International Chess Federation
Friday, 20 Jan 2023 23:00
Tata Steel Masters: Abdusattorov stays in front

Nodirbek Abusattorov preserved his top position, while Fabiano Caruana caught up with Anish Giri after defeating Gukesh D and now shares second place with the Dutch GM. Wesley So notched up his first win in the event.

Jorden van Foreest – Magnus Carlsen ½–½

After 1.e4 the World Champion opted for the Sicilian Defense, which hardly surprised anyone. Jorden did not play the most aggressive line and allowed Magnus to trade queens, which favours for Black in this type of position. In the subsequent play, Carlsen implemented a typical plan, advancing his g-pawn while Van Foreest chipped away at Black's pawn chain on the queenside and eventually created a passed pawn on the a-file.

In a balanced position, Magnus penetrated with his king to the kingside, but Jorden did not waste time and created counterplay by attacking Black's pawns. In the end, it was Carlsen, who had to demonstrate accuracy to secure a draw.

Fabiano Caruana – Gukesh D  1-0

The Indian youngster essayed a rare line in the Ragozin Defence with 7…Ne7 but did not demonstrate elaborate preparation, as by move 15 Caruana got a clear, almost decisive advantage without doing anything special. Gukesh decided to part with a pawn, but it did no help as Fabiano effortlessly launched a decisive attack on the kingside. On moves 19 and 20, Caruana missed the strongest continuations, but his position was good enough to score a victory before reaching the time control.

Wesley So – Vincent Keymer  1-0

The young German prepared an original idea in a rare line of the Ruy Lopez and went after White's a5-pawn but fell behind in development. Wesley got sufficient compensation and eventually restored material equilibrium, but at this point, Black could have equalized. Vincent did not find 24…Qc8 and found himself in an inferior endgame down a pawn. Still, Black had good drawing chances thanks to his advanced queenside pawns, especially after So's inaccuracy 31.Bc1 (31.Kf1 bringing the king in action was much better). Keymer almost got there but, just like in the previous round, failed to find the right continuation.

After  33... axb3 34. Nd2 f6 35. exf6 Bxf6 36. Nxb3 Nxc4 37. Nxc5 Na5 38. Kf1 b3 Black's b-passer is a very strong argument for a draw.

Keymer opted for 33…Nb1  but after 34. bxa4 b3 35. Kf1 Ba5 36. Bb2 Nc3 37. Nd2 Nxa4 38. Nxb3 Bb4, it turned out that in his particular situation, Black's b-pawn was innocuous, whereas White's kingside paws were way too strong.

The final portion of the game was a cakewalk for So, who scored his first victory at Tata Steel Masters 2023.

Ding Liren – Levon Aronian  ½–½

In a popular line of the Italian Game Levon Aronian opted for a rare move trading pawns in the center 9…exd4 instead of the much more popular 9…Ng6 (as he had played vs Nepomniachtchi back in 2020), and very soon the opponents stepped into uncharted territory. White got a slight edge, put continuous pressure on Black's position and made some progress, but his 40th move wiped out all his previous efforts.

After 40.Re4 Black would still have faced some problems, whereas Ding's 40.Nc5? was met with 40…e5! and Aronian reached a draw in a short tactical skirmish.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov – Praggnanandhaa R  ½–½

The leader of the event parted with his dark-squared bishop in a rare line of the Ruy Lopez Open but just a few later he went in for huge complications. When the dust has settled, White managed to win a pawn but thanks to active position of his pieces Praggnanandhaa made a draw without much of a hassle.

Anish Giri – Arjun Erigaisi  ½–½

The opponents had a discussion in a line of the Meran System that was popular about 20-30 years ago. On move 13, Arjun castled long, the continuation that is frowned upon by modern theory. Anish quickly got a comfortable advantage but on move 26 instead of a solid and very strong 26.Nd4, he went for a tempting but inferior 26.a4. After a series of mutual inaccuracies, White still reached a won position but did not manage to find the clincher.

Trying to safeguard his king Anish made luft with 34.h4, but after  34... Rxc2 35. Rxa4 Bxf2+ 36. Kh2 Rd2 37. e7 Bxg3+ 38. Kxg3 Re8 Black sealed a draw.

Instead, White should have played 34.Kf1! winning. The point is that White's king controls the e2-square – 34. Kf1 Rxc2 35. Rxa4 Bxf2 36. Rf4 Rxf4 37. Bxf4, and so on.

Richard Rapport – Parham Maghsoodloo ½–½

Richard tried a rare line in the Sicilian Defense and managed to ruin Black's pawn structure but was unable to prevent Parham's breaking in the center. Still, on move 24, Rapport had a chance to win a pawn and pose some problems for Black, but after he missed this opportunity, the opponents quickly liquidated into a drawn endgame.

Standings after Round 6: 1. Nodirbek Abdusattorov – 4.5; 2-3. Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri – 4; 4-6. = Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, Levon Aronian and Wesley So – 3.5; 7-9. Arjun Erigaisi, Ding Liren and Parham Maghsoodloo – 3; 10-11. Richard Rapport and Magnus Carlsen – 2.5; 12. Jorden Van Foreest – 2; 13-14. Vincent Keymer and Gukesh D – 1.5.

Photos:, Jurriaan Hoefsmit and Lennart Ootes