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Magnus Carlsen dominates day one of Tata Steel Chess India 2019 Rapid

by Sagar Shah - 23/11/2019

The strongest ever tournament on Indian, in fact Asian soil, kicked off on the 22nd of November 2019. Three rounds of rapid chess were played on day one. Six years ago, on this very day Magnus Carlsen had become the World Champion by beating Anand in Chennai. Carlsen continued from where he left and now leads the tournament with 5.0/6. He is followed by Nakamura on 4.0/6. We bring to you the game analysis of all six decisive games of day one and also pictorial impressions and videos from the venue. Not to be missed is Anand's win against Wesley So, Vidit's Houdini like escape against Ding Liren and Nakamura's positional squeeze against Giri.

22nd of November is a special day in Magnus Carlsen's life. Is it because he ended day one of the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid 2019 with 2.5/3 and as the sole leader? Not really! Six years ago in 2013, this happened:

23-year-old Magnus Carlsen shouts out in jubilation inside a swimming pool after beating Vishy Anand 6.5-3.5 in the World Championship Match 

Magnus is just 29 years old (will be 29 on 30th of November) and he has already been the World Champion for six years! Quite amazing isn't it! Seeing him in action, fans of the game often exclaim, "It's an honour to be born in the same era as Magnus!" Celebrating this day Magnus wrote on Instagram, "Good times so far in #Grandchesstour! Exactly six years ago I became world champion by making a draw in the Bb5+ Sicilian, today I won with it, using some preparation from the match."

Six years ago in Chennai, now in Kolkata! Nothing much has changed! He is still the best! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The playing hall at the Bhasha Bhavan (Language Hall) at the National Library | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The hall has a seating capcity of around 550 people and day one witnessed around 300 spectators. The rush will grow on day 2 and day 3 as they are weekends! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

What was really amazing to see was how the crowd erupted into cheer and applause when Magnus Carlsen arrived on the stage! It just goes to show what a great chess culture, the city of Kolkata has.

Round 1:

The opening move was made on Vishy Anand's board | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The first round of the event saw only one decisive result. On board four Anish Giri defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi with the black pieces while the remaining encounters fizzled out into draws. Anish played quite an enterprising game out of the opening, he sacrificed a pawn and managed to completely box in Nepo's dark-squared bishop. Things did turn a bit tricky around move 25 but the Dutchman had it all under control and when his opponent suffered a lapse, he pounced on his chance.

Anish had played an excellent rapid event at the Superbet GCT, and he continued his form in India as well | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Ian Nepomniachtchi - Anish Giri, Round 1.

At this point Anish's 28...Qe6! came over as pretty decisive. Now e4-e3 was unavoidable and this could be followed up by even more powerful threats like Qe4!  

Suddenly White was completely lost as the threats after Qe4 or e3-e2 were impossible to counter. Nepo gave up his d2 knight to ease the position up and played on for 44 moves before calling it a day.

Round 2

110IND2674GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi½ - ½GMNakamura HikaruUSA28126
27NED2705GMGiri Anish½ - ½GMAronian LevonARM27685
38NOR2849GMCarlsen Magnus1 - 0GMNepomniachtchi IanRUS27654
49IND2757GMAnand Viswanathan1 - 0GMSo WesleyUSA28023
51IND2667GMHarikrishna Pentala½ - ½GMDing LirenCHN28322

In round two Vishy Anand registered an emphatic win against Wesley So to emerge as one of the leaders along with Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri. Vishy had the White pieces and out of a Spanish managed to secure quite a promising position in the middlegame with excellent play on the queenside but failing to take the ideal continuation landed him in a drawish bishop-knight ending. The Madras Tiger however kept pushing on and got his chance once again on move 57 when his opponent blundered.  

A game where experience triumphed over youth! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Vishy Anand - Wesley So, Round 2

White was pushing quite well on the queenside around move 25 and in the above position played the move Qc6, which looks logical at first glance but actually gives away the initiative. Can you find an improvement here? 

