 points, following a resounding victory over Mamedyarov.
Aronian, third overnight, made his charge by winning three of the first four rounds and enjoyed a half-point lead at nine points after 13 rounds. His victims included Vidit, Praggnanandhaa and Hari. After a draw with Ganguly kept him back, he was back in the lead after beating Mamedyarov.
Unlike Anand and Aronian, who shared the lead following an unbeaten streak, Nakamura lost to Hari in the 11th round and then, drew with Aronian and So before getting past Mamedyarov and Karjakin.
Young Praggnanandhaa found the going much tougher than he did on Tuesday. After a draw with Hari, the 13-year-old suffered six straight losses, a sequence he snapped by checkmating Ganguly in 97 moves.
The results (Indians unless stated):
(18th round): Hikaru Nakamura (USA) drew with R. Praggnanandhaa; Levon Aronian (Arm) drew with Viswanathan Anand; P. Hari Krishna lost to Vidit Gujarati; Wesley So (USA) drew with Sergey Karjakin (Rus); Surya Shekhar Ganguly lost to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze).
(17th round): Anand bt Hari; Vidit lost to Nakamura; Karjakin drew with Aronian; Mamedyarov lost to So; Praggnanadhaa bt Ganguly; (16th round): Nakamura drew with Anand; Aronian bt Mamedyarov; Hari lost to Karjakin; Praggnanandhaa lost to Vidit; Ganguly bt So; (15th round): Anand bt Praggnanandhaa; Karjakin lost to Nakamura; Mamedyarov drew with Hari; So drew with Aronian; Vidit drew with Ganguly; (14th round); Vidit lost to Anand; Nakamura bt Mamedyarov; Hari bt So; Ganguly drew with Aronian; Praggnanandhaa lost to Karjakin; (13th round): Anand bt Ganguly; So drew with Nakamura; Aronian bt Hari; Mamedyarov bt Praggnanandhaa; Karjakin lost to Vidit; (12th round): Anand drew with Karjakin; Nakamura drew with Aronian; Ganguly bt Hari; Vidit lost to Mamedyarov; Praggnanandhaa lost to So; (11th round): Mamedyarov lost to Anand; Hari bt Nakamura; Aronian bt Praggnanandhaa; So drew with Vidit; Karjakin drew with Ganguly; (10th round): Anand bt So; Ganguly lost to Nakamura; Praggnanandhaa drew with Hari; Vidit lost to Aronian; Karjakin drew with Mamedyarov.
Final standings: 1-2 Anand and Nakamura (12.5 points), 3. Aronian (12), 4. So (10), 5-7. Mamedyarov, Hari, Vidit (8 each), 8. Karjakin (7.5), 9. Ganguly (6), 10. Praggnanandhaa (5.5).
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