Reports Dec 3, 2022 | 9:21 AMby Colin McGourty

Nihal Sarin dominates Tata Steel Chess India Rapid

18-year-old Indian prodigy Nihal Sarin has won the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid with a round to spare. Arjun Erigaisi beat Nihal in the final round to finish just half a point behind, but no-one else came close. The first ever Women’s Tata Steel Chess India Rapid was won by Ukraine’s Anna Ushenina, who overcame Nana Dzagnidze in a blitz playoff.

Nihal Sarin beats Parham Maghsoodloo to clinch the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid title | photo: Lennart Ootes

On Saturday and Sunday the action in Kolkata switches to blitz, with 9 rounds each day.

But let’s take a look at how the Rapid events concluded.

Nihal Sarin shows he’s not just an online rapid star

Nihal Sarin recently reached the final of the Global Chess Championship, where he lost to Wesley So. In the National Library of India in Kolkata, however, Nihal finished 2.5 points clear of Wesley as he won the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid with a round to spare (click on any game below to replay it with computer analysis).

After Day 1 of the RapidShakhriyar Mamedyarov was a point ahead of the field after scoring a perfect 3/3.

Early leader Shakhriyar Mamedyarov faded after Day 1 | photo: Lennart Ootes

It wouldn’t last, however, since Shakhriyar lost to Hikaru Nakamura in the first game of Day 2 and then to Arjun Erigaisi in the last. White’s attack will deliver checkmate first.

Nihal Sarin defeated Gukesh and Sethuraman as he scored a 3rd win in a row, meaning he went into the final day with a 1-point lead.

He kept up the pace by scoring a crushing win after Shakhriyar Mamedyarov blundered in a tricky position.

Nihal was in top form and showed total confidence in the penultimate round against Parham Maghsoodloo, where he correctly calculated the transition to a winning pawn endgame. The passed c-pawn is just too strong.

Nihal blitzed out his remaining moves to clinch overall victory with a round to spare.

The only player to come close to Nihal was the 2021 winner, Arjun Erigaisi, who was held back by being convincingly defeated by Sethuraman — curiously Sethuraman’s only win of the event.

Arjun ended the rapid with wins over Nakamura and Nihal | photo: Lennart Ootes

Arjun finished on a high with wins over Hikaru Nakamura and then the tournament winner, with Nihal unfortunate to walk into some incredibly deep preparation by Arjun.

The blitz promises to be intense, with stars such as Wesley So and Hikaru looking to improve on disappointing results in rapid chess.

Vishy Anand with the escort a chess legend deserves | photo: Lennart Ootes

Anna Ushenina triumphs in Women’s Rapid

Anna Ushenina and Nana Dzagnidze played tiebreaks for the Women's title | photo: Lennart Ootes

Nana Dzagnidze was the Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of the Women’s event, also starting with 3/3, but she managed to avoid any subsequent collapse. She was helped by her opponents lacking a killer instinct, with Harika Dronavalli and then especially Humpy Koneru taking draws by repetition in what were promising positions.

Here the h-pawn gives White excellent winning chances, though Nana was also shocked afterwards since her impression was that the position was close to equal, with Black having good chances to create counterplay if White pushed for more.

The most dramatic escape for Nana was in the penultimate round, when she was lost against Anna Muzychuk on move 6 until deep in a knight endgame, but managed to hold. Nana finished the rapid unbeaten, but she was nevertheless caught by another unbeaten player, Anna Ushenina.

Anna Ushenina's win over 15-year-old Savitha Shri was crucial | photo: Lennart Ootes

Anna also flirted with disaster in the penultimate round in a nail-biting game against 15-year-old Savitha Shri20…Nd4?! was technically a blunder by Anna, but it won the game.

Here it turns out Savitha was winning if she picked up the knight with 21.hxg4. Instead she defended against Ne2 with 21.Re1? only to get hit with 21…Nf3+!, when after 22.gxf3 (nothing else helps) 22…Qxh3 there was no defence against checkmate.

When Anna and Nana tied for 1st place it meant they’d play two games of 5+3 blitz, to be settled, if needed, by Armageddon. It wasn’t, as Ushenina outplayed Dzagnidze in an endgame in the first game, before crashing through in the second. 19.Rxc5!, eliminating a bishop that could otherwise have returned to f8 to defend the kingside, was a decisive blow.

The game only lasted a couple more moves, 19…bxc5 20.f5! Re5 21.Bg5! before Nana resigned and former Women’s World Champion Anna Ushenina had won the 1st ever Women’s Tata Steel Chess India title.

Don’t miss all the blitz action over the weekend:

See also: 

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