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

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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.


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Jacob woge Jacob woge 1/24/2022 04:26
"Vaccinations should be mandatory."

Against what -anything? From the common cold to cervical cancer, all age groups and genders...

I find the cited statement just as radical and one-eyed as anti-vax conspiracy theories on the same subject. Divisive and counter-productive to boot.

In a civilized society, there has to be a middle ground. Else the cure gets worse than the disease.
arzi arzi 1/24/2022 04:17
Covid virus is dangerous (death) for risk group only. Omikron variation is more infectious but less dangerous than delta variation. Actually it is good if delta variation disappears for good because of omikron. Vaccination does not prevent transmission of the virus. It is the fact. Neither do the certification of the vaccination. Also mask and handcovers do not prevent virus for 100% certaintity. They do reduces the spreading but one virus is enough to get an infection. Covid deaths in Finland, last september: 6.9% of those who died had received 1 vaccination, 41.4% were unvaccinated and the remaining of the 51.7% of the dead had received 2 vaccines. All deaths were over 70 years of age. High age with an organ disease is the biggest cause of death. You can not prevent the spreading but you can protect those risk groups by vaccinating them. Basic healthy people survive without vaccination. If you want to take vaccination, take it. If not, don`t take it. It is up to you. If you belong to a risk group I recommend to take a vaccination. Simple.
ScorpionC ScorpionC 1/24/2022 04:11
Wesley So some years ago forfeited game for writing helping notes during game on his scoresheet. He was first warned, he "listened" and wrote them in another place on scoresheet, instead. He took "do not write near the moves helping notes" literally and wrote them on the edge of scoresheet instead. So stupid.
Now Dubov dispays stupidity by not wearking a mask. When first test is negative it is not an indication for not being infected, this early test is only useful if it shows that you are positive. When recently Nakamura tested positive and was sent off the tournament in world rapid and blitz, Nakamura said that his earlier test was negative. This virus can take days to show on the test and of course Dubov is familiar with this story, so Dubov must have known that first test is basically nothing. So, his reasoning is of a crazy person "we agreed with organizers to never wear a mask, so I will not wear a mask" when health of opponent is on the stakes. Suprisingly how great a person can be in chess when being so stupid at elementary reasoning.
Actually, orginizers should forbid Dubov from playing at the board, because mask is not a guarantee. Game should be played via Internet instead in a special room, organizers should be prepared for Corona.
Jack Nayer Jack Nayer 1/24/2022 01:18
I will use exclamation marks too, it will make more of an impression and make my argument stronger!!!!!

The problem is simple, so simple that the anti-vax movement will never understand it. You have the right to not vaccinate yourself. But as a non-vaccinated person you constitute a danger to others. You do not have the right to infect other people. There is not a single logical argument contra vaccination. Vaccinations should be mandatory.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 1/24/2022 11:19
However much you like discussions, you might consider the usefulnes of reacting to people using more than one exclamation mark per word, or to those who don't contribute more than name-calling.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/24/2022 10:41
@tamango what cult? COVID is a virus that can easily be transmitted. I would expect Dubov to wear a mask even if he catched an old-fashioned, not dangerous cold. Why would we expect Giri to swim in his mucus? Is Dubov's right to play without a mask even if he infects Giri with something? And being open about this makes me "brainwashed", with as many neurons as the virtue-signalling woke people? Maybe you want to change your nickname before your next comment if you want to be taken seriously.

@elmaestro1967 A mask does not protect 100% from the infection, but it significantly reduces the spreading of the infection. It is rather simple. If you have a disease which is spreading by breathing, then while you wear a mask, there is a physical barrier that ensures that your breath will not directly target the person in front of you. There is still a chance that this is not enough to prevent him from catching the disease, but it nevertheless reduces the chance. A mask is like a medieval armor. In medieval times there were many who weared an armor and still died on the battlefield, but it is evident that the armor offered protection to them to a certain degree.
elmaestro1967 elmaestro1967 1/24/2022 07:34
Masks do not protect you from get the covid!!! Wake up!!! Do not be a brainwash . If the vaccine do not protect you, the mask will be? WAKE UP!!!!!!!!
elmaestro1967 elmaestro1967 1/24/2022 07:19
I support Dubov!!!! Good for him!!! No mask!!!! It is my freedom!!!! Nobody and NOBODY can't tell he infesting the opponent , you are not a doctor, and doctors are corrupted these days, what about other diseases ? Are you testing for tuberculosis, AID, etc.? We have to stop this tyranny control !!!!
Leavenfish Leavenfish 1/23/2022 11:48
The "cult of the individual" above all else is the cult we see here (google Cartman + "I do what I want" - Southpark).

Those people are free to buy their own private island and 'do as they want' without regard to others.

