For three days, those thronging at the Satyajit Ray Auditorium at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) here have witnessed rapid action from some of finest exponents of world chess.
Over the next two days, even more exciting ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ action is on offer when 18 rounds, under blitz format, will be played in the $40,000 Tata Steel chess tournament.
Under this format, the players begin with five minutes of thinking time (on their side of the chess-clock) for a game. For each move made, three seconds get added to players’ time.
Again, Hikaru Nakamura begins as the favourite. Having justified his ranking of being World No. 2 in the rapid format, he now trains his eyes on a likely ‘double’. After all, he is World No. 3 in blitz.
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Generally, a top-class player in the classical time-format is considered formidable in rapid, too. However, given the slim margin for error in blitz, reputations are made or marred in every event. So far, the only exception is a consistent Magnus Carlsen, who tops the world lists in all three formats.
Fourth ranked Levon Aronian has an added reason to gun for the blitz title after narrowly missing out on the rapid crown last evening. Disappointment was writ large on the face of this otherwise flamboyant Armenian when he reflected on tied-second performance in rapid.
“Generally, it feels better to play badly on the first day and recovering in the end. I had two good days and then, I didn’t play the best chess. Generally, +2 (the difference between number of games won and lost) is a decent score but I was hoping for more. But now, I’ll have to pass on my ambitions to the blitz portion of the tournament.”
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Among the Indians, the reigning World championship bronze medallist Viswanathan Anand offers the best hope. Notwithstanding Anand’s recent poor form in the shorter format, none can discount his abilities of upstaging higher-rated opponents. Vidit Gujarathi, ranked higher than the in-form P. Hari Krishna, promises to cause a flutter or two.
Joining the fray is R. Praggnanandhaa. This exciting 13-year-old replaces another teen-sensation Nihal Sarin in the 10-player field.
Unlike his older rivals, this prodigy is expected to play without pressure on debut in such an elite company and pull off surprises.
The players (with country, blitz ratings, world rankings):
1. Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 2893, 3), 2. Levon Aronian (Armenia, 2854, 4), 3. Sergey Karjakin (Russia, 2836, 6), 4. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, 2808, 9), 5. Viswanathan Anand (India, 2786, 11), 6. Wesley So (USA, 2771, 16), 7. Vidit Gujarati (India, 2726, 29), 8. P. Hari Krishna (India, 2706, 41), 9. Surya Shekhar Ganguly (India, 2547), 10. R. Praggnanandhaa (India, 2336)