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The Week in Chess

  • Wesley So wins the Opera Euro Rapid 2021 – Day 9
    Wesley So won the Open Euro Rapid beating World Champion Magnus Carlsen 2.5-1.5 in the second set to take the mini-match 1.5-0.5. This is the second time that So has beaten Carlsen in a final of a Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event having won the Airthings Masters in December. So was clearly the most convincing and consistent player in this event.

    Carlsen felt he ”missed quite a lot of chances today and that’s the frustrating part”, ”at several points I did not trust my intuition and I trusted him more because he was playing so quickly and confidently.” Carlsen felt that he had particularly good opportunities in the third and fourth games.

    Carlsen ”messed up the opening” in the first game and his piece sacrifice was completely unsound and he went down to a loss in just 28 moves. The second game Carlsen got some chances towards the end.

    So said he considered trying to play for a quick draw in game three with white, but wanted to keep the pressure on, this nearly backfired as Carlsen got winning chances out of the opening with Bxh3. In the final game Carlsen said that his intuition was ”screaming that 23.Kh1 wins” and is does – 23. Kh1 axb3 24. Rg1+ Kh8 25. e6! – it was this last move that Carlsen didn’t find but he felt it shouldn’t have been difficult.

    Carlsen had a pretty poor event by his own high standards but he may be on the road to recovery. We’ll have to see in the next event, which is a major taking place March 13th-21st. The name has yet to be announced.

    Teimour Rajdabov won 2-0 today against MVL to take 3rd place.

  • Shared first set in the final of the Opera Euro Rapid between Carlsen and So – Day 8
    Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So drew the first set of their final 2-2 in the Opera Euro Rapid. Game one saw a draw in a Nimzo-Indian where Carlsen didn’t get much if anything but the game remained complex throughout. Game 2 was a complex Two Knights where So seemed to be far better prepared than Carlsen. So has released a course on 1.e4 and they followed his suggestions until Carlsen’s 21…Qxd4? which isn’t good but So forgot the correct reply 22.Bc4 and immediately got into trouble, Carlsen won in 55 moves. Carlsen took a quick draw with the white pieces in game three leaving So in a must win situation in the final game. Carlsen was doing fine in the final game in one of the very most common Giuoco Piano positions, 20…Bc7?! (20…fxe5 kept his pawn structure straight) was the start of Carlsen’s troubles and he just couldn’t hold this extremely difficult position together.

    In the 3rd fourth playoff there was a lot of action after the first drawn game. Radjabov won game two, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave struck back in game 3 and Radjabov won game 4 to take the set.

    The final day of the event starts on Sunday 14th Feb at 4pm with the second set and a third tie-break set if necessary.

  • Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So to meet in the final of the Opera Euro Masters – Day 7
    Magnus Carlsen had to win an Armageddon tie-break to get past Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in his Opera Euro Semifinals. Carlsen had won the first set so MVL needed to strike back. After two draws MVL won the after Carlsen yet again made a simple tactical blunder, he cut the final retreat square from his bishop and after MVL attacked it with a pawn it was lost. In the fourth game of the set Carlsen needed to win, instead in an equal position he again blundered simply with 23.Nd4 overlooking 23…Qe4 which caused his position to collapse. Carlsen has at least shown his fighting ability because in the first blitz game he scored a very smooth victory. In the second game Carlsen could have finished things quick after MVL’s 13.b5? 13…Bxc3 won a lot of material, instead 13…axb5 happened and the game continued, Carlsen did achieve an equal position according to the computer after 26…dxc3 but it was a really horrible position to defend and MVL went on to win. In the final Armageddon game Carlsen got a very nice position out of the opening, MVL’s position was the one that was hard to play and after 19.Qb3 Carlsen was practically winning and was soon objectively so too – the game ended on move 40. Carlsen’s frailties in calculation are a problem but he has still progressed to the final. In interview afterwards Carlsen seemed up beat and did not think the mistakes were as self inflicted as against Dubov. I really can’t agree with that but other parts of his game – opening preparation, technical conversion and blitz play seem to be working well.

    Wesley So completed a comprehensive victory over Teimour Radjabov by winning games three and four. So has looked the most impressive player by far in this tournament. The Carlsen vs So final is a repeat of the Skilling Open that So won and which seemed to mark the start of Carlsen’s confidence crisis. Can he take the chance to end the crisis by beating So? We’ll soon see.

