Kolkata: Legendary chess wizard, Viswanathan Anand, stepped it up in grand style to win the inaugural Tata Steel Chess India Blitz Tournament beating overnight leader Hikaru Nakamura in the play-off here.
Placed fourth after the first leg Tuesday, the 48-year-old had a dream run on the final day to secure six wins and three draws in the nine rounds to draw level with the world No 3, American Nakamura, to force a play-off.
In the two-round play-off, which was faster than blitz in a reduced time format of a three-minute game, Anand won with white pieces, before drawing with black to seal the issue 1.5-0.5.
“I wanted to show the audience what is that I do in some other parts of the world all the time and it was nice to be able to do it here,” Anand, who played in Kolkata for the first time after the third Goodricke Open in 1992, said.
“It was just the most magical day for me… Here, I did not have any problem with motivation. It genuinely meant a lot to me to do well here,” Anand added.
The legend was also playing his first competition in India after being dethroned in the 2013 World Championship by Magnus Carlsen at his hometown of Chennai.
“It’s long been a dream of mine. And we have ticked the other boxes, we have good opens, we have strong players. But the one thing that was lacking was frequent visits by the top players in the world. Now we have that. So, it meant a lot to me to be able to play here in India and especially here in Kolkata,” Anand, who played his first GM tournament here in 1986, said.
In the blitz category, the five-time World Champion of classical chess had last won a bronze medal at the World Championship in December 2017 Riyadh, the same meet where he had also won the rapid title.
India’s youngest Grandmaster, R Praggnanandhaa, did a huge favour to Anand in the last round when he held Nakamura in the final round. Playing with whites against the 13-year-old Nakamura was on the verge of winning but the wildcard entrant Praggnanandhaa probably displayed the best defensive game of his life to manage a miraculous draw that forced a playoff against Anand.
In the play-off, Anand, who is world ranked 11 in blitz, was at his best winning the first in an Italian game. Nakamura took some risks initially, but Anand displayed a solid game with a one-up pawn. They had a rook and pawn endgame where Anand sealed the issue with a superb display.
Down 0-1, Nakamura played with a long-term strategy in the second game thinking Anand would break down trying to defend. But Anand was at his aggressive best and went in for an all-out attack to put Nakamura on the back foot.
Finally, the game was forced in the opposite square bishop endgame where Nakamura was forced to concede a draw and hand the title to Anand. Nakamura gave Anand the best compliment when he said there’s no reason why the 48-year-old should stop playing.
“To me, what Vishy has done… I am almost certain I won’t be playing chess at that age. So, it’s really remarkable and I think especially if you compare (him) against Gary (Kasparov) for example. Gary kind of came out of retirement to play in St Lucia. And I think Vishy did better than he did. It just shows what a truly amazing chess player he is,’ Nakamura said.