Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Canadian Grandmaster Anton Kovalyov and now faces ouster threat from the World Chess Cup. Having struggled in the second game of the first round that he eventually managed to draw, Anand's dip in form continued against Kovalyov who kept his nerves in a thrilling game after a speculative piece sacrifice by the Indian ace.
For the records, it was a Sicilian Najdorf wherein Anand continued with a typical variation he has been using off-late. Kovalyov got a slightly worse position in the middle game but stayed put with some fine defensive manoeuvres.
After the trade of queens, the Canadian Grandmaster was surprised by a knight sacrifice by Anand but again held on to his guard despite his king taking a walk around the centre.
As it turned out, Anand's sacrifice was not enough to get any advantage and in the end, Kovalyov's extra piece had the final say.
Down a point in the two-games mini-match, Anand will now have to win with black pieces in the return game. If Anand wins, tiebreak games of shorter duration will be played to determine the winner.
Meanwhile, Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi made a strong bid for the third round by winning his game as black against top Vietnamese Le Quang Liem. Gujrathi now just needs a draw in the next game which should not be a tall order with white pieces.
Gujrathi employed the Ragozin defence to draw the first blood. The opening gave nothing to Quang Leim and he even offered an early draw that was rejected by the Indian. As it happened, Gujrathi won a pawn in the ensuing endgame and made the technicalities look like child's play.
Grandmaster S P Sethuraman showed his first round victory against Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine was no flash in the pan and easily held higher-ranked compatriot P Harikrishna to a draw with black pieces.
The other remaining Indian, B Adhiban was up to the task in a deep opening preparation and drew with higher-rated Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia. Sacrifice and counter sacrifices ensued right from the beginning in this spectacular game and in the end, the draw was agreed through repetition of moves.
In the other top matches, world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway outclassed Aleksey Dreev of Russia while Vladimir Kramnik put it across his Russian counterpart Anton Demchenko. There were just seven decisive games out of a possible 32 in the first game of the second round.
The World Cup is a knock out the event with two games under normal time control followed by Rapid or blitz games to determine the winner. The total prize money at stake is 1.6 million USD and the two will qualify for the next candidates' tournament.
Important and Indian results round 2 game 1:
Aleksey Dreev (Rus) lost to Magnus Carlsen (Nor); Wesley So (USA) drew with Matthias Bluebaum (Ger); Lenic Luka (Slo) drew with Fabiano Caruana (USA); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) beat Anton Demchenko (Rus); Hou Yifan (Chn) drew with Levon Aronian (Arm); Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze) drew with Yuriy Kuzubov (Ukr); Bruzon Batista Lazaro (Cub) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (USA); Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra) beat Boris Grachev (Rus); Jorge Cori (Per) drew with Alexander Grischuk (Rus); V Anand (Ind) lost to Anton Kovalyov (CAN); Karjakin Sergey (Rus) drew with Daniil Dubov (Rus); Alexander Motylev (Rus) drew with Anish Giri (Ned); B Adhiban (Ind) drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus); P Harikrishna (Ind) drew with S P Sethuraman (Ind); Le Quang Liem (Vie) lost to Vidit Gujrathi (Ind).