    Final Magnus Carlsen vs Wesley So starts 4pm UK time on Saturday 13th Feb. There is also a 3rd-4th placed playoff between MVL and Radjabov.

  • Carlsen and So win the first sets of their semifinals of the Opera Euro Rapid – Day 5
    Magnus Carlsen was a comfortable winner in set one of his Opera Euro Rapid match against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Carlsen’s choice of an old variation of the Gruenfeld caused MVL all sorts of trouble and after 30.Nd5+! he smoothly converted his endgame advantage. Game two was a sharp Sicilian where MVL had his chances but he eventually slipped into trouble, MVL was probably drawing anyway but Carlsen blundered away the exchange and a draw was immediately agreed, this was the first of two very bad oversights from Carlsen. In the third game Carlsen took Queen’s off almost straight away and by move 20 he was much better – after 31…Bb2 had a forced win with 32.e6, but then missed checkmate with 34.Bd4+?? (34.Rc8 and it’s mate) a trivial tactic that no one at this level should miss. Carlsen did pull himself together (he immediately realised what he had done) and pressed again with the small advantage he still had and eventually again got a winning position – but even here it took two tries (48.Be4? – 48.Rd8+ is winning) – and after 48…Rc7? (48.Rb4=) Carlsen didn’t need another invitation. A comfortable 2.5-0.5 win for Carlsen – some parts of his game are working well but he’s missing tactical details all over the place.

    Carlsen: ”Today was a lot better. Neither of us played perfectly, especially in the second game… In general, I have to be happy.” MVL: ”I certainly didn’t play to my best but Magnus was very close to his best.

    Wesley So against Teimour Radjabov was expected to be a cagey battle with very few decisive games, instead it we saw them trade three decisive games in a row. So won the first game in a King’s Indian where black became extremely passively placed, game two Radjabov found an old line in the Queen’s Gambit to surprise So and converted the advantage he got to a win, game three was a Sicilian where So gradually got the upper hand – Radjabov decided to give up a piece for some play, but it was never enough. It took a while but So converted in the end. The final game of the day saw Radjabov obtain some small chances with white but this time So held on for a draw and a win in the first set.

    Day 2 Semifinals Friday 12th Feb 2021.

  • Quarterfinals of the Opera Euro Rapid produce Carlsen-MVL and So-Radjabov semifinal pairings – Day 5
    The final day of the Opera Euro Rapid quarterfinals produced almost too much action to recount. First of all Wesley So built on his success of day one against Jan-Krzysztof Duda and won both the games played to go through. So is due to win one of these tour events, this could be it. Then Maxime Vachier-Lagrave went through, after his complete disaster in the over the board Tata Steel tournament he’s looked a little back to his normal self. He only needed to draw the set against Levon Aronian today and won the first game but he went down in game three and had to hold on for a draw in the final game to go through. Magnus Carlsen can count himself extremely lucky to go through against Daniil Dubov, Carlsen started to make losing mistakes in almost all his games and it was only when Dubov started making equally serious errors in return that the World Champion went through in a final Armageddon tie-break. Teimour Radjabov prevailed over Anish Giri by winning a second blitz tie-break game in a match that could have gone either way.

    I think a rest day between the preliminary and knockout sections would make a really big improvement to the Champions Chess Tour. As a spectator and reporter of these events I’d like it. One rest day would improve the quality of the chess, Even at this stage – after the quarter finals – there’s evidence that endurance is becoming too big a factor.

    Further details in the body of the article.

    Semi-finals. Thursday 11th Feb 4pm GMT: Wesley So vs Teimour Radjabov – a repeat of the Skilling quarterfinal pairing. Magnus Carlsen vs MVL.

  • Carlsen, So and MVL lead their Quarterfinal matches in the Opera Euro Rapid after first set – Day 4
    Magnus Carlsen beat Daniil Dubov 2.5-0.5 in the first set of their quarter finals of the online match in the Opera Euro Rapid. This event is part of the Champions Chess Tour. Carlsen’s loss to Dubov in the Airthings Masters in December was on his mind so when he took the lead in the first game, just as in that match and drew the second with black he concentrated on being solid in the third game with white, which he lost in the previous match. This time he quickly got the advantage and converted that too.

