Abdusattorov Wins With Greek Gift, Gukesh Triumphs In Indian Clash
Esipenko on the wrong end of a brilliant game on Friday. Photo: Lennart Ootes / WR Chess Masters.

Abdusattorov Wins With Greek Gift, Gukesh Triumphs In Indian Clash

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

Four players lead the WR Chess Masters 2023 after round two with 1.5 points apiece: GMs Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Wesley So, Gukesh D,  and Levon Aronian.

GM Andrey Esipenko outplayed GM Vincent Keymer on Thursday and was featured in the round-one Game of the Day. However, in this round he fell victim to a surging Abdusattorov, who took the full point with a destructive Greek Gift sacrifice for the textbooks.

Gukesh scored the second win in round two, defeating his only countryman in the event, GM R Praggnanandhaa, who has zero points overall. So and Aronian, who scored their victories on the previous day, drew against GMs Anish Giri and Keymer respectively.

Round three begins on Saturday, February 18, at 5:00 a.m. PT/14:00 CET

See what happened:
The games of the WR Chess Masters 2023 can be found here

This new super-tournament is held at the Hyatt Regency Dusseldorf, which overlooks the Rhine River. It marks the first privately organized German super-tournament in nearly four years.

Dusseldorf has been home to global chess events in the past. In 1908, World Champion Emanuel Lasker defended his title against Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch in this city. The first four games were played in Dusseldorf, while the rest of the match took place in Munich. Indeed, all four of those games were decisive, with Lasker winning three and losing one—Lasker won the match. The very first German Chess Championship was also played in Dusseldorf in 1861.

Fast-forwarding to our current round, nearly two hundred years later, Abdusattorov-Esipenko was the first game in the round that was clearly going to be decisive. After the game, Esipenko told Abdusattorov that he mixed up his lines and intended 13...Rc8. A couple moves later, he allowed a nice Greek Gift sacrifice that was, as the victor said, "a mistake, but it's very difficult to see all the details."

The post-game analysis with an audience. Photo: Lennart Ootes / WR Chess Masters.

Wherever they participate, the Indian teenage grandmasters attract attention, especially so when they face each other. Fans should expect to see encounters between Gukesh, 16 years old, and Praggnanandhaa, 17, for many, many years to come. 

Nearly every one of their classical games has been decisive. Coming into this round, they had made just one draw out of four games, and Praggnanandhaa led their classical head-to-head by one point. Gukesh won his first game in Tata Steel Chess 2023, just last month, and repeated the feat here.

The Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao, did not fail to impress. What started as a "quiet" Italian Opening, the Giuoco Pianissimo, was anything but as Black sacrificed not one but two pawns for a ferocious attack. Gukesh showed nerves of steel (and acute preparation) as he defended a swarm of black pieces clawing at his kingside, and a decisive mistake by his younger opponent brought the game to an abrupt end.

Gukesh and Praggnanandhaa are not only very talented, but they play fearless, interesting chess, which provides a beautiful spectacle. This is a great game, full of chances for both sides and very well played.
Gukesh. Photo: Lennart Ootes / WR Chess Masters.

After the game, Gukesh shared his optimism during the game: "I was actually thinking that all along I should be better. Maybe I was influenced by my preparation because I knew that ...d5 was not very good. The moment I realized I had won was when he played ...Rb2."

The three remaining games ended in draws. Without question, the most interesting of them was Keymer-Aronian, where the German wunderkind took the game into uncharted waters as early as move five. For lack of a better term for this opening, it's similar in nature to the Dzindzi-Indian Defense with reversed colors, very unusual at the grandmaster level before this round.

The original Dzindzi-Indian, named after the creative GM Roman Dzindzichashvili,  goes as follows:

Aronian, who called it a "balanced position" as well as a "complicated and interesting position," found the most direct equalizer and although Keymer's only real chance came on move 21, which he missed, it was just a well-played game by both sides. 

Funnily, he also recalled how he defeated Keymer by offering a draw in Wijk aan Zee, after the latter declined and overpressed, and added: "I tried this here ... but this time I think he didn't want the same experience."

Although Giri and So are not that old, their game was one between two veterans of the game. With their first recorded game dating back to 2009, they've played over a hundred since (across all time controls). 

So neutralized Giri's attempts on the black side of the reliable Nimzo-Indian Defense. Still, with Giri's reputation as a leading opening theoretician, it's often worth checking his intentions in the opening. On the surface, it is the most boring game of the round, where it looks like they traded queens, then traded pieces, and finally repeated. I've shown a few venomous traps that could happen in this variation, but So was unlikely to fall for any such tricks.

So with unbreakable preparation on Friday. Analyzing a tragic game for Esipenko. Photo: Lennart Ootes / WR Chess Masters.

"It was not so much happening, to be honest. Like he was very well-prepared and he got a very solid endgame," said Giri after the game, not exaggerating the drama (or lack thereof) of the game. When asked about his other interests in addition to chess, he added: "I am not into fashion design so much," alluding to GM Alireza Firouzja's recent interview.

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, who said: "It feels great to play classical chess again," continued a solid tournament by holding GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda to a draw in the Petroff Defense. In a tournament with so many decisive results in as much as two rounds, it may feel like the world number-two has a "slow start" already.

Still, Nepomniachtchi played a professional game with his solid black repertoire and adequately defended a surprise with 14.Nh4 (played just once before in Adams-Papp Gibraltar Masters 2019). Although the engine indicates the Polish number-one had an advantage in the symmetrical pawn structure, he was unable to prove it in the game, which ended in a draw by forced threefold repetition.

Asked about the impact of this tournament to prepare him for the FIDE World Chess Championship 2023, Nepomniachtchi responded humbly: "The key is practice, but if I play like well, if I manage to win some games, I would be like even happier, but in general it's about like feeling if I can play at all."

All Games - Round 2

Standings - Round 2

The WR Chess Masters 2023 takes place February 15-26, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency Dusseldorf in Germany. The format is a round-robin with 10 players. The time control is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus a 30-second increment per move starting with move 61. The prize fund is 130,000 Euros.

Corrections: this article previously stated an incorrect score between Abdusattorov and Esipenko that has since been corrected. In addition, it stated Gukesh's age was 17 while Praggnanandhaa was 16, which has also been corrected.

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