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Reports Jan 19, 2022 | 7:19 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 4: Praggnanandhaa & Mamedyarov strike

Vidit continues as the sole leader of the Tata Steel Masters on Wednesday’s rest day after drawing against Andrey Esipenko in Round 4 while Magnus Carlsen missed a chance to beat Jorden van Foreest in a fantastic fight. The players moving up were Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who came back from the dead to take down Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa, who did what Magnus failed to do on his top group debut in 2007 and won a game, against Nils Grandelius. It was a good day for India as Arjun Erigaisi won a 3rd game in a row to take the sole lead in the Challengers. 

Whatever Mamedyarov is drinking he shouldn't stop! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

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

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

Carlsen misses chance to catch Vidit

Your guess is as good as ours! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

There were five draws in Round 4 of the Tata Steel Masters, with many of them giving the impression of the players limping to the rest day. Sergey Karjakin and Anish Giri started the day on -1, and when Sergey made the surprise first move 1.d4 Anish admitted that he’d chosen the Grünfeld to encourage what happened in the game.

There are many forced variations in the Grünfeld and this is the shortest. I expected, given that we are both on -1, that it’s going to be a great fight — usually two desperate people produce good games… but yes, Sergey wants to take some break, tomorrow is another rest day, consolidate our bad -1 score and try and strike after the rest day!   

At least the final position, where the black queen will endlessly be chased by the bishop between b2 and c3, made a nice tweet. 

The dinner at a time when restaurants are closed was also photogenic, with Anish dining with leader Vidit and saying he was hoping to “suck out all of his energy”!

Caruana-Dubov featured some role reversal, as Fabiano gave up a pawn before Daniil managed, but when he gave it back the game fizzled out into a draw, the fourth in a row for the world no. 4.

Vidit goes into the first rest day as the sole leader | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Two games left a sense of incomplete action. Vidit-Esipenko was drawn after 32.Qe6.

It was a menacing move by the tournament leader, with the black king weak and Bd6 a threat, but Vidit was down to 1.5 minutes on the clock, Esipenko had an extra five minutes, and 32…Ng6! seems to put Black on top.

Rapport might have kept pushing against Shankland, though perhaps he remembered what happened earlier in the event when Caruana tried and merely condemned himself to a miserable 6.5 hours at the board | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

It was a similar story in Shankland-Rapport.

Here Richard Rapport, rather than push for a 3rd win in a row, took a draw by repetition with 21…Rf7 22.Re8+ Rf8 23.Re7 and so on. Instead defending the d-pawn with 21…Rf5, then taking the a-pawn, or targeting the c-pawns if Sam defended the a-pawn, would have left Black with any winning chances, though there would be a long way to go. You suspect Richard wasn’t in the mood for such a game. 

Jorden van Foreest vs. Magnus Carlsen was a thriller | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Those draws were compensated for by a wonderful battle in Carlsen vs. Jorden van Foreest, which lived up to the hype. Magnus had commented “I can’t wait to see what he’s got up his sleeve — I’m sure it’s going to be something crazy!”, and sure enough the Grünfeld sideline that featured in the game soon took a walk on the wild side. It was perfect for Peter Svidler, who had just released a Chessable course on the topic. There was also this...

By another player 19…g4!? might just have been a blunder, but it was soon clear Jorden welcomed the mayhem.

20.Bxe4! was met by 20…fxe4, preserving the d-pawn linchpin of the position at the cost of a pawn (20…dxe4 invites 21.d5! and Black could easily crash and burn). Magnus accepted with 21.Qxg4 and 21…Qe8 saw Black bringing more firepower over to the kingside. 

Jorden explained his reasoning:

Yeah, very eventful. A lot of crazy things happened and I still have to process the game, but it was definitely a fun game. Probably what I was doing was not very correct, but I thought if I slow-play it I’m going to get positionally squeezed, so I wanted to go for some complications, and at least I think then the white position is tough to play, but it was definitely a crazy game. 

Jorden is easily underestimated (ask his 2021 Tata Steel Masters opponents)…

…but it turned out the position was immensely tough for both players to play, with the computer laughing at the feeble human attempts to navigate the complications. It seems, for instance, that the instant violence of 22.b4! was best for Magnus, while after 22.cxd5 exd5 23.Rc5!? h5! 24.Qh3 Black had equalised and could even hope for more.

Jorden soon gave up a second pawn, which got the computer’s stamp of approval, but objectively his piling up on White’s g-pawn wasn’t the best. He admitted:

My head kind of hurt, I couldn’t calculate very well, so I was just trying to attack g5 as many times as possible and then sacrifice somehow, but it was just insanely complicated to calculate all the variations for me, so I had no idea what exactly was going on.

The imaginative problems Jorden posed Magnus are one of the reasons he was picked by Team Magnus | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The one real goal-mouth chance for Magnus came after 37…Qa7 (objectively speaking, 37…Qd6! was an only move).

38.Qg4?! was a tempting move, hitting another black piece, but after 38…Qa6+! 39.Kg1 Rg7! you can’t take the rook on f5, since 40.Qxf5 Bf4+! leads to checkmate. Magnus instead bailed out with 40.Rb8+! and soon gave up his queen to get a rock-solid fortress of Rook + Bishop against Queen. 

