Tata Steel Chess R12: Riveting draws, Donchenko wins Challengers

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/29/2023 – Nodirbek Abdusattorov continues to lead the standings with one round to go at the Tata Steel Masters. Anish Giri, who is in sole second place a half point back, escaped with a draw from an exciting game against Jorden van Foreest. Magnus Carlsen, on his part, failed to convert his advantage into a full point against Praggnanandhaa. Meanwhile, in the Challengers, Alexander Donchenko scored a third consecutive win and secured first place with a round to spare. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

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Sharp battles

All three games that featured contenders for first place in the Masters ended drawn, but out of the three only the encounter between Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Wesley So was a safe, ‘grandmasterly’ draw. The remaining two games were nothing short of dazzling, with Jorden van Foreest trying a risky line against Anish Giri and Magnus Carlsen failing to make the most of a very promising position against Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu.

While Van Foreest and Giri joked around during their post-game interview — noting that “you can appreciate playing an interesting game” — Carlsen was extremely disappointed after all but losing his chances to win the tournament for a ninth time. Although he still has mathematical chances, he wistfully confessed:

[It is] really frustrating. I feel like I should have gotten a lot more from the position I had from the opening. He defends really well. [...] I fell like this was a bit of a backbreaker, to be honest. Tournament victory is obviously gone, so we’ll see if I can find some motivation to try again tomorrow.

In Sunday’s final round, which kicks off two hours earlier than usual, Carlsen will play black against an out-of-form Arjun Erigaisi, but in order to reach a tiebreak for first place he needs for Abdusattorov to lose against Van Foreest (with white) and for Giri not to beat Richard Rapport (also with white). The same goes for So, who is still tied for third place with the world champion, a full point behind the leader.

During round 12 most eyes were focused on the aforementioned (drawn) games, but that does not mean there were no decisive encounters — Parham Maghsoodloo defeated Arjun in his second consecutive victory over an Indian prodigy, while Rapport got the better of Ding Liren with the white pieces. Apparently, the confirmation of the dates for the World Championship match have affected the Chinese’s concentration: uncharacteristically, he has lost twice and has not grabbed a single victory in the second half of the event.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Van Foreest ½ - ½ Giri


Jorden van Foreest

Jorden van Foreest’s experiment in the opening almost gave him a win over Anish Giri | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Carlsen ½ - ½ Praggnanandhaa


Magnus Carlsen, Praggnanandhaa

The pre-game handshake | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Standings after round 12 - Masters


All games - Masters


Donchenko secures Challengers’ title

By the end of round 8, Alexander Donchenko had grabbed the sole lead in the Challengers tournament. A loss against Erwin l’Ami followed, allowing Mustafa Yilmaz to leapfrog him in the standings. Since then, however, the German grandmaster had a remarkable run of three consecutive wins, which granted him tournament victory with a round to spare.

Despite only being one point ahead of Yilmaz, even if the Turkish champion wins and Donchenko loses, the first tiebreak criterion would give the latter overall first place — the Russian-born GM beat Yilmaz in their round-7 direct encounter.

Meanwhile, Javokhir Sindarov remains in sole third place, a half point behind Yilmaz. Further back, Velimir Ivic and Adhiban are sharing the fourth spot in the standings, with 7 points.

Javokhir Sindarov

Javokhir Sindarov | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023


Alexander Donchenko will be invited to next year’s Masters tournament | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Standings after round 12 - Challengers


All games - 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.