Tata Steel Chess R1: Nepo, Wei, Giri and Firouzja score with black

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/14/2024 – The much-anticipated Tata Steel Masters kicked off on Saturday in Wijk aan Zee. A lively first round saw four players scoring full points, all with the black pieces — Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alireza Firouzja, Anish Giri and Wei Yi are sharing the lead after the first day of action. The Challengers also saw four players grabbing wins right off the bat. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

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 lively start

The last time Magnus Carlsen did not travel to Wijk aan Zee in January was in 2014 (before that, his previous absence goes back to 2003). The Norwegian has won the main event a record eight times, but decided not to play this year. Despite his non-attendance, though, the organizers have once again managed to put together a very attractive lineup in the Masters.

Besides the presence of world champion Ding Liren, who did not participate in any rated classical tournaments since May last year, the elite tournament counts with a number of combative, ambitious players — including five GMs that will participate in the Candidates Tournament in April: Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alireza Firouzja, Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, Vidit Gujrathi and Dommaraju Gukesh.

Notably, women’s world champion Ju Wenjun also accepted the invitation to play in the Masters, which means we will get to see a battle between the two current world champions: Ding will play white against Ju in the final round.

Tarjei J. Svensen asked on X how many times this encounter of champions has been seen in the past, with @OnTheQueenside (most likely) giving the correct answer:

  • Menchik v. Alekhine (5x: 1932, 1933, 1938, 1938, 1939)
  • Gaprindashvili v. Spassky (1971)
  • Hou Yifan v. Carlsen (2015)

Ju Wenjun

Ju Wenjun | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

The first round of the event lived up to the hype, with four players grabbing wins, all with the black pieces.

  • Ian Nepomniachtchi needed 29 moves to take down Max Warmerdam after the Dutch GM underestimated his opponent’s attacking chances on the kingside.
  • Alireza Firouzja got the better of 2021 champion Jorden van Foreest in 37 moves. Van Foreest faltered in a tricky endgame with rooks and minor pieces (*).
  • Wei Yi, who had played the event for the last time in 2018, defeated the winner of last year’s Challengers tournament, Alexander Donchenko.
  • Defending champion Anish Giri beat Ju Wenjun in the longest game of the day (*).

(*) Game analysed by GM Karsten Müller below.

Van Foreest 0 - 1 Firouzja

Game analysis by Robert Ris

Alireza Firouzja

Alireza Firouzja | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Ju 0 - 1 Giri

Anish Giri

Anish Giri — trying to remember his preparation? | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

All games

Challengers: Four winners on opening day

Much like in the Masters, an exciting round in the Challengers saw four players getting off to winning starts. The rating favourite in this event is the ever-ambitious Hans Niemann, who recently gave an interview for Belgian newspaper De Standaard. Olimpiu Di Luppi translated an excerpt from the interview and shared it on X:

What’s the point of wanting to be second? I am only satisfied with success. I don’t play chess to become famous, but to win. Colleagues who are content with being in the top 10, therefore, do not progress and do not become world champions.

Niemann beat Liam Vrolijk with the white pieces on Saturday, which means he is now sharing first place with Saleh Salem, Jaime Santos and Leon Luke Mendonca.

Game analysis by Robert Ris

Jaime Santos

Jaime Santos | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Salem emerged victorious from a sharp, tactical struggle against Anton Korobov. The Emirati grandmaster got to finish the game in style.

52.Rxf8+ is the classiest winning move for White here. Importantly, getting rid of the bishop creates a back rank weakness that eventually led to Black’s defeat.

There followed 52...Rxf8 53.exd5 Qf1+ 54.Kb2 Qh3 55.f4 Qxh5 and resignation came after the good-looking 56.Qc8

The queen cannot defend the rook from f5 nor give a check from e5. Game over.

Anton Korobov

Anton Korobov | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

All games


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.
Discussion and Feedback Submit your feedback to the editors