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Reports Jan 18, 2022 | 7:20 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 3: Vidit downs Dubov to take sole lead

Vidit demonstrated incredible defence before taking over and beating Daniil Dubov to take the sole lead on 2.5/3 after Round 3 of the 2022 Tata Steel Masters. His co-leaders at the start of the round, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Magnus Carlsen, made a hard-fought draw, while Richard Rapport (vs. Nils Grandelius), Andrey Esipenko (vs. Sergey Karjakin) and Jorden van Foreest (vs. Praggnanandhaa) all won to join them on 2/3. Arjun Erigaisi and Thai Dai Van Nguyen joined Volodar Murzin in the Challengers lead. 

Vidit finds himself the sole leader after Round 3 of the Tata Steel Masters | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

You can replay all the games from the 2022 Tata Steel Chess Masters using the selector below. 

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

Vidit wins thriller on another decisive day

Jorden inflicted a first loss in the Wijk aan Zee top group on Praggnanandhaa | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The explosive growth of the Omicron variant has suddenly made holding over-the-board chess tournaments perilous again, and we were reminded of it when R. B. Ramesh, the renowned coach of Praggnanandhaa and other top Indian talents, tested positive in Wijk aan Zee. 

There was good news and bad news for the 16-year-old mega-talent. The good news was that he was able to play his game against defending champion Jorden van Foreest. The bad news was that he fell into some typically offbeat preparation from a player Magnus credited, alongside Dubov, as providing most of the ideas (good or bad) in their team. Jorden moved his bishop to c4 on move 3, and then to b5 only two moves later. 

It was all part of a cunning plan. 

He definitely didn’t have a good pawn structure. Basically actually that’s the point of the line that I'm playing, that he gets a pawn extra but he’s always playing with this very bad pawn structure, and it’s a little bit easier to play with White. Maybe not all that much, but definitely long term White has very good prospects of finally taking all the pawns. Basically that’s kind of what happened. I got coordinated and his position became really unpleasant. Finally he played f3 to give back a pawn for some activity, but it was not quite enough. 

This was the fateful moment.

After 26.gxf3 Qf8 27.Qg3! it soon turned out that Black had no activity and had just given up a pawn for nothing. 

Jorden later turned down a chance to trade down into a winning pawn endgame and made some shaky moves in a rook endgame, but his advantage was so big that in the end Praggnanandhaa couldn’t avoid his first defeat. Jorden is back on a plus score after his loss to Richard Rapport, with the Hungarian also on 2/3 after hitting back with two wins after his loss in Round 1.

It's been a tough start for Nils Grandelius | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Grandelius-Rapport soon got wild, with Richard confessing he was freestyling soon after 6.g4, despite Magnus Carlsen being among the players who had tried it. 

Richard would later comment:

I went super-old school, meaning I entered the sharpest Sicilian and started to think what to do from the initial position… I think someone who is stable aiming to be in the Top 10 should know more about this opening than 5…Qc7, and then start thinking after any move basically on move 6. So somehow I feel like we are not in the early 1900s anymore, so some theory has happened which I was not aware of. I’m trying to play my best games, of course. Sometimes it works out well and sometimes not, so we’ll see.

In the end, however, everything went Rapport’s way, as he managed to build up a powerful attack on the white king. The finish was beautiful, with 29.Qe1 — essentially the only way to try and stop Qc3 and Qb2 checkmate — running into a very nice shot.

29…Rh1! Nils, ever the gentleman, allowed both this move and the finish to appear on the board. 30.Rg1 Rxg1 31.Qxg1 Qc3 and there’s no way to stop checkmate on b2. 

Andrey Esipenko gratefully accepted Sergey Karjakin's offer of a piece | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The 3rd win was a puzzling collapse for Minister of Defence Sergey Karjakin, who, after complaining that Dubov was selected as a Grand Prix wildcard ahead of Andrey Esipenko, made a move that helped the 19-year-old leap-frog Dubov on the live rating list — 31…Reb8? 

Clearly Sergey had pinned his hopes on the passed a-pawn after 32.Nxd7 Nxd7 33.Rxd7 Rxb2, but it soon turned out that Andrey was able to block the pawn with ease. The only question was whether Esipenko could break the potential fortress and win the game, and it’s a question he answered with a resounding yes.

Sergey resigned, since White will play Be4, threatening Rxa2, and can look forward to simply being a piece up.

Life is good for Dubov, but he could have expected more from his game against Vidit! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The fourth and final win in Round 3 of the Masters was the most remarkable, with Daniil Dubov getting the ball rolling by going for the new idea of 8.Na3!? against Vidit. He accepted doubled a-pawns to gain the open b-file, an idea echoing Magnus Carlsen’s play in Round 2. 

Soon, inevitably, Daniil had sacrificed a pawn, leaving the black king stranded in the centre of the board, with Vidit then taking his life in his hands with 14…f5!?

Vidit feared he might be totally lost, which was also the impression of our commentators, but computers kept pointing out resources for Black… and Vidit kept playing them! The game reached a peak of excitement with 21.Rxb7! from Dubov. 

