Tata Steel R3: Vidit grabs the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/18/2022 – After beating Daniil Dubov in a sharp struggle, Vidit Gujrathi grabed the sole lead at the Tata Steel Masters tournament. Going into round 4, no fewer than five players stand a half point behind the leader, though, with Jorden van Foreest, Richard Rapport and Andrey Esipenko joining the chasing pack thanks to victories in Monday’s third round. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Four decisive results

The third day of action in Wijk aan Zee was filled with action. For the first time in this year’s edition, four games finished decisively in the Masters, as there was no lack of fighting struggles in the Dutch coastal town. After three days of exciting chess, we expect to see gripping combats for first place both in the Masters and Challengers events.

Victories by Vidit Gujrathi, Jorden van Foreest, Andrey Esipenko and Richard Rapport meant more than half the games in the main section finished decisively. Monday’s results left Vidit in sole first place as the only player with a 2½/3 score.

Van Foreest and Rapport are yet to draw a game, but the fact that they have lost once so far in Wijk left them in shared second place on 2/3. Three other players also have a +1 score going into round 4 — Andrey Esipenko, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Magnus Carlsen. While Esipenko beat Sergey Karjakin with white, Duda and Carlsen drew their direct encounter, a heavy theoretical battle which lasted 38 moves.

Magnus Carlsen

World champion Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Dubov’s daring play 

Vidit collected his second win of the event by beating Daniil Dubov with the black pieces. Unsurprisingly, the Russian both surprised his opponent with a sharp move in the opening and decided to go for a tactical, complicated continuation in the middlegame. His novelty on move 8 prompted Vidit to spend a bit over half an hour on his next three moves.


Dubov was still blitzing out his moves when he played 8.Na3, allowing his opponent to get a structural advantage with 8...Bxa3 9.bxa3 Qe7. However, the shock value of the Russian’s strategy gave him a considerable edge on the clock — after 10.0-0 Vidit deeply considered how to approach the situation and spent 15 minutes before deciding on 10...Nb8. Certainly it was White who won the opening battle.

However, despite having been surprised, Vidit did not shy away from playing critical moves in the middlegame. The Indian pushed his kingside pawns with his king still in the centre, fighting fire with fire against his tactically gifted opponent. This is how the position looked after 17 moves.


Here Dubov went for the sharp 18.g4, making use of the pin along the e-file. There followed 18...Nc5 19.Nd4 Rf8 20.gxf5 Bxf5, and once again the Russian opted for the most fighting continuation!


After a 10-minute reflection, the Russian played the engine’s first line — 21.Rxb7. To grab the rook with 21...Nxb7 would leave Black in an inferior position after 22.Bb5+ Kf7 23.Nxf5 (the king blocks the rook on f8 from recapturing the knight).

Vidit did not falter, though, as he found the best response in 21...Rf6, which was followed by 22.Qb1 Nxb7 23.Qxb7 Rd8 — both players were showcasing excellent calculation abilities.


24.Nxf5 Rxf5 25.Rxe4 Rd1+ Re5 followed.


The players had probably foreseen this position from afar, and the engines consider this to be dynamically balanced. But after such a tough struggle, it was to be expected for one of the contenders to eventually go astray. Six moves later, it was Dubov who faltered, as he defended his rook instead of going for a perpetual check.


32.f3 was the losing mistake (32.Qc8+ was the way to go, as Black cannot escape the checks). Black now had 32...Rxe4 33.fxe4+ Kxe4, and the black king can run away from the constant checks via e3-d2. After a valiant fight, Dubov resigned four moves later.


Daniil Dubov, Vidit Gujrathi

It was a sharp, gruelling battle | Photo: Lennart Ootes

A curious structure, a nice final sequence

Not all talented youngsters in Wijk are playing in the Challengers, as 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa is already playing in the main section. The Indian prodigy drew Anish Giri and Duda in the first two rounds, but could not stop Van Foreest from getting his second win of the event on Monday. Pragg set up a strange pawn structure with the black pieces.


White is slightly better with less pawn islands and a safer king, but Black should be able to fight with his extra pawn and his central (unorthodox) pawns.

A pair of rooks left the board, and Black was holding on, until the young Indian faltered by pushing his f-pawn one square too far.


25...f3 was the losing move (much like in the Dubov game!). After 26.gxf3, even though Black could grab the f-pawn eventually, he will have too many weaknesses in any potential endgame. Van Foreest ended up getting a 56-move win to bounce back from his previous loss against Richard Rapport.

Praggnanandhaa, Jorden van Foreest

Praggnanandhaa versus Jorden van Foreest | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Talking about Rapport, the Hungarian grabbed his second consecutive full point after finding a nice finishing touch against Nils Grandelius.


The threat of mate on b2 is decisive. After 30...Rh1 White cannot capture the rook with the queen, and after 31.Rg1 Rxg1 32.Qxg1 Black finally plays 32...Qc3. Grandelius resigned.

In the remaining decisive game of the day, Esipenko beat Sergey Karjakin after the latter miscalculated by giving up a piece for a passed pawn. You can analyse all three decisive games mentioned in this section in the replayer below.


Round 3 results


Standings after round 3


All games


Arjun and Nguyen join Murzin in the lead

While Vidit is the only player with a +2 score in the Masters, three players have managed the same start in the Challengers. Former sole leader Volodar Murzin was held to a draw by Roven Vogel in round 3, which allowed Arjun Erigaisi and Thai Dai Van Nguyen to catch up with him atop the standings table.

Arjun inflicted Daniel Dardha’s second loss of the event thanks to a successful kingside attack.


40.Rg8+ Nxg8 41.fxg8Q+ Kxg8 42.Nf6+, forking king and rook. Black resigned.

Besides Arjun and Nguyen, Erwin l’Ami, Rinat Jumabayev and Jonas Buhl Bjerre also scored full points in the third round. The latter three joined Surya Ganguly in the chasing pack a half point behind the leaders.

Arjun Erigaisi

Arjun Erigaisi | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 3 results


Standings after round 3


All games



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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