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Reports Jan 27, 2022 | 2:20 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 10: Four street-fights and a quick draw

The most anticipated game of Round 10, Karjakin-Carlsen, ended in a 20-minute Berlin draw, leaving Magnus Carlsen as sole leader of the Tata Steel Masters going into the final weekend. There were bruising battles elsewhere, however, with countless twists and turns as we saw wins for Richard Rapport (over Fabiano Caruana), Praggnanandhaa (Vidit), Andrey Esipenko (Jorden van Foreest) and Nils Grandelius (Daniil Dubov). Arjun Erigaisi edged closer to next year’s Masters with a draw against Polina Shuvalova as Magnus commented, “he really plays chess in a way that I enjoy”. 

Not the most exciting game of chess ever played | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website 

You can replay all the games from the Tata Steel Chess Masters using the selector below. 

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson.

Karjakin-Carlsen had the potential to be a classic. In Norway Chess in September 2021, Sergey had defeated Magnus for the first time in classical chess since their 2016 World Championship match and then been winning in the 2nd game before Magnus hit back. Magnus was flying high in Wijk, but Sergey had just gambled and won against Praggnanandhaa himself, and could get to within half a point of the leader with a win. 

Sergey Karjakin decided it wasn't the day to go all-out, at least on the chessboard | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

That would have been a dramatic twist to the tournament, but it was also understandable that things went the way they went. Magnus, as the sole leader, had no burning need to gamble and played the Berlin rather than the Sicilian he’d employed in Stavanger, and if Sergey was privy to the secrets of Team Nepomniachtchi he decided today wasn’t the day to reveal them. 

16 moves and 20 minutes in, the players had called it a day. Their responses would prove far more entertaining than the game itself.

Magnus explained afterwards that he hadn’t known what to expect, while he also felt the Berlin had come as a surprise.

I suspect he was a little surprised by the Berlin, since I haven’t played that recently, and maybe he had some try there from the match, because evidently they would have prepared it. Maybe he had a couple of ideas that he sort of didn’t feel prepared to play today, and thus he just decided to call it a day early. It’s always a pity to miss a chance to fight against a strong opponent, but tournament-wise this is ok. You certainly don’t want too many of these.

Sergey’s post-game tweet, after a game that won him and cost his opponent 1.7 rating points, was much more memorable than the game.

One tweet was fun, but our commentators felt it might have been better to “stop digging” before posting the second.

Essentially Sergey didn’t need to defend himself from the decision to take one quick draw against the World Champion in a gruelling 13-round event, but if he was going to do so, referring to fast online games where the draws were more about maximising overall winning chances wasn’t the ideal way to defend a classical draw that reduced his chances of winning an event. Everyone was already aware he wasn’t the first player to make a quick draw.

As is usual in such situations, things kept escalating, with FIDE Director General Emil Sutovsky once again showing a surprising willingness to publicly criticise chess players — which this time provoked a response. 

Anish Giri, who Magnus had taken to task for not playing Daniil Dubov on a rest day, probably had popcorn in hand when he tweeted.

Anish had earned that right after a tough game against one of the last players you’ll ever find taking a quick draw, Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Anish soon knew that a win would see him catch Magnus in the lead, but instead he had the question of what to do about his tripled isolated pawns.

In English chess lingo those have been known (with apologies in advance) as the Irish pawn centre, while it turns out in Polish they’re “tram pawns”.

A tense, unbalanced game ultimately ended in what appeared to be a logical 38-move draw by repetition.

For a while it seemed possible that what was an incredibly combative round might end in seven draws, but in fact there was only one more draw, Shankland-Mamedyarov, which was another of those sharp games with an abrupt finish which we saw earlier in the event from Shakh. The peaceful outcome was logical, however, and perhaps welcome for both players after tough defeats the day before. 

Richard Rapport apologising for a great win? | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

All four of the decisive games were wild struggles full of too many incidents to cover, with the most significant perhaps Richard Rapport’s victory over Fabiano Caruana. The Hungarian later expressed regret at beating the US no. 1, who hasn’t been firing on all cylinders in Wijk. 

