In the first round of day 2, tournament leader Levon Aronian seemed to be in cruise control after dominating the game for the majority of the part against Le Quang Liem. On move 40, the 2-time World Cup Winner from Armenia missed a very tough chance to finish off what would have been a near-flawless game. But, the Vietnamese GM channeled his incredible blitz abilities to fight back from the dead and completely turn the tables to score a huge win.
GM Vidit Gujrathi was up against former World Junior Champion, Parham Maghsoodloo. It was a Guico Piano adopted by Parham and he managed to get a very pleasant position out of the opening, winning a pawn in the center. Soon after, the Indian No.2 fought back with some accurate moves to take the slight edge as the queens got traded. In a double knight endgame, the extra pawn wasn’t enough for the Indian superstar to get over the line, despite a very long fight as the Iranian eventually sacrificed one of his knights for the pawn to hold the fort.
Desperate for a comeback in the tournament, tail ender GM Adhiban employed the Grunfeld against Young Praggnanandhaa, but the prodigy was well prepared and launched a direct attack by opening up the file on the kingside. The youngster went all in with his pieces and crashed through the ‘Beast’s Den’ to secure a full point, thereby joining the lead.
Karthikeyan Murali was paired against former US national champion, Sam Shankland. The 2-time Indian national champion who played the Anti-Berlin variation in the Ruy Lopez was probably slightly worse in the middle game but managed to hold his own in a major piece endgame that ended in a draw after the queens were traded off.
Another decisive result of the round was GM Arjun Erigaisi getting the better of Vaishali in a very tightly contested battle. Arjun played the off-beat Cozio defense in the Ruy Lopez, but couldn’t manage to surprise his opponent. After a solid middle game, the game liquidated into a double rook deadlock with close to nothing for either of the two. Once a pair of rooks got exchanged, Arjun managed to squeeze every inch of opportunity to override Vaishali’s defense to join Levon and Pragg as the joint tournament leader after Round 4.
Round 5 witnessed the clash of the Indian heavyweights as Vidit took on Praggnanandhaa. It was a fairly level game throughout in yet another Queen’s Gambit Accepted variation. Through extremely solid moves, Pragg held his own, giving nothing away as the pieces got swapped off the board. The players agreed to a draw in a double rook endgame with 4 pawns on either side.
Levon Aronian took on Parham Maghsoodloo and opened with the Sicilian Rossolimo variation as the first player. It was a long battle, and although Levon had an extra pawn after the middle game, it wasn’t enough to crash through the defenses of the Iranian. The match liquidated into a rook endgame and eventually ended in a draw.
With things not going as per plan, Adhiban unleashed his pet opening weapon with 1. b3 against his fellow statesman Karthikeyan Murali. Murali was up to the challenge as he tackled past the opening, managing to hold the game to a draw. With that draw, Adhiban opened his scoring account in the Tata Steel India 2021 edition.
Erigaisi continued his fine form as he beat co-leader Le Quang Liem who played the solid Nimzo Indian Defense. Arjun found an opportunity to attack the slightly weakened king through active pawn advances but wasn’t able to crash through until a blunder from his opponent led to a forced loss of material. With a hat trick of wins, Arjun jumped into sole lead, half a point ahead of Aronian.
In another decisive result of the round, Sam Shankland, playing the Reti Opening got the better of R. Vaishali. It was a clean victory after Sam grabbed a pawn on the queenside and held on to it till the very end, allowing no counterplay for his opponent till the very end.
Young Pragg took on top-seed Levon Aronian in what promised to be a great clash. Aronian stuck with his Queen’s Gambit Accepted opening choice and comfortably managed to equalize after the opening. Soon, the queens were off the board, and a fairly level game ended in a draw by threefold repetition on move 29.
Arjun Erigaisi was on song yet again as he continued his sublime form with a crushing victory over Sam Shankland in a mere 19 moves. Playing the London opening, Erigaisi managed to take the upper hand in the game as early as move 12 and took advantage of the closed center to launch an unstoppable attack against the second player’s king. The deadly trio of Arjun’s Queen, Knight, and Bishop proved to be too strong as Shankland resigned foreseeing a huge loss of material. With the win, not only has the youngster won 4 games on the trot but has also taken a 1.5 point lead going into day three.
Vidit made yet another draw as he faced Murali Karthikeyan in the final round of the day. Playing the Anderssen Variation in the Ruy Lopez, Murali was extremely solid, giving away absolutely nothing. Soon, the game fizzled into an opposite-colored bishops endgame with a rook each for both sides. What followed was just a few more moves with the rooks getting exchanged and both players agreeing to a draw
The two tail enders Vaishali and Adhiban played each other in a match between players fighting to avoid the wooden spoon. This was a fighting game in the Ruy Lopez opening. The game was a topsy-turvy affair that saw the advantage swing for both sides. With the dust settled, the game ended in a draw by repetition on move 55.
In what was a complicated game, Iranian GM Maghsoodloo got the better of his counterpart Le Quang Liem who seemed to be pretty much in control throughout the game. The Vietnamese no.1 missed a chance to finish things off on move 51 threatening forced mate, but instead, on the very next move, blundered away a whole rook and the game.
Photos by Lennart Ootes