Tata Steel Chess R12: Five co-leaders after Vidit beats Abdusattorov

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/28/2024 – Five out of seven games ended decisively in the penultimate round of the Tata Steel Masters, leaving five players tied for first place going into the last day of action. Vidit Gujrathi defeated former sole leader Nodirbek Abdusattorov to create the exciting scenario for Sunday. Vidit and Abdusattorov are joined by Gukesh D., Wei Yi and Anish Giri in the lead. Similarly, in the Challengers, Leon Luke Mendonca caught former sole leader Marc’Andria Maurizzi atop the standings. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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Long live classical chess

A few weeks ago, we published an article by philosopher Rune Vik-Hansen titled Long live classical chess. The Norwegian thinker argued in favour of the traditional version of the royal game, noting, among other things:

One could only imagine the chase after ever shorter chess games transferred to other areas, say philosophy or music: ‘Squeeze in as many notes as possible per second, irrespective of quality’.

[...] What about chess heritage? Are rapid games the ones that spring to mind when we remember players and tournaments, places visited, where we went out, what we talked about? What do we want to leave to future generations?

As the 86th edition (!) of the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee is coming to an end, these reflections help us put things in perspective. A few years from now, we are likely to remember highlights from what has been a fighting, entertaining event — despite games often lasting more than six hours.

GM Maurice Ashley pointed out the non-innovative concept that the organizers continue to employ to create such memorable competitions — i.e. a good selection of players:

The 2024 Tata Steel Masters has been extraordinary! Incredible fighting chess with lots of wins virtually every round. Tomorrow will feature five players tied for first going for gold. Kudos to the organizers for choosing a great mix of vets and young hungry talents.

Given the massive success of this and previous editions, it is clear that rating should not be the only factor considered when setting up an elite tournament. Every January we witness the fact that strong chess players are willing to risk rating points in classical games under the right circumstances — and that classical chess is by no means dead.

Jeroen van den Berg

Jeroen van den Berg (holding the microphone) is the Director of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Going into the penultimate round of the Masters, Nodirbek Abdusattorov had a half-point lead over Gukesh D., while four players stood a half point behind Gukesh in shared third place. In an incredible turn of events, five decisive results on Saturday left five players tied for first with one round to go.

  • Vidit Gujrathi, who was trailing the leader by a full point, beat Abdusattorov with the white pieces after gaining a pawn in the middlegame and patiently converting his advantage into a 77-move victory.
  • Anish Giri only needed 24 moves to beat Jorden van Foreest with the black pieces, thus joining the lead.
  • Wei Yi showed great technique to defeat women’s world champion Ju Wenjun, and also climbed to shared first place.

The fifth player who will enter the final round as a co-leader is Gukesh, who agreed to draw his game against Praggnanandhaa via a threefold repetition from a completely winning position after reaching the time control with only seconds on his clock.

Vidit not only obtained the most important win of the day, but also climbed to the 10th spot in the live ratings list and became India’s highest-rated player, surpassing Vishy Anand.

Granted, this is a highly volatile spot, since there is only a 14-point difference between Vidit (India’s number 1) and Gukesh (India’s number 5) in the ratings list. However, this small feat might be greatly motivating for the 29-year-old, who for a few years saw his younger colleagues climbing the rating ladder while he struggled to make progress rating-wise.

Vidit, Pragg and Gukesh will all be fighting for the right to face Ding Liren in the next World Championship match at the Candidates Tournament in Toronto.

Results - Round 12

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

Nodirbek Abdusattorov following Praggnanandhaa’s game during round 12 | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

If there is a tie for first place after the final round, blitz games will decide the champion, following the rules set in the tiebreak system created in 2022. Importantly, all tied players will participate in the blitz playoff, which might include sudden-death games, with the following time controls:

  • The time control of the tiebreak games for both players is 3 minutes with 2-second increments per move.
  • The time control of the ‘sudden death’ tiebreak games is 2½ minutes for white and 3 minutes for black, with 2-second increments per move.

