Nihal Sarin, 11, is one of India’s brightest young stars. In this game, he displays an intuitive sense that it usually takes many years to develop.
Nihal Sarin is 11 years old and one of the biggest young talents in Indian chess. I had seen interviews with him, but this was the first time that I seriously looked at his games. In the Hasselbacken Open in Sweden in early May, he scored a nice win over grandmaseter Eduardas Rozentalis of Lithuania, but I was even more impressed by the following game against Adam Brzezinski of Sweden. Though both players missed some tactical tricks near the end, Sarin showed a great intuitive feel for the initiative.
Nihal, Sarin vs. Brzezinski, A.
Hasselbacken Open 2016 |Stockholm SWE |Round 8.32 |07 May 2016 |ECO: A61 |1-0
1. d4Nf62. c4e63. Nf3c54. d5d65. Nc3exd56. cxd5g67. Bf4a68. Nd2Nh59. Qa4+Qd710. Qe4+Be711. Bh6f512. Qc2b513. g4!?It's hard to say if this is objectively the strongest move - probably not - but it sure is creative! At the moment, it is very hard to see the idea behind fxg4 - and Black didn't see it either in the game. Nihal shows
great intuition to realize that securing the e4 square for his knight would prove crucial - after all, there are too many options to calculate these lines precisely.
( 13. e4would be the other natural move - but obviously Black is not going to play fxe4, so the tension remains stable. Black wasn't forced to take on g4 either - and he shouldn't have - but it was certainly tempting to do so! 13... Bf6 )
( 13... Nf6had to be played. It is very hard to see why fxg4 was bad, but perhaps Black should have sensed that giving up the center could be very dangerous. 14. h3!?White maintains the tension in the center. The idea is that Black still can't play fxg4 because of moves like Nde4. The position will remain very tense if Black doesn't give up the e4 square; he could have tried moves like Bf8 or Bb7. 14... fxg4?15. Nde4!Nxe416. Nxe4 )
( 14. h3looks like a natural way to exploit the sacrifice on g4, but Black can avoid hxg4 with the simple 14... g3! )
14... b4?This gives up the crucial c4 square for the White knight. There were two other typical moves to avoid playing b4: Bb7 and Qb7.
( 14... Bb7Seems the most natural as now the b5 pawn remains defended, but the Bishop will be horribly positioned on a8: 15. axb5axb516. Rxa8Bxa817. e4!c418. Be2Black's problem is that the bishop on a8 is completely out of the game. And the kingside is getting opened up, which makes the bishop even poorer. )
( 14... Qb7!It was important to maintain the pawn on b5. And compared to playing Bb7 Black is able to keep the light-squared bishop active. It would have been dead on b7. 15. Bg2At first, Black's development looks quite poor in this variation as well, but he has this amazing idea to get rid of the bishop on h6: 15... Nd7!16. O-ONe517. axb5Nf7! )
15. Nce4Bb716. Nc4!And White's plans come together perfectly! 16... Bxd5
( 16... Qc717. h3Now that g3 is not possible,
White is much better prepared to play h3: 17... gxh318. Bxh3 )
17. Rd1The open files clearly benefit White and all of Black's pieces lack coordination. 17... Qe618. Rxd5This misses the fastest way to win, but
intuitively the move makes a lot of sense. Black's bishop was the only
annoying and well-developed piece, so White gets rid of it. Meanwhile,
he continues to develop very quickly:
( 18. Ncxd6+!would have been the quickest way to win - 18... Bxd619. Nxd6+Qxd620. Bg2 )
( 21... d5was a better move as it slows down Whites advance: 22. Ng3but Black's center still looks quite shaky and White is still clearly ahead in development. )
22. O-ONd723. Rd1Qc7Everything looks easy here, particularly when you look at the position with an engine, but White needs to play accurately to convert his advantage into a win. 24. Qc4!The perfect time to enter with the queen. 24... Ne525. Qe6This seems very tempting, but Black has an amazing resource to save the game. I imagine the rest of the game was played in a time scramble for both the players - but that led to some entertaining missed opportunities by both of them! In the end, however, things work out well for Nihal.
( 25. Qxa6!The crucial thing is not that White is taking a pawn, but that he also creates tactical threats against the Black king. White would still need to find some very accurate moves to convert: 25... Nf726. Qb5+!Qd727. Nf6+Nxf628. Bc6! )
25... Nf7!26. Bg5Nxg527. Nxg5Nf6?Missing a great defense!
( 27... Rf8!28. Nxh7Nf4!would have saved Black's position. )
28. Nf7?A very curious winning line - basically exactly the same as earlier, but with a slight difference!
( 28. Qf7+!Kd729. Qe6+Ke830. Nf7!and Nd6 or Nxh8 can't be stopped. )
28... Kf8?Black had the surprising move:
( 28... O-O!!29. Nxd6+Kg7and nothing is clear anymore! )
Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 90 in the world, he is currently a sophomore at Stanford University.