After 21…Nxb7? 22.Bb5+ Kf7 23.Nxf5 Daniil would have had everything he wanted, but Vidit dug deep and found 21…Rf6!, which turns out to be holding. He would later comment:

He played Rxb7, gave up a rook, and it looks pretty lost because he has so many checks, but I found this Rf6 move, which keeps the game going, and surprisingly it just says it’s equal. Then the king walk becomes the highlight, but I think the previous moves were much tougher — the king walk was slightly easier, comparatively.

Both players were on the very top of their game all the way until 31…Kf5.

Here 32.Qc8+! was the one way to end the game in a draw by perpetual check, which would have been an absolutely fair outcome. The point is that 32…Kxe4? runs into a quick checkmate! 33.Qg4+! Kd5 34.Qc4+ Kd6 35.Qc6#

Instead in the game after 32.f3? Rxe4 33.fxe4+ Kxe4 the Black king continued its triumphant march, until after 37…Kd2! Dubov threw in the towel. What a game!

Three fighting draws

More proof that Duda can hold his own at the very highest level | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Magnus Carlsen played 8…Rb8 against Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s Anti-Marshall in the World Cup semi-final, and it was also the defence he settled on against Ian Nepomniachtchi in Dubai. The game only varied from the match on move 13.

13…d5!? had actually got Magnus into some trouble against Nepo, and when it was suggested to him that the game in Wijk was a continuation of the theoretical discussion, he responded:

I wouldn’t say I continued the theoretical battle — I kind of conceded the theoretical battle by going h6 instead of d5, and I basically just wanted to play some relatively quiet position and gradually equalise

Magnus admitted he’d underestimated the plan Duda went for, but ultimately felt the game turned on move 23.

The World Champion explained:

I think maybe his only chance was to refuse the rook exchange, go 23.Qc4 instead, I think after he took the rook, which looks very promising, because he can kick my pieces away after, I could kind of consolidate and he has to reckon with knight jumps and also these ideas of c6 and f5 all the time. I think I gradually equalised, or at least got the position to something I could hold comfortably.

A draw was agreed on move 38.

It was perhaps a micro-chance missed by Duda, but it was also a sign of his growing maturity that it’s no longer any surprise when he plays the World Champion on an equal footing.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has now made draws in 30, 26 and 21 moves in this year’s Wijk aan Zee, but they’ve all followed a theme — wild play with real winning chances for at least one of the players, followed by a sudden draw in a still playable if almost balanced position. In Round 3 it was Anish Giri who won a pawn and seemed to be pushing for a win, before it was all over.

A game short on moves, but rich in incidents | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The remaining draw saw Sam Shankland play the Berlin, an opening for which he recently released a Chessable course. Fellow US star Fabiano Caruana did everything to topple the wall apart, perhaps, from playing 23.Nf6+!? when the opportunity arose…

…but ultimately all the world no. 4 got in reward was a 6.5-hour draw where at the end he found himself on the defensive.

A 6.5-hour draw in the Berlin is somehow appropriate for Blue Monday | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

That left both players some way behind the leaders, with Vidit in the sole lead on 2.5/3, closely followed by a 5-player chasing pack.

Erigaisi and Nguyen catch Murzin in the lead

Arjun Erigaisi is currently on course to, as he put it, "score something massive and win the event" — the winner will play in next year's Masters | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

No-one has a 100% score in Wijk aan Zee now after Volodar Murzin was held to a draw by Roven Vogel. That allowed him to be caught by two players.

Thai Dai Van Nguyen ground out a win against Zhu Jiner in 64 moves, while Arjun Erigaisi was suddenly completely winning against Daniel Dardha, despite seeming to have limited attacking resources at his disposal.

Arjun is very quietly spoken, but the Challengers top seed wasn’t hiding his ambition. He credited online chess during the pandemic (he won a place on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour) with helping him to make a leap after having been “stagnant at around 2500 for a really long time”. What’s his goal?

I just want to score something massive and win the event!

There was a near-miss for Polina Shuvalova.

Here she did indeed go for 17.Nxf7! Kxf7 18.Rd1 Qxe5 19.Rxd7+ Kf6 and was objectively winning.

Polina Shuvalova had a chance to beat Erwin l'Ami in real style | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The only problem? She needed to find a stunning win!

20.Qxb4!! was the path to glory, giving up the a1-rook with check. There’s nothing better than 20…Qxa1+, but after 21.Bd1!! (21.Bf1? Qxf1+! 22.Kxf1 Ba6+! turns the tables) it turns out the black king is in huge trouble. 

In the game after 20.Qd1?! c5! Black was better, though there were more adventures before the hugely experienced Erwin l’Ami took over and went on to win, recovering from his Round 1 loss to position himself just half a point behind the leaders. 

One game to look forward to in Round 4, the last before the first rest day, is Carlsen vs. his World Championship second Jorden van Foreest. Magnus commented:

Yeah, I can’t wait to see what he’s got up his sleeve. I’m sure it’s going to be something crazy!

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

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