Pentala Harikrishna looks to avoid last round losses as he aims Candidates Chess
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Pentala Harikrishna looks to avoid last round losses as he aims Candidates Chess

Indian Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna, currently ranked No. 20 in the world, says that not closing out important last round games is the prime stumbling factor as he aims to qualify for the Candidates Chess tournament in 2018.

other sports Updated: Jun 02, 2017 20:35 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pentala Harikrishna,Candidates Chess tournament,FIDE
Indian chess Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna is aiming to qualify for the Candidates Chess tournament in 2018.(HT file photo)

Indian Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna’s journey in 2017 has been peculiar. The 31-year-old, who is the lone Indian in the 2017 Chess Grand Prix circuit, played some magnificent chess against top players like world champion Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Anish Giri and Sergey Karajkin.

He was on the verge of finishing in the top bracket of a tournament but stumbled in an important match against a less-fancied opponent to slip down. This trend has potentially cost Harikrishna the chance to finish on top on multiple occasions.

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Speaking exclusively to Hindustan Times, Harikrishna said that he did not have a bad tournament when it came to his game. “One particular game changed the course of the result. Not closing out important games in the last rounds in Wijk aan Zee and Shenzen cost me the chance to finish well in the tournament. If I could have avoided one of the losses, I could have finished higher,” Harikrishna said.

The recent examples of Harikrishna’s travails were in Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands and in Shenzen, China. In the Wijk aan Zee tournament that was played in January 2017, Harikrishna started off strongly with draws against top players like Aronian, Karajkin, Anish Giri and Carlsen, but a loss to Loek van Wely in the final round dented his chances and he ended up ninth despite a good show.

In Shenzen, he started off badly with three losses and three draws but bounced back with wins over British Grandmaster Michael Adams and Chinese Grand Master Ding Liren. However, the revival was a bit too late.

Prefer round-robin tournaments

Harikrishna’s first experience in the Chess Grand Prix circuit was bittersweet. In seven games, he registered two wins and three draws but lost two vital games to Boris Gelfand and Peter Svidler and that resulted in him finishing joint 10th in the tournament.

Speaking about his maiden experience in the Grand Prix circuit, Harikrishna said the changed format of the circuit meant that there was no room for error.

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“In the current system, if you have one bad event, you do not have a chance to regain lost ground. In the previous cycle in 2016, there were six Grand Prix events. Each player played four events and the best of three results would be taken into account. Even if a player did not do well, he still had a chance. In this cycle, you play three Grand Prix and all three are counted,” Harikrishna said.

Candidates the goal

Harikrishna will lead the Indian challenge in the third leg of the FIDE Grand Prix in Geneva next month. The Indian Grand Master is not taking any pressure and that the experience in Moscow has served him well. “I got used to the feeling of the Grand Prix during the tournament in Moscow. I am looking (at it) as an opportunity to qualify for the Candidates. I want to play the Geneva leg as a normal tournament,” Harikrishna said.

First Published: Jun 02, 2017 20:35 IST