Reykjavik Open 2018: Adhiban Baskaran clinches title after holding Mustafa Yilmaz in final round

Aditya Pai

In the final round of the Reykjavik Open, India's Adhiban Baskaran held Turkish Grandmaster Mustafa Yilmaz to a draw to bag the title prize at the event. In the penultimate round, the Indian Grandmaster had beaten the top seed and his only co-leader in the tournament, Richard Rapport, making himself the sole leader. Grandmaster Yilmaz, who was half a point behind, was the only one who had a chance of winning the title. But for that to happen, he would have had to beat Adhiban in the finale. As for Adhiban, since he was already ahead in score, he only needed a draw.

Adhiban Baskaran. Image Courtesy: Fiona Steil-Antoni

Adhiban Baskaran. Image Courtesy: Fiona Steil-Antoni

Defeating Adhiban was not an easy task for Yilmaz. Not only was Adhiban higher rated than him, he had also shown great form throughout the event. In fact, Adhiban had scored five back-to-back victories until the penultimate round.

Yilmaz, who had the white pieces opened with the Queen's pawn. Adhiban answered in Queen's Gambit style, but the position eventually transposed into a Stonewall Dutch. As is typical for the opening, Yilmaz maintained a stronghold on the e5 square and soon several exchanges followed. Neither side secured any big advantage as such although Yilmaz did seem to have a slight edge in the middlegame. But Adhiban defended well and never let the position go out of hand. The players, therefore, decided to go for a draw by repetition by the 31st move.

After the game, Adhiban pointed out that it was his first time, playing in Reykjavik and he was very happy to have won the tournament on his very first try. He said he also wanted to win the tournament because Reykjavik is the resting place of Bobby Fischer. Also, this year's edition of the tournament was hosted as the "Bobby Fischer Memorial" marking the 10th death anniversary of the American chess legend who spent his final days in Reykjavik.

Another good result for India in the final round came from the third board where Grandmaster Vaibhav Suri was playing against the second seed of the tournament, Grandmaster Pavel Eljanov. The two opened with the Classical Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence. Suri not only got a slight edge out of the opening but also ahead in material as he had two minor pieces against his opponent's rook. As play progressed an endgame was reached where Suri had still maintained his material superiority but the limited number of pawns remaining on the board strongly alluded to a draw.

Suri, however, kept trying to win. Of course, he had nothing to lose. He had a slight material advantage in an otherwise drawn position. He could play on as long as he liked and take the draw if his attempts didn't lead him anywhere. The game went on for 143 moves, 52 moves after the last pawn move was made, when the game was declared a draw as per the 50 move rule. As per the rules of chess, a game is declared drawn if no pawn moves or captures have been made for 50 moves.

In another interesting encounter of the day, International Master Nihal Sarin, who had earned a Grandmaster norm in the tournament two rounds before the end of the event, was defeated by Maxime Lagarde. Nihal essayed the awfully drawish main line of the Berlin Defence with the black pieces. However, things did not go his way in this round. He failed to find the best moves in the ensuing endgame and gave his opponent a significant edge by the 25th move. As play progressed, Lagarde's far advanced pawn majority on the king side proved to be unstoppable for Nihal who resigned after white's 46th move.

The Indian other child prodigy in the fray, R Praggnanandhaa missed his Grandmaster norm in Reykjavik but finished the tournament on a high note beating compatriot Niranjan Navalgund. Praggnanandhaa had the white pieces in this game and went for the non-committal 1.Nf3 yet again. The game was fairly even for most part of the middle game but Navalgund fumbled on his 36th turn and allowed Praggnanandhaa to shatter his queenside pawn structure. Over the next few moves, Praggnanandhaa tried to exchange queens. But when Navalgund avoided trading queens, he found an ingenious way to trap the black monarch in a mating net by sacrificing a couple of pawns first and then a piece. On the 53rd move, Navalgund was forced to resign as the checkmate Praggnanandhaa looked threatening.