Richard Rapport kept his cool to score a sensational win over Magnus Carlsen in Round 8 of the Tata Steel Masters. The World Champion overpressed following the missed win against Anish Giri the day before, while the Dutchman also went down in flames after running into some devilish home preparation from Levon Aronian. The final winner of the day was Adhiban, who’s on an incredible 3.5/4 run and ended Dmitry Andreikin’s sequence of seven draws in a row. Wesley So drew to remain sole leader when Pavel Eljanov fell just short.
It had seemed impossible for Sunday’s round to match Saturday’s excitement, but once again we got a spectacular day’s chess:
The one clear exception was Karjakin-So, where the players brought out their armies but then agreed a draw on move 22 in a balanced position – taking Wesley’s unbeaten run to 51 classical games. Harikrishna-Wei Yi also lasted only to move 27, but was a slow moving and puzzling encounter. Hari summed it up:
All the other games were a treat!
Rapport shocks the World Champion
Magnus Carlsen lost only three classical games in 2016 (to Aronian in Norway Chess, Nakamura in Bilbao and of course Karjakin in New York), but he’s already suffered his first loss of 2017. The identity of his opponent is a surprise, but not a huge one, since Richard Rapport’s obvious talent and flare have made him a player to watch.
In an interview with Dorsa Derakhshani during last year’s Olympiad he talked about the title:
Do you consider yourself to be a World Championship challenger?
Actually that’s an interesting question! Because honestly, at some point some time ago, I was thinking I could be, but so much is going on in our lives and so many things are not happening for my chess that I don’t really think about it anymore. To be a player with a certain claim to the throne you have to be playing with certain opponents and be steadier, but I play more normal opponents in normal tournaments. I don’t really have the chance to play at a higher level against higher-rated players, plus I don’t have a coach and I work all by myself, so I don’t really have any support! Even if I am considered to be more talented than other players, they have some crucial advantages besides chess, so I don’t consider myself a World Championship challenger.
As Richard readily admitted himself, his play in Tata Steel up to this point (3 losses, 4 draws) hadn’t furthered his claim to be taken seriously, but his first encounter with Magnus Carlsen couldn’t have gone any better.
Richard teased the chess world by starting with the “standard” 1.Nf3, before meeting 1…d5 with 2.b3, the Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack. As he’d done against Wesley So, though, he continued to play solidly until, on move 21, Magnus was faced with a dilemma: