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Reports Jan 26, 2023 | 11:44 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel Chess 10: Magnus within striking distance

Magnus Carlsen beat Parham Maghsoodloo in Round 10 of the Tata Steel Masters to pick up a 3rd win in four games and move within a point of 18-year-old leader Nodirbek Abdusattorov with three rounds to go. Gukesh made it two wins in a row after a wild clash with Praggnanandhaa, while Vincent Keymer let another winning rook endgame slip, this time against Jorden van Foreest.

The two losses in a row are a distant memory for Magnus Carlsen | photo: Lennart Ootes, Tata Steel Chess

Round 10 of the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee featured two wins.

The FIDE Candidates Tournament aside, the Tata Steel Masters is the most gruelling event on the chess calendar. It’s perhaps no surprise, therefore, that 10 rounds in, players are conserving their energy, even on the eve of a rest day.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov is looking more like a Wijk aan Zee veteran than a player making his top group debut | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

Rapport-Aronian was a very fast 5.Re1 Berlin draw, and while the same line in Abdusattorov-Ding required some more precision from Ding Liren, it was also drawn in around an hour. Our commentators Peter Svidler and David Howell admired the grandmasters' ingenuity in engineering a repetition.

Another admirer of that game was Anish Giri, who will face the leader in Round 11.

Nodirbek’s really impressive so far, particularly today, showing great experience by not playing very ambitiously after yesterday [the 7-hour clash with Vincent Keymer]. A very wise decision! Probably his very wise trainer has also recommended him that, so a big challenge for me to overcome this team of very wise people… but I’ll try!

Nodirbek’s coach is Rustam Kasimdzhanov, while Anish is working with Jan Gustafsson. Team Giri could have no complaints about Round 10, an easy and uneventful 34-move draw with Black against Wesley So.

The other draw with little to report was Caruana-Erigaisi, where Fabiano for a second day in a row found himself somewhat worse, but never in real danger of losing, against an Indian opponent. A tense battle ended when the players found a draw by repetition in the run-up to the time control.

Giri checks out the opening of Maghsoodloo-Carlsen | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

The calm approach of the leaders was an opportunity for Magnus Carlsen, and he seized it with both hands against Parham Maghsoodloo. The world champion had the black pieces, but managed to shake things up on move 7.

Our commentators immediately pointed out that after, for instance, 8.Qb3, Black has to be ready to give up a pawn. Magnus explained the point of his move:

I was hoping that it’s a very, very rare move and the lines are very concrete, so I thought there was a good chance that he’d spend a lot of time, which he did.

Parham spent 23 minutes on 8.Qa4+, which Magnus called “a very interesting move”. It was also a move he was ready for, while after 8…c6 9.Bd3 0-0 10.h3 Bh5 Parham invested another 33 minutes in 11.Qc2, which was met by 11…c5.

Parham showed what he’d been thinking about with 12.g4 and a long forced sequence beginning 12…cxd4 13.exd4 Bg6 14.Bxg6 fxg6 15.Qxg6 Nxg4! — Carlsen revealed afterwards that his knowledge ended with knowing that this move was ok for him.

The players had a lot to discuss in their postmortem | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

Soon we had an endgame where White had an extra pawn, but Magnus pointed to the position after 21…Re8+ as the crucial turning point.

Here Parham could have played 22.Kf1!, and likely swapped off the black bishop for his d5-knight, but he went for 22.Ne3!? Magnus explained:

I think the game proceeded more or less logically until he blocked my check with the knight on e3. I think that after 22…Re4 I have a pretty significant initiative, and with the time situation I don’t think he’s favourite to hold at that point. 22.Kf1 would have been a fairly straightforward draw, I think. I was really happy to see that one, and after that it went surprisingly easily, but my bishop was just a monster!

By move 28 Magnus was a pawn up…

36.Rxa7 Kxd6 saw White’s pride and joy, the passed d-pawn, eliminated, and Magnus was soon able to give up one of his extra pawns to ease to a very comfortable rook endgame win.

Parham’s shock at how suddenly everything had fallen apart perhaps explained his reluctance to resign, asking Magnus to demonstrate elementary technique.

That 4th win for Carlsen means he goes into the final weekend of the Tata Steel Masters with a realistic chance of picking up his 9th title.

He commented on his winning chances:

I’m realising that there’s possibilities for that, of course, but most of all I’m taking a further step to playing a decent tournament. I’ve turned it around in a good way, so I’m happy with that, and obviously it’s far from in my hands still, but yes, this was important, and I’ll keep on trying.

Magnus also noted about the young players in the field, “it’s exciting to play them and to get a feeling for how they think about the game”. What had he concluded? “They calculate really well!”

Gukesh-Praggnanandhaa became a real street fight between two of the great hopes of Indian chess | photo: Lennart Ootes, Tata Steel Chess

That’s undoubtedly the case, but the clash between 16-year-old Gukesh and 17-year-old Praggnanandhaa was a case study in how badly things can go wrong when you suddenly find yourself on your own in positions only a computer could love.

