Georgian GM Bella Khotenashvili in action against Nana Dzagnidze. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Ganges Grandmasters regained the lead in the Tech Mahindra Global Chess League halfway point from SG Alpine Warriors at Le Meridien hotel in Dubai on Monday.

After the first match out of the two scheduled for the day, Viswanathan Anand’s Ganges Grandmasters beat Triveni Continental Kings 14:2 to go on top. The Grandmasters reached 12 points from five games. The Warriors had a chance to go back into the lead — in their sixth game though — but they lost to bottom table Balan Alaskan Knights.

Aaronian Levon shakes hands with Viswanathan Anand after the match on Monday. Image Credit: Supplied

After this match, the teams start the second phase of the round-robin, where those who have been white in the first encounter now play black, and vice versa.

Big hope

This was a day of big hope for Triveni Continental Kings. The team which features top-world players such as Levon Aronian, Yu Yangyi, and three-time women blitz champion Kateryna Lagno had high hopes ahead of the match with Ganges Grandmasters. With two victories in four matches, they needed to win to stage a rally.

The final coin toss was won by Ganges Grandmasters who, after three successive victories, suffered a defeat in the fourth round which removed them from the lead in the league. Grandmasters took the early initiative thanks to Georgian GM Bella Khotenashvili who achieved a strong position against compatriot Nana Dzagnidze. Her win was quickly followed by Hou Yifan’s victory over Lagno. Then, on board three, Leinier Dominguez was better against China’s Wei Yi.

Birthday boy

Birthday boy Jonas Buhl Bjerre, who turned 19 today, did a good job for the Kings holding a level position against the very strong Andrey Esipenko. But former five-time world champion Anand got the upper hand against Levon Aronian despite his best efforts to finish last of all boards. Grandmasters have four victories as white and two draws.

Loek van Wely, manager of Triveni Continental Kings was blunt after the game: “It was a crushing defeat for us. I think the rest day and the visit to the Dubai Mall, was a bit overwhelming for some of the team and they still haven’t recovered. We will seriously need to think about what to do next.”

Balan Alaskan Knights’ position did not justify their position given the team’s composition heading into a match against the Warriors. The two sides were evenly matched at the outset. Knowing they need to make a push, the Knights opted for more sharp play, avoiding lines for a draw.

Important victory

On board five, Knights’ Nino Batsiashvili created a winning position against the strongest German woman player Elisabeth Paehtz and won. On board four, Tan Zhongyi had more initiative over America’s eight-time women’s champion, Irina Krush.

On board two, 2021 world rapid champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov was pressing hard against Gukesh D and managed to win. One of the top performers in the BAK team, Praggnananadhaa scored another important victory for his squad, against Raunak Sadhwani.

Glimmer of hope

Some glimmer of hope for SG Alpine Warriors came with a draw on board three between Radjabov and Erigaisi. The victory for Knights depended on what Zhongyi does against Krush. Despite entering time trouble, the former women’s world champion from China managed to win against Krush. It was noticeable that Tan was shaking after the game from the excitement.

The match was already decided as the board one game was still going on. Ian Nepomniachtchi was playing against Magnus Carlsen. The two know each other well and Dubai was the home of their 2021 match for the World Championship title, which Carlsen won. Nepomniachtchi gave up a pawn early to get more initiative, however, Carlsen coordinated his pieces well and as they were moving towards the endgame he started raising the pressure on White.

Nepomniachtchi was on the back foot and gradually started to fall behind. By the end, he was lost and Carlsen scored another victory but that wasn’t enough to change the outcome of the match. The final result was 10:9 for the Knights.

Match 15

Ganges Grandmasters 14-2 Triveni Continental Kings

Queen of the match — Viswanathan Anand

King of the match — Hou Yifan

Match 16

Balan Alaskan Knights 10-9 SG Alpine Warriors

Queen of the match — Tan Zhongyi

King of the match — Nodirbek Abdusattorov