Instead it turns out 38.Ke2!! wins for White, with 38…Qa6+ now met by 39.Kd1 and the white king can’t be hunted down. No wonder Magnus told Norwegian TV 2 afterwards, “it was a very exciting game, but I am a little disappointed with a couple of decisions”.

Mamedyarov and Praggnanandhaa pick up first wins

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had played three wild games which had all suddenly ended in abrupt draws. At first in Round 4, it seemed as though he might instead simply play a quiet draw, as his game against Jan-Krzysztof Duda followed a line against 1.d4 which gained in popularity when it turned out to be the “first line” of the chess neural network Leela Chess Zero. Queens and more material had soon left the board, with this the position after 13…gxf6.

Jan-Krzysztof would later tweet:

25.Rh1 very likely would have been a draw, but 25.Re8?! was a mistake by Shakhriyar that ended up winning him the game!

Duda did indeed play 25…Ng6!, but he began to lose his way as Mamedyarov’s pieces converged on the black king. 31…Bc5? let Black’s edge slip.

32.g4+! Kg5 (32…hxg3 was the best way to switch to damage limitation) 33.f4+! Nxf4 34.R6e5+ Kxg4 35.Rxc5 and White was suddenly an exchange up.

"That's not how chess works", Jan-Krzysztof might have muttered to himself | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

That wasn’t the whole story as the passed h-pawn was potentially a monster, but Duda pushed it at the wrong moment and Mamedyarov converted brilliantly. His last move was classy.

One loose move and Duda could still save the day with Rf5-h5, but here Shakh found the clincher 41.Kb3!  White needs the c2-square for the rook. Now, for instance, 41…Rf5 would be met by 42.Rc3+! Kg2 43.Rc2+ and the h2-pawn drops. Jan-Krzysztof resigned. 

Praggnanandhaa's first win in the top group in Wijk aan Zee emphasised how at home he already looks in elite company | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The day’s other win was for 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa, who bounced back immediately to beat Nils Grandelius, despite finding himself in unfamiliar circumstances after his coach tested positive for COVID.

He’s fine, he’s isolated now in a different room. I’m staying alone now. It’s a difficult thing for me because it’s the first tournament I’m staying alone in a room, and it’s an important event as well. 

They’ve now switched to collaborating online, but it hasn’t held Praggnanandhaa back. He played a familiar-looking novelty against Nils’ Grünfeld, 11.h4!

The pawn soon advanced further, and Grandelius never quite found the correct moment to play for counterplay. 30…Qh7! may have been a chance, while Nils pointed out a chance on move 40 after what Praggnanandhaa called the “very bad move” 40.Kf2.

40…Qh4+! with the black pieces invading the white camp was the Swedish no. 1’s suggestion, but while it would certainly have been better than what happened in the game after 40…Rh1? 41.Ra1! it seems White is still winning with accurate play. 

The game itself dragged on to move 64, but the outcome never looked in doubt. Pragg commented:

It’s a very important win for me. It gives huge confidence, of course, and I really wanted to win today with the white pieces. 

Pragg is up to a tie for 7th place, while Nils is having a tough event. He’s adrift in last place, has suffered three defeats in four games, and now faces Magnus Carlsen in Round 5!

Arjun Erigaisi takes the lead

Arjun Erigaisi and Roven Vogel compare notes | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Another Indian star, Arjun Erigaisi, was arguably the world’s most improved player in 2021, and he’s now lived up to his top seed status in the Challengers by winning three games in a row to take the sole lead. 

We’ve already recognised him as a lethal tactician from his blitz and rapid games, but it turns out those skills translate to classical as well. In Round 4 he played the King’s Indian Defence against Germany’s Roven Vogel, who despite being the lowest-rated player had drawn his first three games. As usual, White seemed to be doing well at first, but things were already getting tough when 21.e5?! signalled a collapse. 

After 21…Bg6 Roven went for the brave 22.Rf5? but it was ruthlessly punished by 22…Nb4! 23.Nxb4 axb4 24.Ne4 Bxf5 25.Rxf5 Bxe5! and Black had complete control. Roven resigned on move 30.

Zhu Jiner picked up the day's other win in the Challengers | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Surprisingly the only other win was for Zhu Jiner, who methodically outplayed the youngest player in the field, Marc Maurizzi, while a good day for the female stars also saw Polina Shuvalova draw with Black almost as fast and in a very similar fashion to her compatriot Sergey Karjakin. That was a good result against co-leader at the start of the day, Thai Dai Van Nguyen

So Arjun Erigaisi is the man to catch in the race to qualify for next year’s Masters tournament. 

Wednesday is a rest day in Wijk aan Zee, but not for our commentators, who will be engaging in Team Battles between the different languages, commentators and their supporters.  

Then on Thursday we’re back, with Giri-Vidit, Duda-Karjakin (a World Cup final replay), Grandelius-Carlsen and Rapport-Praggnanandhaa among the match-ups to watch out for. 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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