The presence of Grandmaster P. Harikrishna is sure to see a major spike in Indian interest in the million-dollar Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour that continues with the $150,000 Chessable Masters on Saturday.
Hari, the first Indian on the Tour, is part of a 12-player field that includes the world’s top six – Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Ling Diren (China), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) and Alexander Grishcuk (Russia) – on the classical format ranking list.
Following the decision to tweak the league phase of the Tour’s third leg, by dividing the field into two groups of six players each, Hari finds himself in the tougher one.
On Saturday, Hari starts with black pieces against Russia’s Vladislav Artemiev and follows alternate colours against Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, Russia’s Daniil Dubov, USA’s Hikaru Nakamura and Russia’s Alexander Grischuk. After Sunday’s rest, Hari plays the same rivals with opposite colours.
It is pertinent to note, Carlsen and Dubov won the first two legs at the expense of Nakamura.
The other group includes Caruana, Liren, Nepomniachtchi, Lagrave, Teimour Radjabov and Anish Giri. Four players from each group advance to the quarterfinals.
Looking ahead, Hari told The Hindu, “My approach remains the same whether I start as the favourite or an underdog. Pressure is a good motivation to have. In fact, I have not played as many rapid and blitz events as the other guys (in the field). Luckily, I played Grand Chess Tour events in Kolkata, the last two years, and the World rapid and blitz championship, which gave me a lot of confidence to play against these guys.”
“Yes. My rating is lower in rapid but I think, I’m better than my rating in rapid, in general, than blitz. It’s also quite different playing online and over-the-board events.”
Reflecting on his runner-up finish in a strong World Stars Sharjah Online field earlier this week, Hari said, “I didn’t start not well but scored four-and-a-half points out of five from Rounds 5 to 9. So, I’m quite happy I could win so many games in a row in a strong event. Now I’m confident of doing well.”