Tata Steel Chess R7: Abdusattorov and Gukesh score, catch Giri in the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/21/2024 – The standings in both the Masters and Challengers were shaken up in round 7 of the Tata Steel Chess Festival. In the Masters, Nodirbek Abdusattorov defeated former sole leader Anish Giri and is now tied for first place — both with Giri and with Gukesh D., who scored a third consecutive victory on Saturday. In the Challengers, Saleh Salem took the lead after beating Eline Roebers and seeing former leader Erwin l’Ami losing to Jaime Santos. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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The same frontrunners from 2023

Last year, Nodirbek Abdusattorov entered the final round of the Tata Steel Masters as the sole leader, with a half-point advantage over Anish Giri and a full-point advantage over Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So. The Uzbek star lost to Jorden van Foreest in the final round, though, allowing Giri to overtake him in the final standings thanks to his victory over Richard Rapport.

Now, after beating Giri in round 7 (they drew their direct encounter in 2023), Abdusattorov is sharing the lead with the defending champion and with Gukesh D., who collected three wins in a row to recover from his consecutive losses in rounds 3 and 4.

Giri tried (and managed) to surprise his opponent in the opening, going for the Petroff Defence. Abdusattorov, however, reacted excellently, entering the sideline with 5.c4, which turned the tables in the theoretical struggle — according to the eventual winner of the game, Giri apparently forgot some of his preparation in this line.

Abdusattorov got to push his c-pawn to the fourth rank again, with 34.c4, showing great technique to convert his positional advantage.

After 34...bxc4 35.bxc5 dxc5 36.Rxd7+ Kxd7 37.Kc3 Kc6 38.Kxc4, White gets a clearly superior minor-piece endgame.

The pawn structure favours the knight, while the outside passed pawn is a headache for Black. Abdusattorov patiently improved his position until getting a crucial 60-move win. (Find below full analysis of the game by GM Karsten Müller).

Anish Giri, Nodirbek Abdusattorov

The opening phase of the all-important confrontation between Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Anish Giri | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Sharing the lead with Giri and Abdusattorov is Gukesh, who has played six consecutive decisive games in Wijk aan Zee. After drawing Abdusattorov in the first round, he won four times and lost twice to go into round 8 tied for first place with 4½/7 points. The prodigy from Chennai has collected three wins in a row following the rest day.

In round 7, Gukesh got the better of Max Warmerdam with the white pieces. Warmerdam, a student of economics at Tilburg University, prepared a long theoretical line which involved a pawn sacrifice.

At this point, after White’s 23rd move, the queens had just left the board, leading to a technical position in which only Gukesh could fight for a win. Remarkably, though, Warmerdam had 1 hour and 40 minutes on his clock to Gukesh’s 18 minutes!

In the end, Warmerdam’s strategy backfired, as Gukesh managed to outplay him and convert his extra pawn into a 66-move win — despite the major time disadvantage.

Max Warmerdam, Gukesh

Gukesh climbed to shared first place after winning three games in a row | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

With six rounds to go, the three co-leaders stand a half point ahead of a 3-player chasing pack consisting of Alireza Firouzja, Vidit Gujrathi and Praggnanandha R.

In another crucial game for the standings, Vidit defeated Firouzja with white on Saturday. Firouzja sacrificed a minor piece for an attack, but saw his opponent finding a number of strong tactical recourses amid a double-edged position. After winning the 42-move encounter, Vidit reflected jokingly:

I told myself, a win is like two draws, so it’s better than a draw.

With this statement, Vidit was indirectly referring to the fact that he came from drawing his first six games of the event.

Results - Round 7

Vidit Gujrathi

Vidit Gujrathi beat Alireza Firouzja | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Abdusattorov 1 - 0 Giri

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Anish Giri

Anish Giri | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Video analysis by IM Robert Ris

Standings after round 7

All games

Challengers: Salem takes the lead

Similarly to the Masters, the standings table in the Challengers was shaken up in the seventh round. Former sole leader Erwin l’Ami lost his first game of the event and saw Saleh Salem beating Eline Roebers to take the lead with 5/7 points.

Both Salem and Roebers came from scoring two consecutive wins. By move 26, the Emirati grandmaster had a better position with black — and Roebers decided to go for a tactical line that only made matters worse for her.

26.Ne4, preparing a discovered check, looks nice at first but fails to 26...dxe4 27.d5+ f6 28.dxc6 — and the deciding 28...Nxg2

The queen is twice attacked on e3, and Black emerged with a clear material advantage after 29.Qxe4 Nxe1 30.Rxe1 Rae8. Roebers resigned.

Eline Roebers, Saleh Salem

Eline Roebers and Saleh Salem | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Three more players scored full points in round 7:

  • Jaime Santos, who showed great positional understanding and inflicted a first defeat on former sole leader Erwin l’Ami.
  • Divya Deshmukh, who collected her second victory of the event by beating Liam Vrolijk with the white pieces.
  • Leon Luke Mendonca, who defeated Stefan Beukema (expert analysis by GM Karsten Müller is presented below).

Standing a half point behind sole leader Salem are L’Ami, Anton Korobov and Marc’Andria Maurizzi, with Santos and Mendonca standing a half point further back.

Results - Round 7

Mendonca 1 - 0 Beukema

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Tata Steel Chess 2024

Chess fans of all ages | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Standings after round 7

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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