Dubai: The inaugural Tech Mahindra Global Chess League witnessed a classic contest between former five-time world champions and Grandmasters Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen that went in the Norwegian’s favour on the second day at Le Meridian hotel in Dubai on Friday.
Carlsen, the strongest chess player in the world, experienced mixed fortunes for his team SG Alpine Warriors while playing two matches on the day.
Renewing old rivalry
The lead player for Warriors, Carlsen made his debut in the team format against Ian Nepomniachtchi, a two-time challenger for the world crown, of Balan Alaskan Knights before taking Anand, when the two renewed their old rivalry. Despite holding the white advantage and beating Anand on the first board, the Warriors lost to Anand’s Ganges Grandmasters.
Carlsen got the bragging rights again over Anand, the man he beat in 2013 to claim the title of world champion for the first time. Carlsen seized early initiative, gaining an extra pawn and more initiative, for a better position. Anand gradually fell into time trouble.
Significantly better position
After an exchange of heavy pieces, Carlsen ended up in a significantly better position, and Anand had to resign.
“There’s always a special touch when we play,” said Anand post-match.
“It was good to play Vishy but right now I am more concerned about my team”, Carlsen added. And he was right. Luckily for the Ganges Grandmasters, they bounced back with victories on boards two and five.
Richard Rapport convincingly defeated Grandmaster Gukesh D, while Bela Khotenashvili triumphed over Elisabeth Paehtz. With the remaining three games ending in draws, despite their loss on board one, the Ganges Grandmasters crushed the SG Alpine Warriors with a final score of 11 to 6.
Carlsen settles for quick draw
Earlier, the day started with Warriors winning 9 to 7 against the Knights. Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi settled for a quick draw, which was not the case for the rest of the games. The Knights’ Teimour Radjabov won as black, earning them four crucial points. Fortunately for the Warriors, they made a comeback with two victories, securing six points.
After draws on two other boards the result was 8-6 for Warriors. Everything was hanging on the last game between Indian chess hope Gukesh, who was up against Nodirbek Abdusattorov, the 2021 rapid world champion. Abdusattorov made a strong push from the early stages, but Gukesh managed to hold his ground, ensuring his team’s victory with a final score of 9-7.
New format to play
“I had a small edge but it was largely even through. I wanted to play a more interesting game but this one went the way it did,” said Carlsen, who also noted that he is excited to be taking part in this event which is more dynamic and different to most others in chess.
Young Indian prodigy Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, who became a Grandmaster at the age of 12, said he is excited with the format.
“It’s an exciting one to be teamed with Magnus and I have to give my best. The preparations are normal, but it is interesting as we have a new format to play. We will get used to this only after one or two games,” said the 17-year-old Praggnanandhaa, who defeated the world champion Carlsen last year.
In the second match of the day, Chingari Gulf Titans took on Triveni Continental Kings in white with both teams seeking their first win. It started well for the Titans whose players managed to create stronger positions and take initiative in the match.
Duel of prodigies
In the duel of the prodigies, Nihal Sarin scored an impressive victory against Jonas Buhl Bjere, setting the Titans off to a good start. However, following a mistake in a tense game, Daniil Dubov allowed Wei Yi to score as black, as the Kings made a comeback in style. With four other games ending in a draw, Yi’s victory was crucial to secure them an overall edge of 8:7 in the match.
In the final match of the day, both Balan Alaskan Knights and upGrad Mumba Masters went in hard and the games were tough. Following a slip of the wrist as early as move eighth, Nino Batsiashvili ended up in a worse position against one of the top Indian women players in the world, Harika Dronavalli. However, while Batsiashvili was managing to hang on, her teammates Tan Zhongyi and Raunak Sadhwani scored victories, giving their team a huge eight-point lead early on.
With top-icon players Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Nepomniachtchi drawing, the pressure was on Grischuk and Vidit to save the day for upGrad Mumba Masters. As is often the case for Grischuk, he ended up in time trouble early. Despite managing to hang on, in the end, he misplayed and lost. At the same time, Dronavalli finally brought Batsiashvili to defeat — it was clear the Balan Alaksan Knights won the match.
Despite the winner of the match being decided, this was not the end. Vidit Gujrathi of upGrad Mumba Masters managed to secure a winning position against Teimour Radjabov but was in desperate time trouble. After a series of wild moves, where Radjabov was posing problems, fighting back, Vidit finally slipped. In the end, it was a draw, after 123 moves! The final score in the match was 14:5 for the Balan Alaskan Knights.
SG Alpine Warriors 9 — 7 Balan Alaskan Knights
Queen of the match — Irina Krush
King of the match — Teimour Radjabov
Triveni Continental Kings 8 — 7 Chingari Gulf Titans
Queen of the match — Polina Shuvalova
King of the match — Wei Yi
SG Alpine Warriors 6 — 11 Ganges Grandmasters
Queen of the match — Bella Khotenashvili
King of the match — Richard Rapport
Balan Alaskan Knights 14 — 5 upGrad Mumba Masters
Queen of the match — Harika Dronavalli
King of the match — Raunak Sadhwani.