    After two draws Teimour Radjabov won a fine third game against Anish Giri in a Sicilian Kalashnikov for an extremely dangerous initiative and then won the favourable endgame he earned. Giri struck straight back to tie the set with a Bogo-Indian where he got decent chances straight out of the opening and gradually outplayed Radjabov for his first defeat of the event.

    Wesley So came back from an incredibly disappointing loss in the second game where he was pressing for a very long time in a game with really tremendous complications where he needed up with three minor pieces for a queen. The game suddenly ended when So grabbed a pawn and lost a piece to a Queen check also attacking the piece. So not only won the next game in a long grind from near equality out of the opening but then won another wild tactical battle to win the set.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave beat Levon Aronian 2.5-1.5. Aronian grabbed a very hot pawn in game two with 10.Nxb5 and already with 13.Qd2 he was lost and MVL didn’t let him off the hook.

    The final day 2 of the Quarterfinals is tomorrow at 4pm GMT on Wednesday 9th Feb.

  • Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi out of the Opera Euro Rapid after preliminary stage – Day 3
    Magnus Carlsen won the Preliminary section of the Opera Euro Rapid after a shaky final day. Carlsen’s qualification was never really in much doubt, especially after a lovely win against Santosh Gujrathi Vidit in round 11, but the rest of the day saw him lose to Ding Liren and only just escape with a draw against Daniil Dubov. Surprise top scorer was Leinier Dominguez Perez with 3.5/5 but his disasters on the first two days left him a long way short. Ian Nepomniachtchi collapsed completely and scored just 1/5 on the final day losing to Aronian, Bluebaum and Dominguez. Daniil Dubov got the nod over Hikaru Nakamura by virtue of more wins after they tied on 7.5 points. Nakamura was visibly furious with himself in going down to a final round loss to Sam Shankland.

    The knockout phase starts tomorrow with Carlsen facing Dubov who eliminated him in the last tour event, the Airthings Masters. Carlsen isn’t in great form but I’d expect him to beat Dubov this time, there will be no attempt to take him on toe-to-toe in ”fun positions” as he did in that match. Giri faces the only undefeated player – and winner of the Airthings Masters – Teimour Radjabov, Wesley So faces Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Levon Aronian faces MVL.

    Final Round 15 Standings: 1 Carlsen 9.5pts 2 Giri 9.5pts 3 Wesley So 9pts 4 Aronian 8.5pts 5 MVL 8.5pts 6 Duda 8pts 7 Radjabov 8pts 8 Dubov 7.5pts

    Eliminated 9 Nakamura 7.5pts 10 Shankland 7pts 11 Nepomniachtchi 7pts 12 Vidit 6.5pts 13 Dominguez Perez 6.5pts 14 Grischuk 6.5pts 15 Bluebaum 5.5pts 16 Ding Liren 5pts.

  • Carlsen retains the lead of the Opera Euro Rapid preliminaries after day 2 – Day 2
    Magnus Carlsen conceded he was somewhat fortunate on day two of the Open Euro Rapid. Carlsen started the day with a quiet draw against Jan-Krzysztof Duda, was under pressure for much of the game against Alexander Grischuk, allowed an early forced draw against Anish Giri, survived a poor opening against Ian Nepomniachtchi where if his opponent had ”taken a bit of care” instead of playing ”too quickly” the full point should have been his, in the final game there was a tremendous fight with Hikaru Nakamura which ended rather suddenly with Nakamura playing what he thought was the decisive 32… Re1 but instead it was he who had to resign after 33. Bxg6. The point of this stage is to qualify for the knockout, and Carlsen has pretty much assured passage with five more rounds to go tomorrow.

    Just behind Carlsen are Anish Giri and Wesley So. Giri scored +2 – his 3.5/5 was the best score on the day and Wesley So +1 (he lost just one game to Leinier Dominguez). Ian Nepomniachtchi is on 6 points and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Teimour Radjabov (still undefeated) and Levon Aronian are on 5.5 points.

    Final day of the preliminary section is on Monday starting at 4pm GMT. It looks like the eight players placed 5th to 12th are likely to be in a major fight for just four qualification places.

