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Reports Jan 24, 2022 | 2:28 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 8: Mamedyarov sets up Carlsen showdown

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov bamboozled Praggnanandhaa to catch Magnus Carlsen in the lead before they clash in Round 9. Carlsen’s own “semi-correct” gambit caught Sam Shankland off-guard, but the US star dodged some bullets to make a draw. Anish Giri followed gifts from Fabiano Caruana and Daniil Dubov by outplaying Andrey Esipenko to move within half a point of the leaders, where he’s joined by Vidit, who bounced back to take down Nils Grandelius. Arjun Erigaisi took advantage of Jonas Bjerre’s touch-move woes to score a 6th win and take a 1.5-point lead in the Challengers.  

Mamedyarov's opening gamble paid off against Praggnanandhaa | 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.

The best news of the day perhaps came just before the games began, when it became clear all 28 players would be in action, including Daniil Dubov, whose PCR test from the day before had come back negative, as had a quick test on the morning of Round 8. 

Not anti-mask, but anti playing chess in masks... | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

At some point during the game against Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Daniil may have wondered why he bothered, but he safely held a rook ending a pawn down. The history of rook endings is long and full of terrors. 

There were also relatively quiet draws in Karjakin-Rapport (a French) and Caruana-Van Foreest, while Shankland-Carlsen saw Magnus Carlsen continue his policy of taking risks with the black pieces by venturing the Von Hennig-Schara Gambit: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4

Magnus took over from Alexander Grischuk (who tried it last year vs. Ding Liren, Wesley So and even Garry Kasparov — with no great success) as the highest rated player ever to play it, and it had the desired surprise value. 

A fierce battle ended in a draw | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Sam Shankland commented:

This was only sort of a gambit, but yeah, I didn’t expect it at all. I wouldn’t have played so terribly in the opening I guess, and maybe I would have put some more pressure on him, if I knew this was coming, because I don’t think this is supposed to equalise, but I haven’t checked it recently.

There were lots of choices for Sam to make (Peter Svidler was perhaps talking for many chess players when he commented, “choices are my natural predator!”), but his play was strong and logical until he briefly stared into the abyss on move 16.

Sam revealed his original intention here was just to play 16.Rac1?, only to realise that loses on the spot to 16…Nxa2!. He described 16.Bxc3!? as “damage control”, but was surprised when Magnus met it with 16…Bxc3!? instead of 16…Rxc3, a move the computer also prefers. 

The less forcing move worked, however, since Sam discovered too late that his plan of pushing his e-pawn all the way to e6 was flawed. Once again, the 2018 US Champion flirted with disaster, at least in the comfort of his own mind. 

Here he thought 27.Rxb7? was forcing a draw, as it indeed would after 27…Rxb7? 28.Qg6, when Black has to accept a draw by perpetual check. He realised in time, however, that Magnus had the zwischenzug 27…Bxf2+! 28.Rxf2 Rxb7! and now 29.Qg6 runs into deep trouble.

29…Rb1+! and checkmate is inevitable, e.g. after 30.Bxb1 Qd1+ 31.Rf1 Qxf1#

Once again, however, Sam dodged that bullet, this time with 27.Rb3, and was surprised that he went on to make a relatively easy draw. Magnus seemed to miss one clear moment to win a pawn.

31…Qd6?! just shut down the game, but 31…Qd5! wins a pawn, since 32.Bb1 is met by 32…Rxf2! 33.Rxf2 Qd1+ 34.Kh2 Qxb1 You had to have spotted the twist in the tail here, however.

Black is down the exchange and it's White to play, but the f2-rook is paralysed by the threat of mate on g1 and can be captured next move! The game felt like another minor miss for Magnus, but the World Champion is still leading on +3 after playing Black in five of his eight games. 

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has 2 wins and 6 losses against Magnus going into their Round 9 showdown | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov took advantage to catch Magnus in the lead with a dominant display against Praggnanandhaa. He did it with a similar “gangster” approach to the opening, 4.Qa4!? Who would play a move like that?

Shakh commented:

I played a very interesting move in Qa4. Normally this queen never goes early… of course it’s not a very good move, it’s just an interesting move to play for a win.

While it had backfired for Svidler against precise play from Giri, Praggnanandhaa seemed to play too aggressively to punish his opponent and only ended up in desperate trouble, fast.

