Pawn turns into bishop

Viswanathan Anand became India's first Grandmaster in 1987. Since then 28 Indians have attained the title but Anand still remains the country's standard bearer.

At the just-concluded Tata steel tournament, it was Anand that continued to hog the limelight with a performance that included a dizzying high and a few disappointing lows as well. On the sidelines, quietly toiling away, Pentala Harikrishna finished a solid 7th in a field that included six of the world's top nine.

Ranked 49 and seeded 10th in the 14-player tournament, Harikrishna earned himself a promotion after winning the Tata Steel 'B' tournament last year. There is potential for serious embarrassment when a lower ranked player is pitted against the very best. Rated 163 points behind Carslen, Harikrishna could easily have become the weakest link that title-chasers bully around to secure easy points.

However, that was not to be. Except for Carlsen against whom he lost, Harikrishna held each player ranked above him to a draw. He also displayed great tournament nous in pushing the stragglers for a result, Anish Giri and Loek Van Welly were the ones who suffered. Had it not been for a surprise defeat to the lower ranked Hou Yifan and his inaccuracies (probably down to tiredness) that allowed World No 9 Hiraku Nakamura to escape with a draw in the 13th and final round, Harikrishna could even have finished third, alongside Anand. These though, are creases that will iron themselves out the more he plays at this level.

Still, the rating points earned helped him breach the 2700 rating barrier for the first time in his career, consolidating his position as the second best in the country. He is only the third Indian to have gone past the mark, after Anand and Krishnan Sasikiran, who has tailed off a bit since. Only 26, Harikrishna has several years ahead of him to close the gap down on Anand.

... contd.

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