    Round 10 Standings: 1st Carlsen 7pts; 2nd-3rd Wesley So, Giri, 6.5pts; 4th Nepomniachtchi 6pts; 5th-7th Aronian, MVL, Radjabov 5.5pts; 8th-10th Nakamura, Duda, Grischuk 5pts; 11th-12th Vidit, Dubov 4.5pts; 13th Shankland 4pts; 14th Bluebaum 3.5pts; 15th-16th Ding Liren, Dominguez Perez 3pts

  • Carlsen leads the Opera Euro Rapid Preliminaries after day 1 – Day 1
    Magnus Carlsen leads the preliminary section of the Opera Euro Rapid after day one alone in spite of losing in round 1 to Wesley So. The round 1 result was worrying for Carlsen fans following a major slump in form going back to the start of December. Carlsen said after the day’s play ”I wouldn’t say the funk is over or anything but” …. ”this was in general a very enjoyable day of chess.” Carlsen said he played for a win in every game, including the first where he was well beaten by So. Carlsen beat Levon Aronian, Matthias Bluebaum, Sam Shankland and Leinier Dominguez (where for one move Carlsen was lost according to the computer with 28.Rd4 – impossible to calculate at this time control).

    Carlsen is half a point clear of Wesley So who after his win in round 1 lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Round 2, beat Daniil Dubov in Round 3, Drew Levon Aronian in Round 4 and beat Matthias Bluebaum in Round 5. Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Hikaru Nakamura in Round 5 to join So in joint second on 3.5 points. MVL, Anish Giri and the only undefeated player – winner of the last tour event – Teimour Radjabov are tied on 3 points. All in all an interesting first day.

    The top 8 after 15 rounds go through to the knockout phase.

    Day 1 Round 5 standings: 1st Carlsen 4pts; 2nd-3rd Wesley So, Nepomniachtchi 3.5pts; 4th-6th MVL, Giri, Radjabov 3pts; 7th-10th Nakamura, Duda, Aronian, Shankland 2.5pts; 11th-13th Vidit, Grischuk, Dubov2pts; 14th-15th Ding Liren, Bluebaum 1.5pts; 16th Dominguez Perez 1pt.

    Day 2 Rounds 6-10 start at 4pm GMT.

  • Opera Euro Rapid 2021 – Games and Results
    The Opera Euro Rapid takes place Sat 6th Feb to Sun 14th Feb 2021. The online event hosted by Chess24 is part of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. This is a regular tour tournament so there are only points and prizes available, not a place in the tour final. 16 players start the event competing in a three day Round Robin which will reduce the field to 8. Then in the knockout phase three rounds of mini-matches will produce a winner.

    Players: Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren, Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominguez Perez, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Daniil Dubov, Teimour Radjabov, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Santosh Gujrathi Vidit, Sam Shankland and Matthias Bluebaum.

    Play starts at 16:00 GMT each day.

  • Jorden Van Foreest wins the Tata Steel Masters after an Armageddon Tie-break – 13
    Jorden Van Foreest pulled off one of the great shocks in Tata Steel history in winning the 83rd event and becoming the first Dutch winner since Jan Timman in 1985. Van Foreest and Anish Giri drew the two blitz tie-break games, then there was a final Armageddon tie-break where Van Foreest had draw odds – he won on time in the end. As 11th seed Van Foreest was on no-one’s list of potential winners but he was well prepared and solid. Earlier he beat Nils Grandelius in a very fine game indeed with a vicious new idea against the Najdorf Sicilian. Giri had his own troubles and was in severe danger of losing to David Anton for much of the final round before fighting back to draw in the end.

    This was a really fine final round Magnus Carlsen finished the event with a win but was unsparing in the criticism of his own play. Carlsen finished on +2 which was a bad result by his own high standards but was not the catastrophe that his opponent Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had, this was his fourth loss of the tournament. Two players that hoped to get into a tie-break for the tournament title were Fabiano Caruana and Alireza Firouzja. Caruana was happy with his opening against Aryan Tari but branded his 11…Ng6 as careless, 12…f5 was risky but he never came close to getting the win he needed. Firouzja looked to be heading for a win against Radoslaw Wojtaszek but allowed his opponent to escape with a draw (52.Qg4? 52.d5! wins but he was winning later too with 60.Be5!), towards the end it was clear even a win wouldn’t get him into the tie-break match as his Sonneborn–Berger was worse than Van Foreest and Giri’s. Alexander Donchenko finished a bad event for him with yet another loss as he subsided to defeat against Andrey Esipenko Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Pentala Harikrishna drew a fairly uneventful game.