One of the seven games on Sunday will see a clash of co-leaders (Wei v. Vidit), while Giri will have the nominally easiest pairing, as he will face 2625-rated Max Warmerdam with the white pieces (Warmerdam has lost his last four games in Wijk).

Pairings - Round 13

2743 Praggnanandhaa, R - Firouzja, Alireza 2759
2740 Maghsoodloo, Parham - Gukesh, D 2725
2727 Abdusattorov, Nodirbek - Donchenko, Alexander 2643
2740 Wei, Yi - Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 2742
2780 Ding, Liren - Ju, Wenjun 2549
2749 Giri, Anish - Warmerdam, Max 2625
2769 Nepomniachtchi, Ian - Van Foreest, Jorden 2682

Ding Liren

World champion Ding Liren will face women’s world champion Ju Wenjun in Sunday’s final round | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

The crucial game of the day was a marathon that lasted more than six hours. Vidit gained a pawn in the middlegame after Abdusattorov faltered with 11...Bc4. The position was simplified into the following endgame by move 25.

Vidit was critical of his technique to convert this into a win, as he needed to keep going until move 77 before his opponent resigned the game.

Wei also needed to show good technique to take down his compatriot Ju. The conversion did not take as long though, as Wei found a nice exchange sacrifice to end the game.

39...Rxb4 prompted Ju’s resignation — 40.Rxb4 would allow a mate-in-three: 40...Rxa2+ 41.Rxb2 Rxb2+ 42.Ke1 Re2#

Wei Yi, Ju Wenjun

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

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Robert Ris took an in-depth look at the time trouble drama seen in the all-Indian battle between Gukesh and Praggnanandhaa. Had Gukesh made the most of his winning position, he would have gone into the final round as the sole leader!

Firouzja 1 - 0 Nepomniachtchi

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alireza Firouzja

Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alireza Firouzja sharing a laugh | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Van Foreest 0 - 1 Giri

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Anish Giri, Erwin l'Ami

Anish Giri alongside his long-time second Erwin l’Ami — both Dutchmen have chances to take first place in the Masters and the Challengers, respectivel| Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Standings after round 12

All games

Challengers: Mendonca catches Maurizzi

Much like Abdusattorov in the Masters, the former sole leader in the Challengers lost on Saturday, creating a more suspenseful scenario for the final round. Marc’Andria Maurizzi lost with white against Daniel Dardha, which allowed Leon Luke Mendonca to catch up with him atop the standings after beating Saleh Salem with black.

Standing a half point behind the co-leaders are Dardha and Erwin l’Ami. In the deciding round, L’Ami will have the white pieces against Maurizzi, Mendonca will play white against Divya Deshmukh, while Dardha will also play white, against Liam Vrolijk.

Dardha is the only player to remain undefeated in the Challengers.

Daniel Dardha

Daniel Dardha | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Mendonca’s victory over Salem featured an entertaining tactical struggle with kings castled on opposite flanks.

Salem’s 31.Nxh6 is correct, opening up the black king’s position. After 31...gxh6 32.Qf5, though, Mendonca counted with 32...Kg7, escaping. At this point, Salem had around 5 minutes to Mendonca’s 3.

With so little time on the clock, Salem made a couple of inaccuracies, letting go of the delicate, dynamic balance that emerged after his knight sacrifice. By move 43, the black king had made its way to the queenside, and it was already apparent that White did not have enough counterplay for the sacrificed piece.

Salem tried to open lines on the queenside via c2-c3 later on, but the black knight proved to be an excellent defender in the ensuing setup.

In the end, White’s desperate attempts to get counterplay allowed Black to assemble a deadly attack, and Salem threw in the towel on move 55.

Leon Luke Mendonca

Leon Luke Mendonca | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Results - Round 12

Standings after round 12

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.