Tata Steel India: Nihal surges ahead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/1/2022 – Day 2 of the Tata Steel India Chess event once again finished with sole leaders in both tournaments. In the open, Nihal Sarin climbed to sole first place after scoring 2½ out of 3 points, while among the women, Nana Dzagnidze could have lost her last two games of the day, but instead drew both times and is still in sole first place with three rounds to go. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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A full point ahead

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had a perfect start in Kolkata, with three wins in as many games on Tuesday, but two losses in rounds 4-6 have left him in shared second place going into the final day of rapid chess.

The Azerbaijani kicked off the day with the tough task of facing US star Hikaru Nakamura — Naka, who had struggled on opening day, beat Shakh with the white pieces. The famous streamer, who is also the rating favourite, defeated Parham Maghsoodloo in round 6 and now stands in shared fourth place on a fifty-percent score.

Sharing second place with Mamedyarov is Arjun Erigaisi, who scored a win and a loss on Wednesday. A full point ahead of Shakh and Arjun is Nihal Sarin, the prodigious 18-year-old who has made a name for himself as a formidable online-chess player. Nihal’s excellent instincts helped him score 2½ points in day 2’s rounds, with wins over Gukesh and Sethuraman followed by a draw against the ever-dangerous Wesley So.

The new sole leader will get black twice on Thursday, against Mamedyarov and Arjun, his two closest chasers — which makes for an exciting final day of rapid-chess action at the National Library of India in Kolkata!

Hikaru Nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Nihal’s petite combination

Following an important victory over Gukesh, Nihal got the better of Sethuraman with the black pieces, making it three wins in a row against Indian compatriots (Nihal had defeated Vidit in Tuesday’s third round). 

The youngster found a small tactical shot in the middlegame, which turned out to be enough to win the game in the long run. 


White’s 20.Rb7 was a mistake, as it allowed 20...Nxe5, and the f3-knight cannot capture on e5 since it is the only piece defending the rook on e1. 

After 21.Qd1 Nxf3 22.gxf3, Nihal continued with 22...d4


The pawn push is not the best move in the position, but it leads to further simplifications that settle Black’s advantage. Besides remaining a pawn up in the ensuing struggle, Nihal had the better pawn structure (given White’s doubled pawns on the f-file). The youngster continued making progress until reaching a winning queen endgame with an outside passer on the a-file. Sethuraman resigned the game on move 57. 

Nihal Sarin

Focused — Nihal Sarin | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Check out Nihal’s amazing endgame knowledge in his visit to K. Müller’s Magic Show

Video: Gukesh beats Abdusattorov

As usual, the ChessBase India team is uploading a plethora of magnificent content to YouTube!

Standings after round 6


All games


Dzagnidze leads, Vaishali joins the chasing pack

While Nihal is the only player who remains undefeated in the open, no fewer than five players have yet to lose a game in the women’s tournament. After winning three in a row, sole leader Nana Dzagnidze drew all three of her games on day 2 to keep her place atop the standings.

Much like after round 3, four players stand a half point behind — also undefeated Mariya Muzychuk, Humpy Koneru and Anna Ushenina were joined by Vaishali Rameshbabu, who collected 2½ points in rounds 4-6. Harika Dronavalli (the fifth unbeaten players) stands a half point further back, on 3½ out of 6.

If we only look at the results, we might think Dzagnidze is cruising in Kolkata, but that is not the case. In the very first round, Savitha Shri missed a big chance to take down the Georgian, while Dzagnidze’s good fortune continued on Wednesday, as Humpy settled for a repetition in a clearly advantageous position — granted, the Indian was in deep time trouble at the time.

Dzagnidze will face Vantika Agrawal and both Muzychuk sisters on the final day of rapid-chess action. With four players nipping at the leader’s heels, it is everything to play for in the women’s event.

Nana Dzagnidze, Tania Sachdev

Nana Dzagnidze sharing a laugh with commentator Tania Sachdev | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Vaishali beats Anna Muzychuk

Praggnanandhaa’s sister, Vaishali Rameshbabu, has already climbed to the world top 50 in the women’s ranking. The 21-year-old kicked off her excellent second day of play in Kolkata with a victory over the very strong Anna Muzychuk.

Muzychuk, playing white, faltered on move 30.


30.Ne6 fails to 30...Nc6, since 31.Nxf8 does not work due to 31...Nxe7 and the white knight has nowhere to go. 

White got to grab a pawn for the knight with 31.Rxg7+ Kh8 32.Rd7 Rxe6...


...but Vaishali had no trouble converting her advantage into a 75-move win.

Vaishali Rameshbabu

Vaishali Rameshbabu | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Video: Humpy’s mind-blowing calculations

As usual, the ChessBase India team is uploading a plethora of magnificent content to YouTube!

Standings after round 6


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.