    Final Round 13 Standings: 1st Van Foreest 8.5pts (TB 53), 2nd Giri 8.5pts (52.25), 3rd Esipenko 8pts (49), 4th Caruana 8pts (48.25), 5th Firouzja 8pts (48), 6th Carlsen 7.5pts (47.25), 7th Harikrishna 6.5pts (38.75), 8th Tari 6pts (38), 9th Grandelius 6pts (34), 10th Duda 5.5pts (35.75), 11th Anton Guijarro 5pts (30.75), 12th Wojtaszek 5pts (30.75), 13th Vachier-Lagrave 5pts (29.75) and 14th Donchenko 3.5pts (23).

  • Giri leads the Tata Steel Masters going into the final round but lets Firouzja off the hook – 12
    Anish Giri could have taken a giant stride towards winning the Tata Steel Masters by defeating Alireza Firouzja in the twelfth round but had to settle for a draw in the end after strong resistance for the second half of the game. Firouzja’s fighting spirit should not have been enough but on move 61 Giri was down to just a single winning move and he did not play it. This means that Giri leads on 8 points, half a point clear of three players; Jorden Van Foreest (draw today against Esipenko), Firouzja and Fabiano Caruana (draw against David Anton). If there is a tie for first place there will be a rapid match to decided the title. World Champion Magnus Carlsen guaranteed his worst finish for many years after yet another draw, this time against Radoslaw Wojtaszek. The only winner of the day was Pentala Harikrishna who whipped up a decisive attack in a Queen, Rook and Pawns endgame against Alexander Donchenko.

    Round 12 Standings: 1st Giri 8pts 2nd-4th Van Foreest, Firouzja, Caruana 7.5pts 5th Esipenko 7pts; 6th Carlsen 6.5pts; 7th-8th  Harikrishna, Grandelius 6pts; 9th Tari 5.5pts; 10th-11th Duda, MVL 5pts; 12th-13th Anton, Wojtaszek 4.5pts; 14th Donchenko 3.5pts;

    Final Round 13 Pairings 11:00am GMT 2 hours early: Anton-Giri, Donchenko-Esipenko, Carlsen-MVL Van Foreest-Grandelius, Tari-Caruana, Firouzja-Wojtaszek, Duda-Harikrishna.

  • Anish Giri still leads after round 11 of the Tata Steel Masters – 11
    Anish Giri drew against World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a Giuoco Piano to retain the lead in the Tata Steel Masters with just a couple of rounds left to go. Giri was under some pressure early on but after 23…c4 was never in any trouble. Alireza Firouzja and Fabiano Caruana drew a wild game where both players had winning opportunities before they both had to settle for a draw. Giri faces Firouzja in round 12. Jorden Van Foreest eventually took advantage of some very risky play by Pentala Harikrishna but it was still a tough battle. Aryan Tari won his first game of the event against Andrey Esipenko who took a few too many risks to try and win the event. Wojtaszek-MVL, David Anton-Grandelius and Donchenko-Duda were all drawn.

    Round 11 Standings: 1st Giri 7.5pts; 2nd-4th Caruana, Van Foreest, Firouzja 7pts; 5th Esipenko 6.5pts; 6th Carlsen 6pts; 7th Grandelius 5.5pts; 8th-9th Harikrishna, Tari 5pts; 10th-11th Duda, MVL 4.5pts; 12th-13th Wojtaszek, Anton 4pts; 14th Donchenko 3.5pts;

    Round 12 Pairings: Wojtaszek-Carlsen, Grandelius-Tari, Caruana-Anton, Giri-Firouzja, Esipenko-Van Foreest, MVL-Duda, Harikrishna-Donchenko.

  • Anish Giri leads the Tata Steel Masters going into the final rest day – 10
    Anish Giri leads the Tata Steel Masters on seven points from ten rounds going into the final rest day of the competition. He beat Radoslaw Wojtaszek in a London System that got very complicated and resembled a reverse Meran System. In time trouble Giri felt he lost much of his edge – he just couldn’t find a way to avoid piece trades and an endgame resulted that objectively should have been a draw, Giri managed to create difficulties and suddenly Wojtaszek was lost 46….Rb6 was the start of problem (46…Rd6 was a sure draw) and 48…Bb2 lost on the spot.