Certainly this is a new feeling. I think this is my first classical win against him. I still don’t have such a good score actually, plus ok, he’s an extremely strong player, but also a very nice guy, and I’m a bit feeling sad that I beat him today with a bit of luck.     

To describe it as “luck” is going much too far. Richard was surprised in the opening when on move 9 Fabi varied from a Dubov-Pichot game from the FTX Crypto Cup. Queens were soon exchanged, with Richard described what followed.

The position is so weird. He has a huge positional advantage on the queenside, I have the same on the kingside. During the game I felt ok, maybe it’s somewhat unpleasant, but then he allowed my pawns to advance on the kingside. I got some invisible at least counterplay, and then he just blundered.

Richard felt 20.g4 was already a strange move, but 21.Rd4? was losing a pawn, to 21…Nxg4!

This was the kind of tactic you don’t expect an in-form Caruana ever to miss, and it must have come as a cold shower. If 22.Bxg4 now had to be met by 22…fxg4 then after 23.Rxg4 Fabi would be completely winning. Instead Richard had the zwischenzug 22…e5!, driving away the rook. After 23.Rd2 fxg4 it was just a question of how big Black’s advantage was… and how to convert.

Richard admitted “suddenly I wasn’t sure what to do”, but although objectively he gave up some of his advantage he correctly surmised that the way he approached his task made it an absolutely one-sided game, and he gained some high praise. 

The final move, 42…Bf3!, was particularly elegant.

The threat of mate on d1 ensures Black’s limited forces assume total control. The h-pawn can’t be stopped after, for instance, 43.hxg3 Rd1+ 44.Kf2 h2. That win all but ends any lingering hopes for Caruana in the event while taking Rapport up to joint 3rd place with Mamedyarov, just a point behind Magnus.

Vidit's hopes were hit by one of the great hopes of Indian chess | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

Vidit has been one of the high flyers of this year’s Tata Steel Masters and, for half the game, it seemed as though he was likely to join Giri in 2nd place by defeating his struggling younger colleague, Praggnanandhaa

Vidit grabbed a pawn in the opening and was close to consolidating it, until he began to lose the thread. Praggnanandhaa felt he was already getting “huge counterplay” when Vidit’s 30.Rxa4 allowed 30…Nd7, but it was only 33.Qxh6?, rather than defending the b5-pawn, that condemned Vidit to a world of pain. 

After 33…Qxb5! Pragg correctly felt that he was completely winning, but he couldn’t see a clear path and the evaluation oscillated between a win for Black and a roughly equal position. 

Perhaps the clearest chance for Vidit came at the worst possible moment, when he had just five minutes to play his 40th move. He could have given up his queen with 40.Qxa4 Ra8, but without deep calculation it’s hard to be sure if the resulting position is a fortress or just losing by force.

The position that followed in the game was very hard to assess even if you weren’t hiding behind a chair…

…but when the knights left the board Pragg was winning, and slowly but surely he proved it.

It was the second time Praggnanandhaa had beaten Vidit, after a 2019 win in the Asian Continental Championship, but this one meant more.

This time it’s much more special because the last few rounds I was struggling with my play, and today at least I finally won a game.

Praggnanandhaa's two wins mean he's had a decent supertournament debut | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

There was an even sweeter win for Nils Grandelius, who finally got off the mark after five losses and four draws, commenting:

I’m quite relieved, but ok, I could easily have lost this game as well, so I’m not sure it’s my best game here, but it’s something — it’s a start!

Nils was playing Daniil Dubov, who in the opening did Dubov things. 


Here, when his king seemed to have a perfect and perfectly standard home prepared on g1, Dubov instead played 12.0-0-0!?, shocking Nils. 

We had a very normal position, and he castled long suddenly. I think very few people would actually do this, and it’s very interesting, and it took me completely by surprise, and that’s Daniil Dubov for you!

Briefly it all looked to be going well for Daniil, but soon Nils was attacking the white king before an attack had got started on the other side of the board. It looked and objectively was crushing, until Nils swapped off queens and ended his attack, in exchange for a mere pawn. 

He explained it as the influence of time pressure, since he’d been down to under five minutes.

It was one moment, and it was this decision to go into the ending, winning a pawn, but relieving all the pressure. That was a decision that was heavily influenced by my bad time, but for the rest, no, I was just trying to play the position.

