Legendary Anand wins Tata Steel blitz tournament in style


Kolkata: Indian chess legend Viswanathan Anand saved his best for the last to clinch the inaugural Tata Steel Chess India Blitz Tournament by getting past overnight leader Hikaru Nakamura in the playoff here on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old five-time world champion, who was fourth after the first leg, secured six wins and three draws in the final nine rounds to draw level with the world number three of blitz Nakamura.

In the two-round play-off which was faster than blitz in 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.

“Today was just like a dream. I wanted to show the audience what is that I do in some other part of the world all the time and it was nice to be able to do it here,” Anand said during the prize distribution ceremony.

In the blitz category, Anand had last won a bronze medal at the World Championship in December 2017 Riyadh, in the same meet where he had won the rapid title.

Nakamura, meanwhile, had a forgettable outing on the final leg where he eked out four victories and four draws and suffered a defeat to Pentala Harikrishna in the 11th round.

Praising Anand, he said there is no reason why the legendary player 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. There is no reason he should stop and it just shows what a truly amazing chess player he is.”

Anand had India’s youngest Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa to thank as the 13-year-old did a huge favour in the last round when he held Japanese-American Nakamura in the final round.

Playing white 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 was at his best winning the first in an Italian game.

Anand displayed superb chess after Nakamura took some risks initially, with a one up pawn.

They had a rook and pawn endgame where Anand sealed the issue with a solid display.

Nakamura resorted to long term strategy in the second game after being down 0-1 thinking Anand would break down trying to defend.

But Anand did not falter and went in for an allout attack to put Nakamura on the backfoot.

Finally, the game was forced in opposite square bishop endgame where Nakamura was forced to concede a draw and hand the title to Anand.

Asked what keeps him motivated even after winning it all, Anand said he wanted to win here and that is what drove him to do well.

“I knew that a lot of people would be interested in how I play here and I wanted to show them something. Most of the events you play 10-12 times and your motivation might not be always as high but here it was different,” the legend said.