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Reports Jan 21, 2022 | 12:56 PMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 5: Rapport & Mamedyarov hit the front

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Richard Rapport won wild games to join Vidit in the lead as Tata Steel Chess resumed after the first rest day. Shakh’s second win in a row came against Jorden van Foreest, while Richard admitted he’d “pulled a rabbit out of a hat” after getting surprised in the opening by Praggnanandhaa. Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana missed chances, while Jan-Krzysztof Duda accepted a draw in a winning position. Arjun Erigaisi leads the Challengers by a full point after winning a 3rd game in a row.

Richard Rapport bamboozled Praggnanandhaa in a highly complex position | photo: Lennart Ootes, 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,

With restaurants closed there was even less to do in Wijk aan Zee than usual on a cold January rest day, but it seemed the players had recharged their batteries, with none of the games in Round 5 passing without incident. Of the five draws in the Masters the quietest was perhaps Giri-Vidit, where the 33 moves saw Vidit retain the lead, but only after a game full of swings. Vidit missed a chance in the opening.


12…Nxc5! seems to work out tactically for Black, but after 12…Re8 Vidit admitted: 

I was under pressure from the opening. White’s position was much easier to play and I was struggling at some point during the game. 

17.h4! instead of 17.Rad1 might have posed real problems, but in the game it was Black who soon took over, with Vidit regretting he’d played “a little bit too casually in the endgame”.   

Dubov-Shankland featured some original play in the opening…

…then saw Daniil reject a draw by repetition before going for a risky-looking queen foray on the queenside. The queen found a way back, but there was nothing more than a draw. 

Duda-Karjakin had looked for most of the game as though Sergey had all the chances to pick up a first win of the event after coming out on top from the opening, but at the very end there was a twist. 34…Rg4?, exploiting the pin of the e2-bishop to stop the threat of Qh4,  was a little too clever from Sergey.

Very short on time Duda took a draw after 35.Be3 Rg7 36.Bh6 Rg4, but in fact 35.Rf1! is winning for White.

Esipenko - Caruana was also chaotic, with Fabiano admiring his opponent’s opening play. 

I was kind of impressed with his opening idea because it’s sort of a new way to approach this with White, and he’s just sacrificing a pawn and getting very unclear compensation.

Fabiano handled things well, however, until what he called “a very strange move” by his opponent. 


Fabiano and the computer both thought that it was anyone’s game after 18.Nxe5, while after 18.Ne2?! c5! (possible now the pressure on b5 has gone) Black was on top. What followed was a very complicated ending with multiple pieces, and at some point the 19-year-old outcalculated his illustrious opponent. It’s not for nothing Esipenko has now lost just 1 game in 18 in the top group in Wijk aan Zee. 

Fabiano said of his five draws:

All draws isn’t very good, there’s not much I can say about that. It’s certainly not a great start, and I didn’t really get so many chances, but today was probably quite a good chance to move not into the leading group, but quite close to it.

The opening battle in Grandelius-Carlsen was intense! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The remaining draw, Grandelius-Carlsen, was a thriller and one where both players could have legitimate regrets. The Sicilian opening was wild, but the speed of play made it clear both players were “in book”, up to a point. 18…d5!? was played by Magnus after a 6-minute think, which made it unclear if he was bluffing, improvising, or simply reproducing a prepared idea.

Nils tended to trust his ex-boss, saying of the opening:

It was a success for him. Actually, I was a bit surprised, because I thought this line would be quite promising for White, at the very least no risk, but he surprised me with this very strong sacrifice d5. Basically he gives a couple of pawns, but he has the long-term safer king and it’s at least practically very, very difficult for me.

Sure enough, Magnus was better in the space of four moves, but the deep thought in an unconventional position took its toll on both players. Nils could have taken over, then in time trouble Magnus seemed to have misplayed an advantage when he went for 34…Bb5 instead of 34…Rhb3! in the following position.

Soon Nils seemed to be safe and dry, until the last move before the time control.

