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Reports Jan 22, 2022 | 12:15 PMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 6: Carlsen leads, Caruana blunders

Magnus Carlsen said he “really, really needed the win” after overcoming Richard Rapport to join Vidit and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the Tata Steel Masters lead. There were first wins of the event for Sergey Karjakin, who beat Jorden van Foreest in a variation on the opening in the final game of the Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi match, and Anish Giri, who lamented completely misevaluating his position before Fabiano Caruana gifted a full point with a move 40 blunder. Arjun Erigaisi continues to crush in the Challengers, taking a 1.5-point lead with a 5th win in a row. 

Can Magnus Carlsen win the Tata Steel Masters for the first time in 3 years? | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

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

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

Magnus Carlsen hits the front

World Champion Magnus Carlsen had begun 2022 missing a clear win against Jorden van Foreest, as well as big chances against Andrey Esipenko and Nils Grandelius, though he also confessed that against Nils his spectacular 18…d5?! was simply prep played a move too early — “since I was blissfully unaware during the game I wasn’t so worried!” 

After defeating Richard Rapport in Round 6 to move into the co-lead, he commented:

I really, really needed the win today after throwing away some opportunities the last round, and now everything is looking a lot better!

Richard had set a main goal the day before,“on move 10 not to be down 40 minutes in a much worse position”, but he couldn’t avoid another opening ambush. 

After Richard spent 16 minutes on 7…Bd6!?, however, Magnus returned the favour with a 24-minute think over 8.Qc1!?, later commenting:

It feels like on all moves we both have a lot of alternatives, so there was a lot to consider, and we sort of ended up making the most obvious moves, which usually happens even after a long think.

On move 18 Magnus grabbed a pawn on a7, giving himself a potentially powerful outside passed pawn.


It was only 18…Bxf3?! 19.Bxf3 cxd4 that Magnus called “a bit dodgy”, however, since, “he gets the pawn back, but I think the position at least in practice will be very difficult to play.”

The computer suggests 18…Bd5! as still giving Black a playable position, while in the game things began to escalate fast, with Magnus and the computer agreeing that the decision on move 21 all but condemned Black to defeat. 


He clearly should have tried to keep the d4-pawn to gain any counterplay. I think after I grabbed d4 it’s just very, very bad for him, so I don’t know what he missed there. 

Magnus is in pole position, though currently he's slightly dropping rating rather than closing on 2900 | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

21…Rb4 or 21…e5 would have put up resistance, but after 21…Rfd8? 22.Qxd4 everything was working out for White, at times spectacularly so. 


There are multiple winning moves, but Magnus found the cleanest: 28.axb6! Qxa2 29.Qxe7 Qxc2 30.Qxd8+ Kh7 31.b7 and Richard resigned. 

That win over one of the co-leaders was enough for Magnus to join the other two, since Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was held to a 16-move draw by Nils Grandelius, while Vidit was thwarted by Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who had prepared the first 25 moves of a Semi-Tarrasch.

There were two more draws, with Praggnanandhaa being ready for an opening novelty from Sam Shankland, while Andrey Esipenko once again showed his tenacity in defence, this time against compatriot Daniil Dubov, in a game with historical echoes.

Nils and Shakh didn't have the toughest day at the office | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website 

The remaining decisive games featured the Dutch players, which made Jan Gustafsson’s Dutch segment (he vouched for 50% of the Dutch words actually existing) more relevant than ever. 

Anish Giri got off the mark with a win with the black pieces against Fabiano Caruana, though even Peter Svidler would have been proud at the extent to which Anish complained about his win! Fabi had opened with an almost 1.b3

…and a fashionable double fianchetto, but things soon got out of hand. By move 20 the computer was claiming almost a -2.5 advantage for Black, then by move 30 it was +2 for White!


31.Ng4! was the way to go for Fabi, but instead 31.Bxc8? fxe3 played into Black’s hands. 

By move 37, in the middle of mutual time trouble, Black was up to around a -3.5 advantage again. Anish was understandably a bit shell-shocked by it all.

Either I’m not a very good chess player in general, or somehow the positions I’m getting are too complicated for me and the engines are too strong, somehow. If I look at my games after the game they’re so bad. Today also it was such a disaster. I thought it was an interesting game while we were playing it, and of course I missed a few things, but when I check it afterwards it was so bad, I don’t know what to think of it. 