The problem with 26.Qc6 is that after 26...Qxc6 27.dxc6 Rfc8 28.Rea1 even though White has more active pieces but Black has everything well defended and there is no straightforward way to make progress. A better move would have been 26.Nb3! which comes with the very interesting Nc5 threat. Notice that Black actually can't capture dxc5 as that allows the devastating Qg6+ followed by Rxe5. In the game Vishy lost most of his advantage after 28.Rea1 and ended up in an equal bishop versus knight ending where he had an extra pawn.

In the above position after 57.Bg7 all Wesley had to do was play 57...Nc6 keeping everything defended but he erred with 57...Ne6 which at once turned the tables.

The game continued 58.Bxe5 Kxh6 59.Kc2 Kg6 60.Kb3 and White brought his king to c4 to win the d4 pawn as well. With two extra pawns the rest was easy.

Vishy Anand vs Wesley So, the entire game captured in this video

It's never easy to stop force Magnus. The World Champion got things going when he won his second round game against Ian Nepomniactchi | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Carlsen vs Nepomanichtchi - full video

Round 3:

12CHN2832GMDing Liren½ - ½GMVidit Santosh GujrathiIND267410
23USA2802GMSo Wesley½ - ½GMHarikrishna PentalaIND26671
34RUS2765GMNepomniachtchi Ian1 - 0GMAnand ViswanathanIND27579
45ARM2768GMAronian Levon0 - 1GMCarlsen MagnusNOR28498
56USA2812GMNakamura Hikaru1 - 0GMGiri AnishNED27057

A loss in round one to Giri, second loss to Carlsen, and yet he is in good spirits for his third round game against Anand. Nepo came back emphatically! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Nepomniachtchi vs Anand, Round 3

Black is doing fine here. Yes, he is under some pressure, but Anand made things works by taking on c3. After bxc3, White has two more things going his way - the open b-file and the bishop developing on a3.

White to play and finish off the game in style!

Nepo could have just retreated his knight to e3 and it is not possible to keep things under control. However, the Russian GM found the killer blow - Nh6+! Kh8 was followed by Rxf6! The kingside was ripped open and after gxf6 Qf3 it was all over. The f6 pawn is hanging and there is a threat of exd5 winning back material. Vishy resigned.

Nepo vs Anand - full video

To resign or not?

Ding Liren vs Vidit Gujrathi, Round 3

Ding Liren has just retreated his rook to a4. Vidit can resign here with a safe conscience. But he decided to continue playing! "I did it out of inertia", says Vidit. A few moves later we reached this position:

b6 was expected from Ding Liren in this position. But instead he played the huge blunder 79.a7?? Vidit simply played Ka8 and now his king is stalemated in the corner. This means that his rook is free to check and sacrifice itself to draw the game!

Vidit instantly seized the opportunity with ...Rf5+ and sacrificed his rook with Ka6 Ra5+!

It's a good time to ask as to how a player of Ding Liren's stature can make a mistake like this. Well, time pressure is an obvious defence. But let's assume that instead of this endgame, if Ding Liren had to mate with a bishop and knight. Not matter how low you are on time you would expect him to checkmate his opponent. In the same way, this is also a well-known theoretical position. A player like Ding Liren should not be missing such a win. That being said, such mistakes will keep happening from even the best, every now and then, because chess is a tough game!

Vidit missed a very promising position against Nakamura in round two, but was compensated for the same when he drew a completely lost endgame against Ding Liren | Photo: Amruta Mokal
IM Sagar Shah records this video inside the playing hall and speaks about the question of "when is it a right time to resign?"

Defending champion Nakamura started off with two draws, but got going when he won his third round game against Giri | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Nakamura vs Giri, round 3

After a fine opening, Nakamura managed to get a small edge in the position as can be seen above. The knight on c4 sits pretty and cannot be disturbed. The white rook is nicely perched on a5 and actively placed. It's time for the king to join in. Yes, the position is only slightly better for White, but as Nakamura pointed out after the game, such positions are extremely difficult to defend in a rapid game when you are running short of time. Very soon the white king made its way up from f1 to e2 to d3 to e4, all the way to d5 and Anish had to eventually throw in the towel.