Suddenly long torture looked on the cards for the Swedish no. 1 against the Norwegian no. 1, but it turned out extreme accuracy was required from Black. Nils defended well and was even nominally better before the game ended in a draw. He summed up how he felt:

Mainly I’m quite lucky to have survived the game. I was still I think in quite big danger, at least practically, and I found some, if they work, I think quite nice defensive ideas, but I’m not sure at all that they work!


Rapport and Mamedyarov take the lead

The jury feels as though it’s still out on whether Richard Rapport is now an established Top 10 player, but maybe not for long. Despite losing his first game in Wijk aan Zee he’s now hit back to win three of the next four, even if he’s often done things the hard way. He admitted of his opening against 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa:

He surprised me with this gambit line and, as is already usual for me in this tournament, I didn’t manage to equalise and I spent a lot of time trying to kind of half-remember, half-figure out what to do, which I didn’t really manage.

Richard would later add of his upcoming Round 6 clash with Magnus:

The main goal tomorrow will be on move 10 not to be down 40 minutes in a much worse position. 

Nevertheless, as Jan and Peter kept reflecting in our live commentary, Richard is pretty good at the game of chess, and all it took was one inaccurate if absolutely natural move from the Indian youngster for him to take over. 17…d3?! seemed to condemn White to never developing his pieces…


…but Richard calmly played the strong 18.h3. He explained his general strategy:

I realised my bishop is not going to make too many moves, but I thought also I’m a pawn up and I can sacrifice a piece worst case scenario and I’ll take his two pawns and have some compensation if things go really bad. 

Things didn’t go badly at all, and in fact 28.Kd2 was the start of the white king’s triumphant march to b7, where it ensured the white passed pawns were unstoppable. 


Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had raised eyebrows in the first three rounds by taking three abrupt draws after exciting battles, but now, after two wins in a row, he’s leading the pack. He played the Open Ruy Lopez and was grateful to his opponent, Jorden van Foreest, for ensuring a fight. 

My opponent today tried to play very interesting and for this reason we see this very nice, very interesting game.

Shakh said that 9.a4 came as a surprise to him in the opening. His approach in response may have had an element of “don’t try this at home”, since he commented, “I tried to play very quickly, because when you start to think you can make a big mistake or something”. It worked out, however, and Jorden was taking huge risks when he went for the flashy 21.Nf7!?

21…Rxf7! was the correct response, and when the dust had settled Black had a bishop and knight against a rook. Combined with a dangerous passed pawn all the winning chances were for Black, and although Jorden had chances to hold with precise play it was no surprise when Shakh crashed through to score a big win.

Can Mamedyarov win his first Wijk aan Zee title? | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

That meant Mamedyarov and Rapport had both joined Vidit in the lead. 


Arjun Erigaisi extends his lead

Meanwhile 18-year-old phenomenon Arjun Erigaisi now has a full-point lead in the Challengers, even if his win over Volodar Murzin was a lot less convincing than it had seemed it might be out of the opening.

There were periods when Black was better, and then after Arjun had got right back on track he missed the chance to wrap things up on move 42. 


42.g3! would clinch victory, while after 42.Rh1?! Kd6! Arjun commented, "I was regretting it for a loing time!" as he had to play on until move 71 to confirm his win. 

There were also wins for “veterans” Surya Ganguly and Rinat Jumabayev, while Polina Shuvalova got back to 50% with a nice win over Marc Maurizzi. 

Polina Shuvalova has had a good start on her first appearance in Wijk aan Zee | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

She found a nice winning blow in the endgame.


48.b4! and it turns out there was no way to stop Polina getting a supported passed pawn. 

It’s actually nice, such moves. Somebody plays b5 and you play b4, it’s always a sort of dream to play, and after b4 it’s completely clear that it is winning.

The Challengers standings look as follows, with only the winning spot guaranteeing a place in next year’s Masters. 


As mentioned, it’s Carlsen-Rapport in Round 6, with Mamedyarov-Grandelius and Vidit-Duda the other clashes of the leaders. 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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