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Reports Jan 27, 2023 | 11:48 PMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel Masters 11: Maghsoodloo beats Pragg

Praggnanandhaa surprised Parham Maghsoodloo on move 8 of the Najdorf but still slumped to a 3rd defeat in four games. That was the only decisive game in Round 11 of the Tata Steel Masters, as Nodirbek Abdusattorov kept the lead after Anish Giri mixed up his preparation, while Magnus Carlsen couldn’t quite squeeze out a win over Wesley So. In the Challengers Alexander Donchenko regained the sole lead.

Maghsoodloo bounced back from his loss to Carlsen to beat Praggnanandhaa | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

The status quo at the top was left unchanged by Round 11 of the Tata Steel Masters, with only one decisive game.

Anish Giri trailed Nodirbek Abdusattorov by half a point going into Round 11 and, with the white pieces and a rest day to prepare, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a giant stride towards winning his 1st ever Tata Steel Masters. It never panned out, however, as the opening went wrong. The Dutch no. 1 commented:

I tried my new strategy, which is to prepare for one thing and play another. It’s actually worked quite well for me in the tournament so far, but today it didn’t.

Anish explained he’d mixed up two variations, and that he needed to play 11.Ndb5 instead of 11.Nc2?!

11…Be6! and Nodirbek might have taken over, but the Uzbekistan 18-year-old was understandably focused more on equalising against his closest rival.

So far there's been no sign of Nodirbek Abdusattorov cracking under the pressure of leading | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

Anish had any slight chances at the end (he noted his opponent looked close to going astray with 25…Nc6?! before finding 25…Nb6+!) before a draw was agreed.

When Fiona Steil-Antoni mentioned to Giri that Magnus Carlsen started the day only half a point behind, Anish responded:

Was he half a point behind me? Oh Jesus, that’s very bad!

It meant Magnus would catch Anish if he won his Round 11 clash with Wesley So, and it was a game where there were chances of that happening.

Both Wesley So and Magnus Carlsen played a fine game | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

Wesley had prepared an old line of the Nimzo-Indian. And when we say old, we mean old, with our database giving an Akiba Rubinstein game from 1930 after 11…b6. Magnus Carlsen had another memory.

My knowledge of that line was restricted to an old game, Kasparov-Psakhis from the 80s or something, maybe 90, where Garry won a good game. People don’t really play this line with Black. Wesley’s a guy who never, ever plays bad lines, so I knew he had something prepared, and I was just trying to see if I could circumvent his preparation.

Magnus remembered correctly — it was indeed 1990 — and decided to go his own way with 12.d5 instead of 12.Qf3.

It achieved the goal of getting Wesley out of his preparation, and the US star became uncomfortable after 18.Qf4.

He commented:

The position looks very symmetrical but when he played Qf4 I realised things weren’t as easy as it looks. My pawns on the queenside were on the dark squares and there’s no clear way to equality.

Magnus also felt he had strategic trumps.

I was pretty happy with the position I had. I have a very good bishop against his knight, that has no anchor, and I remember Ivanchuk won a game against Kramnik in a similar position, but then at least the black pawn was on b7. When the pawn is on b6 then that’s a massive improvement for me, and in the game I’m pretty close to achieving something very significant.

Wesley said he was happy when queens were exchanged, noting, “I’m either dead lost or it’s dead equality”.

It was dead equality, but that didn’t mean things weren’t balanced on a knife-edge, with Wesley never putting a foot wrong and commenting afterwards:

In the end I just managed to hold on. It was an incredibly tough game, but I learned a lot from the ending.

There was a funny moment at the very end of the game. When Magnus grabbed the last pawn on a5 the game was officially over (it’s no longer possible to give checkmate), but Wesley, rather than offering his hand for a draw, wanted to take the bishop off the board anyway.

So we got an awkward handshake followed by what was technically an illegal move, if you can make an illegal move after a game is already over!

Not all the draws were so fighting. Levon Aronian made a 10th draw of the event, this time against his St. Louis neighbour Fabiano Caruana, with neither player pausing much to think.

Arjun Erigaisi-Gukesh never caught fire, with Arjun perhaps still licking his wounds after losing three games in a row in Rounds 7-9, while Gukesh was satisfied with a draw with the black pieces.

