Tata Steel Chess: Giri bounces back

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/18/2020 – Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana signed a draw on a day that saw Anish Giri and Daniil Dubov getting wins at the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee. Thus, Wesley So and Alireza Firouzja are still co-leaders on 'plus two' — Fabiano Caruana, Daniil Dubov and Jorden van Foreest are a half point back. In the Challengers, Pavel Eljanov took advantage of a blunder by Max Wardermam to take the sole lead. Expert analysis by GM TIGER HILLARP-PERSSON and IM LAWRENCE TRENT. | Photo: Alina l'Ami

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Carlsen's drawing streak

The 82nd edition of the chess festival in Wijk aan Zee takes place from January 11th to 26th. The Masters and the Challengers are both 14-player single round robins. Rounds start at 12:30 UTC, except January 16th in Eindhoven, when it starts 30 minutes later.

Magnus Carlsen has not lost a single classical game since July 2018, but he has not yet been able to score a win at the 2020 Tata Steel Masters. In round six, he had White against the last player to challenge him in a World Championship match, and for the first time in the event signed a rather uneventful draw. As Carlsen himself explained afterwards, it is looking more difficult by the day to call him a favourite to win in Wijk for an eighth time:

It's hard to call me a competitor for tournament victory with six draws in the first six games, but I'll continue to play. I mean, the first five draws were a problem; this one was not necessarily a problem.

It must be added, however, that seven rounds are still left to go, and nobody has been able to get a big edge at the top of the standings table — Carlsen, in fact, is only a point behind Wesley So and Alireza Firouzja. For the world champion, it is not about not losing at this point, but about collecting some wins:

I'm just hoping that my drawing streak will not be a hundred anytime soon (smiles).

Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana

The Magnus Carlsen v Fabiano Caruana duel is just starting | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Carlsen could not get winning chances with White, but his former second Daniil Dubov managed to do precisely that against his compatriot Vladislav Artemiev. The latter used his pet Caro-Kann, but was quickly under pressure, as Dubov got control of the open c-file in addition to the usual space advantage White gets in these systems.

Things came to a head on move 28:


Black is already in trouble, but 28...b6 only hastened his defeat, as White now has the added possibility to infiltrate with his rook through the a-file. The game continued 29.gxh5 xh5 30.f6+ g8 31.a5 and Artemiev resigned two moves later.

Swedish grandmaster Tiger Hillarp-Persson analysed the game in full:


Daniil Dubov

Daniil Dubov | Photo: Alina l'Ami

The other winner of the day was Anish Giri, who immediately bounced back from his loss against Firouzja by taking down Vladislav Kovalev with the white pieces. Giri was clearly the one calling the shots in the opening, almost blitzing out all his twenty-one first moves while his opponent struggled to find the correct continuations from move 9. Kovalev put all his hopes on a direct kingside attack:


It is hard not to play the direct 26.f5+ here — which Giri did — but in fact 26.♗g1 is much stronger. After the text, there followed 26...h8 27.g1 xh2+ and Black's attack is scary. At that point, White had lost most of his edge according to the computers, but Giri had more time on his clock and a material advantage.

Soon enough, the Dutch player gave back the exchange and pushed for trades in order to fend off the attack. He was a pawn up in the endgame, and duly converted his advantage into a 51-move victory. The world number nine showcased his usual wit in the post-game interview:

Q: In a way you beat him twice today?

A: I wouldn't say so. Maybe I out-prepared him, but I think one win a day is enough for me.

Q: But you had a winning position and at some point you had to start all over again.

A: Well, in terms of computer evaluations, yes, but to be honest with the rook on f2 and the queen on g5 you're happy you're not gonna blunder mate.


Full interview with Anish Giri

None of the remaining draws lasted more than forty moves. Co-leaders Firouzja and So will face Jeffery Xiong and Artemiev in round seven respectively, while world champion Magnus Carlsen will play against Vishy Anand with the black pieces. 

Round 6 games - Masters


All games of the Challengers available at Live.Chessbase.com

In the Challengers, a sole leader emerged in round six, as Pavel Eljanov defeated Max Warmerdam while Surya Shekhar Ganguly and Erwin l'Ami — the other co-leaders after round five — only managed to score half points. Eljanov took advantage of a one-move blunder by his young Dutch opponent:


Warmerdam's 19.ce2 allowed 19...xe5 and White cannot capture the piece due to 20...♜xh4#. Resignation came a couple of moves later.

Erwin l'Ami

What is Erwin l'Ami laughing about? | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Round 6 games - Challengers


All games of the Challengers available at Live.Chessbase.com

Round-up show

IM Lawrence Trent reviews the action of the day

Standings after Round 6 - Masters


Standings after Round 6 - Challengers



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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