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Great day for Indian Sports! Viswanathan Anand wins World Rapid Chess Championship 2017.

Unarguably one of the most prestigious rapid chess events of the year, World Rapid Chess Championship, 2017 took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Total 134 top chess minds from across the globe were participating in this event. With an average player rating of 2534, this event was a treat to watch for all chess lovers and enthusiasts. Organization of the tournament was exceptional, as the playing environment, waiting area and the scheduled execution of all rounds made for perfect playing conditions for the players.
The Indian camp consisted of five time World Champion, Viswanathan Anand along with B. Adhiban, P. Harikrishna, Vidit Guajarati, S.P. Sethuraman, and S.S. Ganguly. Viswanathan Anand recently turned 48 (11th December) and wasn’t considered one of the favourites as his recent performances weren’t matching his class. Starting as an underdog, Anand kicked-off with two wins in the first two rounds with a masterpiece second round game, sacrificing two minor pieces to end up with two passed pawns against Hungarian GM Peter Leko. Anand chose safer variations in the games as he played with black pieces, drawing most of them in the next few rounds.
In the ninth round Anand locked horns against current world chess champion and world number one Magnus Carlsen. In Botvinnik Variation of Nimzo Indian Defence, the game was a positional battle till move 28, when Magnus played his Knight to e6 creating imbalances and making the position awfully sharp. Anand, keeping his calm and did not fall for Magnus’ strategy while maintaining control in the centre. Magnus finally succumbed to the pressure built by Anand and blundered his Knight while trying to make the position more chaotic on move 32. Magnus immediately resigned on move 34 as Anand’s queen strolled to e4 making a battery with bishop on b7 to threat check-mate to the white’s monarch on g2. This was the most critical round of the tournament as it turned the odds on its head for Anand.
After beating Magnus, Anand was one of the favourites to win the event along with Russian players Vladmir Feedosiv, Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtc. In the fourteenth round, Anand was paired against Alexander Grischuk, and a win was a must for Anand to keep his chances high to win the title. Known for his never give-up attitude, Anand rose to the occasion by beating Grischuk with a superb positional play possessing two knights for Grischuk’s double bishop.
In round 15 a strategic draw against Chinese GM Bu Xiangzhi, Anand secured a guaranteed shared first place with 10.5 points. As the other games were still in progress, Magnus could have made most of this opportunity against Grischuk with a victory taking him to 11 points, making him the clear winner. Favourite to win, Carlsen was playing with white pieces against Grischuk who is known for poor time management in rapid and blitz chess. To everyone’s surprise Grischuk demonstrated a classic brand of aggressive chess and made Carlsen resign with exchange-up in end game. Vladmir Feedosiv and Ian Nepomniachtc won their games and tied for the first place with Anand with 10.5 points. Ian Nepomniachtc was declared third as the average rating of his opponents was the lowest in three of them.
The tie-breaker system had to be employed to decide the winner as Feedosiv and Anand remained on same points. Two blitz games were to be played with a time control of 3 minutes each with 2 seconds of increment for each move starting from move 1. Anand won both these blitz games against Feedosiv to ascertain his World Rapid Chess Champion 2017 title.
The result and the content smile on Anand’s face were simply amazing to watch for all Indians and fans across the globe. The year 2017 had more downs than ups for Anand from his career standpoint but ended in the most desired manner for him. It is a proud moment for India and Indian sports to have Anand win World Championship yet again.

Amar Godbole

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