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Chicago Triumph: Kannappan on his First GM Norm Print E-mail
By IM Priyadharshan Kannappan   
June 6, 2014
Playing against GM Alexander Shabalov in Chicago open 2014, Photo Eric Rosen

When planning my summer chess trip of five tournaments in USA, I had a very clear target: 50 fide ratings points and three grandmaster norms. At the end of Chicago Open, I have already achieved 1/3 of my target! So, what really happened at the Chicago Open??

I started off the tournament in the worst possible way due to fatigue and tiredness, as  I blew up a clearly won endgame in round 1 and drew against Karthik Ramachandran (FIDE rating:2109). Round two was more pleasant as I beat Daniel Aldrich(FIDE rating:2066) quite easily.  In Round 3, I was paired against GM Conrad Holt (FIDE rating:2555), who is known to be a very strong theoretician, but I managed to gain an opening advantage in his French Be7 setup, only to blow up the advantage and agree to a draw on move 22.

Round 4 was a tough matchup for me, as I was paired against University of Texas at Brownsville student and Canada's top rated player GM Anton Kovalyov(FIDE rating:2637). It was a very tense game, where the game quality was quite high, and I lost the thread just before the time control, allowing my opponent to capitalize on my inaccuracies and overpower me in the endgame. At this point of tournament,  I was down, but I was quite happy that I was able to get really good positions against Grandmasters.

I played with Webster School student and fellow St.Louis player Iskandar Aripov(FIDE rating:2231). This was a quick game, as he erred in the opening, and allowed me to demolish him in 25 moves. In round 6, I had the black pieces against Dennis Monokroussos(FIDE rating:2295). I had a better understanding of Queens Gambit Accepted than my opponent, which allowed me to exploit his opening inaccuracy and win a quickie in 33 moves. At this point, I was at 4/6 and was confident that I would finish in the prize list.

I was paired against former US Champion GM Alexander Shabalov (FIDE rating:2506). Shabalov is very well known for his aggressive playing style, so he choose a rarely played Ne5 setup against my Moscow variation in Sicilian. 

In this game I had a clear target on my opponent's e5 pawn, and all I did was attack it throughout the game.   

Priyadharshan,K (2420) - Shabalov,Alexander (2506) [B51]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.0-0 Ngf6 5.Re1 a6 6.Bd3 Ne5 
Black goes for an interesting setup after a deep thought.
7.Nxe5 dxe5 8.b3
A new move: 8.a4 b6 9.Na3 Bb7 10.Nc4 Nd7 11.b3 e6 12.Bb2 is very similiar to the game but black can play Qg5 here.
8...Qd4 9.Nc3 Bg4 10.Be2 Bxe2 (10...Be6 11.Bb2 Nxe4 12.Nxe4 Qxb2 13.Nxc5±; 10...h5 11.Bb2 Rd8 12.Na4 Qd6 13.f3 b5 14.fxg4 hxg4 15.Bxg4 bxa4 16.Bc3±) 11.Qxe2; 8...b5!? 9.Bb2 Qc7 10.Nc3 e6 11.Nd5 exd5 12.Bxe5! Qxe5 13.exd5 Qxe1+ 14.Qxe1+ Kd7 15.c4
 9.Bb2 Nd7 10.a4
Stopping Black from expanding with b5, and also giving the white knight a route.
10...b6 11.Na3 Be7?! 12.Nc4 Qc7 13.Qh5
13.Qg4 Bf6 14.f4 exf4 15.e5 h5 16.Qxf4+-
13...g6 14.Bxe5 Nxe5 15.Qxe5 Qxe5 16.Nxe5 Bf6 17.Nc4 
17.f4 this move looked objectively good but practically the text move looked more interesting 17...g5 18.Rad1 gxf4 19.Nc4 Rb8 20.Nd6+ Ke7 21.Nxc8+ Rhxc8 22.e5 Bg7 23.Bxa6 Rd8 I wasn't sure if I would be able to win this, as it is opposite colored bishops
17...Bxa1 18.Nxb6 Bf6
18...Rb8 19.Nxc8 Be5 (19...Bf6 20.Nd6+ Ke7 21.e5 Bxe5 22.Nxf7 Bxh2+ 23.Kxh2 Kxf7 24.Bxa6±) 20.Bxa6 Kf8 (20...Kd8 21.Na7 Kc7 22.Bc4; 20...Kd7 21.Na7 Ra8 22.Bb5+ Kd6 23.Nc6 Bg7 24.e5+ Kc7 25.d4± this was the position, I had in mind) 21.Na7 Ra8 22.Nc6 Bxh2+ 23.Kxh2 Rxa6 24.Ne5 Ke7 25.Nc4 f6 26.e5± I was so sure, he would play this variation, so I was highly surprised, when he did not; 18...Ra7 19.Nxc8 Rc7 20.Rxa1 Rxc8 21.Bxa6+-
19.Nxa8 Bd8 20.a5 Bxa5 21.Ra1 Bxd2 22.Bxa6 Bc3
22...0-0 23.Bxc8 Bc3 24.Ra7 Rxc8 25.Nb6+-
23.Bb5+ Bd7
23...Kf8 24.Ra7 Kg7 25.Nb6 Rd8 26.g3+-; 23...Kd8 24.Ra7+-; 23...Ke7 24.Ra7+ Kf6 25.Nb6 Rd8 26.g3+-
24.Ra7 Bxb5 25.Nc7+ Kf8 26.Nxb5 Be5 27.Ra8+ Ke7 28.Rxh8 Bxh8+-


