17-year-old Arjun Erigaisi will have the chance to make a name for himself when he plays in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour in June, and the way he dispatched top seed Adhiban in the final of the Indian Qualifier should ensure the world’s best players will take him very seriously. Arjun was close to winning the second rapid game before he finally drew blood with a counterattack in the first blitz game, just when Adhiban seemed set to triumph with 1.b3. Third place was taken by Aravindh, who beat Gukesh 2.5:0.5.
You can replay all the games from the Indian Qualifier for the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour using the selector below.
And here’s the final day’s commentary from Srinath and Tania, with the finalists joining after their match was over.
Both Adhiban and Erigaisi had already achieved the main goal of qualifying for the Champions Chess Tour, but that didn’t stop their final from being an intense battle. In rapid games 1 and 3 Adhiban opened with 1.d4 and never managed to gain an edge, while in Game 2 Arjun outplayed his illustrious opponent in a 3.Bb5+ Sicilian.
Adhiban had to dig deep, and he came up with a brilliant defence based around 22…Nxd5!
The only problem with the defence was that, as Adhiban realised during the game, it didn’t actually work. If Arjun had gone for 23.exd5! then after 23…Rxf3! 24.Rxf3 Qxb1+ 25.Kh2 Qg6 material is level, but 26.Qe7! would leave Black powerless to defend the three weaknesses on b7, d6 and g7 – the white rook is ready to move to g3.
Instead Arjun went for 23.Nxe5? and after 23…Qe6! almost all of his advantage had gone.
The game was drawn in just five more moves, before the 4th game also ended in a sharp 26-move draw.
That meant the match would be decided in blitz chess, and finally it was time for Adhiban to unleash what would be his trademark weapon if he’d actually published his Chessable course!
Afterwards Adhiban somewhat dammed 1.b3 with faint praise.
For some reason people think it’s horrible, but probably it’s not so bad. It’s not so bad that someone wouldn’t play this against Magnus – you don’t have to quit your job for that! (Tania had threatened to rage quit if Adhiban plays 1.b3 against Magnus Carlsen) It’s not worse than the Scandinavian, that’s for sure.
The game itself was a much better advert for the opening, however. Sometimes Adhiban plays the opening modestly, but this time he was soon throwing his kingside pawns down the board.
White was completely on top, but the game began to turn on move 15.
Here 15.Qf3 and castling queenside was strong, but after 15…Qe7+ you need to be ready to play the fearless 16.Kf2! Instead Adhiban went for 15.Qe2+ and after 15…Qe7 16.Qxe7+ Kxe7 we had an endgame. He explained afterwards that he’d only gone for this because of 17.h6, but then realised it was no good after 17…fxg6! Instead he played 17.Nh3?!, but after 17…Rxh5 all of White’s advantage had gone.
It would soon get worse for Adhiban, who instead of a likely draw with 32.Nxc3! played 32.Nh4? which ran into 32…Rh5! 33.Nf6.
This would only be equal if the eagle-eyed Erigaisi hadn’t spotted 33…Nxd3+! 34.cxd3 Bxf6 35.Nf3 Rf5 and it was game over.
Vidit said afterwards that the difference between the players had been that Arjun was “a little bit sharper than Adhiban in the blitz section”.
In the final game Adhiban now needed to win with the black pieces, but despite managing to apply some pressure it fizzled out into a draw that meant Arjun Erigaisi was the champion.
It was a thoroughly deserved victory for Erigaisi who, as Vidit noted, had been on top form from the very beginning when he played Nihal Sarin in Round 1.
He outplayed Nihal very convincingly. He was playing very high quality chess right from the start.
Arjun went on to lose only one game all tournament and will now get to take on the world’s best players in June’s Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event. Adhiban will be there too, but we’ll get to see him much sooner when he takes on David Navara in the MrDodgy Invitational 2.0!
The match for 3rd place was brief and brutal, with the 1st game a reminder of just how tough pawn endgames can be.
This position was reached on move 29, and before the players drew in 53 moves both had missed a win!
From then on it was 2-time Indian Champion Aravindh who took control with a hyper-sharp counterattack against 14-year-old Gukesh. The final position was mate-in-4.
The match was over with a game to spare as Aravindh put in a dominant performance with the white pieces to clinch a 2.5:0.5 victory.
So that’s all for the Indian Qualifier, with Erigaisi and Adhiban set to play in the Indian Open, the next but one Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event, taking place from June 26 to July 4.
The next big event is the MrDodgy Invitational 2.0, starting Wednesday May 12th!