CBM 218: Wei Yi first, Gukesh second

by Nagesh Havanur
4/25/2024 – ChessBase Magazine offers a window to the world of professional chess. Our columnist Nagesh Havanur takes a look at our recent issue, CBM 218. 540 games from Tata Steel Chess and Chessable Masters 2024, 12 opening surveys, 3 opening videos, 6 demo lectures and several exercises for training. Annotators include Wei Yi, Anish Giri, Nordibek Abdusattorov, Alireza Firouzja, Vidit Gujrathi and Praggnanandhaa among others. The icing on the cake is a special feature on Richard Rapport, with 28 annotated games. | Pictured: Gukesh D playing white against Ding Liren in Wijk aan Zee | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024

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Talented youngsters leave their mark

As I write these lines, the Candidates’ Tournament has drawn to a close, with 17-year-old Gukesh coming first in the competition. No, Wei Yi, the winner of the recent Tata Steel Competition, was not among the players. For he did not participate in the qualifying cycle.

In a sense, this issue of ChessBase Magazine belongs to both Wei Yi and Gukesh. The Chinese talent did not have it easy and finished with 8½/13 points along with Anish Giri, Gukesh and Nodirbek Abdusattorov. In the blitz play-off, Wei Yi beat Abdusattorov and Gukesh beat Giri. At the end of the day, Wei Yi prevailed over Gukesh and went on to claim the first prize.

Wei has annotated the following game for this issue:

Vidit Gujrathi, Wei Yi

Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024

Now that summary does little justice to the performance by other players. Gukesh overreached himself in the game with Ding Liren:

A cautionary tale for Gukesh not to underestimate Ding Liren in the forthcoming World Championship Match.

He did beat Wei Yi, the winner of the tournament, in the main event:

Wei Yi, Dommaraju Gukesh

Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024

Gukesh’s remaining losses to Giri and Wei in the play-off were on account of errors in the final phase of the game. It goes without saying that he would be working on his endgame technique in the days to come.

Among others, Alireza Firouzja and Abdusattorov played enterprising chess. The following game is a remarkable encounter in which White missed his chances and the Uzbek GM scored a remarkable victory.

It’s a pity that Abdusattorov is not among the Candidates. He is still young and can qualify next time.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Parham Maghsoodloo

Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024

Praggnanandhaa was bogged down by tough draws. However, he also proved himself to be a player hard to beat. Apart from Praggnanandhaa and Firouzja, this tournament also included three other world championship candidates, Gukesh, Vidit Gujrathi and Ian Nepomniachtchi. Each saw it as a kind of net practice for the big event that was played this month.

This issue also includes games from the Chessable Masters Tournament 2024, won by Magnus Carlsen ahead of Firouzja. I would have loved to see a detailed report with all games and annotations to decisive battles.

One player who impressed here was Denis Lazavik. In the qualifying rounds he had disposed of Nakamura and Giri, and in the main event he took down Vachier-Lagrave. He gave a tough fight to Carlsen before conceding the round as shown here:

Denis Lazavik

Denis Lazavik | Photo: chess.com / Thomas Tischio

A Richard Rapport special

This issue has a special feature on Richard Rapport with a selection of 28 annotated games. The opponents include Aronian, Duda, Gelfand, Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa and Vachier-Lagrave, among others. The Hungarian GM (now playing for Romania) is an extraordinary player who revels in unorthodox openings and loves fighting chess. As is known, he acted as a second for Ding Liren and helped him to win the World Championship match with Nepomniachtchi last year.

Rapport fears no one and has an uncompromising style seeking a win all the time. Remember how he clashed with Carlsen at the Grenke Chess Classic last month and lost only by a narrow margin (½-1½). Here is a rousing battle, after which the spectators gave the players an ovation:

Opening videos and surveys

There are 3 opening videos in this issue:

In the first video, John Werle draws attention to new trends in the 4.f3 variation in the Nimzo-Indian (E20).

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3

In the second video, Daniel King presents analysis of a rare line in the Sicilian:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Qe3!?

In the third video, Mihail Marin offers a commentary on the King’s Indian Fianchetto Variation (E68):

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 d6 6.0-0 Nbd7 7. Nc3 e5 8.e4 c6 9.Be3

He selects Yusupov-Kasparov, Linares 1992 as the starting point of his demo lecture, and goes on to deal with subsequent developments in this line.

Take your pick.

What is more, there are as many as 12 opening surveys, ranging from the Sicilian to the King’s Indian. Igor Stohl is among the analysts, who looks at the following variation:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Na5 (C70).

Here a few words on this line are in order. It was Mark Taimanov who initiated this line in grandmaster practice in 1954.

Mark Taimanov

Photo: V. Galaktionov, Novosti Press (extracted from Soviet Chess History by Douglas Griffin)

He played about 10 games during the period 1954-1958 and the only serious setback he had was a loss to Boris Spassky in the 22nd USSR Championship 1955. Subsequently he gave it up, even as he developed his own variation of the Sicilian named after him. One player who briefly experimented with the line was Bobby Fischer, and in the game Addison-Fischer 1963 he did come up with an idea (developing the knight to e7) that is still useful to the variation.

Anyway, the precedent set by Taimanov was followed by two players from Norway, Svein Johannessen and Simen Agdestein. The game Anand-Agdestein, 1-0, 1987 was a bit of a damper for the whole variation. Last year it was briefly revived by Carlsen, and the game Puranik-Carlsen 2023 was discussed by Mihail Marin in the previous issue, CBM 217.

In this issue, Igor Stohl makes his own contribution to the line. His analysis is long and goes into a lot of detail. Here I offer his summary of the line with my own inputs:

Notwithstanding Stohl’s big effort, I remain sceptical about this variation. Black falls far behind in development just for the sake of two bishops, and the resulting positions appear passive. The opening lines in the main variations of the Spanish offer rich middlegame play instead.

Among other surveys, Tanmay Srinath’s analysis of a rare line in the Grünfeld Exchange Variation (E87) is noteworthy:

Besides opening surveys, this issue has standard features on tactics, strategy and the endgame. Here I would make a special mention of the section,“Excelling in Endgames”, in which Karsten Müller offers a demo lecture on bishop and pawn endings. This section also offers a column, “Readers write”, in which we find contributions by experts like Charles Sullivan and Zoran Petronijevic.

Last, but not least, we have Jan Markos’ demo lecture on exchange of pieces in the game. Practical advice for the tournament player.

Summing up

The main database of the issue has 540 games, out of which 35 are deeply annotated. There is much else in this DVD that deserves to be explored. Apart from the players I have already mentioned, the commentators include Wei Yi, Anish Giri, Nordibek Abdusattorov, Alireza Firouzja, Vidit Gujrathi and Praggnanandha, among others. It may be noted that there are more annotated games in the opening and training sections of this issue.

Well, practice makes perfect.


Readers can check out the ChessBase Reports on the Chessable Tournament here: https://rb.gy/4j1v9k

I think, games from the qualifying rounds need to be seen first before the games from the main event are viewed in this issue.

ChessBase Magazine 218

Tata Steel 2024 with analyses by Wei Yi, Firouzja, Giri, Pragg, Vidit and many more. Opening videos by Jan Werle, Daniel King and Mihail Marin. 11 repertoire articles from Alekhine to the King's Indian and much more.


Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for more than three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.
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