Russia’s loss is India’s gain.
FIDE officials announced last week that the 44th Chess Olympiad, originally set for Moscow this summer, will now be held in the Indian city of Chennai. Russia lost the right to host the event as part of the backlash over its invasion of neighboring Ukraine last month. It will be the first Olympiad ever held in India.
The open and women’s competition could provide another data point in the recent debate over “home-field advantage” in chess, a debate fueled by an excellent column by GM Andy Soltis in the current issue of Chess Life. India, which shared its first-ever gold medal in the global team competition in the virtual, COVID-restricted 2020 Olympiad, is a rising chess superpower, with 73 grandmasters and 18 women grandmasters, and a mix of veterans such as GM Vidit Gujrathi and Humpy Koneru and rising stars such as junior phenom GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa.
A likely member of the Indian squad this summer is GM Arjun Erigaisi, who turns 19 later this year. He’s already had a stellar 2022, having won the Tata Steel Chess Challengers tournament in Wijk aan Zee (earning a place in next year’s premier event) and just last month capturing his first Indian national championship title. An indicator of his growing strength and rising rating was his win at the national tournament over FM Sharma Ayush.
Erigaisi, who seems to have a penchant for offbeat openings, tries a rare Trompowsky line where after 4. Bf4 Qb6 5. Bc1!? (Nc3!? Qxb2 6. Nxe4 Qb4+ 7. c3 Qxe4 8 e3 is another way to play the position), it appears White has used his first five moves just to advance his d-pawn twice.
But White soon makes up the development deficit and grabs space with his central pawns. With the center blocked up, the game’s central question becomes who can break through on the wings. Ayush goes for a kingside break, but after White’s king decamps for the queenside, it is the Black king who comes under fire.
White rope-a-dopes his opponent on 19. a3 Ng5?! (Black is consistent in his strategy, but better was 19…Nc7 or 19…Bd7 to counter White’s next) 20. Nb5! Rf6 21. g3!, and now Erigaisi is happy to open up the kingside with Black’s queenside pieces out of the game and the base of his pawn center under attack.
White misses a shot after 21…Qh5 22. gxf4 Rxf4 23. Nxd6 (eating away the foundation of the Black pawn chain) gxf3 24. Qe3 Bh3, when here 25. Bxe5! (instead of the game’s 25. Nf5?!) Bxe5 26. Nxf3 looks close to winning; e.g., 26…Rxf3 [Qxf3 27. Qxf3 Rxf3 28. Rxg5+ Bg7 29. Rhg1 Rf2+ 30. Kd1 and Black must lose material] 27. Rxg5+ Bg7 28. Qd2 Qh6 29. Rhg1. Black is able to put up stiffer resistance with 25…Bf6! 26. Rg3 Bg2, but still can’t solve the position’s fundamental problems.
White cuts through the clotted kingside mess with admirable directness: 28. Qf2 Kf8 29. Rxg5! (with so many Black pieces doing double and triple-duty on defense, something like this was bound to work) Bxg5 30. Bxe5 Re8 31. Bd6+! (Bxf4?! Qxf4 32. d6 Kf7 lets Black off too easy) Kf7 32. Nxf3! Rxf3 (Qh5 33. Nxg5+ Qxg5 34. Bxf4) 33. Qxf3 Qxg1 (Bxf3+ 34. Bxh2 h6 [Rg8 35. Rf1 Bg2 36. Rf2 Bh3 37. Nh6+ and wins) 35. Rf1 Bh5 36. Ng3+ Kg6 37. e5+ Kg7 38. Nxh5+) 34. Qh5+ Kf6 35. e5+ Rxe5 36. Bxe5+ Kxe5 37. Qxg5. Remarkably, material is dead even, but Black’s exposed king is a fatal liability.
The finale: 39. Kb2 Qf2+ 40. Bc2 (the checks run out and Black’s king has no place to hide from the coming discovered check) Bf3 41. Nh4+, and Ayush resigned ahead of 41…Kd6 (Kd4 42. Qf4+ Be4 43. Nf5 mate) 42. Qf6+ Kd7 43. Nxf3, winning a piece. Black’s unfortunate knight on a6 was AWOL for virtually the entire game.
Talking Indian chess is always a great excuse to offer a game from the country’s greatest superstar and the No. 1 reason for India’s modern resurgence as a chess power: Viswanathan Anand, India’s first-ever grandmaster and the undisputed world champ from 2007 to 2013.
We’ve run a bushel of great Anand games over this years in this column, but there are always new gems to discover from the “Tiger of Madras.” Take, for instance, this amazing win over French GM Joel Lautier in 1995 from the Biel Chess Festival.
