The Indian Grandmaster, Arjun Erigiasi, has been crowned the rapid champion at the ongoing Tata Steel Chess 2021 in Kolkata. The Indian held the top seed Levon Aronian to a draw in the final round to clinch the title.
R Praggnanandhaa finished third, while Vidit Gujrathi and Murali Karthikeyan took the remaining places in the top-five. Arjun will now replace Adhiban Baskaran in the Blitz category
Heading into the final round with a one-point advantage, Arjun had to overcome the final hurdle -- arguably his toughest challenge in top-seed Aronian. After the customary fist bump, things got underway as Arjun stuck with his pet opening, The Petroff, in response to Aronian's 1. e4 as he needed a draw to seal the issue. But a well-prepared Aronian played out the initial moves quite quickly and on move 16, the Armenian No 1 cashed in on an opportunity to win a pawn, putting Arjun in a spot of bother.
As the game progressed, the one-time World Cup winner tightened the screws on the 18-year-old Indian and created a passed pawn on the central file. It looked like the game was slipping away from the Indian but he kept defending tenaciously from an inferior position.
In a dramatic turnaround, the youngster found a series of moves with unreal precision under extreme pressure to seal a draw and retained his place atop the standings. With the title seemingly slipping away from his hands, the youngster managed to hold his nerve and took advantage of a slight mistake from Aronian to hold the game and bag his first major title in the international circuit.
Hailing from the southern Indian state of Telangana, Arjun had a fantastic tournament in Kolkata and was the sole leader coming into the final day of the event. He defeated the likes of GM Sam Shankland, GM Karthikeyan Murali, GM Parham Maghsoodloo, GM Le Quang Liem, and IM R Vaishali en route his title win.
Arjun's only loss in the tournament came against fellow Indian youngster Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa as he finished on the top with 6.5 points out of a possible 9.
With this win, Arjun Erigiasi becomes the first Indian to win the Tata Steel Chess rapid title. The previous winners of the event include GM Hikaru Nakamura in 2018 and reigning World Champion Magnus in 2018.
With a podium finish in sight, Murali Karthikeyan went all out, unleashing the King's Indian Defense against R Praggnanandhaa. It was an extremely hard-fought battle as both players brought in their A-game. The two-time National champion managed to tick all boxes playing the King's Indian bringing all his pieces into the game.
On the other hand, young Pragg was solid and responded well. Soon, the match entered an endgame with a slight edge for Murali but the game finally ended in a draw on move 73