UpGrad Mumba Masters Koneru Humpy proved crucial in the team's victory over SG Alpine Warriors. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Another dramatic day in the final round of the round-robin matches of the Global Chess League saw surprise names emerge as the last teams standing for the grand finale. Triveni Continental Kings and upGrad Mumba Masters will now face off in the summit clash over two legs on Sunday at Le Meridien hotel, Dubai.

With a four-streak winning run in as many matches, including a dominating victory over tournament favourites Ganges Grandmasters, Kings became the first to qualify. SG Alpine Warriors, who were joint favourites with GG, had two matches to get it right; the same as Chingari Gulf Titans. Placed fourth, the Titans narrowly edged out the Warriors 8-7 in the first result of the day that put Mumba Masters in a better position mentally.

The Warriors were their final opponents and their vulnerability, despite Carlsen winning his matches, gave them hope just as the Kings provided inspiration with their 11-6 win over GG. Fortune favoured the brave and though Carlsen drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi, the Masters ran out 18-2 winners for the biggest margin of the tournament.

Infectious underdogs

The Titans then needed to beat bottom-table Balan Alaskan Knights where even one win would have been sufficient. But the infectious underdogs spirit took over the Knights as beat the Titans 12-4 with no camp happier than the Mumba Masters.

“We played like there is no tomorrow. We have not been up to the mark in the past few games, but the team spirit was good and it is what kept us going,” said Vidit Gujrathi of UMM.

Levon Aronian, the icon player for the Kings, was seen smiling from ear to ear. He acknowledged that the tournament is not over yet, but “there can be one little celebration tonight, and then hopefully we can have a bigger one tomorrow.”

His counterpart for the final, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave said: “My team fought well and generally for the most part of the two weeks. Both teams deserve to be in the final.”

The women players started the ball rolling for UMM. On board five, Harika Dronavalli dominated Elisabeth Paehtz and then treated a mate in three. On board four, Koneru Humpy was significantly better against Irina Krush and was the first one to win, scoring important four points with Black.

Slight advantage wasted

On the prodigy board, Mumba’s Javokhir Sindarov managed to stop Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu — the top-performing player in the league — and hold him to a draw. Carlsen drew with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, despite having a slight advantage. Just as Carlsen was getting up, Dronavalli’s result came through. The world’s top player could not hide his disappointment.

Realising his team’s lost situation, Gukesh resigned to Alexander Grischuk from a weaker position. The last game to finish was on board five where Gujrathi converted his advantage against Arjun Erigaisi.

Vishwanathan Anand and Ganges Grandmasters were knocked out by Levon Aronian's Triveni Continental Kings.

Huge victory

While a draw would have been enough for Grandmasters, Triveni had to win. In the Caro-Kann defence, Aronian gained more initiative and posed serious threats to Anand. Unfazed, the former world champion got his knight and rook to the bottom of the board and found a perpetual check to hold a draw.

However, Sara Kahdem scored a huge victory for Triveni as she defeated Bella Khotenashvili in a sharp game. By this point, Kings were dominating on three of the four remaining boards. Wei Yi struck on board three against Leinier Dominguez. Despite being in a weaker position, Kateryna Lagno managed to draw the game with Hou Yifan.

When Yu Yangyi lost against GG’s Richard Rapport, the Kings were 8-5 ahead and GG had to win on the prodigy board to take the win. However, Jonas Bjerre took the initiative and forced a winning rook endgame against Andrey Esipenko.

Praising substitute replacement Khadem for the turn in fortunes, the leader Aronian said: “Sara really changed the atmosphere in the team — she helped team moral and here we are”, said Levon Aronian.

The Chingari Gulf Titans had destiny in their own hands and were playing with white pieces. Icon players Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Ian Nepomniachtchi finished in an even endgame. However, on board two Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had a huge advantage over the 2021 World Rapid Champion, Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

Dominating game

Boards five and six were more in favour of Chingari, but then the tables turned. In a completely dominating position, Mamedyarov made an error and ended up significantly weaker. He left the board in disgust shortly.

While Nihal Sarin and Raunak Sadhwani drew their game, Chingari’s Polina Shuvalova lost to BAK’s Nino Batsiashvili. Approaching the endgame, Shuvalova made a mistake and gave an exchange up to Black, finishing in a completely lost position. Under pressure, the Titans folded up without a fight.