Tata Steel India: Four co-leaders, Keymer starts strong

by André Schulz
9/5/2023 – Four players are sharing the lead with 2 out of 3 points after the first day of rapid games in the men’s section of the Tata Steel India tournament. Dommaraju Gukesh, Teimour Radjabov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (pictured) and Vincent Keymer are the co-leaders. Remarkably, 18-year-old Keymer beat two of his contemporaries, Arjun Erigaisi and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu. | Photo: Vivek Sohani

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A formidable lineup

India’s 17-year-old Divya Deshmukh and world champion Ju Wenjun won the top prizes and the biggest cheques — USD 10,000 and USD 7,000 — in the women’s rapid and blitz tournaments at the Tata Steel Chess India event in Kolkata.

Immediately after the women’s competition, the men started their tournament on Tuesday, and here the strength of India’s top players is even more noticeable than in women’s chess. Except for Vishy Anand, the five strongest Indian GMs are representing their country in this prestigious tournament: Dommaraju Gukesh (world no.8), Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu (no.19), Vidit Gujrahti (no.27), Arjun Erigaisi (no.29) and Pentala Harikrishna (no.31).

The Indian grandmasters will get an opportunity to test their mettle against five international stars: Teimour Radjabov (No 14), Alexander Grischuk (No 18), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (No 20), Vincent Keymer (No 26) and Nodirbek Abdusattorov (No 28).

The German chess enthusiasts are particularly pleased with the invitation of the country’s highest-rated player. Vincent Keymer has arrived in the circle of the chess elite, and the 18-year-old is likely to continue making progress.

Vincent Keymer

Vincent Keymer | Photo: ChessBase India

However, the Indian fans’ attention is more focused on the Indian representatives, especially on Praggnanandhaa, who was frenetically celebrated after his success at the World Cup, where he finished second. When he returned from Baku, Pragg was picked up at the Chennai airport in an open car and driven through the streets amid cheers from fans. The youngster was later received by Indian Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Billionaire Anand Mahindra plans to gift the family an electric car.

Pragg’s success in the World Cup has also earned him a spot in the next Candidates Tournament, and since the 18-year-old is still developing steadily, one can expect him to play an important role in the 8-player event set to take place in Toronto.

No less successful is Gukesh, who has just replaced Anand as the country’s highest-rated player in FIDE’s world ranking. Anand is one of the best-known sports stars in India. Pragg and Gukesh are about to achieve the same popularity.

Pragg is modest in the media reports: “I try not to think too much about the adulation because it can easily get into your head. My priority is to play well. Now that so many people follow the sport, it is very important for me to inspire people. Maybe then more young players will emerge in chess. Maybe someone who has the potential can become even stronger and move up even further”.

Dommaraju Gukesh

Dommaraju Gukesh, India’s new number one | Photo: Vivek Sohani

The tournament format of the men’s tournament at the Tata Steel India event is the same as that of the women’s. First, nine rounds of rapid chess will be played over three days. This will be followed by a two-day double round-robin blitz tournament starting on Friday.

On the first day of play, the international players did quite well in comparison with the young Indian squad. Four players finished the first day with 2 out of 3 points: Radjabov, Vachier-Lagrave and Keymer. Of the Indians, only Gukesh got 2 points.

In round 3, Keymer got the better of World Cup runner-up Praggnanandhaa:

Standings after round 3

All games


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.