No Sveshnikov, it was the Najdorf that helped Carlsen beat Aronian in round three | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Aronian vs Carlsen

Magnus was extremely alert here and found the move ...Bxg5. The point is that after Qxg5 Qf1+ Kc2, Black has the powerful Bxc4 when the rook on d3 has to be given up. Levon brought back his queen to e3 and after the exchanges on d3 we reached the following position.

Black has two pawns and rook for the two minor pieces, but more importantly, the h-pawn is extremely strong. It seemed as if Carlsen would smoothly win this endgame, when...

...he blundered! ...Rg7 by Carlsen was a big mistake. Can you find out why?

Nf4+ is possible and the h5 pawn is lost. Aronian missed this chance and the game ended in a win for Magnus.

Rank after round three

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgIPts. TB1 nwwew-weKrtg+/-
18GMCarlsen MagnusNOR28492,50,032,51,800,702014,0
26GMNakamura HikaruUSA28122,00,0321,900,10202,0
31GMHarikrishna PentalaIND26671,50,031,51,090,41208,2
2GMDing LirenCHN28321,50,031,52,03-0,5320-10,6
7GMGiri AnishNED27051,50,031,51,180,32206,4
9GMAnand ViswanathanIND27571,50,031,51,330,17203,4
10GMVidit Santosh GujrathiIND26741,50,031,51,110,39207,8
83GMSo WesleyUSA28021,00,0311,67-0,6720-13,4
4GMNepomniachtchi IanRUS27651,00,0311,47-0,4720-9,4
5GMAronian LevonARM27681,00,0311,42-0,4220-8,4

VIPs! Anish Giri's second Erwin l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess India tournament director Jeroen van den Berg, important members of the Gameplan team Guru Ramabhadran and Jeet Banerjee | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Will Vishy Anand manage to repeat his success of 2018 where he had won the Tata Steel Chess India blitz | Photo: Amruta Mokal

This young fan deserved the selfie by Vidit for making such a wonderful portrait | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Tania Sachdev is the only official Grand Chess Tour commentator at the venue. The team of other commentators - Peter Svidler, Jennifer Shahade, Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley are commenting remotely on the games. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
The live commentary of day one

Harikrishna has been very solid on day one with draws against Vidit, Wesley So and Ding Liren | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

With such an amazing tournament taking place in India, Kolkata is the place to bee! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Humility of the greats!

The players at the event are some of the greatest chess players in the world. But after their games, they are making sure to interact with the crowd, to give them autographs, take selfies and in general quench the chess craze of Indian youngsters!

Grand Chess Tour:

The Grand Chess Tour is into its fifth year. It is series of events for the best players in the world. Although it is not related to the World Championship cycle, all the top players of the world take part in it because of the hefty prize fund. This year, in 2019, the Grand Chess Tour has extended itself to eight events and twelve participants. There are also wild cards added at different events to compete with the best players. The events are a mixture of classical chess as well as rapid and blitz. The Tata Steel Chess India is the seventh and the penultimate event in the Grand Chess Tour 2019. This is how the standings look until now:

Magnus Carlsen is in the lead with 54.5 points. As MVL and Sergey Karjakin have played all their five tour events, their score of 36.8 and 36.5 is final. Vishy Anand on 32 points has an excellent chance of overtaking them! This is how the points are allocated. Basically Anand has to finish sixth or above to make it to the finals.


The top four finishers after the Tata Steel Chess India in terms of cumulative points will proceed to the super finals that will be held in London from 2nd to the 8th of December 2019. The London finals has an excellent prize fund of US$ 3,50,000. While Aronian's qualification looks almost certain, Vishy has to score five more points to finish fourth and make it to the finals.

Special thanks to Satanick Mukhuty and Shahid Ahmed for their contribution to this article.

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