Anand chooses an aggressive line as White against the Scandinavian, harassing the Black light-squared bishop at the expense of his own kingside. Things heat up early on 14. Bd3 Nd5 15. f3!? (a move the computers love, as Black’s advanced bishop is permanently imprisoned behind White lines) Bb4!? (logical, but more testing was the computer-like 15…Nxe3 16. Bxe3 Ba3!? 17. bxa3 Bxf3! 18. Qd2 Qxa3 with very unclear play) 16. Kf2 Bxc3 17. bxc3 Qxc3 18. Rb1 Qxd4 19. Rxb7 (suddenly it becomes clear that White’s king is not the only one facing pressure) Rd8? (see diagram); Black understandably fails to see White’s idea, but 19…Bh3 20. h6 g6 21. Qg1 f5 also keeps Black on his back foot.
What’s follows is truly inspired — and tactically sound: 20. h6!! gxh6 (one threat was 21. hxg7 Qxg7 22. Rxe6+! Kf8 23. Bh6) 21. Bg6!! — the White bishop not only ignores the d-file pin, it heads for a square covered by two Black pawns — Ne7 (Qxd1? 22. Rxe6+ Kf8 23. Bxh6+ Kg8 Bxf7 mate; or 21…Qf6 [Qxe3+ 22. Bxe3 hxg6 23. Qd4! (Kxg2?? Nxe3+) Rh7 24. Kxg2] 22. Bxf7+ Qxf7 23. Rxf7 Nxe3 24. Qxd8+ Kxd8 25. Bxe3 Bh3 26. Rxa7 Re8 27. Bxh6 c5 28. Rxh7 and wins) 22. Qxd4 Rxd4 23. Rd3!, simplifying things so the trapped bishop can be taken at leisure.
After 23…Rd8 24. Rxd8+ Kxd8 25. Bd3, Lautier resigned, as there’s no hope after 25…Bh1 26. Bd2 Rg8 27. Ba5+ Ke8 28. Rb1 (or 28. Bb4) and the bishop is lost.
In yet more collateral damage for Russian chess from the Ukrainian war, GM Sergey Karjakin, an ardent and outspoken supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been given a six-month ban from competitive play by FIDE international chess officials. The ban means the Crimean-born Karjakin, who began his career representing Ukraine before switching to Russia, will lose his slot in the Candidates’ tournament his summer to select a challenger to world champion Magnus Carlsen in the next title match.
Karjakin has been particularly outspoken in his support of Russia‘s invasion and critical of the Ukrainian government on social media. Karjakin’s posts, “which, by his own choice and presentation, can be connected to the game of chess, damage the reputation of the game of chess and/or FIDE. The likelihood that these statements will damage the reputation of Sergey Karjakin personally is also considerable,” FIDE’s Ethics and Disciplinary Commission said in a statement.
The ban for Karjakin — who lost a close title match to Carlsen in New York in 2016 — means Chinese GM Ding Liren, the world’s third-ranking player behind Carlsen and American GM Fabiano Caruana, may get a spot in the Candidates Tournament. Ding had not been able to qualify previously in part because of COVID travel restrictions.
Erigaisi-Ayush, 58th Indian Championship, Kanpur, India, February 2022
1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 c5 3. d5 Ne4 4. Bf4 Qb6 5. Bc1 g6 6. f3 Nd6 7. e4 Bg7 8. Nd2 O-O 9. Bd3 f5 10. c4 e5 11. Ne2 f4 12. Nc3 Qd8 13. Qe2 Nf7 14. b3 d6 15. Bb2 Qh4+ 16. Kd1 g5 17. Kc2 g4 18. Rag1 Na6 19. a3 Ng5 20. Nb5 Rf6 21. g3 Qh5 22. gxf4 Rxf4 23. Nxd6 gxf3 24. Qe3 Bh3 25. Nf5 Bf6 26. Rg3 Bg2 27. Rg1 Qxh2 28. Qf2 Kf8 29. Rxg5 Bxg5 30. Bxe5 Re8 31. Bd6+ Kf7 32. Nxf3 Rxf3 33. Qxf3 Qxg1 34. Qh5+ Kf6 35. e5+ Rxe5 36. Bxe5+ Kxe5 37. Qxg5 Qf2+ 38. Kc3 Qe1+ 39. Kb2 Qf2+ 40. Bc2 Bf3 41. Nh4+ Black resigns.
Anand-Lautier, Biel Credit Suisse Chess Festival, Biel, Switzerland, July 1997
1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 c6 6. Bc4 Bf5 7. Ne5 e6 8. g4 Bg6 9. h4 Nbd7 10. Nxd7 Nxd7 11. h5 Be4 12. Rh3 Bg2 13. Re3 Nb6 14. Bd3 Nd5 15. f3 Bb4 16. Kf2 Bxc3 17. bxc3 Qxc3 18. Rb1 Qxd4 19. Rxb7 Rd8 20. h6 gxh6 21. Bg6 Ne7 22. Qxd4 Rxd4 23. Rd3 Rd8 24. Rxd8+ Kxd8 25. Bd3 Black resigns.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at email@example.com.