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Reports Jan 26, 2022 | 10:13 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 9: Carlsen teases Giri as both win

Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri look set for another 2-horse race for the Tata Steel Masters title after both scored impressive wins in Round 9. Magnus effortlessly used Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s aggression against him, while Anish smoothly overcame Sam Shankland in an endgame battle. Hostilities continued afterwards as Magnus teased Anish over the free point against Daniil Dubov. Fabiano Caruana and Sergey Karjakin also won, while Arjun Erigaisi is almost home and dry in the Challengers after racking up a 7th win in 9 games. 

Magnus Carlsen not only won a fine game but began some off-the-board mind games against his rival Anish Giri | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, 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.

A 2-horse race?

In 2018 Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri tied for 1st place in Wijk aan Zee before Magnus won a blitz playoff, while in 2019 Magnus finished half a point ahead after their last-round game, where Anish had the white pieces, ended in a draw. We might be in for another such race, with Anish commenting:

So far it’s like in the good old days when I had those races with Magnus. I had them twice in a row. I’m definitely happy where I am and somehow from what I remember when Magnus plays so well, even though he’s interrupting my interview now, it does motivate me to do really my best, and that’s when I play the best chess. 

On paper Anish has the easier run-in, but Magnus sounds ready for the race as well, not missing the chance to tease his opponent over the forfeit win over Daniil Dubov.

He’s playing really, really well the last few days. He’s also showing tremendous will to win, picking up free points instead of playing games on free days, for instance, which shows that he really, really wants to win the tournament. 

The way the players won in Round 9 was very different, but equally impressive. Carlsen’s win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov turned into a 27-move crush, with the World Champion commenting:

It’s a bit back to what was working really well for me in 2019, in that after the match I actually got very interesting positions from the opening and I could win in a dynamic style. It’s really something that I’ve missed, and it’s going well.

Carlsen made it 6 classical wins, 2 losses against Mamedyarov | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The opening saw Magnus once again play the Catalan, with a sharp struggle soon ensuing. Then when Shakh allowed Magnus to push his e-pawn, Peter Svidler realised we could be in for a classic. 

Magnus must have had similar thoughts as he initially decided not to take the exchange, with 14.axb5!? giving Shakh the chance to change course.

Magnus explained:

The exchange sacrifice was quite expected. It was also his style, 100%, but maybe in hindsight there were other options there. For instance, if he goes 14…Nb4 first, I go 15.Qe4, the pawn is hanging on a5 and I also have options of going Qg4 then Ne4, Ng5 attacking, so it was very understandable that he chose to be on the active side, sacrificing material, and to be fair he’d already offered the exchange once there, which I didn’t take. I think after that he had reasonable compensation, but he probably went wrong pretty early.

After 14…cxb5!? 15.Nxd5 exd5 16.Bxa5 Nc6 17.Bxb6 Qxb6 18.Ra8 h6 things were already becoming critical. 

Magnus could give back the exchange with 19.Rxc8!? Rxc8 20.Qf5 and e6 to follow, with a very promising position, but he explained afterwards that he was focused on coordinating his pieces.

19.Rfa1 proved even more effective. 19…b4! seems to have been required, while after 19…Be6?! 20.Qd1! b4 21.b3! Magnus felt he had very good coordination and described 21…c3 as “capitulation”.

After 22.R8a6 Qc7 Magnus was simply able to develop his knight from e1 to d3 to e5 to emerge with a position so crushing that his opponent had nothing better than to resign. 

That’s already a 3rd win against a 2760+ player for Magnus in Wijk aan Zee, with his form making the dream of reaching 2900 at least look not out of the question.

Giri's coach Erwin l'Ami looks on as Anish faces Sam Shankland | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Anish Giri, meanwhile, picked up a win even faster, though his game against Sam Shankland had seen queens exchanged by move 8. It was never equal, however, with Sam going for a strategy that ended up backfiring.

Here he decided to give up both his bishops with 11…Bh6!? 12.Nc4 Bxc1 13.Raxc1 Bxf3 14.Bxf3, when Anish felt he kept some pressure, noting, “his knight on c6 is misplaced, just like in the Italian — the pawn on c3 dominates that knight on c6, so that’s a bit of an issue for him, I think”.

Sam later went for what looked to be a correct pawn sacrifice, 21…d5!?, but after 24…b6? (24…e4!) suddenly 25.g4! turned out to be all but winning for White. 

Sam’s attempt to hold things together a little longer with 25…Nf7?! 26.gxf5 g5 just accelerated the end, with Anish finding the most clinical reply, 27.Ra3! It was all over on move 34.

