International Chess Federation
Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 01:04
Tata Steel Masters: Five share the lead going into final round

In a thrilling climax to the Tata Steel Masters 2024, five players are going  the final round tied for first place. In the penultimate round Vidit Gujrathi toppled leader Nodirbek Abdusattorov, joining him at the top, while Anish Giri, Wei Yi, and Gukesh D caught up with this duo. Praggnanadhaa R and Alireza Firouzja stay in the race, trailing the leaders by a half point. As many as seven players have a shot at the title on Sunday.

Vidit Gujrathi – Nodirbek Abdusattorov | 1-0, 77 moves

The Indian GM essayed a new plan in a popular Nimzo-Indian line that hardly promises much. Surprisingly, this approach paid off very quickly as Nodirbek went overboard only to end up losing a pawn. 

On his previous move, the Uzbek GM played 10…Ba6, preventing White’s castling. Here, he should have retreated 11…Bb7 with a normal position. Nodirbek, however, continued down the disastrous path with 11…Bc4, but after 12.b3! Bd3 13.Ne5 Nxe5 14.Qd4! Nxc3 15.Bxc3 Bg6 16.Bxd5 Vidit won a pawn. It took him quite a long time to convert it, but on move 77, he broke Black’s resistance and notched up a full point.  

Jorden van Foreest – Anish Giri | 0-1, 24 moves

Anish comfortably equalized in the Exchange Variation of French despite having the isolated d-pawn. Jorden played somewhat passively, but the position remained balanced up to move 21 when disaster struck. 

White has to demonstrate accuracy, with 21.Rxe5 is the only move maintaining equality. Jorden, however, stepped into the abyss with 21.Qc3?? and threw in the towel after 21…Rc8! 22. Qd2 a4 23. Rxe4 Nxe4 24. Qa5 Qf6! 0-1

Alexander Donchenko – Parham Maghsoodloo | ½-½, 65 moves

Parham obtained a comfortable position on the black side of QGD and, after Alexander made a serious mistake in an equal endgame, emerged much better. With his back against the wall, Donchenko defended resiliently and managed to save a half-point. 

Ju Venjun – Wei Yi | 0-1, 39 moves

Eager for a real battle, Wei tried the Dutch Defense and got a fresh playable position as early as by move 10. After trading the queens, the opponents steered into a complex endgame with an asymmetrical pawn structure, which the Women’s World Champion misplayed on move 22. 

After 22.Nf2? (22.Bb5 maintained balance) 22…Ba3! 23. Rcb1 Bxb2 24. Rxb2 Nxd4 Black simply won a pawn. Wei converted his small material advantage with great energy and accuracy and scored his second straight victory. 

Gukesh D – Praggnanandhaa R | ½-½, 41 moves

Gukesh introduced a very interesting novelty (13.Ne2) in the Leningrad system of Nimzo-Indian and got a very promising position after transferring four pieces to the kingside. Pragg was holding his ground up to a certain point, but eventually, he broke through on the queenside but missed a nice exchange sacrifice by his opponent. 

After 32. Rxe5 dxe5 33. Bxe5 f6 34. d6 Bxd6 35. Bxd6 White got to minor pieces for a rook and winning position. Unluckily for Gukesh, he allowed a threefold repetition in mild time trouble and had to settle for a draw.  

Alireza Firouzja – Ian Nepomniachtchi | 1-0, 37 moves

Alireza sacrificed a pawn in a popular line of the Veresov with 3.Bf4 and got sufficient compensation but hardly more. However, instead of natural 18…Nb5, with a roughly equal position, Ian decided to sacrifice an exchange.

After 18…Be5 19. f4 Rxc3 20. Qxc3 Nb5 21. Qf3 Bd4 22. Ka2 White emerged better. Still, Black had some compensation for the exchange, but a few moves later, Ian committed one-move-blunder and resigned immediately. 

After 27…0-0, White has many obstacles to overcome, converting his extra exchange. Ian, however, played 27…Rf8? and capitulated after 28.Qd3 as any move with the bishop fails to 29.Rxe4. 

Max Warmerdam – Ding Liren | 0-1, 64 moves

The opponents quickly traded queens, bishops and a pair of rooks in the Nimzo-Indian and transitioned into a roughly equal endgame in which Black had a slightly better pawn structure. Ding played more purposefully and got the upper hand by advancing his kingside pawns. Later, he traded his h-pawn for the opponent’s f4-pawn and reached a winning position. However, a single inaccuracy by the World Champion in a rook endgame offered Max excellent drawing chances.

After 45.a5 a5 Ra4 (45... Rc2+ 46. Kg3 Ra2 47. Rb5) 46. Rb5 Ra2+ 47. Kg3 Ra3 48. Kg2 Black can’t make progress. Max opted for 45.Rb2? and after 45…Rxa4 Black was winning again. Surprisingly, Ding let his guard down and fell into a trap set up by the Dutchman. 

Black was winning with 52…Re1, but instead, he played 52…Rxh2?? and after 53. Ra5+ Ke6 54. Rxe5+! the rook is taboo because of stalemate. 

The final act of this drama came on move 62 when Max missed a draw. 

After the correct 62. Kf2 White could have held his ground. The Dutchman, however, played 62.Rd7+ and had to resign after 62…e5 63. Rg7 Kf4 64. Kf2 g1=Q+ as the pawn endgame is hopeless for White. 

Masters pairings

Photos: Jurriaan Hoefsmit and Lennart Ootes – Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024

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