CHENNAI: Pentala Harikrishna made big leaps in 2016, breaking into the top 10, overtaking five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand in the live rating once, besides inspiring Solingen to title triumph in the Bundesliga (German league). The 31-year-old also anchored India to a fourth-place finish at the Chess Olympiad, which included a win over World Championship challenger Sergei Karjakin.
Harikrishna’s consistent performances has got him into big tournaments, besides improving his game. The India No 2 is playing in the second leg of the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow. “I am looking forward to my first Grand Prix event. The format is different from previous years. It is going to be a nine-round Swiss league,” said Harikrishna before the start of the event.
Harikrishna will be also playing the next two legs in Geneva and Palma de Majorca. Two spots are up for grabs from the Grand Prix series for the 2018 Candidates. Going into the tournament after a not-so-impressive show in Shamkir, Harikrishna will look to keeping his chances alive.
“It’s hard to pick favourites for such events. Any player can win it. It depends on form on those nine days,” he said.
On current form, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is a slight favourite. The Azerbaijan player has been on a roll, winning the Gashimov Memorial for a second straight time and scoring 4/4 in Siberia’s victory in the Russian Club Cup. He has gained more than 20 points to jump to No 6 in live ratings. Maintaining momentum for a third consecutive event might be tough for him, considering the depth of the field.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura and Alexander Grischuk are the other strong contenders. Grischuk looks to be in ominous touch.
Grand Prix series format
Grand Prix series consists of 4 tournaments and 24 players. Invited players play 3 of the 4 events. Each tournament features 18 players. Top two of the series will qualify for 2018 Candidates.
Players: M Vachier-Lagrave (Fra), H Nakamura (USA), Anish Giri (Ned), I Nepomniachtchi (Rus), P Harikrishna (Ind), S Mamedyarov (Aze), Ding Liren (Chn), M Adams (Eng), P Svidler (Rus), A Grischuk (Rus), E Inarkiev (Rus), B Gelfand (Isr), E Tomashevsky (Rus), T Radjabov (Aze), F Vallejo Pons (Spa), Hou Yifan (Chn), JL Hammer (Nor), Salem Saleh (UAE).