Tata Steel Chess R11: Abdusattorov leads, Wei and Vidit score brilliant wins

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/27/2024 – A magnificent round of chess saw Nodirbek Abdusattorov beating Ju Wenjun to become the sole leader at the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee. Standing in sole second place is Gukesh D., who failed to find a couple of tactical shots that would have granted him a full point against Alireza Firouzja. Four players are sharing third place, including Wei Yi and Vidit Gujrathi, who obtained remarkable wins on Friday. In the Challengers, Marc’Andria Maurizzi grabbed a fourth consecutive win and remains a full point ahead of Leon Luke Mendonca. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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As sharp as it gets

There was no shortage of razor-sharp chess in round 11 of the Tata Steel Masters. After the third (and last) rest day, the participants returned to the playing hall in Wijk aan Zee ready to fight. All three decisive games featured eye-catching tactical shots, while the crucial matchup facing Gukesh D. and Alireza Firouzja was also sharp but ended in a draw.

At the end of the day, Nodirbek Abdusattorov emerged as the sole leader after beating Ju Wenjun with the white pieces. Last year, the 19-year-old from Tashkent had also entered the final two rounds in the sole lead, standing a half point ahead of Anish Giri. This time around, it is Gukesh who stands at a half-point distance in sole second place.

Against Ju, Abdusattorov played what he later described as a “dubious” novelty. He explained that he wanted to “freestyle it a bit” in this game.

7.c4 looks strange, but at the very least it had the women’s world champion thinking from the early stages of the game. Ju soon chose an imprecise plan, giving the initiative to her rival.

When Ju played her 22nd move, she had 37 minutes to Abdusattorov’s 1 hour and 10 minutes. Moreover, her 22...Qc7 allowed White to give up his knight for a strong attack.

Abdusattorov realized tactics should work for him in this position, and after thinking for around 10 minutes played the strong 23.Nxf7. Black must grab the knight with 23...Kxf7, leaving both her bishop on b7 and her knight on e6 pinned.

White’s conversion was not perfect, but defending this position with Black was all but impossible with the clock dangerously ticking down.

With the king in the centre, Abdusattorov was looking for ways to checkmate his opponent, and he had little trouble finding the good-looking 28.Nd5

Black cannot capture the bishop with 28...Qxe6 due to 29.Nc7+, while the knight on d5 prevents the queen from defending along the e5-a8 diagonal. After 28...Bd8, Abdusattorov played the cold-blooded 29.h3 — dealing with potential back rank issues — and went on to grab the full point five moves later.

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Wei and Vidit go for it!

The remaining two decisive games of the day were nothing short of spectacular, especially Wei Yi’s victory over Max Warmerdam. By move 8, Wei had only 40 minutes to Warmerdam’s 55 — and the white rook on h1 was about to fall!

There followed 9.Qe2 Nh1, and the commentators pointed out that this felt like a 19th century battle — they were totally right!

Jaideep Unudurti pointed out on X:

Wei Yi doesn’t play for rating or tournament results but just to gather material for his Best Games collection.

The 24-year-old from Yancheng went on to get a remarkable 27-move victory (analysed below by GM Karsten Müller), and later noted that this was one of his most interesting games in the last five years. Indeed, this is not his first spectacular victory — find here another inspiring brilliancy by the Chinese star!

Wei Yi

Wei Yi | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Vidit, on his part, saw the ever-fighting Parham Maghsoodloo entering a line that forced White to place the king on e2 early in the game.

Engines consider that White has a small edge after 14.Ke2, but playing with the initiative is surely preferable for human beings.

An inspired Vidit continued to find precise manoeuvres while keeping an advantage on the clock. By move 21, he already had the upper hand — and got to play what he described as “one of the best moves I’ve ever played”.

White had just captured a knight on f6, as after 21...gxf6 22.Qc3 it is Black who needs to be careful due to the vulnerable position of his king. Vidit noticed he was not forced to capture the rook, though — the elegant 21...Qe7 is the way to keep Black’s advantage, since the white rook is short of squares to escape.

There followed 21...Bxg7 22.Kxg7 Rf5 23.Rd8, and Vidit continued to make progress until his opponent resigned the game on move 37.

Vidit Gujrathi

Vidit Gujrathi | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Results - Round 11

Wei 1 - 0 Warmerdam

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Wei Yi, Max Warmerdam

Praggnanandhaa, who drew Alexander Donchenko with white, following the game of the day (of the tournament?) | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Standings after round 11

All games

Challengers: Maurizzi wins fourth game in a row

While five players remain at a 1-point distance or less from the leader in the Masters, the fight for first in the Challengers has become a two-horse race, with Marc’Andria Maurizzi the clear favourite to take the title.

Maurizzi scored his fourth consecutive win (his seventh overall) to keep his full-point lead over Leon Luke Mendonca, who also won on Friday. Both frontrunners scored with white — Maurizzi got the better of Liam Vrolijk, while Mendonca defeated Liam Vrolijk.

These were only two of the six games that ended decisively in round 11. Top seed Hans Niemann was one of the winners, as he got to play a great-looking final move in his game with black against Stefan Beukema.

33...Qxe2+ was followed by Beukema’s resignation — 34.Kxe2 Bxf4+ 35.Rd2 Rdxd2+ 36.Ke1 Bxg3+ 37.Kf1 Rd1# is one of the winning lines!

Niemann is sharing fifth place with Saleh Salem and Anton Korobov, two points behind Maurizzi with two rounds to go.

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Results - Round 11

Harika 0 - 1 Salem

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Saleh Salem, Harika Dronavalli

Saleh Salem defeated Harika Dronavalli with the black peices | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Standings after round 11

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.