    Normally speaking game of the day would have been the Fabiano Caruana against Magnus Carlsen game but with Carlsen off the pace there was certainly interest elsewhere. Carlsen felt he got what he wanted out of the opening before playing 13…b6 which he felt blundered ”conservatively at least three things” by which he meant he missed ideas for his opponent rather than being lost. He was in a bit of difficulty but it wasn’t easy and after 20.Ne5 it turned out Carlsen could give up a pawn and get all his pieces on good squares, in particular his light squared bishop was much better than white’s. Caruana, whilst not in trouble felt he might even get in trouble if he wasn’t careful but instead there was a draw by repetition.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave survived a completely disastrous opening that should have seen him lose quickly, he fought back to equal and then Alexander Donchenko played the really unwise 55…f5 which isn’t immediately losing but put him under terrible pressure and having to find the only move 57…Kf8 which he did not.

    Andrey Esipenko quietly moved into contention with yet another win, this time over David Anton, 35…cxb4 seems to have been the losing move. Jorden Van Foreest perhaps missed a good chance to beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda with the black pieces, he got the initiative and it seems 17…Ng5 was very strong, the game quickly burned out to a draw after his 17…Qe6. Nils Grandelius against Alireza Firouzja and Penatala Harikrishna against Aryan Tari were both drawn.

    Final Rest day Thursday 28th January

    Round 10 Standings: 1st Giri 7pts; 2nd-4th Esipenko, Caruana, Firouzja 6.5pts; 5th Van Foreest 6pts; 6th Carlsen 5.5pts; 7th-8th Harikrishna, Grandelius 5pts; 9th-11th Tari, Duda, MVL 4pts; 12th-13th Wojtaszek, Anton 3.5pts; 14th Donchenko 3pts.

    Round 11 pairings Friday 29th Jan 2021 1pm: Wojtaszek-MVL Carlsen-Giri, Firouzja-Caruana, Anton-Grandelius, Tari-Esipenko, Van Foreest-Harikrishna, Donchenko-Duda.

  • Giri, Caruana and Firouzja share the lead on 6 points after 9 rounds – 9
    There were three decisive games in Round 9 of the Tata Steel Masters 2021 and the event is still wide open. Leader Alireza again went to the London System and it was met by a very modern setup that I believe has been recommended by Yuri Krykun in one of his courses. A messy game was drawn on move 41. Defending Champion Fabiano Caruana scored a very important win with the black pieces against Radoslaw Wojtaszek. Caruana’s 13…Bxc3 was a novelty and it took the game into very non-standard waters, Wojtaszek quickly went wrong and Black took over the entire kingside and broke through to win in 39 moves. Anish Giri was put under severe pressure with a standard exchange sacrifice in a Sicilian by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. MVL certainly had more than enough compensation but at some point it turned it seems the sequence 37…Qb7?! (37…Qb5) 38.Kc1! Qd7? (the losing move 38…Qb5 still had to be played) was where it all went wrong for him. After first time control Giri finished smoothly. Magnus Carlsen looked extremely relieved to win his game against Nils Grandelius. Carlsen was probably winning in the Queen and Rook endgame but he was uncharacteristically hesitant in conversion, but he didn’t make any real errors and won in 65 moves. Carlsen faces Caruana with the black pieces in Round 10. Jorden Van Foreest vs Alexander Donchenko, Aryan Tari vs Jan-Krzysztof Duda and David Anton vs Pentala Harikrishna were all drawn.

    Round 9 Standings: 1st-3rd Giri, Caruana, Firouzja 6pts; 4th-5th Esipenko, Van Foreest 5.5pts; 6th Carlsen 5pts; 7th-8th Harikrishna, Grandelius 4.5pts; 9th-12th Duda, Wojtaszek, Tari, Anton 3.5pts; 13th-14th MVL, Donchenko 3pts

    Round 10 Pairings Wednesday 27th Jan 2021 1pm: MVL-Donchenko, Duda-Van Foreest, Harikrishna-Tari, Esipenko-Anton, Grandelius-Firouzja, Caruana-Carlsen, Giri-Wojtaszek.

