Tata Steel Chess R4: Giri leads, Pragg takes down Ding

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/17/2024 – Anish Giri scored a second consecutive win to become the sole leader at the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee. The defending champion defeated Gukesh D. with the white pieces. Two more games ended decisively in round 4: Wei Yi beat Parham Maghsoodloo, while Praggnanadhaa R. got the better of Ding Liren — Pragg had also beat Ding in the 2023 edition. In the Challengers, Hans Niemann, Anton Korobov and Erwin l’Ami are sharing the lead after winning their games on Tuesday. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

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History repeats itself

Almost exactly a year ago, on 17 January 2023, Praggnanandhaa R. defeated Ding Liren with black in round 4 of the Tata Steel Masters. Now, in the 2024 edition, Pragg repeated the feat — again with black, and again in round 4. Back then, the Indian prodigy had not yet surpassed the 2700-rating mark, while Ding had not yet become world champion. Pragg’s victory now left him as the highest-rated junior player in the world, with a 2748.3 live rating!

Another coincidence with the 2023 edition is that Anish Giri had also scored a full point in the fourth round — notably, on that occasion the Dutchman defeated Magnus Carlsen for a second time in his career (in classical chess). This time around, Giri defeated Gukesh D. and became the sole leader with a remarkable 3½/4 score.

Standing a half point behind Giri is Alireza Firouzja, who drew Nodirbek Abdusattorov with the white pieces. Abdusattorov is one of four players standing a half point further back, as he is sharing third place with Praggnanandhaa, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Wei Yi.

Wei also grabbed a full point on Tuesday — playing white, he inflicted a third consecutive loss on Parham Maghsoodloo. Nepomniachtchi, on his part, escaped with a draw in a double-edged encounter against Alexander Donchenko.

After the first rest day of the event, the fifth round will see Giri playing black against Pragg and Firouzja facing women’s world champion Ju Wenjun, also with the black pieces.

Results - Round 4

Anish Giri

Both the defending champion and the sole leader — Anish Giri | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Pragg: “It’s always special”

Despite this being Pragg’s first-ever win over a world champion in classical chess, the young man from Chennai did not change his usual unpretentious attitude in the post-game interview with Fiona Steil-Antoni. Pragg explained:

I think any day if you beat such a strong player it’s always special. Because it’s not very easy to beat them. [...] That feels good.

Similarly to what transpired in his 2023 win over Ding, Pragg again showed good endgame technique to take down the world champion.

This was the position that Pragg converted into a victory in the previous edition. After a few hiccups, the then 17-year-old obtained the full point after move 73.

Pragg was now a (backward) pawn up, and there were no rooks left on the board when the time control was reached. The conversion was smoother and the game ended after move 62.

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Nepo escapes

The most eye-catching tactical sequence of the round was seen in the game between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alexander Donchenko. Out of a Sicilian Najdorf, Nepo got a slightly favourable position with kings castled on opposite sides. However, the 2-time winner of the Candidates overlooked a tactical shot on move 28.

Black had just played 27...Rc8, attacking the queen, to which Nepo replied by 28.Qxb4 allowing 28...Rxc2+ 29.Kxc2 Rc8+ (28.Qb5 was the way to go). Despite being a rook down, Black has a strong attack with his coordinated rook, bishop and queen.

Engines do not evaluate the position as winning after the rook check from c8, though — but after Nepo erred with 30.Nc3, there came 30...Qf3 and Donchenko seemed to be en route to getting a remarkable win.

There is nothing better than 31.Rd3 here, giving back the rook (on h1). However, beating a player as resourceful as Nepo is never easy, especially in a position as open and double-edged as this one.

A single misstep by Donchenko later led to a 56-move draw. In the post-game interview, the German grandmaster confessed that he was actually relieved not to have lost the game in the ensuing complications. Chess is hard!

Alexander Donchenko

Alexander Donchenko | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 4

All games

Challengers: Niemann, Korobov and L’Ami lead

Five games ended decisively in the Challengers, with three of the former co-leaders getting wins to remain at the top of the standings. Hans Niemann, Anton Korobov and Erwin l’Ami are now sharing first place each with 3/4 points.

Niemann beat Divya Deshmukh with the white pieces. He got a major space advantage and a strong initiative on the kingside. A couple of imprecisions gave some hopes to Divya, but White’s attack came through in the end.

48.Nxf6 is the only winning move here, and Niemann, the highest-rated player in the event, went for it after merely around 2 minutes. The US star had a 30-minute advantage on the clock as well.

Hans Niemann

Hans Niemann | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Results - Round 4

Santos 1 - 0 Roebers

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Eline Roebers

Eline Roebers has struggled in the first four rounds of the event | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 4

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.