Tata Steel Chess R3: Giri joins Firouzja in the lead, Ding beats Gukesh

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/16/2024 – Defending champion Anish Giri joined Alireza Firouzja in the lead of the Tata Steel Masters after beating Alexander Donchenko with the black pieces. Full points were also scored by Ding Liren, Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Jorden van Foreest — all three grabbed their first wins of the event. In the Challengers, six players are sharing first place with 2/3 points following a round that saw five out of seven games ending decisively. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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Four decisive results

Anish Giri is once again well positioned to fight for first place in his home tournament. Giri has played in the Masters section of the event every year since 2011. Five times he got second place before finally grabbing his first title in Wijk aan Zee last year, when a final-round win over Richard Rapport somewhat unexpectedly granted him outright victory.

Now, after beating Alexander Donchenko with black in Monday’s round 3, the 29-year-old is sharing the lead with Alireza Firouzja. Giri played a theoretical-yet-unorthodox line, in which Black voluntarily places his knight on d8.

What Giri described as ‘a funny knight’ looks bad on the back rank, but the Dutchman was excellently prepared and knew that the minor piece is actually quite flexible from that spot, as it could jump to b7 or f7 in the future (or to e6, like in the game, under the right circumstances).

Another key factor in these situations is that the player who goes for the unorthodox line usually gets a major advantage on the clock. By move 33, when Black already had a positional edge, Giri had 30 minutes to Donchenko’s 7.

In this critical position, Donchenko correctly played 34.e4 — but faltered after 34...a5, when 35.Ne3 was called for and he chose 35.Qd3 instead.

The German grandmaster, who won the Challengers tournament last year, cracked under (time) pressure. Giri’s opening strategy worked wonders, as his opponent threw in the towel seven moves later.

Alexander Donchenko

The champions of the 2023 Masters and Challengers about to face each other — Alexander Donchenko and Anish Giri | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

While Giri had also scored a full point in the first round, the three other winners of the day grabbed their first wins of the event on Monday. All four decisive games favoured the player marshalling the black pieces.

  • Ding Liren beat Dommaraju Gukesh in 37 moves after the Indian ace misplayed a dynamically balanced yet tricky middlegame position (watch Robert Ris’ video analysis of the game below).
  • Jorden van Foreest bounced back from his two consecutive losses (both with white) with a victory over women’s world champion Ju Wenjun.
  • Nodirbek Abdusattorov played a risky line and inflicted a second consecutive loss on Parham Maghsoodloo.

Much like Giri, Abdusattorov surprised his opponent with a rather unconventional line. Here Maghsoodloo thought for over 12 minutes before playing 13.Nf2 (rejecting the correct 13.e3), which turned out to be inaccurate.

Abdusattorov was better prepared to navigate the intricacies of the position and went on to make the most of his psychological advantage to get a 34-move win.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov

Nodirbek Abdusattorov | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Results - Round 3

Round 4, the last one before the first rest day, will see Firouzja playing white against Abdusattorov and Giri facing Gukesh, also with white.

Other attractive matchups on Tuesday are Ding v. Praggnanandhaa and Wei v. Maghsoodloo.

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Standings after round 3

All games

Challengers: Six co-leaders on 2/3

No player in the Challengers has managed to go into round 4 with the plus-2 scores obtained by Firouzja and Giri in the Masters. The tournament that grants a spot in next year’s top category has six players sharing first place with 2/3 points: Hans Niemann, Anton Korobov, Saleh Salem, Erwin l’Ami, Leon Luke Mendonca and Marc’Andria Maurizzi.

Out of these six, Korobov, L’Ami and Maurizzi scored full points in round 3.

Korobov’s victory over Eline Roebers was particularly interesting, though perhaps not as interesting as the Ukrainian’s post-game interview conducted by Fiona Steil-Antoni. Among other things, Korobov talked about how to handle his emotions in double-edged positions:

The task is very easy. You have to produce moves in order not to resign immediately — first not to resign and then try to regain some kind of control, and maybe some chances will come. But first, not to resign.

Referring to the differences between preparation in the pre-computer era and now, the charismatic grandmaster noted:

I’m trying to revise my old textbooks, and it’s very tricky to witness, as the modern cloud is nullifying immediately, in one second, the stuff in which you invested maybe half a year.

Besides the aforementioned round-3 winners who joined the lead, two players grabbed their first full points of the event on Monday: Divya Deshmukh, who got the better of Jaime Santos, and Liam Vrolijk, who defeated Turkish grandmaster Mustafa Yilmaz.

Two clashes of co-leaders — which are also ‘battles of generations’ — will be seen in round 4: Korobov v. Maurizzi and Mendonca v. L’Ami.

Results - Round 3

Divya Deshmukh

Divya Deshmukh | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Salem ½ - ½ Niemann

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Hans Niemann

Hans Moke Niemann playing black against Saleh Salem | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Standings after round 3

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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