Tata Steel India: Mariya Muzychuk starts strong in the blitz

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/3/2022 – After Nihal Sarin and Anna Ushenina claimed titles in the rapid tournaments of the Tata Steel Chess India event, the 2-day blitz section kicked off on Saturday. The women’s tournament saw Mariya Muzychuk having a blasting start, as she scored 8/9 points to grab a commanding lead. In the open, meanwhile, Arjun Erigaisi tops the standings with 6½/9 points; Shakhriyar Mamedyarov stands close behind, a half point back. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Seven wins and two draws

At 30, Mariya Muzychuk already has plenty of achievements to boast about. The Ukrainian was the women’s world champion between April 2015 and March 2016, and has collected a number of team medals with her country’s squad — most recently, Ukraine grabbed gold medals at the Women’s Olympiad in Chennai. Now, in Kolkata, Muzychuk took a commanding lead on day 1 of the blitz tournament, scoring 8 out of 9 points at the National Library of India.

Only Vaishali Rameshbabu and her sister, Anna, managed to draw Muzychuk on Saturday. Unlike what has often been the case in classical tournaments, though, the Muzychuk sisters fought hard in their round-2 encounter in Kolkata — Mariya had the black pieces.

An impressive 8-point score ‘only’ gave the Ukrainian a 1-point lead, though, with the young Vaishali over-performing, as she only lost once throughout the day (against Anna Muzychuk in round 4).

A whole two points behind Vaishali stand Harika Dronavalli and Anna Muzychuk. For either of the latter to join the fight for first, an excellent run will be needed at the outset of day 2. But this is blitz, and it is all about form and nerves — anything can still happen.

Mariya Muzychuk, Tania Sachdev, Hikaru Nakamura

Mariya Muzychuk chatting with the dynamic duo of Tania Sachdev and Sagar Shah | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Mariya breaks through against Humpy

The sole leader obtained a crucial victory in round 3, as she defeated the ever-dangerous Humpy with the white pieces. Humpy’s kingside pawn pushes in the middlegame were a tad too optimistic.


Black already has the weaker king, but after 29...h5 30.cxd6 cxd6 31.Qc6 things did not take long to fall apart. Humpy found nothing better than to double down with 31...g4


Now there is nothing stopping White from breaking through — 32.hxg4 hxg4 33.Rxd6 Qf5 34.Rxe5 Qh7 and Humpy decided to throw in the towel. 

Vaishali Rameshbabu

In sole second place — Vaishali Rameshbabu | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Video: Checkmate ends the game

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

Standings after round 9


All games


Arjun sole leader in the open

Keeping up the good form he showed in the rapid, Arjun Erigaisi finished the first day of blitz in the sole lead, after scoring 6½/9 points, with five wins, three draws and a loss to his name. Remarkably, Arjun got to defeat Hikaru Nakamura, who had a tough time against Indian prodigies on Saturday — the US star also lost against Gukesh Dommaraju and Nihal Sarin.

Unlike in the women’s event, the sole leader will need to work hard from the get go on day 2 if he wants to keep his place at the top of the standings. No fewer than four players stand within a 1½-point distance from Arjun, with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in sole second place a half point behind the leader. Vidit Gujrathi (5½ points), Nihal (5) and Nakamura (5) are also within striking distance.

The formidable strength of the lineup is illustrated by the fact that Wesley So and Nodirbek Abdusattorov are standing ninth and tenth after nine rounds. Granted, they might be dealing with the aftereffects of jet-lag — Nakamura described it as “brutal” a few days ago.

Arjun Erigaisi

Arjun Erigaisi | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Nihal beats Naka in rollercoaster game

In a blockbuster matchup from the very first round, Nihal and Nakamura played an exciting game full of ups and downs. Eventually, an endgame with queen against two rooks and an extra pawn appeared on the board.

Naka, who had the pair of rooks (with black) wasted some chances to get a clear advantage and ended up losing both his pawns. The popular streamer made the last mistake and resigned in a good-looking zugzwang position.


87.Qc5 was game over. Moving the king allows White to simplify into a winning pawn endgame, while moving the rook on the eighth file loses material.

Nihal Sarin, Hikaru Nakamura

Nihal Sarin and Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Video: Nihal vs. Naka, a false start and an epic finish

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

Standings after round 9


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.