Vishy Ian
Ian Nepomniachtchi, the leader of the Balan Alaskan Knights, made 30 moves without even spending a minute against Ganges Grandmasters' Vishwanathan Anand. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Ganges Grandmasters maintained their dominance winning their third straight match in the Tech Mahindra Global Chess League at Le Meridien on Saturday.

Ganges have now nine match points while Triveni Continental Kings are on six match points and have the same number of game points as GG (32) but have played four matches. SG Alpine Warriors are also on six match points but have 23 game points.

Ganges Grandmasters not only had the leaders’ advantage, the coin flip went their way and they started with white. Board one witnessed a swift draw between Vishwanathan Anand and Ian Nepomniachtchi, where the leader of the Balan Alaskan Knights made 30 moves without even spending a minute. Simultaneously, things were firing up on board six between two prodigies: GG’s Andrey Esipenko took the initiative early on against Raunak Sadhwani and won. Soon, the Knights found themselves in trouble as they were losing on more boards.

Significant advantage

The only string of hope for them was in the Chinese matchup on board four. In a game between two former women’s world champions, Grandmasters’ Hou Yifan was losing badly to Tan Zhongyi playing as black. However, at the same time, Ganges’ Leinier Dominguez Perez and Richard Rapport had a significant advantage in their games. While Perez converted his into a victory, Rapport blundered his winning advantage in time trouble, allowing his opponent Abdusattorov to escape with a draw.

Despite an impressive rook sacrifice, Knights’ Bella Khotenashvili lost to her Georgian compatriot Nino Batsiashvili, and Grandmasters secured a 11-6 win.

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa ponders a move during Alpine Warriors' narrow win over Triveni Continental Kings 8-7, which gave the winners a three crucial match points. Image Credit: Supplied

SG Alpine Warriors win

GM Magnus Carlsen’s SG Alpine Warriors egdged past the Triveni Continental Kings by 8-7 to give them three crucial match points.

This duel was crucial for both teams in the middle of the scoreboard looking to make a push to the top. Following the first two rounds, both had three match points each and 15 game points. The coin toss dropped in Kings’ favour.

The most anticipated encounter took place on board one with a faceoff between two icon players, world heavyweight Levon Aronian (as White) and the highest-rated chess player, Carlsen. Both sides put up a fierce fight and Carlsen ended up defending an uncomfortable position with a minute on his clock against Aronian’s eigh. Aronian tried but Magnus, the best endgame player in the world, was confident and held his opponent to a draw.

Important points

When two other games ended in a draw the score was 3:3. The first break came when GM Yu defeated Gukesh with white, scoring important three points for the Kings. The tables turned on the Kings when Indian Praggnanandhaa beat Jonas Bjerre scoring four points with black.

Everything was hanging on the game between Irina Krush of Warriors and Kateryna Lagno. Despite Krush creating a dominating position, both sides were in serious time trouble. The fact that Lagno is a three-time world champion in blitz came in handy as she managed to keep her nerve and get a draw.

Crucial match points

Warriors’ 8-7 win gave them three crucial match points. Carlsen acknowledged that teams so far are seeing white as an advantage even though “wins with black are so valuable. People are still trying to find the optimal strategy here and we’re seeing some interesting decisions that you don’t see in team chess.”

In the other games, the clash between Chingari Gulf Titans and upGrad Mumba Masters proved to be a humdinger but ended up in a 6-6 draw, the first game of the tournament where all players were in a stalemate. Kings came out 10-8 winners against the Knights for their first win in four matches.