Ideally they might have postponed the game until the test result came back - play on tomorrows free day. It is however a bit unfair to even ask Giri to agree to that, when the simple solution was for Dubov to play with a mask, as Giri seemed prepared to do. Still, I think that should have been offered that as an option.
tamango tamango 1/23/2022 10:14
The amount of brainwashed comments I read here is amazing. I thought you guys have more neurons in your heads than those entitled woke virtue-signaling annoying brats, but I may be wrong. It's like you are a cult or something.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 1/23/2022 09:11
It needs to be known to the 'tournament doctor' (I'm not sure if there is a permanent one), who advises what should be done. We have no right to know. That's what makes a 'thorough investigation', as proposed by Lovushka, a bit difficult, and that is what I meant.
Jack Nayer Jack Nayer 1/23/2022 08:15
The problem is that people can be infected and contagious but not sick while a test can nonetheless show a negative result. A negative result is not full-proof and Dubov has no right to endanger his opponent or anyone else.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 1/23/2022 07:10
@Frits +1
But "the personal situation of Dubov can't be revealed, as that goes against medical confidentiality"...legally that may be right, but on all other counts it is bad.

Why? You have a illness that is insanely communicable and largely transmitted 'by breath'...and you force a situation where two people are sitting a couple of feet at most away from each other, taking in the others breath for...what 4+ hrs? If there is ANY hint someone MIGHT have the virus, it needs to be known and steps taken.
Postponement option aside, Giri was seen at an empty board with a mask...others wore masks...for Dubov "on principle" to potentially subject Giri to this is hard to fathom...but may say more about Dubov than he intended.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 1/23/2022 04:05
For Dutch law, it also depends on Dubov's situation. If he hasn't tested positive in the last 8 weeks (and is free from covid now) or didn't have a booster more than a week ago, he is by law required to go into self-isolation, which will only be lifted if he is tested negative again after a couple of days, depending on the time that has passed since the last contact and the duration of the contact. I think (and as I understood from chess.com, that was the case) that the tournament doctor is the one who decides what to do.
If the organiser ignores this and lets Dubov play without a mask, they may be putting this or a future tournament in jeopardy, apart from the risk of being fined.
Of course the personal situation of Dubov can't be revealed, as that goes against medical confidentiality. That will be a problem with your suggested thorough investigation. I am pleased to see he is at least playing again. There is a chance there was just a misunderstanding on his side, thinking the freedom to wear or not to wear a mask also pertained to other than normal situations.
About transmitting moves from one room to another, that would be the same thing as what I wrote about postponing the game. You can't do that without Giri's permission, and asking his permission would be inappropriate.
Lovuschka Lovuschka 1/23/2022 02:36
What exactly was said about masks not being required? At all? Or until someone on the team tests positive?
Many questions arise, a thorough investigation is in order. Why have no alternative arrangements been made then? Was it ever said, that playing at the same board was required? If not, would it have been possible to just transmit moves from one room to another to avoid physical contact between Dubov and other players?

Certainly there must have been some way to play without putting anyone at risk, and without anyone feeling like they could have been put at risk? What if you don't trust the test? What if you think Dubov might be infected? Then you don't want to play against him, no matter if he wears a mask or not, I think. For that case a separate arrangement without physical closeness should have been established, independent of the mask question.

