Tata Steel R7: Dubov forfeits, Carlsen leads

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/23/2022 – An eventful seventh round in Wijk aan Zee saw Daniil Dubov forfeiting his game against Anish Giri after declining to wear a mask during the game as requested by the organizers — someone in the Russian’s inner circle had tested positive for Covid-19. Later on, wins by Magnus Carlsen, Jorden van Foreest and Fabiano Caruana left the world champion in the sole lead. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


A matter of principle

One of the longest-running chess events in the world, the Tata Steel Tournament (previously known as Hoogovens and Corus) was organized every single year since 1938 — with only one exception, in 1945. The traditional event took place even in 2021, amid the pandemic. While last year only the Masters took place, this year both the Masters and Challengers are being played, with the amateur (open) tournaments cancelled on both occassions, naturally.

Of course, restrictions and sanitary measures must be in place during the pandemic. And, for the first time in the two Covid-affected events, an opponent lost by forfeit due to a disagreement regarding the rules. Daniil Dubov lost his round-7 encounter against Anish Giri after refusing to wear a mask during the game.

As the organizers informed, a member of Dubov’s inner circle tested positive for Covid-19, with the player himself testing negative to a quick-scan test — a PCR test was also performed, but the results were expected to arrive in the evening. In order to protect his opponent, the chief arbiter ordered the Russian to play wearing a face mask. Dubov refused, which led to him losing by forfeit.

A vigorous, assertive player, both on and off the board, Dubov indicated that his refusal was a matter of principle, as he told Jan Gustafsson that there was “a previous agreement that masks would not be required” during games. Dubov recently found himself in the middle of another controversy, as he faced criticism in Russia after working as Magnus Carlsen’s second at the 2021 World Championship, despite Carlsen’s rival being Russian.

Daniil Dubov

Daniil Dubov before the start of Friday’s sixth round | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Back-to-back wins for Carlsen

The first five rounds saw the world champion missing a few chances to score full points in games that would eventually end in draws. In the last two rounds, however, Carlsen has made up for lost opportunities by scoring back-to-back wins over Richard Rapport and Praggnanandhaa. These two wins have left him as the sole leader in the Masters.

Facing Pragg with black, the Norwegian had a slightly inferior position out of the opening. His teenage opponent faltered in the early middlegame though, giving Carlsen the upper hand.


Black is the one putting pressure on his opponent after 20...b4. The game continued 21.Na4 Nxd5, and here Pragg’s best chance according to the engines was to exchange queens with 22.Nxb6 Nxf4, entering an endgame a pawn down against the best player in the world (White will capture on e4 in the ensuing lines).

Understandably, the youngster rejected this alternative and kept the queens on the board by playing 22.Rxd5 — there followed 22...Qe6 23.Rad1


With the a4-knight far from the action, White will not be able to deal with Black’s coming threats — the e4-pawn is under attack, the rook will go to a8 to threaten a c4-push, the light-squared bishop might potentially be placed on the long diagonal, etcetera.

Carlsen never let go of the initiative and collected the full point before reaching the time control. The world champion will face Sam Shankland with black on Sunday.


Magnus Carlsen, Praggnanandhaa

Magnus Carlsen fist bumps Praggnanandhaa | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Van Foreest and Caruana bounce back

The last two winners of the event also grabbed full points in round 7. Coincidentally, both Fabiano Caruana (tournament winner in 2020) and Jorden van Foreest (winner in 2021) came from losing on Friday. While both grandmasters have collected 3½ out of 7 points so far this year, the Dutchman has gone through more ups and downs, as he has won (and lost) three times throughout the event, while Caruana has one win and one loss to his name.

Van Foreest’s victory largely impacted the top of the standings table, as he took down former co-leader Vidit Gujrathi. The Indian faltered decisively on move 36.


White certainly is the one creating threats, but Black should be able to continue defending with the natural 36...Rf8. However, while in time trouble, Vidit erred with 36...Rc8, which gives way to a straightforward refutation — 37.d6 Qe6 38.Bf3 Nc5 39.Bd5 Qe5


The key point of the sequence is that after 40.Qxe5 fxe5, the rook infiltrates with 41.Rf7+, and 41...Kg6 is followed by 42.Rxd7 Nxd7 43.Be6


Vidit resigned. The whole line was almost forced, which proves that even top grandmasters blunder when the clock is dangerously ticking down.

Jorden van Foreest, Vidit Gujrathi

Jorden van Foreest took down former leader Vidit Gujrathi | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Caruana’s victory over Jan-Krzysztof Duda came after 53 moves of a double-edged struggle in which both players missed chances to either win more quickly (Caruana) or equalize (Duda) — according to the engines, of course. It was a sharp, enjoyable chess battle from a human point of view! Caruana later confessed:

Things went wrong in the run-up to move 40 because I’m sure I had something much, much better than what I did — I don’t know exactly what, it’s all a bit of a blur now, but I’m sure that after move 40 he shouldn’t lose this position.

Go through Van Foreest and Caruana’s wins in the dynamic replayer below. You can try your own moves or check the engine’s analysis while replaying the game.


Round 7 results


Standings after round 7


All games - Round 7


Replay all the Masters’ games at Live.ChessBase.com

Nguyen in sole second place

While Arjun Erigaisi had a dominant first half of the event in the Challengers, it is still too early to relax for the Indian, as 20-year-old Czech grandmaster Thai Dai Van Nguyen is now a point behind the sole leader with six rounds to go. While Nguyen beat Marc’Andria Maurizzi on Saturday, Arjun had to work hard to hold a draw against second seed Rinat Jumabayev.

Lucas van Foreest, Jonas Buhl Bjerre, Daniel Dardha and Max Warmerdam also won in the seventh round. The latter scored his second consecutive win, as he defeated Polina Shuvalova with the black pieces. 


Shuvalova stubbornly defended her position an exchange down up to this point, but had to resign after 60...Kh7, as there is no effective way to deal with the threat of f6 and Rxh2. 

Max Warmerdam, Polina Shuvalova

Max Warmerdam beat Polina Shuvalova | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Round 7 results


Standings after round 7


All games - Round 7


Replay all the Challengers’ games at Live.ChessBase.com


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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register