This victory gave me new vigor and hope that I still had a chance for my GM norm, but never in my wildest dreams, did I think I'd share the title.

Round 8 I was up against UTD alumni GM Julio Catalino Sadorra (FIDE rating:2611). Having the black pieces against a 2600, I took a cautious approach, and played my favorite Queen's Gambit Accepted. I got a position which was very interesting by move 12, but I slowly sensed that the game maybe slipping away from me, so I had to make a very bold move in move 15, which after the game came under heavy praise from my opponent.  Even the computer takes a few seconds to realize the beauty of 15....g5!! 

The game was very tactical and tense till my opponent blundered with 26.Rf1 giving me my first win against a 2600.

Sadorra,Julio Catalino (2611) - Priyadharshan,K (2420) [D27]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 Nf6 4.Bxc4 e6 5.Nf3 a6 6.0-0 c5 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Re1 b5 9.e4 cxd4 10.e5 Nd5 11.a4 b4 
11...bxa4 is the main move, which I didn't know! 12.Rxa4 Bb4 13.Bd2
12.Bg5 in this game, black was doing great 12...Be7 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.Nbd2 Bb7 15.Nc4 0-0 16.Rc1 Nf4 17.Be4 Nc5 18.Bxb7 Qxb7 19.Nd6 Qa7 20.Nxd4 Ncd3 Tregubov,P (2611)-Nanu,C (2519) Haguenau 2013
A new move. 12..Qc7 was the move of Markowski.
13.Qc2 Bb7 14.Nd2
14.Qg4?! this is the move Lautier recommends in one of his game annotations 14...h5! Black seizes the initative
14...Be7 15.Qg4 

