Tata Steel Chess: Nakamura leads; Hari, Anand in the hunt

Tata Steel Chess: On an action-filled day that saw 45 games spread over nine rounds producing 25 decisive verdicts, World No. 3 Hikaru Nakamura led with 6.5 points.

Hikaru Nakamura leads the pack at the halfway stage of the blitz games of 2018 Tata Steel Chess tournament.   -  Special Arrangement

Hikaru Nakamura and R. Praggnanandhaa, the highest and lowest
rated players in the fray, gained the most while Viswanathan Anand scored a hat-trick of wins to stay in the mix at the halfway stage of the blitz games of Tata Steel Chess here on Tuesday.

On an action-filled day that saw 45 games spread over nine rounds producing 25 decisive verdicts, World No. 3 Nakamura stayed ahead with 6.5 points. Wesley So followed at six points, after making a charge with 4.5 points from the last five rounds. Levon Aronian was next at 5.5 points, followed by the Indian duo of Anand and P. Hari Krishna at five.

R. Praggnanandhaa stunned Sergey Karjakin in the match that featured the youngest and the third-youngest Grandmasters of all times.   -  Special Arrangement



Nakamura, whose preference for this format is well known, made the most of playing the first two games with white pieces. He brushed aside Surya Shekhar Ganguly and then downed fellow-first round leader Hari to take a half-point lead. Nakamura and World No. 4 Aronian, then played out a draw, before the leader dismissed So and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov to open a one-point lead.  But thereafter, he could only draw all four games, including the last one with Praggnanandhaa.

Anand, looking to turn things around after a forgettable outing in the rapid games, started cautiously with draws against So and Mamedyarov. A blunder against Sergey Karjakin ended in defeat but fired up Anand. He recovered brilliantly by beating Ganguly, Vidit and Praggnanandhaa in that order, before holding Nakamura and letting Hari off the hook. However, Aronian pushed Anand to defeat in the day’s final round.

Viswanathan Anand admitted being “outplayed by Praggnanandhaa out of the opening.”   -  Special Arrangement



Anand, who rated his game against Vidit as his best of the day, graciously admitted being “outplayed by Praggnanandhaa out of the opening.” This game was a wild and violent one where the 13-year-old forgot the move-order when playing one of the sidelines of Sicilian Najdorf. Thereafter, once Anand sacrificed his rook for a minor piece and gained a firm grip, Praggnanandhaa lost his way and resigned.

Earlier, Praggnanandhaa, rated at a modest 2366 - against Nakamura’s 2893 - made light of a having scored just a draw from the first four rounds. He stunned Karjakin in the match that featured the youngest and the third-youngest Grandmasters of all times, after the Russian blundered a piece. The youngster upstaged Vidit on way to 3.5 points, worth a whopping 50.8 rating points.

Hari, lucky to win against Praggnanandhaa in the opener, was involved in five straight decisive games, including three wins before drawing the last four. Vidit’s lone victory came over Ganguly, who lost six games but scored over Karjakin and Mamedyarov and drew with Aronian.

The results:

Ninth Round: Viswanathan Anand (5) lost to Levon Aronian (Arm, 5.5); R. Praggnanandhaa (3.5) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 6.5); Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 3) lost to Wesley So (USA, 6); Vidit Gujarati (4) drew with P. Hari Krishna (5); Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 4) lost to Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2.5).

Eighth Round: Hari drew with Anand; Aronian bt Karjakin; So bt Mamedyarov; Nakamura drew with Vidit; Ganguly lost to Praggnanandhaa.

Seventh Round: Anand drew with Nakamura; Karjakin drew with Hari; Mamedyarov drew with Aronian; Vidit drew with Praggnanandhaa; So bt Ganguly.

Sixth Round: Praggnanandhaa lost to Anand; Hari drew with Mamedyarov; Aronian drew with So; Nakamura drew with Karjakin; Ganguly lost to Vidit.

Fifth Round: Anand bt Vidit; So bt Hari; Mamedyarov lost to Nakamura; Aronian drew with Ganguly; Karjakin lost to Praggnanandhaa.

Fourth Round: Ganguly lost to Anand; Nakamura bt So; Hari bt Aronian; Vidit drew with Karjakin; Praggnanandhaa lost to Mamedyarov.

Third Round: Karjakin bt Anand; Aronian drew with Nakamura; Hari bt Ganguly; Mamedyarov bt Vidit; So drew with Praggnanandhaa.

Second Round: Anand drew with Mamedyarov; Nakamura bt Hari; Praggnanandhaa lost to Aronian; Vidit drew with So; Ganguly bt Karjakin.

First Round: So drew with Anand; Hari bt Praggnanandhaa; Nakamura bt Ganguly; Mamedyarov drew with Karjakin; Aronian drew with Vidit.