GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave scored another 2.5 points on the last day of the 2023 Tata Steel Chess India Open Rapid, winning the event with a round to spare and scoring seven points out of a possible nine. GM Teimour Radjabov was placed second with 5.5 points.
Vachier-Lagrave continued his exhibition of steady play from the earlier rounds, accounting for GM Arjun Erigaisi with the black pieces in the seventh round, winning an endgame arising out of a creatively played Petroff Defense. In the penultimate round, he avoided his favorite Berlin Defense endgame and opted for a strategic maneuvering middlegame against an out-of-form GM Pentala Harikrishna who blundered in a slightly worse position.
The Open Bltiz tournament commences on September 8 at 5:30 a.m. ET / 11:30 CEST / 15:00 IST.
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Commentator Hess mentioned during the live broadcast that Vachier-Lagrave was a rare player in the tournament who would get up during the games to have a look at the other games or just to stretch his legs. Everyone else, with the exception of Grischuk, would be rooted to their chairs, preferring to concentrate on their games in such a short time control. Over the board too, he exhibited the airs of a consummate professional—relaxed, composed but concentrated.
On the last day of the rapid tournament, he brought the same attitude to his moves too. Following up with his excellently played endgame in the fourth round against GM Vincent Keymer, he once again won a complicated endgame against Arjun.
"... I was taking over this endgame against Arjun. Very pleasant—I don't know if he could have played something better. But it was tough for Arjun all along."
Such a big shift from playing the Sicilian Najdorf to the Petroff, is it to make his play stylistically more solid?
"No.... It is a different type of position of course. It is a bit about wanting your opponent to be unaware of where you actually want to go. With computers, it is not about style—it's about good moves. My game against Arjun was not solid at all. It was a full fight."
MVL's Tata Steel Chess India Debut: Pure Chess Magic! @Vachier_Lagrave’s first encounter with Indian chess fans has been a delightful blend of strategy, passion, and inspiration. Here's to an incredible debut! #TSCI #tsci2023 #tatasteelchessindia #chess #kolkata #mvl pic.twitter.com/niAuPgvR69— Tata Steel Chess India (@tschessindia) September 7, 2023
And this mastery in endgames, how did it happen?
"I started working on endgames when I was a child. So, it [is] good knowledge of some theoretical endgames—not all of them because it is tough... And also, I have been calculating...all my life. Even outside chess, but let's stick to chess! Endgames are really a lot about calculation... One mistake in calculation [can] cost you the game in endgames, contrary to the opening."