Tata Steel Chess R8: Carlsen beats Caruana

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/23/2023 – Nodirbek Abdusattorov continues to lead the Tata Steel Masters going into the second rest day of the event. The number of players chasing him a point back has been reduced from four to two, though, as Praggnanandhaa and Fabiano Caruana lost their games on Sunday. Notably, Caruana was defeated by Magnus Carlsen, who recovered from his losses in rounds 4 and 5 by scoring back-to-back wins over the weekend. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

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In the hunt

Consecutive losses in rounds 4 and 5 greatly diminished the chances of Magnus Carlsen grabbing a ninth title at the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee. Only three days later, however, such a development does not seem as unlikely, as the world champion clinched back-to-back victories over Richard Rapport and Fabiano Caruana over the weekend. Carlsen has a plus-one score (4½/8 points), which leaves him 1½ points behind sole leader Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

In round 8, Abdusattorov drew his game with white against Levon Aronian, and saw two of his closest chasers falling behind — Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, who lost to Rapport, and Caruana no longer stand a full point behind the leader in shared second place.

Going into the second rest day of the event, only Anish Giri and Wesley So have one point less than the Uzbek grandmaster. While Giri signed a draw from what commentators considered to be a better position against Vincent Keymer, So agreed to split the point with Ding Liren in a dead-drawn rook ending.

Besides Carlsen and Rapport, Jorden van Foreest and Dommaraju Gukesh also collected full points in Sunday’s round 8. For three of the four winners of the day (all of them except Carlsen), this was their maiden win in this edition — for Gukesh, his first one overall (of many, surely) at the traditional event!

Richard Rapport

Richard Rapport | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Caruana’s blunder

Two fighting players, Caruana and Carlsen entered a complex Anti-Marshall and soon found themselves needing to make tough decisions. Caruana, who had the white pieces and spent close to 50 minutes on moves 15-19, blundered decisively on move 22.

 

22.Bc2 removed the bishop from a crucial diagonal, as it allowed 22...Qd5, and all tactical motifs in the position favour Black. For example, after 23.Re2, as seen in the game, there is 23...Rb4 and there is no way to save the d4-pawn — that pawn falling will further highlight the white king’s vulnerability.

 

A 10-minute reflection by Caruana was followed by 24.Kh2, one of the few sad-looking continuations that prevent an immediate collapse of White’s position, as the dark-squared bishop on f8 will be freed to join the party. All obvious defensive attempts fail: 24.Rd2 does nothing since 24...Rxd4 would still be playable, while 24.Bf2 allows mate on g2.

Star commentator Peter Svidler considered the position to be resignable at this point already, but Caruana continued playing until move 32, when he finally conceded defeat.

Tata Steel Chess 2023

The playing hall | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Gukesh’s first win in Wijk aan Zee

Caruana’s round-7 rival Parham Maghsoodloo apparently suffered the consequences of playing a 7-hour marathon on Saturday as well. The Iranian also faltered in a dynamically balanced position while facing the ever-dangerous Gukesh.

 

White has a dangerous passer on the a-file, but Black has enough compensation thanks to the strong initiative around his opponent’s king. After Gukesh’s 42.Qe5+, though, Maghsoodloo was not careful enough — the players had received 50 extra minutes a few moves ago — and responded with the losing 42...Kg6, when placing the king on f8 or g8 was the way to go (in fact, 42...f6 is also good for Black).

The text move allowed 43.g4, kicking the knight away. What Maghsoodloo probably missed is that 43...Ng3+ fails rather impressively to 44.Qxg3 Qxg3 45.Be4+, with a discovered attack against the queen on g3.

 

This is why the king had to escape to a different square in the first diagrammed position.

In the game, Black’s pieces lost coordination, and Gukesh swiftly converted his advantage into a win, his first at the historic Dutch coastal city.

Dommaraju Gukesh

Dommaraju Gukesh | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Standings after round 8 - Masters

 

All games - Masters

 
 

Yilmaz beats Sindarov in Challengers’ crucial matchup

For the first time in this year’s tournament, more games finished decisively in the Masters than in the Challengers. While four GMs left the playing hall with full points to their names in the main event, ‘only’ three participants of the ‘B group’ managed to score wins: Mustafa Yilmaz, Velimir Ivic and Adhiban.

The results of round 8 left Yilmaz and Ivic sharing second place a half point behind sole leader Alexander Donchenko, who drew Abhimanyu Mishra with the black pieces. Importantly, while Ivic defeated tail-ender Jergus Pechac, Yilmaz recovered from his loss against Donchenko by beating an in-form Javokhir Sindarov, who entered the round in sole second place.

With five rounds to go, 3 out of 14 players remain undefeated in the Challengers: Donchenko, Ivic and Thomas Beerdsen. The latter drew Erwin l’Ami with black on Sunday.

Velimir Ivic

Velimir Ivic | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

In Yilmaz v Sindarov, the Uzbek GM went for a spectacular-looking sacrifice while in a worse position. Yilmaz had no trouble refuting it.

 

After 24...Rxh2, there are a number of moves that work for White — 25.Ba3 and 25.Bf4, for example — but Yilmaz found the first engine line in 25.f4, attacking yet another of Black’s pieces. Sindarov tried 25...Rxg2+, but his attack turned out to be rather artificial.

Yilmaz continued to find strong moves until resignation came on move 38.

Mustafa Yilmaz

Mustafa Yilmaz | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Standings after round 8 - Challengers

 

All games - Challengers

 
 

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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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