16.e4! was a nice “best by test” move and after 16…Nb6?! (e.g. 16…Qb5! first, threatening mate on e2, was a little more promising) 17.0-0! Black was already busted. Surprisingly, perhaps, exchanging queens did nothing to improve Black’s position, though Pragg at times got almost within touching distance of a draw before it was snatched away again. By the end White simply had too many pawns. 

Two players moved to within just half a point of Carlsen and Mamedyarov in the lead. First there was Vidit, who got to play a wild opening against Nils Grandelius, pushing an early g4 and planting a knight on f5.

Vidit pointed out accuracy was required for Black to get a good game, but Nils, who’s been struggling all event, failed to show it.

Nevertheless, the f5-square proved crucial all game, with the Swedish no. 1 having two chances to exploit it and perhaps save the day. Both would have been bolts from the blue — first on move 18.

19.gxf5 Nxf5 and the bishop is trapped on h6. Then on move 23.

Again the bishop gets trapped, but this time via 23…Bxf5! 24.Rxf5 Kg6! hitting both the rook and bishop. In the end, however, the game ended logically with a 3rd win for the Indian star.

The last game to finish saw Anish Giri get to play essentially against his own recently published opening repertoire.

Anish said Andrey Esipenko misplayed the position with a piece against three pawns, until it was only Black who could have any fun.

Black knows that whatever happens there will always be a big, big margin for a draw, but White has to watch out that the pawns don’t run. 

This time Andrey Esipenko didn't quite pass the test | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

He added:

It’s a win-win for me and my students, of course, because they get very, very juicy detailed analysis. And you see, my opponents are getting punished for not studying the course thoroughly!

Nevertheless, for a long time it looked as though it might be another case of Andrey Esipenko showing incredible resilience in bad positions. It was only 45.Nd2? that finally gave Black a clear win.

Anish pounced with 45…g3! 46.Nf3+ Kf4 47.Rf1 h3+!

There was no defence, and after 48.Kxh3 (48.Kg1 g2! 49.Rf2 Kg3!) 48…g2 49.Rf2 Ke3 Andrey resigned, with the computer counting down to mate-in-7. 

Anish Giri’s three wins in a row involved a gift from Fabiano Caruana and a non-show from Daniil Dubov (Anish said he understood his opponent as he also dislikes playing in a mask), but he’s now just half a point behind the leaders, having already played most of the favourites.

The overall standings look as follows.

Erigaisi marches on

Another day, another win for Arjun Erigaisi | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

After a tough defence in Round 7, Arjun Erigaisi got back in business in Round 8 with an effortless win over a potential rival for tournament victory, Jonas Bjerre. It turned out that in this case there was a reason why the game was so easy.

Here Jonas picked up his bishop to play 13…Bb4? only to realise that it would be met by 14.Bxg7! Kxg7 15.Qd4+ and 16.Qxb4, winning a pawn and, almost certainly, the game.

Jonas was in time to stop himself playing the move, but the touch-move rule meant he had to move the bishop anyway, leaving 13…Bf6 as the only option. That’s how we got the ruined position after 14.Bxf6 Nxf6 15.Nxd5

“I was hoping to score massively but I’m a bit surprised and happy that everything is going smoothly,” said 18-year-old Arjun, who has now entered the Top 100 and is currently the Indian no. 6, above Adhiban and Sasikiran.

Rinat Jumabayev won a dramatic game to rejoin Thai Dai Van Nguyen in 2nd place…

…but they’re a full 1.5 points behind Erigaisi, while behind them there’s another 1-point gap to the next group of players. 

Zhu Jiner picked up her 2nd win | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Zhu Jiner scored a fine win over Roven Vogel, but the day’s most picturesque win was a second 22-move miniature in a row for 16-year-old Belgium Daniel Dardha. He was staring at the live boards after playing 19.Qa4 and praying for the plausible 19…Nb8? — a prayer Caissa answered.

The finish was simple but sweet: 20.Nb5! Qb6 (Polina must have realised where this was going, so full marks for letting it appear on the board!) 21.Qxa7+! Qxa7 22.Nc7#

After a tough start Daniel said he hopes he’s got his mojo back!

Fabi and Jorden were busy with some post-game analysis | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website

The standings in the Challengers look as follows. 

Monday is the 2nd rest day, while when play resumes on Tuesday it’s Carlsen-Mamedyarov, Giri-Shankland and Rapport-Vidit at the top, with Van Foreest-Dubov a clash between the two players Magnus Carlsen credited with most of his World Championship team’s creative ideas. 

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

See also:

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