The evaluations that I see, I thought it was an unclear position where I’m probably slightly better, and I see it’s like -2.5 — on what square it can be -2.5, like an extra piece almost! Then ok, I make some mistakes and I thought, probably there is some crush for him, that he’s actually winning I’m not surprised. Then later as well, I just didn’t have the right evaluation throughout. Towards the end of the time control I was really happy that I’m alive because I thought I was losing at some point, but it didn’t really occur to me that I’m winning at the time.

The moment of peak madness came on move 40, just when the computer had finally announced its famous 0.00 evaluation. 


To get that Fabi needed to hit the rook with 40.Qh5!, which Anish had spotted. 

Actually on move 40 I saw this move Qh5 that he could make, which was very, very strong, but actually I felt ok, I’m probably still fine and the game goes on. 

Instead, however, Fabi made the rarest of blunders for a player of his level, 40.Rb6??, simply allowing his rook to be captured by Giri’s knight. 

“As Ivanchuk once said, knight moves backwards are the hardest moves in chess”, was the only explanation the Dutch number 1 had for what had happened. It would mean a rating hit for Fabiano, though the stat perhaps only emphasises the US-Italian star’s incredible consistency. 

The remaining moves of the game weren’t strictly necessary, with Anish beginning to look forward to his Round 7 game against Daniil Dubov, a member of Team Magnus for the World Championship match. He commented:

I work very hard, but there are a few months every two years when I’m not exactly up there in terms of preparation, because these guys, they worked harder and more intensely with more people and better hardware, so I’ll be really curious as to how my preparation will match tomorrow against Daniil, so looking forward to that. 

Anish Giri channeling the energy | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website

That brings us to the last Masters game in Round 7, Karjakin vs. Jorden van Foreest, a clash between the opposing seconds for the 2021 World Championship match. It followed the first 8 moves from the last game of that match.


Here Nepo spent 18 minutes on 9.Nc2 and essentially got nothing out of the opening before later committing what felt like chess suicide. Karjakin’s 9.Nb5! is the move Team Nepo must have wished their guy had gone for. 

Sergey Karjakin picked up his first win of 2022 | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

What followed was a slow positional grind by Karjakin, who seized more and more space and gradually broke through. Even what he felt was a mistake, his move 16.Qd2!?, was objectively ok after his suggested reply 16…Nh4, though only for sharp, tactical reasons. 

The game finally ended on move 65, with Karjakin’s first win a second loss in a row for Jorden. 

That means Karjakin and Giri are now back on 50% and just a point behind the leaders with 7 rounds to go. 


The Erigaisi show continues

Catch me if you can! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

18-year-old Arjun Erigaisi’s momentum currently looks irresistible as he attempts to qualify for the 2023 Masters, with his win over his vastly more experienced colleague Surya Ganguly in Round 7 one of the most convincing yet. An ill-judged queen foray by Black had allowed Arjun to seize full control of the position, until 30.Be6! left Black helpless. 


The most immediate threat is Rd7, winning the queen, and there’s no good defence. 30…Qf6 runs into 31.Bxd5, while after 30…Qe8 31.Rd7+ Black is completely tied up, with moves such as Bd6 also threatened. 

Surya played the best try 30…Rxf4, but after 31.Rd7 it was just a technical task for Arjun to pick up the full point, his 5th win in a row. 


There were no hard feelings between the players!

The day’s other two wins were the first of the event for Dutch players Lucas van Foreest, who felt Polina Shuvalova “didn’t really believe my preparation”, and Max Warmerdam, who exploited a move 39 blunder by Zhu Jiner.


40.Qxe5! picked up a piece, since 40…Bxe5 runs into 41.Nf8+, winning the queen.

Lucas van Foreest doesn't consider himself a professional chess player, though he's still aiming to cross 2600 on the rating list | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Arjun Erigaisi now has a 1.5-point lead over Thai Dai Van Nguyen and Rinat Jumabayev. 


All three leaders have Black in Round 7 of the Masters, with Praggnanandhaa-Carlsen, Rapport-Mamedyarov and Van Foreest-Vidit. 

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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