Leon Masters 2019: Nihal loses to Ivanchuk 2.5-1.5

Nihal loses to Ivanchuk by a narrow margin at the Leon Masters 2019

Former World No. 2 Vassily Ivanchuk beat 14-year-old Indian prodigy Nihal Sarin in their match at the Leon Masters Chess Tournament, which this year celebrates its thirty-second edition.

Ivanchuk started off with the white pieces. He kept up the pressure by playing quickly in a bid to intimidate his young opponent. Nihal stood his ground resolutely, defended well and gave his opponent no opening. The game logically concluded in a draw.

In the second game, Nihal got a slightly more pleasant position and some initiative going in Queens Indian, Petrosian system. However, Ivanchuk didn’t break much sweat in neutralizing White’s edge. Nihal couldn’t really get any pressure going and the game logically concluded in a draw.

In the third game, Ivanchuk played a harmless opening variation and Nihal equalized comfortably. However, Ivanchuk kept playing decent moves at an extremely fast pace. The pressure built up finally overwhelmed Nihal as he went wrong with …f4 at one point allowing Qc2+ and Qf5. Once the position went wrong, Nihal had no chance as he had too little time to offer any resistance.

Nihal came out aggressively in a must-win game. Ivanchuk countered with the Bogo Indian defence and Nihal got an advantage with some accurate play. However, he missed his chance with 19.e4, instead of 19.f4 which would have secured an advantage and given something to play for. The inaccuracy proved to be too expensive in a match that had too little margin for error. Ivanchuk found the right defensive set up and forced Nihal to repeat the moves and settle for a draw.