  • Esipenko scores a thumping victory over Carlsen in Tata Steel Round 8 – 8
    17 year old Alireza Firouzja leads the Tata Steel Masters alone on 5.5/8 half a point clear of the field, he beat Pentala Harikrishna today. The headlines however were grabbed by Andrey Esipenko who defeated Magnus Carlsen in their first ever game together. Esipenko seemed to take Carlsen by surprise with a very aggressive variation of the Sicilian and soon Carlsen got a very suspicious position which was destroyed by the winning sacrifice 17.Ncxb5 which quickly won material. The remaining games were drawn, Caruana-Giri was fighting Jobava London System, David Anton missed a very good chance to beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the middlegame, Nils Grandelius was disappointed not to press harder after first time control against Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Alexander Donchenko played a solid Catalan against Aryan Tari and Jorden Van Foreest drew a Neo-Moller defence as black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

    Rest day Monday 25th January 2021.

    Round 8 Standings: 1st Firouzja 5.5pts; 2nd-5th Giri, Caruana, Esipenko, Van Foreest 5pts; 6th Grandelius 4.5pts; 7th-8th Harikrishna, Carlsen 4pts; 9th Wojtaszek 3.5pts; 10th-13th Anton Guijarro, MVL, Tari, Duda 3pts; 14th Donchenko 2.5pts

    Round 9 Pairings Tuesday 26th Jan 1pm GMT: Carlsen-Grandelius, Tari-Duda, Van Foreest-Donchenko, Wojtaszek-Caruana, Firouzja-Esipenko, Giri-MVL, Anton-Harikrishna

  • Van Foreest, Giri, Caruana and Firouzja lead the Tata Steel Masters on 4.5 points after seven rounds – 7
    It was all change at the top of the Tata Steel Masters after Anish Giri defeated the leader Nils Grandelius in a Najdorf Sicilian. Wins for Fabiano Caruana over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Jorden Van Foreest over Aryan Tari and finally Alireza Firouzja over Jan-Krzysztof Duda meant there was a group of four leading after seven rounds. Magnus Carlsen remains becalmed with yet another draw, he didn’t even generate a sniff of a chance against Pentala Harikrishna, Carlsen faces Andrey Esipenko in round 8, he scored his first win after beating Radoslaw Wojtaszek.

    A more detailed breakdown of the day’s play below.

    Round 7 Standings: 1st-4th Van Foreest, Giri, Caruana, Firouzja 4.5pts 5th-8th Harikrishna, Esipenko, Carlsen, Grandelius 4pts 9th Wojtaszek 3pts 10th-13th Vachier-Lagrave, Tari, Anton, Duda 2.5pts 14th Donchenko 2pts

    Round 8 Pairings Sunday 24th January 2021 1pm: MVL-Van Foreest, Donchenko-Tari, Duda-Anton, Harikrishna-Firouzja, Esipenko-Carlsen, Grandelius-Wojtaszek, Caruana-Giri.

  • Nils Grandelius retains the Tata Steel Masters lead after 6 rounds – 6
    The sixth round of the Tata Steel Masters saw wins for Jorden van Foreest over David Anton and Alireza Firouzja over Alexander Donchenko – both the winners joined a big group tied for second on 3.5/6. The leader Nils Grandelius had a long defence against Fabiano Caruana but he held the draw reasonably comfortably. Magnus Carlsen briefly had serious winning chances against Jan-Krzysztof Duda but soon the game was equal again. Other draws Harikrishna-Wojtaszek, Esipenko-Giri, MVL-Tari.

    Round 6 Standings: 1st Grandelius 4pts; 2nd-7th Van Foreest, Carlsen, Harikrishna, Caruana, Giri, Firouzja 3.5pts; 8th-9th Esipenko, Wojtaszek 3pts; 10th-12th Tari, Vachier-Lagrave, Duda 2.5pts; 13th David Anton 2pts; 14th Donchenko 1.5pts.

    Round 7 pairings: Caruana-MVL, Giri-Grandelius, Wojtaszek-Esipenko, Carlsen-Harikrishna, Firouzja-Duda, Anton-Donchenko, Tari-Van Foreest.

