Tata Steel Chess 2022: Being tied for the first place, it was the battle of the leader. Magnus Carlsen outclassed Mamedyarov with the white pieces. Anish Giri trails Carlsen by a half-point and is the closest.
Giri said about this (with Carlsen talking to Norwegian TV in the background): “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 is interrupting my interview now, it does motivate me to do really my best and that’s when I play my best chess, so I am looking forward to the end of the tournament and to the next games.”
Anish Giri was the first one to get a decisive result against Sam Shankland in their second classical game. Giri has the upper hand with winning both games with this win.
It was a Pirc position but with reversed colors. Giri got a tiny edge out of the opening after the queens were exchanged. Having a passive position in hand with a knight and rook both not on good squares, Sam Shankland tried a pawn sacrifice on move 21. Giri actually like that idea, “I think it was actually a pretty good try at that point because I was really wondering what his idea was so far. If he doesn’t follow up with 21…d5 I am much better, I thought.”
The decisive mistake for Shankland was 24…b6, after which he didn’t have enough time to set up a good defense anymore. Another excellent win for Giri, who can once again dream about tournament victory on home soil.
The 28th classical game between Magnus Carlsen and Mamedyarov Shakriyar was as always interesting. A Catalan which was pretty much expected from Carlsen.
Mamedyarov was slight imbalance but played an exchange sacrifice for which he got the bishop pair and a pawn majority on the queenside. It was playable but also risky.
Magnus Carlsen: “The exchange sacrifice was quite expected; it was also his style 100 percent, but maybe in hindsight, there were other options there,” said Carlsen. “It was very understandable that he chose to sort of be on the active side there, sacrificing material. To be fair, he had 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.”
“It’s a bit back to what was working really well for me in 2019 in that, after the match, I got very interesting positions from the opening and I could sort of win in a dynamic style, so it’s really something that I’ve missed and, yeah, it’s going well.”
Carlsen also commented about Giri being his main rival again, sort of suggesting that Giri had declined an offer to play his game with GM Daniil Dubov on the rest day. (In reality, this is not what happened. Although it could have been an elegant solution, the organizers never seriously considered this option.)
“He’s playing really, really well, the last few days,” Carlsen started nicely, but then continued, smiling: “He’s also showing a 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!”
Nils Grandelius and Fabiano Caruana were in for their 7th classical game. Caruana is dominating this battle with a 4-0 score and three draws. A french opening was played by the American GM.
Although it was not well prepared by Caruana as after the 16th move, the engine evaluated a slight advantage for Nils. where Grandelius should have gone full attacking mode with moves like g4, h5, and Kh1 in any particular order.
However, the Swedish GM went for a slower knight maneuver which is usually played in the king’s Indian Attack. Caruana slowly but surely took over and outplayed his opponent in the remainder, although not flawlessly; there was one moment where Grandelius could have drawn the game tactically.
The fourth winner was GM Sergey Karjakin, who fought himself toward a plus score for the first time in the tournament, in what was his first classical game with GM Praggnanandhaa R. The young Indian GM played the opening quite interestingly, showing that the London System doesn’t always need to be boring.
Pragg soon sacrificed an exchange and held sufficient compensation until deep into the endgame, which became more and more complicated. It was tough luck for him that he had to make the key decision of this game on move 40.
“I had no idea what was going on in this game,” said Karjakin. “It was a completely crazy game.”
Of the three draws, we’re picking out the clash between GM Richard Rapport and GM Vidit Gujrathi, who defended impressively and instructively after being slightly worse throughout the game.