Tata Steel Blitz: Arjun and Vaishali make India proud

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/4/2022 – Two young rising stars claimed titles in the blitz section of the Tata Steel Chess India event. Arjun Erigaisi and Vaishali Rameshbabu made their country proud as they got clear victories in the 18-round tournaments organized in Kolkata. The Indians outscored top-notch opposition on their way to memorable triumphs at the imposing National Library of India. | Pictured: Nihal, Arjun, Ushenina and Vaishali | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Arjun out-blitzes Nakamura

Less than two months ago, Arjun Erigaisi made headlines by scoring his first-ever victory over world champion Magnus Carlsen at the Aimchess Rapid online tournament. Now, in Kolkata, he came close to defending his title in the rapid section of the Tata Steel India event and then grabbed clear first place at the blitz tournament, winning the tournament with a round to spare and outscoring none other than Hikaru Nakamura. 

The 19-year-old kicked off the day with a loss against an out-of-form Nodirbek Abdusattorov, but then went on to rack up five wins in the next seven rounds to secure first place ahead of quick-play specialist Nakamura. In fact, the win that gave Arjun the triumph was achieved over the US star, who would have leapfrogged the young Indian in the standings had he scored a full point in their direct encounter.

Arjun gained 23.8 Elo points in the blitz ratings list, where he climbed to tenth place, as he now stands ahead of the likes of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So and Indian hero Vishy Anand. Arjun is one of five under-20 players rated 2700 or above in classical chess — the new generation is here!

Naka ended the tournament with a win over Praggnanandhaa to get clear second place, a whole two points ahead of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Parham Maghsoodloo and Vidit Gujrathi shared fourth place as the only players who finished with a fifty-percent score. 

Beating Naka when it mattered most

Doubtlessly, Nakamura is the pre-tournament favourite in every blitz event in which Magnus Carlsen and/or Alireza Firouzja are absent (and even when they are participating, Naka is often a contender for first place). In Kolkata, however, he was defeated three times by Arjun, once in the rapid and twice in the blitz!

In the deciding game from round 17, Naka was inches away from recovering from his two prior losses, but after failing to make the most of his winning chances, he even went on to blunder and lose the game — allowing Arjun to win the event with a round to spare.

 

This position is objectively drawn — except that this was a blitz encounter. Naka blundered the game away with 46...Be2, and resigned after 47.Qa2+, which forks king and bishop.

Hikaru Nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura almost mounts a remarkable comeback — he scored 6½ out of 9 points on Sunday | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Video: Don’t miss Naka’s expression!

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


Final standings

 

All games

 
 

Vaishali keeps the pace brisk

In another result that surely made Indian fans proud, Vaishali Rameshbabu, Pragg’s sister, won the women’s blitz tournament with a 13½/18 score. Mariya Muzychuk had finished the first half of the event with a remarkable 8/9 score, but Vaishali remained at striking distance throughout.

By the time they faced each other, in round 14 (draw), Muzychuk was still a full point ahead of the youngster. Only in the penultimate round did Vaishali grab the lead, as the Ukrainian faltered in the last hurdle, losing his final two games, against Harika Dronavalli and Nana Dzagnidze respectively. Mariya nonetheless got clear second place, while Harika finished third, much like in the rapid event.

Vaishali, aged 21, is currently ranked 41st in the classical chess FIDE ranking, and thanks to her strong performance in Kolkata, she climbed to number 12 in the blitz ratings list (live).

Vaishali Rameshbabu

Vaishali Rameshbabu | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Mariya hangs a rook

While still in the lead, a full point ahead of Vaishali, Mariya Muzychuk faced Oliwia Kiolbasa with the black pieces. The Ukrainian had a slightly inferior position, but apparently nerves failed her in the early middlegame, as she hung a whole rook on move 24.

 

24...Ra5 attacked White’s queen, completely disregarding the fact that the queen was attacking the other rook on the back rank — 25.Qxc8+ put an end to the game.

Mariya Muzychuk

Mariya Muzychuk | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Video: Grinding it out against an experienced opponent

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


Final standings

 

All games

 
 

Links


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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