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Reports Jan 23, 2022 | 2:13 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 7: Dubov mask forfeit overshadows Magnus move

Magnus Carlsen taking the sole lead with six rounds of the Tata Steel Masters to go was ominous, but not as ominous as Daniil Dubov forfeiting his game against Anish Giri when the organisers insisted he wore a mask. Daniil had tested negative in a quick test after a contact tested positive, but had a PCR result pending. The coaches of Praggnanandhaa and Fabiano Caruana have also been hit by the virus, with Pragg in Round 7 losing to Magnus, while Fabi won a wild game against Duda. Jorden van Foreest ended Vidit’s stay among the leaders with a win that was his 6th decisive result in 7 games. 

Team Magnus are out in front, while the list of players forced to operate alone in Wijk is growing | 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 Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson.

Where is Dubov?

A game to match Dubov's win over Nakamura from the last day of the World Blitz Championship | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Round 7 got off to a strange start as Anish Giri played 1.d4 but his opponent Daniil Dubov didn’t appear at the board, as his clock ticked past 15 minutes, then half an hour. What was up? Well, Jan Gustafsson on our broadcast got the scoop after texting his fellow Magnus Carlsen second, “You up?”

Daniil replied by explaining that after someone in his circle tested positive for COVID he was being asked to play in a mask, despite having tested negative himself. He felt it contradicted the tournament regulations that had foreseen a testing regime but no mask requirement during games.

The organisers soon released a statement of their own.

Suggestions that there was also an official statement from Daniil could not immediately be confirmed. 

Meanwhile Anish simply looked on — and chalked up a point on the tournament table for something that was completely outside his control.

The Omicron variant has made holding over-the-board events, even among vaccinated or boosted players, something of a lottery. We’ve seen that in Wijk aan Zee with now at least three confirmed cases. When Praggnanandhaa’s coach Ramesh RB tested positive, he tweeted immediately that Pragg would be wearing a mask during his games.

Attitudes to mask-wearing vary, however. Alexander Grischuk, for instance, was always adamant he wouldn’t resume the Candidates Tournament in a mask, and declined some Saint Louis events for the same reason.

More often, however, players will reluctantly wear masks if they have to, but not if there’s an option. Fabiano Caruana has worn a mask to some events, but hasn’t been wearing one during games in Wijk aan Zee. That’s despite it being revealed after Round 7 that his coach, Vladimir Chuchelov, has also tested positive. 

Three weeks in Wijk has been tougher than ever in 2022 | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

He commented:

Honestly I’ve just been more or less completely alone here because my coach tested positive for COVID and he’s in isolation, so I’m just hoping that at some point he’ll test negative. He’s now pretty much asymptomatic, but I hope at some point he’ll test negative and I can actually have some company, because it’s quite a lonely place to be for three weeks.

Daniil got some support from a perhaps surprising source. 

While Sergey’s World Championship boss Ian Nepomniachtchi joked:

Paraphrasing Gary Lineker, everyone plays chess, but they always discuss Dubov. It’s hard to judge the appropriateness of the decision without knowing the whole situation and the terms of the contract. It’s at a pity that it was impossible to find a compromise. In any case, Daniil acted in accordance with his principles and at least in that he’s correct. I just hope that the tournament will be completed with its full line-up. 

Spanish GM Paco Vallejo came out in support of Dubov on Twitter, which sparked a huge debate covering, in passing, the small matter of whether chess is indeed a sport. 

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the situation, let’s hope that Daniil will be back to play in the tournament, and above all that everyone in Wijk aan Zee will remain relatively healthy which, touch wood, seems to be the case for now.

Magnus Carlsen takes the lead

16-year-old Praggnanandhaa played the first of what will hopefully be many classical games against Magnus Carlsen | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

That early “decisive” action aside, the most notable story of Round 7 was Magnus Carlsen taking the sole lead for the first time. Fresh from a win over Richard Rapport, Magnus had the confidence to go for his favoured approach of taking calculated risks with the black pieces, especially when facing a Wijk aan Zee top group newcomer such as 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa

The computer liked White, but precision was required. It claimed that 14.Rfd1 was already a case of the “wrong rook”, while Black soon began to take over, with 20…b4! an accurately timed undermining of Pragg’s whole position.

The tactics of 21.Na4 Nxd5! were working, and Magnus would later comment:

I felt like I had a very good sequence there where I found a lot of very nice positional moves and it was all going according to plan, and then there was a little bit a wild phase there, but I guess overall I was better for most of the game.

In the immediate aftermath of the game Magnus was upset with himself. Had it been smooth?  

No, I think I really, really messed up towards the end, at least practically speaking. I allowed this Nxg7 stuff, but maybe that was only one moment, but I was struggling to find a way to consolidate properly, and I have to say I didn’t really manage and I gave him way too many counter-chances there.

The computer did point out inaccuracies (for instance 22…Qe6!? allowed 23.Nxc5!), but Praggnanandhaa was much lower on time and even in the best case scenario was up against it. For instance, the last real chance for Pragg was after 28…c4.

29.Nxg7 here could be met by 29…c3!, but 29.Bxg7! was a serious try. After 29…Bxg7 30.Nxg7! Kxg7 31.Rd6!, with 31.Qxh6+ to follow, the counterplay against the black king is real, but objectively Black is still much better. Instead in the game 29.Qd4 Nf6! really did shut everything down. 

