Tata Steel Chess R2: Firouzja leads with 2 out of 2

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/15/2024 – Alireza Firouzja became the first sole leader in this year’s Tata Steel Masters after beating Parham Maghsoodloo with white in the second round — the Frenchman is the only player who started the event with back-to-back victories. Gukesh D. and Max Warmerdam also grabbed wins on Sunday. Meanwhile, in the Challengers, five players are sharing first place with 1½/2 points. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

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Firouzja, Gukesh and Warmerdam score

Alireza Firouzja made headlines throughout December, as he attempted to qualify to the 2024 Candidates via rating. The 20-year-old played a couple of tournaments he would not have played under different circumstances to overtake Wesley So in the FIDE ratings list for January. In the end, his 7/7 performance in an open event in Rouen granted him the right to play in the Candidates set to take place in Toronto in April.

Following his perfect showing in the aforementioned open, he continued his winning streak at the first super-tournament of the year. Firouzja beat Jorden van Foreest and Parham Maghsoodloo in the inaugural two rounds of the Tata Steel Masters to become the first sole leader of the event.

Talking to Fiona Steil-Antoni after beating Maghsoodloo’s Berlin Defence, Firouzja referred to his last-minute (successful) attempt to gain rating points in a small event:

It felt a bit unfortunate because in the [previous] Elo lists I had more rating than everyone. [The open in Rouen] was a difficult tournament, one of the most difficult tournaments I have ever played because I could not make one draw, so I was very happy to finally make it.

When asked about whether he was paying attention to the negative criticism on social media regarding his participation in these events, Firouzja responded:

I didn’t care. I knew that I was doing the right thing to try my chances. [...] I get a lot of these kinds of things all my life, so I’m kind of used to it.

With his two wins in Wijk aan Zee, Firouzja now stands over 10 points ahead of So in the live ratings list. In Monday’s third round, the French representative will face Max Warmerdam with the black pieces.

Firouzja was not the only player to score a full point in round 2, as Gukesh and Warmerdam grabbed their first wins of the event in their games against Wei Yi and Jorden van Foreest, respectively. Gukesh came from drawing Nodirbek Abdusattorov in the first round, while Warmerdam had lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi on opening day.

While Gukesh needed 33 moves to beat Wei in what was a very sharp struggle, Warmerdam made the most of Van Foreest’s run of bad form at the outset of the event — the 2021 champion lost twice with the white pieces after misplaying endgame positions he would usually handle proficiently.

As for the remaining four games, perhaps the biggest highlight was Ju Wenjun defending a slightly inferior endgame against Nepomniachtchi. Curiously, for a second day in a row, the women’s world champion played the longest game of the round, with both encounters lasting exactly 80 moves (find analysis of her draw against Nepo below).

Ju is set to face Van Foreest with the white pieces on Monday.

Results - Round 2

Alexander Donchenko

Alexander Donchenko held world champion Ding Liren to a draw | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Firouzja 1 - 0 Maghsoodloo

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Parham Maghsoodloo

Parham Maghsoodloo | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Nepomniachtchi ½ - ½ Ju

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Ju Wenjun

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

Expert video analysis by IM Robert Ris

Standings after round 2

All games

Challengers: Five co-leaders, Beukema gets attacking win

Round 2 saw two games ending decisively in the Challengers. Anton Korobov bounced back from his loss against Saleh Salem by beating Divya Deshmukh, while Stefan Beukema grabbed his first win of the event by defeating Eline Roebers in attacking fashion.

34.Rxf5 was played after a bit over a minute of reflection. Beukema had already foreseen that the line is winning by force — there followed 34...gxf5 35.Qxf5 e6 36.dxe6 Nh8 37.Bh6 Ra8 38.Qg4+ Bg7, and the other rook (on the f-file) joined the attack decisively with 39.Rf7

Tactics favour the player with the better coordinated pieces. After 39...Rxf7 40.exf7+ Qxf7, the light-squared bishop finally made its appearance: 41.Bc4 was followed by Roebers’ resignation. A fine win by the Belgian IM!

Beukema is now one of five co-leaders with 1½/2 points each. He is sharing the lead with Hans Niemann, Saleh Salem, Jaime Santos and Leon Luke Mendonca.

Results - Round 2

Stefan Beukema, Eline Roebers

Stefan Beukema and Eline Roebers | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Vrolijk ½ - ½ L’Ami

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Liam Vrolijk, Erwin l'Ami

Liam Vrolijk failed to make the most of his advantage against Erwin l’Ami | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Standings after round 2

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.
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