Hyderabad: Much before the start of the prestigious TATA Steel Chess India tournament in Kolkata, Grandmaster Arjun Erigaisi looked little disappointed as he failed to get an entry in his favourite format blitz.
However, in a turn of fortunes, the Kolkata turned out to be his best performance of his career as he not only clinched the Rapid title and stood on the podium for the second time in the tournament two days later when he won the runners-up trophy. The Warangal-born Arjun was cleared to play the blitz event in the 11th hour after another grandmaster Adhiban Baskaran withdrew from the event on health issues.
Grabbing the opportunity, Arjun continued his rampaging form and was tied for the top spot with World No.4 Levon Aronian but went down in the Armageddon, missing the title by a whisker.
The Warangal lad rated the performance in Kolkata as his best in the career so far. “These titles (title in rapid and second place in blitz) are the biggest performances in my career so far. I came here without any expectations. It was also a great learning experience playing in the tournament as it had a very strong field. Playing in a tournament in Riga (Lindores Abbey Blitz tournament) also helped me a lot. I was high on confidence after the third place finish there and I continued my run here,” he said.
Speaking about his last-minute entry in the blitz event, he said, “I was upset initially as I could not get an entry to play in blitz. That is my favourite format. But a day before, Adhiban told me that he was withdrawing from the event because of health issues. The next day, (Viswanathan) Anand asked me whether I was interested, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.”
“I just wanted to give my best. But after the first day of the rapid event, I was in the lead. Then I knew I could finish on the top and continued my good run. In the blitz too, I was in lead on the first day. But I had a setback on the second day with two losses. I won the last three games, including against Aronian, that helped me into the joint lead with 11.5 points. I was under a bit of pressure in the Armageddon. I had my chances but could not convert them. But I have learnt a lot. It will keep me in good stead for the future tournaments,” he added.
With this impressive performance, Arjun climbed to 14 in the world and No.2 in India after Anand in the blitz rankings. “It is a great honour to be next to Anand in the blitz rankings,” said an elated Arjun. With 107 rating points from the tournament in Riga and 50 from this one, Arjun now amassed 2773 rating points in the blitz.
When asked about reaching 2800, he said his focus now is on classic format and is keen to improve his ratings. “I want to do well in classic format. I now have two tournaments in Spain. My ratings are 2629. My target is to reach 2650 and then 2700. I am also focusing on playing the Rapid and Blitz World Championship scheduled in Kazakhstan from December 25. All the top players, including Magnus Carlsen, will be there. I am looking forward to that tournament,” concluded the youngster.
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