World Blitz Chess Championship 2023, Day One: Nihal, Arjun among seven leaders; Harika tied second

World Blitz Chess Championship 2023, Day One: Nihal, Arjun among seven leaders; Harika tied second

Showing tremendous tenacity, Nihal Sarin saved a draw against fellow leader Magnus Carlsen and Arjun Erigaisi joined them at 8.5 points by beating Rauf Mamedov to be part of the seven–player leaders’ group after 11 rounds of the World blitz chess championship in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) on Friday.

Nihal was also the only one to beat third seed Vladislav Artemiev – leader for all but one round – Artemiev, who scored his sixth straight victory at the expense of R. Praggnanandhaa before holding Carlsen, Daniil Dubov and Ian Nepomniachtchi on the trot, met his match in Nihal. The young Indian produced a flawless performance with white pieces to win in 53 moves, knock the Russian off the pedestal, and share the lead after 10 rounds.

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Arjun won the last four rounds, as he did between rounds three and six, to underline his reputation of being the dark horse in this format.

Praggnanandhaa won five rounds before successive losses to Artemiev and Dubov slowed him down. He bounced right back to nail Hans Moke Niemann and Levan Pantsulaia, drew with Anish Giri but ended the day with a loss to fourth seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Gukesh, who won five of the first six rounds, tumbled following a hat-trick of defeats. Consistently impressive, teenager Bharath Subramaniyam won six games in a row before losing to Carlsen in the ninth round.

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The day will be remembered for the manner in which Russians Daniil Dubov and Ian Nepomniachtchi enacted a farcical draw on the second board in the 11th round. During this pre-decided act, they played 12 knight-moves and once the knights reached their starting square, they agreed to a draw. It remains to be seen how FIDE, the World Chess Federation, views this game ‘played’ in a World championship.

Harika shares second spot

In the 17-round women’s section, 12th seed D. Harika shared the second spot after nine rounds. She lost the second round to Kazakshtan’s Alua Nurmanova,  won the next five rounds and held leader Valentina Gunina in the eighth round to snap her seven-round winning sequence. She drew with sixth-seed Aleksandra Goryachkina for a tally of seven points.

Rakshitta Ravi was India’s performer of the day. Seeded a distant 57, Rakshitta scored over higher seeds R. Vaishali, Elina Danielian (Armenia), Mariya Muzychuk (Ukraine), Irina Krush (USA) and drew with K. Humpy to tally 5.5 points.

Where the Indians stood after Day One:

Open (after 11 rounds): 6-7. Nihal Sarin, Arjun Erigaisi (8.5 each), 13. R. Praggnanandhaa (7.5), 19. S. L. Narayanan (7.5), 25. Vidit Gujrathi (7.5), 31. Bharath Subramaniyam (7), 36. D. Gukesh (7), 45. Aravindh Chithambaram (6.5), 48-49. B. Adhiban, Raunak Sadhwani (6.5 each), 68. M. Pranesh (6), 78. Karthik Venkataraman (6), 93. Mitrabha Guha (5.5), 105. Aditya Mittal (5.5), 114. Surya Shekhar Ganguly (5.5).

Women (after nine rounds):  3. D. Harika (7), 13. Divya Deshmukh (6), 24. N. Priyanka (6), 28. Rakshitta Ravi (5.5), 31. K. Humpy (5.5), 41. R. Vaishali (5), 68-69. B. Savitha Shri, V. Sarayu (4 each), 73. M. Varshini Sahithi (4), 77. Padmini Rout (4), 83. Soumya Swaminathan (4).

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