The situation that arose is very bad. We should not try to establish fault here - Dubov believed he is no risk for anyone, I am sure -, but we must establish what went wrong, what could have been done differently to make everyone feel safe and also be safe. For me, as said above, separate rooms with an electronic transmission from board to board would have been the best option. No computer, but electronic boards that show the opponent's move. Yes, the clock would have been an issue, but maybe that could also have been tracked and submitted somehow by connecting two clocks with each other, if such a special "double clock" was available. I see a small market opportunity.
skent skent 1/23/2022 01:23
The right question is who told him masks would not be required. Is anyone talking about the organizer responsibility? You don't have to agree with Dubov's principles, but it is his right to follow his principles.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 1/23/2022 01:21
Karjakin: '... it was logical in case of negative PCR test to postpone Giri-Dubov game to the rest day. I am sure that Anish would not mind.'
The choice of the tournament organization was either to ask Dubov to wear a mask or to ask Giri to allow the game to be postponed to the rest day. The last would have been close to a 'proposition he can't refuse'. Imagine the media storm if Giri was asked and then refused. It is highly inappropriate to make others take decisions you ought to make yourself.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/23/2022 01:17
@Aighearach I agree with your point. We should protect others, there are cultural norms that we all abide to. Wearing a mask in order to protect the other person when there is a danger of possible infection is something so basic that every morally and mentally sane people should agree with. We don't know whether Dubov is infected, but it could be the case. And no-one told him that he is a biohazard as some people claim. No, he is not a biohazard. He is a possibly infected person and every contendant needs to be protected by the organizers.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 1/23/2022 01:11
It is interesting to see Dubov speaking about principles. Recently his "principles" did not prevent him from actively working against Russia's national interests by supporting Carlsen as a trainer against his compatriot. So, helping the world champion in defending his title against the Russian challenger is not a problem for him. But wearing a mask when he might be infected violates his "principles". What if he caught the infection but the initial test was wrong? Does he bet on not being infected with the safety and health of his opponent? Sure thing. It's a matter of "principles".
Theochessman Theochessman 1/23/2022 01:10
Just wear the mask and play!
I thought GMs were such heroes?
What's so impossible to play with that mask?
In here we have to show a CST before entering the chess clubs AND we have to wear a mask sitting at the board also.
Big deal....I'm glad we can still play!
thirteen thirteen 1/23/2022 12:14
My family, like many others, have little good to say about the virus, except prevention is better than cure. Those 'anti-vaxers' are entering a controversy, should they catch it, should hospital be needed. Mask wearing can be a choice, but in public, in close quarters, not so much. Will it ever go away? God knows. But we have to work with the hear and the now. Don't we? Each population is at a different stage and that underlines things quite a bit.
Aighearach Aighearach 1/23/2022 12:05
Imagine the tyranny if they were asked to wash their hands after using the restroom, or it was demanded that they wear pants to their game!
MauvaisFou MauvaisFou 1/23/2022 11:41
Of course it is not a matter of killing Giri, but to make him ill and spoil HIS tournament as well. If I have a gastro-enteritis, which is not a serious illness, I will not go everywhere and shake hands with everyone.
abdekker abdekker 1/23/2022 11:31
I agree with comments that Dubov should have worn a mask (under the circumstances of the positive test in his team and the right of the organisers to request he wear one), but strongly dismiss comments that Dubov showed "disrespect" to Giri.

These tests have a statistically significant chance of a false result (positive or negative). Treating humans like a biohazard is madness. If you're alive, you are a biohazard. COVID is very far from the worst communicable disease out there. We all need to relax and stop passing judgements on others.
MauvaisFou MauvaisFou 1/23/2022 10:59
to Masquer : it is rather false negative that occur most (test baldy done). To Leavenfish : yes, it is a complete lack of respect towards Giri, when you have to face someone for hours in a closed room.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 1/23/2022 09:25
A negative test is in fact positive, it just has a different colour. Black is white.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 1/23/2022 09:11
From a photo, Giri seems to have shown up for the game with a mask.

That Dubov refused to take steps to protect Giri from possibly spreading a highly transmittable illness - spread thru ones breath - to Giri (and then possibly to those he comes in contact with), may say a lot about Dubov, but 'principled' may not exactly be the first word that comes to mind...
Masquer Masquer 1/23/2022 08:20
"Imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever!" - George Orwell
It's not a boot (yet), but a mask, but Orwell was right.
Masquer Masquer 1/23/2022 08:16
2nd year in a row the organizers are treating a player in an undignified manner. Last year it was Firouzja who was dissed. Was the person who tested positive even sick? There are way too many false positives, anyway. It's not enough to treat another human being like he's some sort of biohazard.
Aighearach Aighearach 1/23/2022 07:49
A member of his team tested positive and he's against wearing a mask, obviously it is only a matter of days until he tests positive.

This sort of behavior this far into a public health crisis is going to sink his career. He's not going to be invited to many tournaments now. He's not very high rated, and he doesn't cooperate with the organizers!

These chuckleheads voicing support for him are not actually helping his situation. If his fans pressured him to apologize and comply, perhaps he could save his career. If his fans offer him support, he'll feel obligated to hold his ground, and he's finished.
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 1/23/2022 05:20
jokovich and now Duda........ he should have agreed to the organizers.... given the circumstances....
lute lute 1/23/2022 04:17
Extremely poor judgment by Chief Arbiter. States he did it in order to protect Dubov's opponent Anish Giri. Would be interesting to hear if Giri requested the intervention at all. IMO, Anish is too much a sportsman and has too much common sense to have made such a request. Does the Chief Arbiter even know the mortality rate of the omicron variant? If he did, he certainly would not have made such an absurd decision. Hopefully, next year the sponsors will get rid of this year's Chief Arbiter. Get someone with common sense and a little scientific acumen. Chess deserves better.
malfa malfa 1/23/2022 02:47
For what it matters, they could have made him asperse himself with eau de Lourdes, same protection as a mask, for believers. Dubov was perfectly in his right to do what he did.
tom_70 tom_70 1/23/2022 02:36
He took a rapid test and it was negative. That should have been good enough. Making him wear a mask in addition to testing negative for Covid was wrong.
Aighearach Aighearach 1/23/2022 01:44
Send Dubov home, and don't invite him back. His own team has endangered the event, and his "principle" is to refuse to take basic health precautions? Yes, it is a matter of principle; give him the boot!