Richard Rapport had a tough game, but what a shirt! | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

For once, Vincent Keymer didn’t play the longest game of the round, as what at one point was a big advantage fizzled out quickly against Richard Rapport, before the players agreed a draw at move 41. Vincent reflected on his missed rook endgame wins in his previous two 7-hour games:

Obviously it’s disappointing not to win these games, but seeing the way to win is really quite tough, and it was also, I don’t want to call it bad luck, but it was weird that in both games I could have been two pawns up, and a rook ending two pawns up being a draw is quite rare, but it was in both cases.

The remaining draw, Ding Liren-Van Foreest, felt in some ways unfortunate for Ding. After a tournament where he’d experimented with 1.e4 he turned to his trusty 1.d4 only to get hit by an interesting novelty that Jorden had saved up for a year. 10…dxc4 offered a pawn on b7, which Ding quickly grabbed before then investing serious thought in his subsequent decisions.

A key turning point came after 14…Qc8.

The computer here gives 15.Qa5 and an advantage for White, but Jorden, who confirms that was his main line, would have been ready. He later summed up the whole game:

Quite an important one, because this is a really topical line, and I think the way I played it is objectively very fine for Black. It’s not been played before.

Ding instead went for 15.dxc5!? and the attractive 15…Rb7 16.Qa3 Qxc7 17.c6+! A sharp skirmish followed, but ultimately it was another game that fizzled out into a draw.

The only decisive action came in Praggnanandhaa-Maghsoodloo, though on move 8 Parham got a sinking feeling as the novelty, or near novelty, 8.Nh2 appeared on the board.

Parham described his feelings:

It was a very new move, and I was not happy about this, because also Magnus played some new move, Bg4, and I lost that game. I was not ready for some new move, because I never checked this Nh2, so I was a bit nervous at that moment, but after that I think I found plenty of good moves and got a normal position, and then he was out of prep, so then it was a fight for me.

17-year-old Praggnanandhaa had an excellent start to this year’s event, reaching an unbeaten +2 after seven rounds, but since then he’d lost to Rapport and Gukesh. His unconvincing play continued in Round 11, as he made a serious mistake with 17.Nf5?!

Parham felt his opponent had “completely underestimated” the strength of 17…Bxf5 18.exf5 d5!, and that after that move it could only be Black who was playing for a win.

Soon Parham was completely on top, and his one regret was not finishing things off more crisply.

38…c1=Q! should have been a clincher, but Parham went for 38…Bxd8!? 39.gxh4 c1=Q 40.Qxc1 Rxc1+ and still had work to do. He commented:

At some moment I had this c1=Q, which makes him resign immediately, but I decided to go for this endgame, and I was a bit upset about myself, because this c1=Q has to be winning, but I was afraid of some checks. When you lose some games you’re out of confidence, and I didn’t have enough confidence to play c1, and that’s why I was upset.

No harm was done, however, with Parham ending with a flourish with the only winning move 52…Rh2+!

53.Kxh2 Bxg1+ 54.Kxg1 e1=Q+ and Black wins.

That meant Maghsoodloo, a late replacement for Jan-Krzysztof Duda, is now level on -1 with Praggnanandhaa and Ding Liren, while nothing has changed at the top of the standings.

The Challengers saw Alexander Donchenko score a 6th win, this time against top seed Amin Tabatabaei, to regain the sole lead after Mustafa Yilmaz was held to a draw by Jergus Pechac. Alexander described how he felt:

Exhausted! Both already from the tournament, and also emotionally, because once you get close to the finish line you have to force yourself not to overthink everything.

Donchenko’s opponent in the penultimate round will be IM Thomas Beerdsen, whose wild win over Velimir Ivic put him a win away from the GM title. “I hope I can stop him winning the tournament!”, said Thomas, while pointing out it was nothing personal.

The standings look as follows, with Mustafa Yilmaz and Javokhir Sindarov best-placed to exploit any slip-up by the leader.

Saturday’s Round 12 will be another massive one in the race for the title. The top two have the black pieces, with So-Abdusattorov and Van Foreest-Giri. In fact Van Foreest then plays Abdusattorov in the final round. He commented:

I’m just excited to play the role of spoiler and try my best to ruin some tournaments!

Also in Round 12 we have Carlsen-Praggnanandhaa, with Magnus sure to go all-out to take full advantage of his last game with the white pieces.

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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