Tata Steel Chess R6: Giri misses win, remains sole leader

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/20/2024 – Defending champion Anish Giri remains the sole leader of the Tata Steel Masters after six rounds. The Dutchman could have increased his lead, though, as he failed to convert an advantageous position against Parham Maghsoodloo on Friday. Standing a half point back is Alireza Firouzja, who bounced back from his round-5 loss by beating Wei Yi with white. In the Challegers, Erwin l’Ami escaped with a draw in his game against second-placed Anton Korobov to keep the sole lead. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

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Firouzja, Gukesh and Warmerdam score

After suffering a preventable defeat in round 5, Alireza Firouzja bounced immediately back by scoring a 46-move win over Wei Yi. Firouzja is again a mere half point behind sole leader Anish Giri. The two frontrunners are set to face each other in round 10, on Wednesday.

Wei took a risky approach with the black pieces, and found himself a pawn down in a queenless middlegame. His knight jump on move 28 only made things easier for Firouzja.

28...Ng6, intending to place the knight on the strong f4-outpost next, looks positionally sound, but after 29.Rd1, pinning the bishop, White gets a couple of tempi to push his pawn to b4 and continue making progress.

Instead, defending actively with 28...Rb8 29.Rc5 f6 forces White to find a way to break through while keeping the knight centralized. However, even in this line it is likely that Firouzja would have put his opponent under heavy pressure in the ensuing struggle.

In the game, a patient and precise conversion by the French representative led to Wei’s resignation in the following position.

The white king has made its way to the active a5-square, and there is no defence for Black in the long run. 1-0.

Alireza Firouzja

The ever-stylish Alireza Firouzja | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Firouzja would have remained a full point behind Giri had the defending champion made the most of his advantageous position against an out-of-form Parham Maghsoodloo.

At this point, Giri had over 3 minutes to Maghsoodloo’s 1 with three moves to go before reaching the time control. The leader of the standings went for 38.Qxg3 Qxg3+ 39.Kxf3 Rxg6+ 40.Kf4, simplifying into a rook endgame a pawn up — one that engines evaluate as defendable for Black.

And indeed, Maghsoodloo, who lost three games in a row in rounds 2-4, went on to save the half point in what turned out to be a 63-move encounter.

However, in the diagrammed position, Giri could have kept his advantage with 38.Qf6, when trading queens would leave White two pawns to the good in the rook endgame. All remaining, playable variations are losing for Black — e.g. 38...Rxg6 39.Qh8+ Kb7 40.Rf7+ Ka6 41.Qc8+ Kb5 42.Rf5+ Kxb4 43.a3+

As demonstrated by this variation, White’s queen and rook coordinate marvellously against the unprotected black king, while a few of the sidelines lead to winning endgames for White. A big miss for Giri, who for the most part has been playing great chess throughout the event!

Tata Steel Chess 2024

A crowded hall in Wijk aan Zee | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Besides Firouzja, Gukesh D. and Max Warmerdam also collected wins in round 6. Gukesh scored a second consecutive win by taking down Jorden van Foreest with the black pieces (analysed below by GM Karsten Müller), while Warmerdam grabbed his second victory of the event in his game with white against Alexander Donchenko.

Both Gukesh and Warmerdam stand now a full point behind the leader with 3½/6 scores. Sharing third place with them are Praggnanandhaa R. and Nodirbek Abdusattorov. Remarkably, Warmerdam, at 23, is the oldest player in this group.

Saturday’s seventh round will see Giri facing Abdusattorov with black, while Firouzja will also have the black pieces, against Vidit (who has signed six draws so far in Wijk aan Zee).

Results - Round 6

Max Warmerdam

Max Warmerdam | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Van Foreest 0 - 1 Gukesh

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Standings after round 6

All games

Challengers: L’Ami escapes, Roebers grabs second win in a row

Yet another exciting round in the Challengers surprisingly ended with Erwin l’Ami still as the sole leader in the standings. The Dutch grandmaster confessed to have been “dead lost” in his game with black against second-placed Anton Korobov.

Korobov had vastly outplayed his experienced colleague out of a Petroff Defence, and here, two moves after the time control, he went for 42.Raa7, when the more patient (but very natural) 42.Kc5 is clearly better.

Doubling the rooks at once did not give up the advantage, but allowed L’Ami to simplify into a position with rook, bishop and two extra pawns against two rooks.

This position is still clearly winning for White, but is not as straightforward as it had been earlier in the game.

More imprecisions by Korobov slowly led to a balanced position, which was only agreed drawn after 109 moves! “I just don’t know what happened”, L’Ami confessed afterwards.

Erwin l'Ami

Erwin l’Ami | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Meanwhile, Eline Roebers scored a second consecutive win after having started the event with four losses in a row before the first rest day. Moreover, Roebers got to beat the two top seeds in rounds 5 and 6, as she got the better of Hans Niemann and Mustafa Yilmaz, respectively.

The game against Yilmaz was a completely wild King’s Indian, which saw the engines’ evaluation changing numerous times throughout the struggle. Roebers found many nice tactical recourses, and later told Fiona Steil-Antoni:

FS: Would you say that attacking chess is your biggest strength?

ER: Yeah, it’s what I like most, and I guess what I trained the most. [...] I really enjoyed [the game] even when I thought I was worse (smiles).

Four more games ended decisively in the Challengers on Friday, with Saleh Salem and Marc’Andria Maurizzi grabbing full points to join Korobov in shared second place. Liam Vrolijk and Harika Dronavalli also collected wins.

Results - Round 6

Eline Roebers

Eline Roebers | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 6

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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