Tata Steel Chess R9: Giri beats Ding, Abdusattorov escapes with a draw

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/25/2023 – Nodirbek Abdusattorov grabbed the lead at the Tata Steel Masters in round 5, and has topped the standings ever since. In Tuesday’s round 9, however, he could have been caught by Anish Giri, who got the better of Ding Liren in a sharp encounter. The Dutchman would be now in the shared lead had Vincent Keymer made the most of his advantage against Abdusattorov — the Uzbek defended resourcefully, though, and the game ended in an 89-move draw. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

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Crucial matchups ahead

The race to win the 85th edition of the Tata Steel Masters is heating up. Nodirbek Abdusattorov continues to top the standings, but he no longer has a full-point lead, as Anish Giri closed the gap to half a point with a remarkable victory over Ding Liren in Tuesday’s ninth round. Standing in third place is Wesley So, who signed five draws before getting back-to-back wins in rounds 6 and 7.

While Abdusattorov and Giri are looking to get their first triumphs in the main group of the traditional event (Giri won the ‘B group’ in 2010), So is looking to repeat his success from 2017. Coincidentally, all three players have yet to face the other two in the tournament. We will get to see them paired up against each other in the next three rounds, in fact:

  • Round 10: So v Giri
  • Round 11: Giri v Abdusattorov
  • Round 12: So v Abdusattorov

This does not mean, of course, that these are the only three players who still have chances to win the event. Four players stand a half point behind So in the standings, three of which have already won the tournament in the past — Magnus Carlsen (8 titles), Levon Aronian (4) and Fabiano Caruana (1) are joined by the ambitious Praggnanandhaa on 5/9 points.

Levon Aronian

Still undefeated — Levon Aronian | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Giri was not the only player who grabbed a full point in round 9, though, as Richard Rapport claimed a second consecutive win by beating Arjun Erigaisi with the black pieces. The Romanian grandmaster thus returned to a fifty-percent score, as he had suffered losses against Abdusattorov and Carlsen in previous rounds.

In his first-ever classical game against Carlsen, Dommaraju Gukesh managed to hold the world champion to a draw with the black pieces.

Richard Rapport

Richard Rapport defeated Arjun Erigaisi with the black pieces | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Giri comes out on top after sharp struggle

Ding Liren will face Ian Nepomniachtchi in a match for the World Championship in less than three months. In what is likely to be his last classical tournament before the match, he is holding no punches — perhaps entering lines that he does not expect Nepo to explore in Astana?

Against Giri, he played a Shakh-like novelty.


Curiously, after Ding’s 13.g4 was replied by 13...exf4 the Chinese spent almost half an hour before choosing to push his g-pawn again with 14.g5 (14.exd4 was the alternative).

A sharp battle was all but guaranteed in this line, with White eventually giving up a pawn while retaining some attacking chances. Giri kept things under control in the kingside, though, and it was Ding’s eagerness to keep the initiative what tipped the balance in Black’s favour.


Engines consider that slow improving moves like 28.Qc3 or 28.Rdd1 are best for White here, while Ding’s active 28.Nf4 runs into 28...Bxc4, grabbing a second pawn for Black.

The idea is that after 29.bxc4 Nxc4 30.Qc3 Nxd2 31.Qxd2 Qe5, Black’s rooks, queen and passer on the c-file will prove difficult to handle for White’s queen and minor pieces. The alternative path starting with 29.Rff2, as played in the game, is not much better, though.

Giri continued to find strong outposts for his pieces, while Ding tried to cook up an attack on the kingside. On move 34, the Chinese star decided to go all-in.


After 34.Nf6+, a move both players were surely calculating in every line considered, Giri blitzed out 34...gxf6, knowing all too well that the opening of the g-file (after 35.gxf6) was, in fact, favourable for him.

Three moves later, Ding resigned.

Tata Steel Chess 2023

The playing hall | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Keymer fails to convert his advantage

It has not been a great tournament for Vincent Keymer so far, but in round 9 he was inches away from beating leader Abdusattorov with the white pieces. The German got a small strategic advantage in a materially balanced endgame with a rook and a knight per side.


White has both a better pawn structure and the more active pieces. Keymer, a pupil of Peter Leko, patiently increased his small edge until reaching a winning rook endgame.

But extreme precision was needed to convert the advantage into a win, and Keymer faltered a couple of times in what turned out to be an extremely long struggle. Abdusattorov held his nerve throughout, and in the end was rewarded with an 89-move draw. 

Vincent Keymer

Vincent Keymer | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Standings after round 9 - Masters


All games - Masters


Yilmaz beats Vaishali to retake the lead

While Abdusattorov managed to keep the lead in the Masters, the top of the standings in the Challengers was heavily shaken up by Tuesday’s results.

Former sole leader Alexander Donchenko was defeated by Erwin l’Ami, which allowed Mustafa Yilmaz to retake first place with his victory over Vaishali Rameshbabu. Donchenko is now sharing second place with Velimir Ivic and Javokhir Sindarov — the latter bounced back from his round-8 loss against Yilmaz by beating Abhimanyu Mishra with the white pieces.

Max Warmerdam and Adhiban also won in round 9. In his third game in a row with a decisive result, Adhiban got the better of Eline Roebers with white — before the rest day, the Indian had lost to Jergus Pechac and defeated Luis Paulo Supi in consecutive rounds. On Wednesday, ‘the Beast’ will try to keep his winning streak alive in his game against Yilmaz.

While four players remain undefeated in the Masters, only Ivic has managed to go nine rounds without losing a single game in the Challengers.

Adhiban Baskaran

Adhiban taking a look at the game between Alexander Donchenko and Erwin l’Ami | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

A wild tactical struggle with both kings castled on the queenside saw Yilmaz getting to place a (black) knight on a1 one move before his opponent, Vaishali, resigned the game.


33...Na1 34.Qb6 Rc6, and White resigned.

Mustafa Yilmaz, Vaishali Rameshbabu

Battle of generations — Mustafa Yilmaz playing black against Vaishali Rameshbabu | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit / Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Standings after round 9 - 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.