In Round 9 the leader of Tata Steel Masters 2023, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, escaped with a draw vs Vincent Keymer, while Anish Giri beat Ding Liren with the black pieces to narrow the gap. Richard Rapport scored his second straight victory. All other games were drawn.
Vincent Keymer – Nodirbek Abudattorov ½–½
The leader of the event surprised his opponent with Tarrasch Defence, in which Keymer employed a rare move 8.a3, tested by his compatriot Matthias Bluebaum several times in 2022. The position was roughly equal until Black created some weaknesses in his camp with 18…f5, allowing White to gradually increase pressure without taking risks. Vincent correctly sacrificed a pawn and got a long-lasting initiative in the endgame. He eventually regained a pawn, but it was still an uphill battle for Nodirbek, who had to take care of his weak pawns.
Black’s position was gradually deteriorating and after the time control, White missed several winning continuations, although they were not that easy to find. The opponents liquidated into a rook endgame in which they continued trading errors, with the evaluation changing several times. In the final portion of the game, Vincent won a pawn and one more time came very close to a victory but chose the wrong direction for his rook.
After 80. Rf8 Rf1 81. Kg4 Rg1+ 82. Kh5 Rg3 83. Kg6 Rxf3 84. Re8+ Kd5 85. Kf5 White wins, but Keymer played 80.Rb6? allowing Abdusattorov to escape with 80... Rh1+ 81. Kg4 Rg1+ 82. Kh5 Rg3 83. Rb3 Kf5 84. Rb5+ Ke6 85. g6 Rxf3 86. g7 Rg3 87. Kh6 f3 88. Rb8 Rh3+ 89. Kg6 ½–½
Ding Liren – Anish Giri 0-1
The opponents battled in a reversed Benoni-type position that emerged from the English Opening and followed a recent blitz game played by Giri vs Fedoseev back in 2021 for a while. Anish was first to deviate with 10…e5, and soon the opponents were out of the books. Ding tried a very aggressive approach g4 followed by g5 to which Black should have reacted with a piece sacrifice, getting the upper hand.
However, Anish retreated his knight to e8 instead, and Ding obtained a much better position thanks to control over the critical d5-square. Ding, in his turn, was too slow, missing a chance to occupy the d5-square with a knight as soon as possible and then on move 28, he missed a powerful blow by his opponent.
28…Bxc4! Ding had no desire to play the position emerging after 29. bxc4 Nxc4 30. Qc3 Nxd2 31. Qxd2 Qe5 and tried to get to Black’s king at the cost of a piece a few moves later, but it did not work out for him as Anish found a nice refutation.
35...Nf3+! 36. Rxf3 Re1+ 37. Bf1 Kh8 0-1
Arjun Erigaisi – Richard Rapport 0-1
Richard introduced a very interesting idea of 11…Be4 followed by a bold 12…g5 in the Nimzo-Indian and surprisingly quickly got a won position after a series of White’s hesitant moves. By move 21, Black completely dominated, and it did not take Rapport too long to score his second victory in the event.
Parham Maghsoodloo – Wesley So ½–½
The Iranian GM mixed up his preparation and played an early a2-a3 in the Nimzo-Indian but quickly found himself in an inferior position with doubled c-pawns. Luckily for Parham, Wesley first allowed weakening his king’s position with 13.Bxf6, then missed 22…Rc4 (22…Qc8) with overwhelming position and let the opponent escape with perpetual check.
Magnus Carlsen – Gukesh D ½–½
The opponents followed the game Xiong – Swiercz in the Ragozin Defence for a while, but Magnus deviated with 11.e3, the move he was not happy about in a short post-game interview (it seems that 11.Qc2 played in the original game is better). Gukesh quickly equalized and confidently held his ground, reaching a draw in an endgame by move repetition.
Praggnanandhaa – Fabiano Caruana ½–½
The American GM demonstrated excellent preparation in the Ragozin Defence and comfortably equalized after introducing a new plan with 9…Bd6. However, later in the middlegame, he allowed his opponent to exert some pressure on the a7 and c6 weaknesses. To his credit, Fabiano defended with great accuracy and sealed a draw in a rook endgame.
Levon Aronian – Jorden van Foreest ½–½
Aronian tested the Dutch GM in an Anti-Meran type position, but as soon as Van Foreest executed a thematic c6-c5, massive exchanges followed, and the opponents split a point in a dead-equal bishop endgame.
Standings after Round 9: 1. Nodirbek Abdusattorov – 6.5; 2. Anish Giri – 6; 3. Wesley So – 5.5; 4-7. Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa and Magnus Carlsen – 5; 8. Richard Rapport – 4.5; 9-10. Parham Maghsoodloo and Ding Liren – 4; 11. Jorden Van Foreest – 3.5; 12-14. Arjun Erigaisi, Vincent Keymer and Gukesh D – 3.
Photos: tatasteelchess.com, Jurriaan Hoefsmit and Lennart Ootes