Abdusattorov has a full-point lead after R8 of the Tata Steel Masters 2023; Carlsen beats Caruana
Round 8 of the Tata Steel Masters 2023 is over with the 18-year-old GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov drawing against GM Levon Aronian to remain the sole leader with a full point ahead. After losing two games in a row, Magnus Carlsen beat Richard Rapport and the 2018 Challenger Fabiano Caruana in Rounds 7 & 8 to be back in +1 in live ratings.
One of the most anticipated games of Round 8 was Carlsen vs Caruana. The two players have faced each other 55 times in classical games with Carlsen taking a 12-5 lead with 38 draws. Their game started with the Ruy Lopez, an opening which both of these GMs are experts, but with Caruana taking a wild road! First the American GM surprisingly decided to play 14.Nxd4 instead of 14.cxd4, and then started to push f4 and e5 with an ambitious plan.
In a few moves though, White’s position was falling apart. “I thought that I would be solid, but if he wants to go for a fight, the conditions are pretty good for me.” Carlsen said at his post-game interview.
The leader of the tournament, 18-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov, had a great game against GM Levon Aronian. Another Ruy Lopez for Round 8 with Abdusattorov trying to create an aggressive attack against Aronian’s uncastled king. The Armenian born American GM defended excellently and after a few-pieces-exchange, the players agreed to a draw on move 31.
Round 8 had 3 more decisive games with Jorden Van Foreest, Richard Rapport, D. Gukesh earning their first victories in the tournament against Arjun Erigaisi, Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, and Parham Maghsoodloo respectively.
Erigaisi initiated the King’s Indian Defense against Van Foreest to start an early kingside expansion with 12...f5, 13. Qd2 f4. Van Foreest decided to concentrate on the queen’s side, give a knight for 3 pawns and create good opportunities for White. The Dutch GM continued to make progress with his passed pawns becoming unstoppable which eventually gave him his first point in the tournament.
Rapport-Praggnanandhaa was a creative Italian game with Rapport castling longside and starting a kingside attack with 10.h4, a new move in this position. Pragg decided to move his king to the queenside in order to avoid the pressure and sacrificed an exchange to hold the position. Even though it was a winning endgame for Rapport, Pragg could try to fight on but the Indian GM lost on time.
Gukesh-Parham was an eventful game which went from a typical isolated-queen’s-pawn position to an open-center, kingside attack by Black. The 16-year-old GM held the attack on the king and slowly progressed on the queenside. There were chances for Parham to go for a perpetual check but one inaccurate move gave Gukesh the chance to gain an advantage and exploit it to his first point!
Elsewhere, Wesley So drew against Ding Liren in a Caro-Kann Advanced. The American GM played a novelty on move 11, creating a tactical tension. After a precise game around Black’s isolated e-pawn, the players ended in an equal rook endgame to agree to a draw in 42 moves.
Giri-Keymer also started more aggressively with the German GM pushing his kingside pawns against the Italian game. Giri gained space on the queenside to end in a position with an extra pawn against Keymer’s active pieces. The players exchanged their queens and agreed to a draw on move 28.
Round 9 is on Tuesday the 24th with Carlsen and Praggnanandhaa facing Gukesh and Caruana respectively.