Even the computer takes some time to realize how good this move is. My opponent was confident that g5 would make it into a chess book! I played this move, as I thought g6 was a passive defensive move and it would take me to uncomfortable positions.
16.Ne4 h5 17.Qg3 Nxe4
17...Nf4?! 18.Nxg5 Qxd4 19.Qxf4 Qxf4 20.Bxf4±
it looks like black has over extended and his king is struck in the center, but the loose white pieces in the center of the board, provides ample chances for black
Capturing the control of the open file [18...Qb6!? a very interesting idea that I missed, when I played Rc8 but flashed on my mind immediately after playing Rc8..this is not an extremely good idea 19.Rd1 (19.Nb3 0-0-0 20.Bxg5? h4 21.Qg4 Rdg8) 19...Rc8; 18...g4!? 19.Bd2 Qb6 20.Nb3 a5 21.Rac1 Rd8 22.Rc2 white is more comfortable.
Isolating the b4 pawn, and also creating a possible checking square on a4 against the black king
19...g4 20.Bd2 Bg5?!
20...Rc5 21.Nb3 Rc4 22.Qd3 Qc7 23.f4 0-0!! that's a very brave but a very good move 24.Rac1 Rc8 25.h3 Bc5+ 26.Kf1 Ba7 27.hxg4 hxg4 28.Qg3 f5 29.exf6 Nxf6 this position is super complicated, as both the kings are extremely weak.
21.Bxg5 Qxg5 22.f4 h4 23.fxg5
23.Qf2?! Qh6 24.f5 g3 25.Qf3 h3 26.Qxg3 hxg2
23...hxg3 24.hxg3 Rc4 25.Rad1 Ke7 

26.g6 fxg6 27.Bxg6 Rh6 28.Qc2 Rc5 29.Rd2 Rxa5 30.Nb3 Rb5 31.Rd4+-
26...Ne3 27.b3 Bxe4 28.bxc4 Bxg2??
Throwing away the advantage. 28...Nxf1 29.Kxf1 (29.Rxf1??) 29...Rd8 (29...Rc8 30.Rc1 Rc5 31.Kf2 Rxe5 32.c5 Rxg5 33.c6 I should have at least gone for this position, but somehow I was not confident of taking on f1 on move 28 33...Rg8-+; 29...b3 30.Rd2 Bd3+!! this move was missed by me in calculation as I was looking only on Rd8 and Rb8 31.Rxd3 b2 32.Rb3 Rh1+ 33.Ke2 b1=Q 34.Rxb1 Rxb1-+) 30.Ke2 b3 31.Nxb3 Bf3+! I missed this move during my calculation 32.gxf3 gxf3+]
29.Rf4 Rh1+ 30.Kf2 Rxd1 31.Kxe3 Bf3! 32.Nxf3 b3 33.Nd2 b2 34.c5 Rxd2 35.Rb4 Rc2 36.c6 Rxc6 37.Rxb2 Rc5 38.Kf4 Rxa5 39.g6 fxg6 40.Rb7+=
29...Rh1+ 30.Kf2 Bxf1 31.Nc6+ Kf8 32.Rd8+ Kg7 33.Kxe3 b3 34.Rb8
34.Ne7 b2 35.Rg8+ Kh7 36.Rf8 b1=Q 37.Rxf7+ Kh8-+
34...Bxc4 35.Rb4 Rc1 36.Nd4 Rc3+ 37.Kf4 Bd5 38.Rb6 Rd3 39.Rb4
39.Ne2 Bc4 40.Nc1 Rc3 41.Nxb3 Rxb3-+

A very exciting game! 0-1
I had guessed that most probably I would be paired with the America's latest GM Kayden Troff in the final round, and I was sure that a win would fetch me my GM norm and possibly a share for the first, but I wasn't ready to go for a win straight away. As a psychological decision, I offered my opponent a draw, to show my intent to him, am ok with a draw too, though I knew the rejection possibility was very high. 

My opponent, as I guessed, refused my draw offer, but by move 12, felt highly uncomfortable with his position, and made a draw offer, which I refused, as my position was very good.  I had a very solid positional edge throughout the game, which I cashed in during his time trouble, to win the game.

Priyadharshan,K (2420) - Troff,Kayden W (2484) [B52]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.c4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4

I offered him a draw
 7...g6 8.h3
8.Be3 Bg4 I was worried about this move 9.Nxc6 Nxe3 10.Nxd8 Nxd1 11.Rxd1 Rxd8 12.e5 Bg7 13.exd6 Bxc3+ 14.bxc3 Bxb5 15.cxb5 Rxd6=
 8...Bg7 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 a6 11.Bxc6 bxc6 12.c5 dxc5?!

