There’s a teenage rampage in progress at the 44th Olympiad in Chennai, as India II’s top board, Dommaraju Gukesh (who likes to be better known as ‘Gukesh D’) becomes a new national hero as he further extends his winning streak now to a perfect 6/6 – yet despite the 16-year-old’s top board heroics, his young team suffered their first loss of the tournament, as they crashed 1½-2½ to Armenia in round six.
The three-time Olympiad champions proved to be more experienced and stronger on the lower boards where the match was ultimately decided. And now, going into the rest day, Armenia are the only team left standing with a perfect score of 12/12, a point ahead of the USA, who revived their stuttering title hopes with a slender 2½-1½ victory over Iran.
But at the halfway stage in the podium battle for gold, we could yet still be set for a very close finish with just two match-points separating 13 teams in a very open chase for the Hamilton-Russell Cup where, remarkably, three of which belong to the host-nation – and not only that, but India women’s team are also now in pole-position to win the Vera Menchik Cup!
But even in team defeat, Gukesh D’s so-far stunning Olympiad debut performance is the big talk of the tournament hall – the running joke being if you don’t know how many rounds have been played, then just look at Gukesh D’s score!. Many are now comparing his start of 6/6 favourably with Vladimir Kramnik’s debut at the 1992 Manila Olympiad, where the then unknown 17-year-old Russian – who famously went on to become World Champion – scored 8½/9, with his 2958 rating performance winning him the individual reserve board 5 gold medal on board five.
And like Kramnik before him, Gukesh D looks set to end his first Olympiad by becoming a household name with a major breakthrough into the elite circle on the cards. His latest win, over 2700-rated Armenian Gabriel Sargissian, takes him on a relentless march further up the live ratings to 2719, gaining 20 rating points and a seismic jump of 12 places to become the world #26, and officially now India’s new #3.
And to put it all into context, with 22-months before he reaches his 18th birthday, the young gun is now on a trajectory to possibly better the all-time 18-year-old rating-high of no less a figure than Magnus Carlsen, who topped out at 2786 on his ‘coming of age’ birthday in 2008.
Open: 1. Armenia 12/12; 2. USA 11; 3-13. India II, Uzbekistan, Netherlands, France, Kazakhstan, Cuba, India I, India III, Germany, Peru, Serbia 10. Women’s: 1. India 12/12; 2-3. Azerbaijan, Romania 11. USA tied for 24th= on 8 points.
Photo: It must be round six, because Gukesh D is on a perfect 6! | © Lennart Ootes/44th Chennai Olympiad
GM Gukesh D – GM Gabriel Sargissian
44th Chennai Olympiad, (6.1)
Queens’ Gambit Declined, Ragozin Variation
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bb4 The Ragozin variation – named after the leading Soviet player and opening theorists of his day, Vlacheslav Ragozin (1908-1962) – is a very flexible, solid and a reliable system against the QGD, that found a new lease of life following the release of the 2016 New in Chess publication, The Ragozin Complex, by IM Vladimir Barsky. 5.Qa4+ A popular sideline. The main-line usually comes with 5.Bg5 like most lines of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. 5…Nc6 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd2 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Bd6 9.Qc2 e5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Be2 Also possible was 11.Nxe5 Bxe5 12.f4 Bxc3 13.Bxc3 Ng4!? 14.Bd4 c5 15.Bxc5 Re8 16.0-0 as was seen in Mamedyarov-Aronian, SuperBet Chess Classic 2021- but rather than chopping immediately on e3, better first is 16…b6 17.Bd4 and then 17…Nxe3 18.Bxe3 Rxe3 19.Rfe1 Rxe1+ 20.Rxe1 where Black doesn’t get hit by the double attack on the pawns on b7 and f7, that led to Aronian’s downfall in that game. 11…Nxf3+ 12.gxf3 There’s really nothing gained from the opening by Gukesh apart from the open g-file now to attack his opponent’s king – but boy, does he make full use of it! 12…a6 13.0-0-0 b5 14.Rhg1 b4 15.Ne4 Nxe4 16.fxe4 Qe7 17.f4 The most logical move, and now the pawn phalanx, coupled with the threat down the open g-file, gives Sargissian something to worry about. 17…a5? It all starts to go desperately wrong from this moment. Sargissian had to stop White gaining vital space with e5 by playing 17…f6 and we have a balanced fight ahead. But without this vital move, Black’s position turns critical as Gukesh ruthlessly piles the pressure on down the g-file. 18.e5 Bc5 19.Rg5 An understandably ambitious attacking move by a young player on the rise – but the engine points out a more refined way of playing it with 19.Kb1 Ba6 20.Bxa6 Rxa6 21.Rc1! The crafty reason for playing Kb1, as now Black’s pieces get a little muddled up. 21…Bb6 22.Rg2 with Rcg1 to follow with an unhindered kingside attack. 19…Ba6 20.Rdg1 g6 21.Bxa6 Rxa6 22.f5 It’s all one-way traffic now, as the Gukesh juggernaut rolls on. 22…Ba7 23.e6! Kh8 24.Kb1 Gukesh just takes a little timely time-out to stop …Qc5 exchanging the queens. 24…gxf5 25.Bxb4! [see diagram] Young Guns (Go For It), as the mantra from the 1980s pop duo Wham would have it! 25…Qxb4 26.Qg2 Qe4+ The only way to stop the mate down the g-file; but alas it doesn’t ease Sargissian’s predicament, as he’s still hopelessly lost – but Gukesh’s technique for finishing the game is clean and flawless, much like the young Kramnik back in 1992 on his Olympiad debut. 27.Qxe4 fxe4 28.e7 Re8 29.Rg8+! Rxg8 30.Rxg8+ Kxg8 31.e8Q+ With Black’s pieces all awkwardly placed, Gukesh easily mops up to finish the game. 31…Kg7 32.Qe5+ Rf6 33.Qg5+ Rg6 34.Qxa5 Rg1+ Unfortunately for Sargissian, the e3-pawn is taboo as 34…Bxe3?? 35.Qc3+ picks up the bishop. 35.Kc2 Rg2+ 36.Kb3 Bb6 37.Qe5+ Kf8 38.Qh8+ Ke7 39.Qxh7! With Black’s pawns and pieces falling like autumn leaves, the end comes swiftly now. 39…Re2 40.Qxe4+ Kf8 41.Qb4+ 1-0 Another impressive performance from Gukesh, with any king move from Black sees the rook being picked off.