Tata Steel Chess Round 2: Anish Giri takes sole lead; Viswanathan Anand in joint 2nd after draw
Anish Giri took the top spot with a perfect 2.0/2 score and hot on his heels are Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who have scored 1.5/2 apiece
The second round of the Tata Steel Masters saw a sole leader emerge. Anish Giri, the ‘artist’ as he has been called since his drawing spree at the 2016 Candidates, beat Vladimir Kramnik on Sunday to take the top spot with a perfect 2.0/2 score.
Hot on his heels are Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who have scored 1.5/2 apiece.
In the post-game interview, Giri remarked about his play in jest, “I am trying to play for draw but my opponents are helping me very much.”
In the game, Giri had been tricked in the opening and had ended up a tempo down in the Nimzo-Indian Defence position which the players had reached after a move transposition.
Kramnik seemed to be doing rather well out of the opening but Giri seized the initiative on the queenside, attempting to inflict pawn weaknesses. Kramnik, quite uncharacteristically, failed to find the best moves and lashed out with a central break that won him a pawn but lost him the game as Giri’s initiative became insuperable.
Anand, after his win on Sunday, played a very solid game against former World Championship challenger, Sergey Karjakin.
With the black pieces, Anand traded queens quite early in an open Catalan and was able to keep the extra pawn that his opponent had sacrificed in the opening. As compensation, Karjakin had the two bishops and the initiative.
More pieces were exchanged as play progressed and by giving up his two bishops, Karjakin was able to win back his pawn. But the players had reached an endgame with bishops of opposite colour by this point.
Even though Karjakin possessed a crooked pawn structure on the queenside, it was hard to create any real chances for Anand and the players, therefore, agreed to a draw on move 31.
The younger Indian in the fray, Baskaran Adhiban was pitted against reigning World Champion, Magnus Carlsen in the second round. From the very start, it seemed Adhiban was very keen on holding to a draw and his choice of the Scotch Variation of the Four Knights Defence clearly alluded to his intent.
Things went as planned for Adhiban well into the endgame but Carlsen almost miraculously pumped life into a position that looked dead drawn and in the ensuing complications, Adhiban — who was perhaps taken aback by the sudden change in the nature of the position — fell apart surprisingly fast.
By the 36th move, Carlsen’s central passers were too far advanced for Adhiban to stop and the Indian threw in the towel at this point.
In the Challengers’ group, top seed of the tournament, Vidit Gujrathi — after his draw in the first round against the World Junior Champion Aryan Tari — came out all guns blazing in round two against Michal Krasenkow.
Deviating from his regular queen’s pawn opening, Vidit opened with the King’s pawn and entered a rare, complicated line in the Sicilian Four Knights.
The game was quite startling from the very start and as early as on move 11, Vidit gave up his castling rights by moving his king up to e2 and surprised Krasenkow who failed to find the best moves in the position.
On move 16, Krasenkow avoided a queen exchange that spelt doom for the Polish GM and Vidit generated an extremely strong attack on the Black king and by move 27, Krasenkow had resigned.
The only female participant from India, Harika Dronavalli, was playing against yet another player with a 2600+ rating and yet again, she was able to hold her ground successfully.
Just like in her previous game against Amin Bassem, Harika gave Benjamin Bok no chance to gain an advantage in the Moscow variation of the Sicilian.
With the white pieces, Bok came up with an opening novelty on move 13 but was hardly able to make anything of it. Harika, in the meantime, began to generate play on the queenside. Bok also brought his forces to the combat area and soon after a mass trade of pieces on the ‘c’ file, the players agreed to sign the truce.
After two rounds, Anand is tied for second, half-a-point behind tournament leader Anish while Baskaran has slipped down to the 12th place.
In the Challengers section, Vidit with his emphatic win on Monday has joined Dmitry Gordievsky, Jorden van Foreest and Anton Korobov as the joint tournament leader.
With eleven more rounds to go, there is still a lot of chess to be played.
The 2012 London Olympian was admitted to Kalapahar Covid Care Hospital in Guwahati after his oxygen level plummeted to the 92-mark.
The tournament is scheduled to be held from 11-16 May, but with Spain announcing a 10-day mandatory quarantine period on travellers from India, it will not be possible for the players to compete in the event.
Malik, despite now focussing only on T20 format since retiring from Test and ODI matches, has been kept out of the Pakistan white ball squad since last year as head coach Misbah-ul-Haq keep on trying several new players in the batting order.