  • Nils Grandelius leads the 83rd Tata Steel Masters alone on 3.5 points after five rounds – 5
    Nils Grandelius was again sole leader of the Tata Steel Masters after five rounds when he was the only winner on a hard fought day. Grandelius beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a Najdorf where he knew more theory and was a lot better after MVL went wrong. Magnus Carlsen was frustrated by Alexander Donchenko who defended a difficult endgame well. There were some difficult endgames – none more than David Anton against Aryan Tari where late in the game Anton could have lost after being winning for much of the game. Other draws Caruana-Esipenko, Giri-Harikrishna, Firouzja-Van Foreest and Wojtaszek-Duda.

    A more detailed summary of the games in the body of the article.

    Round 5 Standings: 1st Grandelius 3.5pts; 2nd-5th Harikrishna, Caruana, Giri, Carlsen 3pts; 6th-9th Van Foreest, Firouzja, Wojtaszek, Esipenko 2.5pts; 10th-13th Anton Guijarro, Vachier-Lagrave, Tari, Duda, 2pts; 14th Donchenko 1.5pts.

    Round 6 Pairings: Duda-Carlsen, MVL-Tari, Van Foreest-Anton, Grandelius-Caruana, Harikrishna-Wojtaszek, Esipenko-Giri, Donchenko-Firouzja.

  • All games drawn in Round Four of the Tata Steel Masters 2021 – 4
    The fourth round of the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee saw all the games finish peacefully. That’s not to say they should have, there were a number of games that could have finished decisively. This was the final round before the first rest day on Wednesday. There remains a five way tie at the top between Harikrishna, Carlsen, Giri, Caruana, Grandelius all on 2.5pts.

    Magnus Carlsen was fairly philosophical about his draws in the last three rounds, he was a bit frustrated that he didn’t manage to make his opponents have to work harder for their draws, whilst he wasn’t winning any of them, and his opponents have defended well, he thought that his own errors had brought the games to an end early. Today it looked like Carlsen would get to push for a long time but after 48…Rd2 (48…Kg5 keeps things going) the game quickly ended with everything being traded off.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs David Anton was a long Marshall Ruy Lopez where MVL seemed to be the one setting the problems but he never got a clear winning chance. Jan-Krzysztof Duda against Giri was a long theoretical Gruenfeld struggle where Giri finished a pawn down in a Rook and Pawn endgame that wasn’t anything more than a draw.

    Nils Grandelius built up a winning position as black against Andrey Esipenko but admitted afterward ”In the time trouble I played very, very poorly.” 40.Rxb2 was the final missed chance which the computer evaluates as a decisive advantage for Grandelius.

    Pentala Harikrishna got in a bit of a tangle on the white side of a Ruy Lopez against Fabiano Caruana, his novelty 19.Bc2 wasn’t a good move and he had to struggle for a while. Caruana’s 35…Qd4?! wasn’t great (35…Rd6 was much better) as it allowed a liquidating sacrifice that drew the game quickly. Alexander Donchenko and Radoslaw Wojtaszek drew a fascinating Sicilian Najdorf whose final phase in the bishop and pawn endgame was exceedingly tricky and instructive. First Donchenko was in danger of losing a pawn up, then Wojtaszek had to spot that a tempting winning line was in fact losing, both players proved up to the task. Aryan Tari agreed that it wasn’t ideal taking Alireza Firouzja in a wild tactical position and once Firouzja broke through it looked like he would win. Then things went completely out of control 27….Be5? from Firouzja was losing after 28. Kh1 according to the computer. Then Tari’s 28.Rxc5? was also bad – it’s winning for Firouzja again, 29…Ne2? was a final mistake (29…Be2 wins) and the position was equal again and the players agreed a draw a move later.

    Round 4 Standings: 1st-5th Harikrishna, Carlsen, Giri, Caruana, Grandelius 2.5pts; 6th-10th Vachier-Lagrave, Van Foreest, Esipenko, Firouzja, Wojtaszek 2pts 11th-13th Duda, Anton Guijarro, Tari 1.5pt 14th Donchenko 1pts.

    Wednesday 20th Jan Rest Day

    Thursday 21st Jan 1pm GMT: Carlsen-Donchenko, Firouzja-Van Foreest, Anton-Tari, Giri-Harikrishna, Caruana-Esipenko, Grandelius-MVL, Wojtaszek-Duda.

Susan Polgar Chess Daily News and Information