Tata Steel Chess R9: Eventful round leaves four players tied for first

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/24/2024 – Five games ended decisively, all favouring the player who had the white pieces, in round 9 of the Tata Steel Masters. Praggnanandhaa R. and Nodirbek Abdusattorov scored victories and joined the 4-player leading pack, which also includes Gukesh D. and Anish Giri. Former co-leader Alireza Firouzja, on his part, was defeated by Alexander Donchenko. Firouzja is now one of three players standing a half point behind the leaders. In the Challengers, Marc’Andria Maurizzi remains atop the standings after beating Divya Deshmukh. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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Pragg, Abdusattorov join the lead

As usual, the programme of the Tata Steel Masters included a “Chess on Tour” day, when the players travel to a nearby city to play their games in front of a different audience. This year, the participants made their way to The Hague and played round 9 of the event at the AFAS Circustheater, a musical theatre refurbished in 1991.

It was an eventful round, which again led to significant changes in the standings, as four players are now sharing first place with +2 scores. With four rounds to go, there are no clear favourites to take the title, with six players standing at a 1½-point distance (or less) from the frontrunners.

Going into the ninth round, Anish Giri, Gukesh D. and Alireza Firouzja were sharing the lead. Giri and Gukesh drew their games, allowing Praggnanandhaa R. and Nodirbek Abdusattorov to catch them in the standings thanks to their victories over Ju Wenjun and Jorden van Foreest, respectively. Firouzja, on his part, played a fifth consecutive decisive game, as he was defeated by Alexander Donchenko in a tactical 35-move encounter.

Wins were also obtained by Wei Yi (over Ian Nepomniachtchi) and by Parham Maghsoodloo (over Max Warmerdam). Warmerdam’s loss was particularly painful, as he went from having a winning position to giving up his advantage to blundering into a good-looking endgame trick which cost him the game.

The results left three players standing a half point behind the leaders: Wei, Firouzja and Vidit Gujrathi. Given Firouzja’s up-and-down performance so far (4 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses), it is noteworthy that he has yet to face three of the current co-leaders.

In Wednesday’s tenth round, the French-Iranian grandmaster will face Giri with the white piece, while Vidit — another member of the chasing pack — will also face a co-leader, as he will play white against Praggnanandhaa.

Results - Round 9

Tata Steel Chess 2024

The Masters at the AFAS Circustheater in The Hague | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Praggnanandhaa 1 - 0 Ju

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Praggnanandhaa, Ju Wenjun

Praggnanandhaa R. remains undefeated in the tournament | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Abdusattorov 1 - 0 Van Foreest

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Nodirbek Abdusattorov

Nodirbek Abdusattorov | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Maghsoodloo 1 - 0 Warmerdam

Analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Max Warmerdam, Parham Maghsoodloo

A painful loss for Max Warmerdam, a first win for Parham Maghsoodloo | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Standings after round 9

All games

Challengers: Maurizzi grabs fifth win, leads

While no player has collected more than 5½ points so far in the Masters, Marc’Andria Maurizzi, the current world junior champion, is leading the standings in the Challengers with 6½ points, i.e. a +4 score. Maurizzi grabbed his fifth win of the event by beating Divya Deshmukh on Tuesday (the Challengers continued playing in Wijk aan Zee).

Standing in sole second place a half point behind 16-year-old Maurizzi is 17-year-old Leon Luke Mendonca, who scored a third consecutive win in round 9. Mendonca, like the leader, has grabbed five wins so far in the event — but, of course, the Indian has lost twice while Maurizzi has suffered a single defeat. Maurizzi and Mendonca drew their direct encounter in round 2.

Sharing third place a half point further back are Erwin l’Ami, Anton Korobov and Daniel Dardha. Both Korobov and Dardha collected full points on Tuesday.

Results - Round 9

Leon Luke Mendonca

Leon Luke Mendonca | Photo: Jeroen van den Belt

Maurizzi beat Divya in fine positional style. The Frenchman gained an outside passer early in the middlegame, and elegantly converted his strategic advantage into a 51-move win.

Engines already give White more than a 2-point edge, despite the material balance. After 31.Rxa3, with a discovered attack, 31...Rbb8 32.Rxa8 Rxa8 33.a4, it is all but impossible for Black to deal with the outside passed pawn without making major concessions.

As it turned out, the a-pawn only reached the fifth rank, but all the tempi employed by Divya to deal with the passer allowed White to decisively activate his king.

Resignation came in this position, after 51.Kd6.

Marc'Andria Maurizzi

Marc’Andria Maurizzi | Photo: Tata Steel Chess Tournament / Lennart Ootes

The main prize in the Challengers is a spot in next year’s Masters section. Maurizzi, the current favourite to gain that spot, is set to face Eline Roebers with white in round 10.

Roebers, who currently stands in last place, played the King’s Gambit against Liam Vrolijk, got a slight edge, and blundered away the game on move 30.

White went for 30.Qg4 here, allowing 30...Qxd1 31.fxe6 Qxf1 — and Roebers resigned.

Perhaps the reigning Dutch women’s champion thought she had a winning attack here. After all, she had a bit over a minute to make 11 moves after having successfully played one of the most entertaining (yet highly risky) openings in chess.

Roebers has yet to sign a draw in the event!

Eline Roebers

Eline Roebers | Photo: Jeroen van den Belt

Standings after round 9

All games

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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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