Berlin GP: Tabatabaei bounces back

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/1/2022 – A heavy underdog, Amin Tabatabaei continues his excellent run at the third leg of the Grand Prix series in Berlin. The Iranian star bounced back in his semifinal match against Wesley So by scoring a remarkable 30-move victory to take the encounter to tiebreaks. Meanwhile, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Hikaru Nakamura drew for a second day in a row and will also decide their match in rapid and blitz. | Photos: World Chess

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Climbing the rating ladder

FIDE Grand Prix 2022During the month of March, Amin Tabatabaei has scored 7½ points in 14 classical games, all played against higher-rated opposition — in fact, all his rivals were rated 2700 or above. His excellent run of good form has gained him no less than 27.8 rating points, allowing him to climb a whopping 61 places in the live ratings list.

The fact that the 21-year-old from Tehran is heavily underrated was made clear during last year’s World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. Tabatabaei, who entered the event with a 2613 rating, made it all the way to the quarterfinals after knocking out the likes of Yu Yangyi and Pentala Harikrishna. The Iranian was eliminated by Vladimir Fedoseev, after blundering in a slightly inferior yet seemingly defensible endgame.

Exactly eight months later — he was knocked out of the World Cup on July 31 — Tabatabaei has managed to even the score in his match against world number 6 Wesley So. The semifinal encounter will be decided in Friday’s rapid and blitz tiebreakers.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Hikaru Nakamura will also return to the playing hall at Berlin’s Unter der Linden on Friday, as they drew both classical games in their semifinal. The result already secured Nakamura overall victory in the Grand Prix series, something he was not aware of when he finished his game. When Anastasiya Karlovich informed him of the success, Nakamura replied with a smile on his face:

But there’s no bonus prize, so it doesn’t mean anything. In past Grands Prix there actually were prizes for overall winner, for second and third, but now there are no prizes (laughs).

Hikaru Nakamura

The winner of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix series — Hikaru Nakamura

Tabatabaei 1 - 0 So

Out of a fighting system in the Nimzo-Indian, So found a nice resource to neutralize his opponent’s relative dominance in the centre.

 

After 16...b5, Tabatabaei correctly considered that Black had solved most of his problems, as the move “worked perfectly for him”.

So soon found himself a pawn up, but White still had the more active pieces. In an equal position, the Filipino-born star blundered by going for what seems to be a nice tactical shot.

 

23...Nh4 threatens a deadly check on f3 and gets control of the long, light-squared diagonal (note that 24.gxh4 fails to 24...Qg4+ and mate next move). Tabatabaei, however, had a winning reply in 24.Rd3.

The Iranian initially thought he was losing after the knight manoeuvre, but he was shocked when he realized he had instead reached a winning position:

In the first moment, I thought it’s completely lost, but then I have a move which is completely winning for me. It just happens like once in a blue moon, it’s just so rare. I was incredibly lucky.

So tried 24...Qg4, but the problem for Black is that 25.Qc3 both defends the third rank and creates a strong battery on the dark-squared diagonal.

 

The game lasted five more moves, as there was nothing So could do to prevent his opponent from getting the full point.

 

Mamedyarov ½ - ½ Nakamura

Out of a Queen’s Gambit Declined, Mamedyarov pushed his pawn to c5, creating a long, strategic battle instead of going for some of the more forcing lines in the system. By move 23, Black was for choice, as he had better coordinated pieces than his opponent.

 

Both contenders agreed that White needs to be careful here, although it is also difficult to find a winning plan for Black. In the ensuing struggle, Mamedyarov continued to play sensible moves until getting a valuable half point against the winner of the series.

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.

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