In a crazy line Gukesh went astray with 16.Rg2? (16.0-0-0!), but Praggnanandhaa, understandably then also out of his preparation, thought 42 minutes and returned the favour with 16…Qe7? (16…fxe4!)

After 17.e5! Ncxe5 18.0-0-0! Gukesh was suddenly on top, and described himself as “super-happy”. He explained what had happened afterwards:

I didn’t really expect this line to happen today. I knew this Rg1, g4 idea, but I checked it quite some time back, and I couldn’t remember the details. I was hoping he wouldn’t know too, but he actually knew the line quite well. Until 15…Qf7 we both knew, and I just forgot what I’m supposed to do here, so I tried to just think over the board and I came up with 16.Rg2?. I don’t think it’s a really good move, because after 16…fxe4 it seems Black is doing quite well.

Gukesh rightly pointed out that his 21.h3?! could have been a costly mistake later on, but it was far from trivial to prove, and he felt Praggnanandhaa had already ceased to believe in his position.

Pragg went for a piece sacrifice and at first glance it seemed 25…Qa2!? might be a good try. Both players, however, spotted a refutation: 26.Rxg7+! Kxg7 27.Qg3+ Kh8 28.Qe5+ Kg8 when White would have nothing if not for 29.Bc4+!

That sacrifice prepares for the rook to come to g1, and checkmate is unstoppable.

Praggnanandhaa tried a different approach in the game, but all it took was some accurate defence for Gukesh to pick up his 2nd win in a row of a tournament in which he’d first lost four games before beating Parham Maghsoodloo.

He commented:

The game against Parham was a huge boost. There was some luck involved, and after I got the first win I also had to play Carlsen, which was exciting. Good things just started happening!

Once again Vincent Keymer played the longest game of the day, once again he couldn't quite pick up his 1st win | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

Good things are still not happening for Vincent Keymer, who for the second day in a row impressed for long periods but couldn’t clinch a first win. In Round 10 he was playing Jorden van Foreest, and it seemed to be only Jorden who could win until a sudden blow:

33…Bxh3!! 34.Kxh3 (34.gxh3? Nf3+! wins for Black) 34…Rd8! 35.g3 (there’s nothing better) 35…Qg6!, and the pinned knight falls. “I blundered a really nice tactic, which he spotted, so credit to him for that,” said Jorden.

Soon we had a rook endgame where Vincent was a pawn up, but unlike the day before, it didn’t seem to promise anything for White. Jorden lamented:

Even to get slightly worse to begin with was slightly ridiculous. The endgame should be a straightforward draw, but I somehow was feeling a little bit annoyed that I even had to play the endgame, and that made me make some more mistakes in the endgame, somehow. I made so many terrible mistakes I don’t know where to start, but putting your king on the h-file, playing 46.g5, all that was really strange, also I proceeded not to spend any time and then at some point I realised I’m probably losing.

Once again we were in tablebase territory, and once again, first on move 54 and then on move 55 (after a missed chance to put things right), Vincent was winning.

This time, however, there was only one more twist, with the tablebases noting that 67…Ke5! was the only winning move, while after 67…Re5 68.Ra4! White was back in business.

The game continued until move 96, when after another 7-hour marathon a draw was finally agreed.

If anyone deserves a rest day, it’s Vincent Keymer.

The standings before that rest day, and the final three rounds, look as follows.

The Challengers once again saw movement at the top. Alexander Donchenko caught Mustafa Yilmaz in the lead on 7/10 with an impressive win on the black side of an unusual Sicilian against Max Warmerdam.

Velimir Ivic looked to have a great chance to join them, but rather than convert a much better position against Luis Supi he suddenly found himself in real trouble. 70…Nh5! demanded an accurate response from White.

The point of course is that 71.gxh5?? runs into 71…Nf5+, winning the queen, while after 71.Kf2 Nxf4 White should have played 72.Nxe4! It’s a curiosity that after 72.Bf1!? Qe7 you could still play 73.Nxe4! Nxe4+ 74.Kf3! and White wins one of the knights, but after 73.g5?! things fell apart fast for Ivic. The black knights and queen proved unstoppable.

Supi was very happy finally to have won a game.

The Challengers standings going into the final weekend are too close to call, though it’s noteworthy that Mustafa Yilmaz on paper has by far the easiest run-in, with Jergus PechacLuis Supi and Eline Roebers in the final three rounds.

Friday’s Round 11 will be huge in the Tata Steel Masters, with 2nd place Anish Giri having White against leader Nodirbek Abdusattorov, while Magnus Carlsen faces the player with whom he shares 3rd place, Wesley So.

The games kick off at 14:00 CET (8am ET, 18:30 IST), but they'll be visible from 14:15 due to the 15-minute delay: Tata Steel Masters | Tata Steel Challengers

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