After a gap of two years, the Tata Steel Chess India event was welcomed to a tremendous round of applause by the local fans. The ambassador of the event, Vishy Anand made the ceremonial first move to get the event underway. The Tata Steel Chess India event is the first International Chess Tournament held on Indian soil in more than 1.5 years after the pandemic.
Round one of the Rapid saw some very interesting match-ups. While on one side it was the brother-sister duo of Praggnanandhaa and Vaishali locking horns, and on the other side, the crowd also witnessed the battle of ‘The Beast’ Adhiban vs India No.2 Vidit Gujrathi. Rated higher than her brother in the rapid format, Vaishali was extremely solid playing the Sicilian Moscow, giving young Pragg no easy breakthroughs as their game ended in a draw.
GM Adhiban Baskaran who got married earlier this week sacrificed a bishop as early as move 13 against India #2 GM Vidit Gujrathi. The sacrifice looked dubious and Adhiban’s attack never really got going. Gujrathi, playing with the black pieces, traded pieces at regular intervals and duly converted in 34 moves. The first result of the day was two-time Indian National Champion, GM Murali Karthikeyan drawing former World Blitz Champion, GM Le Quang Liem of Vietnam, in 31 moves after a three-fold repetition.
In the first decisive game of the day, Armenian No. 1 Levon Aronian showed his class with the black pieces against former US National Champion, Sam Shankland in a 46-move encounter. Levon, who had a poor India outing last time in 2019, ended his winless streak of 10 games with a clean game.
Iranian GM Parham Maghsoodloo luckily reached Kolkata just in time, three hours before the game but unfortunately for the Iranian number one, an early pawn sacrifice in the Grunfeld defense as black wasn’t enough to equalize. GM Arjun Erigiasi consolidated nicely and showed impeccable technique to bring the point home.
In round 2, it was a match-up between the Indian Juniors as GM Arjun Erigaisi took on GM Praggnanandhaa. Pragg employed the London System with a peaceful setup.
The resulting Rook and pawn endgame transitioned into a Rook vs Knight endgame. The final endgame was a well-known theoretical draw, but Erigiasi blundered on move 68 under time pressure by moving his knight far away from his King. Pragg used his Rook and King to trap the knight and sealed his first win in Kolkata. GM Karthikeyan scored an emphatic win over WGM Vaishali in 36 moves with the white side of the Morphy variation of the Ruy Lopez opening. Vaishali’s dubious King move on the 17th turn. Her pieces were tied down and Murali easily converted the position by simple yet effective developing moves.
Adhiban was playing with the black pieces and had decent drawing chances against Levon Aronian after mass exchanges liquidated into an opposite-colored bishops endgame. A small inaccuracy from Adhiban gave Levon the chance to convert the full point as he scored back-to-back wins.
Playing one of his pet openings – the Tarrasch, Vidit Gujrathi, comfortably scored a win against Le Quang Liem in a 30-move contest with the black pieces, after the Vietnamese GM lost his way with a dubious Bishop retreat on move 25. Vidit marched on with 2 wins in the first 2 games to stay in the joint lead.
Shaking off the loss in the first round, Sam Shankland struck back with an impressive win against Parham Maghsoodloo with the black pieces. While Parham seemed comfortable after his chosen Italian opening, Sam played actively along with central files of the board to create counterplay. Maghsoodloo’s 35th move blunder with Bf3 proved decisive and was ultimately the game-changer.
Indian youngster GM Arjun Erigiasi scored a swashbuckling 17-move win over two-time Indian champion GM Murali Karthikeyan. Arjun’s last move of the game saw a picturesque position with the Knight going to e8, easily being the ‘Move of the Day’. Arjun finishes the day with 2 points, while Murali stays at 1.5.
In the clash of the leaders, Vidit vs Aronian saw the Ragozin Defence in the Queen’s Gambit Opening. This setup is a favorite setup of the Armenian star. Levon maintained a solid position throughout the game and went into the endgame being a pawn-up. He demonstrated great technique in the rook & pawn endgame and secured the win, thus emerging as the sole leader after Day 1 with a 100% score.
Playing with the black pieces, Praggnanandhaa employed the Sicilian Sveshnikov, sacrificing a pawn for some strategic initiative against Sam Shankland. Pragg gained space on the queenside and as the game progressed, Sam saw nothing better than repeating the moves and splitting the point in what was a fairly equal game throughout. Both players end day one at 1.5 points apiece out of three games.
Adhiban and Parham, who were yet to score a point, faced off against each other. With similar playing styles, a highly dynamic game was on the cards. Playing with the black pieces, Parham played the Classical variation of the Sicilian and comfortably managed to tackle the rather ambitious play by Adhiban. While pieces were flying all across the board, in the end, Adhiban’s attack ran out of steam, thus giving Parham his first win of the event.
The only female player in the rapid event, Vaishali, was facing Le Quang Liem in the final round of the day. The advanced variation of the Caro-Kann defense was on the board and after pieces got traded, the game reached a double rook endgame which was well navigated around by the former World Blitz Champion. He won a few pawns on the queenside and eventually the game as well.