Nils finally got a win in the 2022 edition of the Tata Steel Masters | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

It soon seemed certain Dubov would escape and it would be another miserable afternoon for Nils, but when Daniil rejected a chance to exchange off knights it backfired badly. Soon he was giving up the knight for a pawn, and although the evaluation kept swinging between won and drawn, it was Nils who would have the last laugh. 

In a drawn position 76.Kf4? allowed Nils to execute the winning 76…Nh8!

“Better a bad knight than no knight at all, I guess,” Nils said, and the bad knight was suddenly a killer. The most pressing threat is Ng6+, winning the rook, but after 77.Ke4 Nils could play 77…Ng6+ anyway, winning the pawn on e5 (78.Re6 Kf7 drives away the defender). After 78.Rh7 Rxe5+ 79.Kd4 h5 resignation soon followed.

Andrey Esipenko is back in contention for the top places | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

The final game to cover is Esipenko 1-0 Van Foreest, which left Andrey in a tie for 5th place while essentially ending the hopes of Jorden defending his title. It was a game where Andrey lured his opponent’s rook to g5 and methodically set about trapping it. It could have featured in a text book… until move 32.


32.g4!, removing any squares from the rook, is the computer’s choice, while after 32.Re2?! a3! the young Russian soon had to win the game all over again. 44…Qc3? (44.Qg3+!) was the move that made that possible. 


45.Rf3! Qxc5 46.h4! h5 47.Rg3! and once again the rook was imprisoned. It was only able to escape at the cost of two pawns, with Andrey moving back into a plus score. 

Andrey has an outside chance of battling for first place, something he’s also trying to do against Magnus in Fantasy Football.

Magnus is better, because he’s a few points ahead of me. It’s 13 points he’s ahead of me, and actually all the season I’m trying to catch him, so I will try!

The standings look as follows going into the final rest day — note the curiosity that Magnus has beaten the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed players but only one of his remaining opponents.  


High praise for Erigaisi and Bjerre

“That was nice!” said Magnus Carlsen of Jonas Bjerre’s Round 9 win over Surya Ganguly, and it was Jonas who picked up the key win of Round 10 in the Challengers. He defeated and leapfrogged Rinat Jumabayev into second place, from the following eccentric position. 


Jonas had almost trapped the white rook by castling long, but it turns out it can’t be captured, since 18…Kb8 would run into 19.Be3! Instead Jonas spent almost 20 minutes finding the best move, 18…Nc6!, and after 19.Rxa6 Kb7 was rewarded by Rinat going for the unnecessary exchange sacrifice 20.Rxc6?!. Jonas went on to grind out a 3rd win in four games. 

It's almost mission accomplished for Arjun Erigaisi | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website 

The result played into the hands of Arjun Erigaisi, however, who was in a position to cruise home in pole position. That’s not his style, though, and he played an interesting game against Polina Shuvalova


Here 25.Qxb5! was essentially playing for a draw, but with a flourish. After 25…gxf4 26.Rxc4 Qd7 27.Qxd7 Rxd7 28.Rxf4 Arjun had three pawns for the piece and a draw was soon agreed. 

Magnus commented of Erigaisi:

I don’t think it’s a sensation at all. He’s going to be 2700 very soon, he’s by far the best player in the B Group, which we’ve seen for a while now, both in rapid and blitz, so I guess the only surprise is the score he’s winning with, but he’s by far the best player. He really plays chess in a way that I enjoy.

What exactly is it about him?

You can just sense it, that he knows how to play, both he has a good tactical eye and he can switch styles very easily, so he’s very strong.

15-year-old Volodar Murzin, here playing Lucas van Foreest, has lost just one game in the Challengers | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

Erigaisi now has a 2-point lead with three rounds to go, and could potentially win the tournament with two rounds to spare when he takes on Erwin l’Ami on Friday. 


In the Masters it’s Carlsen-Vidit, Van Foreest-Giri, Rapport-Dubov and Mamedyarov-Karjakin in the key games at the top of the table in Round 11, but first there's a rest day on Thursday. 

Follow Tata Steel Chess with Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson commentating live in English from 14:00 CET: Tata Steel Masters | Tata Steel Challengers

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