Tata Steel Chess India: Grischuk Wins Blitz Title, Abdusattorov, Praggnanandhaa 2nd

Tata Steel Chess India: Grischuk Wins Blitz Title, Abdusattorov, Praggnanandhaa 2nd


GM Alexander Grischuk confirmed his reputation as a blitz specialist with steady play on the second and final day of the 2023 Tata Steel Chess India Open Blitz, winning the title with a score of 12 points from 18 games. GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov and the overnight leader GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu finished second and third respectively, with 11 points each.

GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, who appeared to be one of the main contenders for the title at the end of the first day, had a rough second day, beginning with four losses in a row, and never really recovering from the setbacks.

Importance Of Draws

Commentating during the live broadcast, GM Viswanathan Anand discussed the best mindset for playing blitz tournaments:

The nice thing in blitz is you need not sit and overthink anything during the rounds. You just go out there and play. If you manage to stay solid, your score is moving up steadily. It is underestimated that you win a tournament with draws, but it does help not to lose. You can win a blitz tournament [even] with a +2 or +3, [because] everyone else can be wobbly.

He also pointed out the reason for Grischuk being one of the best players in the world in blitz for decades now: “Alexander likes blitz, most of all.”

Twin winners of the Tata Steel Chess Rapid & Blitz, Vachier-Lagrave and Grischuk. Photo: Vivek Sohani/Tata Steel Chess India.

Trailing Praggnanandhaa by half a point at the end of the first day, Grischuk played steadily throughout the day, netting four wins, three draws, and a solitary loss to score a total of 5.5 points for the day and finish with 12 points. In comparison, Praggnanandhaa had three wins, three draws, and three losses. thus scoring only 4.5 points and finishing with 11 points.

Vidit, who had actually occupied the second position at the end of the first day, suffered a total of six losses on the day, as well as scoring two draws and a solitary win.

But the best comeback performer of the day was Abdusattorov, who had six wins, two draws and a loss, the high number of wins even enabling him to threaten Grischuk’s march to the title. Ultimately he finished on 11 points, along with Praggnanandhaa, and edged him out of the second place.

Grischuk’s first win of the day showed his sense of the basics, and then his attacking instincts, as he outplayed Vidit with effortless play.

His steady play once again enabled him to score a smooth win over GM Dommaraju Gukesh.

The pivotal game of the day was Grischuk’s game against the overnight leader Praggnanandhaa. Unlike his play in the earlier rounds, Grischuk played sharply with the black pieces from the word go, emphasizing his words from the previous day: “I play more aggressively in blitz.”

This actively contested game is our Game Of The Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao.

The Chasers

Praggnanandhaa started the day impressively, with a well-conducted game against GM Teimour Radjabov. The whole game seemed to be centered on the square f5, which Black weakened in the early middlegame: a textbook example of playing for weak squares.

But unlike on the first day, his desire to keep the game simple, or to attack when necessary, didn’t work out on a few occasions, as he lost three important games to Grischuk, Vidit, and Abdusattorov.

Praggnanandhaa and the importance of the f5-square. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The most impressive comeback of the day belonged to Abdusattorov, whose determination enabled him to play powerful chess, scoring six victories.

At the end of the day, Grischuk joined the commentary team and revealed an interesting detail.

At the end of the 16th round, Grischuk had 11 points followed by Abdusattorov and Praggnanandhaa on 9.5 points. Hence, Grischuk needed just two draws in the remaining two rounds to net the title. This was the game between Abdusattorov and Grischuk from the 17th round, and Grischuk offered a draw, which was boldly refused by Abdusattorov. He commented:

“Have you seen in which position Nodirbek refused a draw against me? Just we get into the endgame, just when [I] was a solid pawn-up. Okay—he has compensation in the form of good drawing chances! But nothing else. I had slightly more time. And he just refuses!”

Grischuk warmly praised Abdusattorov’s fighting spirit: “It is great that all these youngsters, they have amazing fighting spirit. When I was young, we used to be afraid of Garry [Kasparov], [Anand], Vladimir [Kramnik]… They are not afraid of anyone. Maybe, they are just slightly afraid of Magnus [Carlsen]!”

It is great that all these youngsters… have amazing fighting spirit.

—Alexander Grischuk

Abdusattorov—fearless? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The final draw that clinched the title was less hard-fought, as Grischuk and GM Pentala Harikrishna played just seven moves.

At the end of the day, the players sat down and patiently obliged all the fans with autographs.

Gukesh, Arjun, and Praggnanandhaa. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

All Games: Open Blitz Day 2

Open Blitz Final Standings

The 2023 Tata Steel Chess India Men’s and Women’s Rapid and Blitz are two of India’s most prestigious rapid chess events. The Women’s event takes place before the Men’s. Players compete in a 10-player round-robin in three days of rapid games with a 25+10 time control, followed by two days of blitz games played at a 3+2 time control. 

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