 New move, he offered me a draw, as he was not happy with the position [the super GM's played 12...Rb8 13.Qe2 Qa5 14.Nb3 Qb4 15.cxd6 exd6 16.e5 Nd5 17.exd6 Nxe3 18.Qxe3 Qxd6 19.Rad1 Qc7 20.Nc5 Bc8 21.b3 a5 22.Rfe1 Ra8 23.N3e4 Bf5 24.Nd6 Rad8 25.Nxf5 gxf5 26.Qf3 Qc8 27.Nd3 Rd6 28.Nf4 Bd4 29.Qg3+ Kh8 30.Rxd4 Rxd4 31.Nh5 1-0 (31) Vachier Lagrave,M (2710)-Dominguez Perez,L (2712) Beijing 2011
13.Nb3 c4 14.Nc5 Qc7 15.Qe2 Bc8

15...Rfb8 16.Rfd1 Be8 17.Rd2
16.Qxc4 Bd7 17.Rac1 
Piling up the pressure on the c-file
17...Nxc5 18.Qxc5 Be6 19.b3! Be5 20.Na4

20.Ne2!? I found this move pretty interesting over the board, but I strongly felt the knight should be on c5.
20...Bh2+ 21.Kh1 Bd6 22.Qc3 Be5 23.Qc2!± Bf4 24.Rfe1 Bxe3 25.Rxe3 Rfd8 26.Nc5 Qe5 27.Rd3 Qf6 28.Rcd1 Rdb8 29.Kg1 a5 30.Qc3 Qxc3 31.Rxc3 Rb6
I had a clear plan in mind, of how to win this game
32.f4 Kg7 33.Kf2 Kf8 34.g4
Limiting the space of the black bishop further.
34...Ke8 35.f5?!
35.Rcd3 a4 36.Nxa4 Rbb8 37.R1d2+-
35...Bc8 36.Ke3?
36.Rcd3 is more accurate 36...Ba6 37. Rd7 Rbb8 38.e5+-
36...Ba6 37.h4 Rd8 38.Rxd8+ Kxd8 39.Rc2 Bc8
39...Kc7 40.Rf2 Bc8 41.fxg6 fxg6 42.g5 Kd6 43.Na4 Rb4 44.Nb2 Be6 45.Rf8±
40.Na4 Ra6 41.Kf4 h6 42.Nc5 Rb6 43.Rc4 Kc7 44.g5 h5 45.Ke5 Rb5 46.a4 Rb8 47.Rd4 Rb6 48.Rc4 Rb8 49.Rc3 Rb4 50.fxg6 fxg6 51.Nd3 Rb8 52.Nf4 Bg4 53.Nxg6 Bd1 54.Nxe7 Rxb3 55.Rxb3 Bxb3 56.g6 Kd7 57.Kf6 Be6 58.Nxc6 


This gave me a score 7/9, a tie for the title and my GM norm!!

There was no time to celebrate the biggest success in my tournament career, as I had to leave to Saint Louis the same night for the Saint Louis GM Invitational. I scored 4/9, and gained one rating point, which cannot be considered a complete disaster, after such a good performance in Chicago. But it showed that I still have huge holes in my game, which I would have to rectify before I start the second and final leg of my chess tournaments stating with NY International and ending with the World Open.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank my family, who have been a pillar of support behind every decision I make in my life, and to all my coaches, especially my current trainer GM R.B.Ramesh, who is more like a mentor than a coach. The support that Lindenwood University have provided in the past 2.5 years, have also played a major part in my tournament success in America. I also need to thank the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for all the wonderful opportunities they have provided me in the last 2.5 years, without which I wouldn't have so much passion for chess. 

Find full information and standings of the Chicago Open at and
the full story on the GM Invitational in STL here.