Much could happen when nine rounds of blitz chess are played in a day. It certainly did at the National Library, on the first day of the open blitz event of the Tata Steel Chess India tournament on Friday.
R. Praggnanandhaa was looking unstoppable well into the halfway mark of the day’s proceedings. He won five games on the trot – the second of which came against the top seed and rapid champion here, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France.
He drew in the sixth, before tasting his first defeat in the following round. Vidit Gujrathi was the one who defeated the World Cup finalist. By the end of the eighth round, the older Indian snatched the lead from Praggnanandhaa, who suffered another loss, this time at the hands of fellow-Chennaite D. Gukesh.
Praggnanandhaa, however, defeated Arjun Erigaisi in the day’s last round, and then watched Gujrathi going down to Uzbekistan’s Nodirbek Abdusattorov. That meant he was back in the sole lead position, with 6.5 points.
Gujrathi is on six points, as is Alexander Grischuk, the three-time World blitz champion from Russia. The two men in fact played a game that lasted an astonishing 173 moves before ending in a draw. Gujrathi had two knights, while Grischuk had nobody to defend his king, but it had been a theoretically drawn position for long.
With another nine rounds remaining, players like Arjun and Gukesh, who are on 4.5 points, could still pose challenges. So could Vachier-Lagrave, who is on four points, despite losing his first three games.
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