Praggnanandhaa kept playing on momentum, given he had so little time on his clock, but on move 34 he decided the time had come to resign. 

Things went perfectly elsewhere for Magnus as well, with one co-leader, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, making a sharp and mutually well-played draw against Richard Rapport. The other co-leader, Vidit, suffered his first loss of the tournament, to Jorden van Foreest.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is with Rauf Mamedov in Wijk aan Zee | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Jorden felt Vidit missed a chance to make a draw by repetition with 15…Rd5 (instead of 15…Nd5!?) but a complicated game was only decided by a blunder played with just 12 seconds to spare — 36…Rc8?

Jorden pounced with 37.d6! with the point that now after 37…Qe5, a saving move in other variations, White can play 38.Qxe5 fxe5 39.Rf7+, winning the bishop on d7.

That tactic appeared on the board anyway after 37…Qe6 38.Bf3! Nc5 39.Bd5! Qe5 40.Qxe5 fxe5 41.Rf7+ Kg6.

At a glance it seems Black is saved by the knight defending the bishop, but after 42.Rxd7! Nxd7 43.Be6! the knight is lost and Vidit resigned. It’s been quite an event for Jorden…

He told Lennart Ootes:

It seems like I’m playing a rollercoaster event here. Whereas I finally thought I grew up a bit and became a bit more solid, nothing of that seems to be true at all, so I lost three games and I also won three games. Actually today I wanted to play solidly. I didn’t want to go crazy and lose possibly a third game in a row, but the game got kind of crazy, so that was not planned, but fortunately things went well for me. 

It was another day with no bore draws. Grandelius-Karjakin featured an extraordinary set-up where both sides’ weaknesses balanced each other out (perhaps Sergey had a chance to get his light-squared bishop into the game before f5 shut it out). 

Last-minute instructions! | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website 

Esipenko-Shankland was a fierce clash where the task for both players for a long time seemed to be to recall and believe some outlandish computer preparation.  

In the end, however, it was 19-year-old Andrey who gained the upper-hand, though just in time Sam found a way to survive unscathed.

39…Qg1! was the move Esipenko admitted to missing. 40.Qg6+ was forced, and with queens off the board the level of peril dropped dramatically. Andrey tried to work back from that oversight, suggesting 38.Qd5 instead of 38.Qe4, but, with best play, it seems that would be no improvement. The game ended in a draw. 

Was Andrey happy that, as in 2021, he was tied for 3rd place?

Here’s the full interview with Lennart Ootes.

That leaves one decisive game, Fabiano Caruana’s victory over Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Duda-Caruana was another intense battle | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

The US no. 1 was coming off a game where he’d blundered and lost to Anish Giri. He commented:

I just didn’t realise the rook was hanging on b6. I don’t want to make excuses, but I’ve been emotionally and physically drained basically the entire trip here and yesterday it really showed in my play. The previous games it would sort of show a bit, and also today the quality wasn’t there, but yesterday was really the culmination, because Anish played horribly, and I think he’ll also say that, I don’t mean it as an insult or anything, but I played even worse, from the opening. It wasn’t just that blunder, but the whole game was terrible, and you would expect to see that game not between two grandmasters, or even two international masters, but between two far weaker players. 

Against Duda there was more turbulence, with Jan-Krzysztof getting a good position out of the opening but losing his way in the middlegame, when he seemed to decide to play c4 at all costs.    

Fabiano and the computer voted for 18.0-0-0! here, when both players would attack on opposite wings. Instead 18.Qb3?! e6 19.Rd1?! Rac8 20.Qc2?! had ruined White’s position in the space of three moves, with Black soon in complete control. 

There were more twists ahead, though, as by the time control Fabi had allowed Jan-Krzysztof to evacuate his king to the queenside. The Polish no. 1 was briefly even better, but missed the key idea on move 41.

41.Rxc3! bxc3 42.Qe4! and all is good for White, while 41.Ne5?! was just what Fabi was waiting for (“after Ne5 it was just very straightforward calculation”). 

The tactics that followed saw Fabiano playing with a queen against rook and knight, and he went on to win with some ease.

That means Duda has dropped into a negative score after his fast start to the tournament, while Caruana is back to 50%. Only Mamedyarov is now within half a point of leader Carlsen.

Erigaisi slowed but not stopped

Erigaisi has drawn praise for his versatility, and in Round 7 it was all about defence | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website 

Arjun Erigaisi was finally held to a draw after five wins in a row, but the way he defended a miserable position against 3rd placed Rinat Jumabayev for 84 moves only enhanced his reputation. 

Arjun’s lead was cut to “only” a full point as Thai Dai Van Nguyen won a complicated game with three pawns for a piece against the youngest player in the field, Marc Maurizzi.

Thai Dai Van Nguyen from the Czech Republic is a point behind Arjun and plays him in the penultimate round | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website 

In Round 8 Arjun will face Jonas Bjerre, who in Round 7 defeated Roven Vogel for a 3rd win of the event. The Danish 17-year-old could get within half a point of Arjun with a win, but that’s easier said than done.

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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