International Chess Federation
Sunday, 12 Jan 2020 20:01
Tata Steel Chess 2020: Five players atop after two rounds

White completely dominated in the second round of Tata Steel Masters 2020 winning 4 games out of 7. There are five leaders after two rounds with heavy favorites Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana still at the 50% mark.

Iranian sensation Alireza Firouzja had a chance to grab the sole lead as he was clearly better after the opening in his game against Jan-Krzysztof Duda. In the Queens Gambit Accepted Duda somewhat surprisingly went for the line with an early queen exchange, but the opponents still found a way to set fire on board. Firouzja came up with a creative 9...Ng4 novelty and Duda's reaction probably wasn't precise. Black won a pawn, but it seemed that White was only slightly worse before Duda put his king in front of the whole army with 23.Kc4?! Firouzja cemented his advantage and could have got clear winning chances had he foiled the activation of the white knight with 26...g5! Alireza opted for a natural rook move instead and Duda managed to save half a point for the second day in a row.

Another Round 1 winner Jorden Van Foreest suffered his first defeat in a game against Jeffery Xiong, but once again he played fearlessly. In a typical Sicilian set-up, he went for an ambitious pawn breakthrough/sacrifice with 13...b5!? and 15...d5! Van Foreest moved his bishop to f6 one move too late and found himself in a worse position. He still had his chances in sharp complications later but went astray with kamikaze 29...Bf2+ and 30...Bh4. Xiong won a piece and the game.

Russian up-and-coming stars Vlad Artemiev and Daniil Dubov also caught up with Firouzja. Dubov easily crushed Vladislav Kovalev after the Byelorussian decided to sacrifice a central pawn in an unpleasant position hoping for an active counterplay in the endgame. It was nothing more than an illusion though, and Dubov converted in style. Kovalev was unlucky to start with two Black games, but he seems out of form with 0/2 and that can be fatal in this kind of event. Artemiev outplayed his compatriot Nikita Vitiugov in a clear positional style. At some point, Vlad could have gone for a nice "little combo" with 27.Rd8+! but he was completely dominating in the center and on the queenside anyway.

Unfortunately, even the greatest chess players can become a victim of a hallucination on a bad day, and this was the case for Viswanathan Anand today. He miscalculated when making decision to sacrifice a bishop with a tempting 12...Bxf2+. Anand was right that he was winning a piece back immediately but probably missed that his knight would be trapped in the White's camp after that. Easy win for World Fischer Random champion Wesley So and frankly speaking he hasn't even done that much to achieve it.

( - Future analysis proved that the position was still completely unclear if Anand would have played 22...Nxg2! as after 23.Rxg2 Rxg2+ 24.Kxg2 Qe2+ 25.Kg3 Rf8! Black's attack was sufficient for a draw) 

There were two more draws in Round 2. Yu Yangyi didn't have any ambitions having White against Magnus Carlsen and was trying to exchange all pieces as soon as possible. Anish Giri and Fabiano Caruana played probably the best game of the round on a level which can be achieved only by few players on the Earth - Giri put heavy pressure on his opponent and even won a pawn in the endgame, but the former world title challenger defended brilliantly and was never in real danger.

Official site:
Photo: Alina l’Ami

Tata Steel Masters 2020 Standings after Round 2:

1-5. Xiong, So, Artemiev, Dubov, Firouzja - 1½;
6-10. Caruana, Duda, Giri, Carlsen, Van Foreest - 1;
11-13. Anand, Vitiugov, Yu, Yangyi - ½;
14. Kovalev - 0.