It’s been a sudden transformation in Giri’s tournament fortunes, and if the free point against Dubov was fortunate the last two wins have all been down to the Dutch no. 1’s own play. 

With four rounds to go, however, it’s not a 2-horse race yet. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov remains just a point behind Magnus, as does Vidit, who needed all his resilience to recover from an opening gone wrong against Richard Rapport.

In fact Vidit fought back so well he was briefly even better, but then again he got into trouble and had to fight tooth and nail to save the ending and make a draw in 59 moves.

Two big names to move within 1.5 points of Magnus were his 2016 and 2018 World Championship Challengers Fabiano Caruana and Sergey Karjakin. Fabiano played the French Defence as he scored a second win in a row with the black pieces, inflicting a 5th loss of the tournament on Nils Grandelius

Even a miserable tournament hasn't been able to dampen Nils' enthusiasm | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The Swedish no. 1 has never switched to damage limitation mode, and in Round 9 went for an extravagant plan of transferring his knight from d2 to f1 to h2 to g4 and then offering it as a sacrifice on f6.

24…gxf6? and White would be winning, but after 24…Nxd4! precision was required by White to hold a draw. Instead Fabi was soon completely on top, but there were twists ahead. 

The white d-pawn makes the position very double-edged, and when here Fabi went for 35…Qc3? Nils had a last chance to hold everything together with 36.Rc1!, forcing 36…d2! (other moves lose), when after taking the queen or simply 37.Rd1 White should hold. Instead, down to a minute on his clock, Nils played 36.Rd1? and Fabi was able to get back on track with 36...Qc2 and win.

Karjakin's risks paid off against Praggnanandhaa | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Sergey Karjakin’s win over Praggnanandhaa was even more eventful, with the Indian youngster sacrificing the exchange on h5.

Sergey summed up the early stages:

I have no idea what was going on in this game, it was just a completely crazy game! I played a sharp line, sacrificing the pawn after Nh5, and then my opponent was well-prepared and he came up with this idea h4, which I at least didn’t remember, or maybe didn’t know, I have to check. Then maybe I should have played something else and later on he sacrificed an exchange and it was a very, very dangerous position, but at least there were no immediate wins.

The sacrifice seems to have been sound, but later on Pragg allowed Sergey to swap off queens, when it seemed only Black could be better… until Sergey found a risky way to avoid a draw by 3-fold repetition. 

33…h5!? was described by Sergey as “a crazy move for three results”, and after 34.gxh5+ Kf5 Pragg was right back in the game. At one point he had three pawns for the exchange and could even have taken over, but he guessed wrongly at move 40 and Karjakin was able to go on and grind out a win. 

Van Foreest vs. Daniil Dubov was a tense struggle between Magnus Carlsen seconds that never flared into life, while Jan-Krzysztof Duda couldn’t quite find the way to break through against Andrey Esipenko.

That left the standings as follows with four rounds to go in Wijk aan Zee.

Erigaisi closes on a place in the Masters

Zhu Jiner was the latest player to be swept aside by Arjun Erigaisi  | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website 

Zhu Jiner’s handling of the Ruy Lopez perhaps wasn’t ideal against Arjun Erigaisi, but the path she followed had also been taken by two World Champions!

To no-one’s great surprise, however, Arjun soon took over, and his conversion of his advantage was smooth, apart from a wobble around the time control. With just four rounds to go he’s performing at a 2900 level and is very close to clinching an utterly deserved place in next year’s Masters.

Rinat Jumabayev would have had serious chances to stay within 1.5 points, but he picked wrongly with Nxf8 against Volodar Murzin.

Elsewhere two games stood out. 17-year-old Jonas Bjerre got to launch a dramatic attack against Surya Ganguly.

18.Nxf7! Rxf7 19.Qxe6 Rf8 20.Bxh6! was all correct, though after 20…Bf6! there were still a lot of twists ahead before Jonas finally emerged victorious on move 61. 

The other was a first win for 14-year-old French Grandmaster Marc’Andria Maurizzi, who won a fine miniature against Lucas van Foreest

It seems as though Black is defending, but after 24.h4! Black is stuck in a mating net. The game ended 24…Rxg4 25.Nxg4 Rc8 26.Rd1! f5 (there’s no defence) 27.Nf6#

What a way to score your first win in Wijk aan Zee! 

Marc Maurizzi picks up his first win  | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, official website 

That leaves the Challengers standings looking as follows. 

It Round 10 it’s Karjakin-Carlsen, more hotly anticipated than usual after Sergey came close to beating Magnus 2:0 in last year’s Norway Chess, and Giri-Duda. 

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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