Tata Steel R8: Arjun clear leader in the Challengers

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/24/2022 – Three decisive games in round 8 of the Tata Steel Masters tournament left Magnus Carlsen and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov sharing the lead on 5½ points. The Azerbaijani defeated Praggnanandhaa to catch up with the world champion. Meanwhile, in the Challengers, Arjun Erigaisi won his sixth game (in eight rounds!) to go into the second rest day of the event with a 1½-point lead. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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Six wins in eight rounds

The rise of Indian grandmasters to the elite continues, as Arjun Erigaisi has joined the world’s top 100 live ratings list and is now one of five Indian players rated in the 2650-2700 band (including Adhiban, rated 2648). It is very likely that at least one of these five will join Anand, Vidit and Harikrishna in the “2700 club” in the near future. Given Arjun’s quick recent ascent, we might soon see him joining his compatriots in elite tournaments.

Even before getting invitations, Arjun might get a spot in nest year’s Tata Steel Masters, though, as he has won six games in eight rounds in the Challengers to go into the second rest day of the event in the sole lead, a whole 1½ points ahead of his closest chasers.

In Sunday’s eighth round, he got a bit lucky, as his opponent, the Danish Jonas Buhl Bjerre, was forced to misplace his dark-squared bishop due to the touch-move rule.


The young Danish grandmaster touched his bishop intending to play 13...Bb4, and he noticed just in time that his intended move fails to 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Qd4+ Qxb4, when White is almost winning already. Therefore, he went for 13...Bf6, which also leaves him in an inferior position after 14.Bxf6 Nxf6 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.Qxd5 Qxd5 17.Bxd5 Bxc2 18.Re7


Arjun safely converted his positional advantage into a 30-move win, and was later interviewed. Naturally in good spirits, he confessed he expected to have a good performance in Wijk:

I was hoping to score massively, but I’m a bit surprised and happy that everything is going smoothly (smiles).

Even earlier than Arjun, Daniel Dardha managed a second consecutive win after showing a nice finish with the white pieces in his game against Polina Shuvalova.


Black erred decisively with the previous 19...Nb8. Dardha had calculated the forcing, winning line which punished that mistake — 20.Nb5 Qb6 21.Qxa7+


What a shot! Shuvalova allowed her opponent to show the mate: 21...Qxa7 22.Nc7#

Daniel Dardha

16-year-old Belgian GM Daniel Dardha | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Round 8 results


Standings after round 8


All games - Round 8


Replay all the Challengers’ games at Live.ChessBase.com

Shakh befuddles Pragg, joins the lead

Meanwhile, in the Masters, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov joined Magnus Carlsen in the lead thanks to a victory over young Praggnanandhaa. The Azerbaijani had the white pieces, and pushed his opponent to solve problems over the board as early as on move 4.


4.Qa4 is not the kind of move one often sees in an elite tournament, but Shakh is not one to shy away from dubious sidelines that will potentially lead to double-edged struggles.

The gamble worked wonders for the Azerbaijani, who saw his 16-year-old opponent spending around 45 minutes in his first ten moves. 


By move 16, White already had a clear advantage — Shakh continued with 16.e4 Nb6 17.0-0, and Black’s uncoordinated army will have trouble dealing with White’s initiative. Pragg threw in the towel in a knight endgame two pawns down on move 46. 

Mamedyarov and Carlsen are both undefeated with three wins to their names in Wijk. After the rest day, the co-leaders are paired up against each other, with the world champion set to play with the white pieces in the crucial encounter.


Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Tricky — Shakhriyar Mamedyarov | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Giri and Vidit in the hunt

Two good friends (and very active Twitter users) also won in round 8. Anish Giri and Vidit Gujrathi are now the closest chasers of the co-leaders after beating Andrey Esipenko and Nils Grandelius respectively.

This was Giri’s third consecutive victory, including his win by forfeit over Daniil Dubov. Playing black against Esipenko, the Dutch star had three pawns for a knight in an endgame with rooks still on the board — Giri got to play a nice final sequence to claim the full point.


47...h3+ 48.Kxh3 g2 49.Rf2 Ke3, and White resigned.

Erwin L’Ami, Anish Giri

Anish Giri playing across the hall from Erwin L’Ami, two good friends and collaborators | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Vidit, who came from losing with black against Jorden van Foreest, got the better of the tournament’s tail-ender. India’s number 2 needed 34 moves to take down Grandelius and return to the fight for overall victory. In the two rounds following the rest day, Vidit will face Richard Rapport and Praggnanandhaa.

Go through both decisive games in the dynamic replayer below.


Round 8 results


Standings after round 8


All games - Round 8


Replay all the Masters’ games at Live.ChessBase.com


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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