Tata Steel Chess: Carlsen wins his seventh title

by Aditya Pai
1/28/2019 – Magnus Carlsen won his seventh Tata Steel Chess title after holding a draw against Anish Giri despite all of the latter's attempts to keep the game going. Peace was signed after 30 moves as Anish contented himself with the second place. There was a three-way tie for third between Ian Nepomniachtchi, Ding Liren and Vishy Anand, who all scored 7½/13. In the Challengers, Vladislav Kovalev took the title with a staggering 1½ point margin after beating Stefan Kuipers in the final round. GM MIKHAIL GOLUBEV provided expert analyses of the most exciting games. | Photos: Alina l'Ami / Official site

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Lucky seven

Magnus Carlsen retained his top spot at the conclusion of the thirteenth and final round of the Tata Steel Masters, holding Anish Giri to a draw in a 30-move long game. With this, Carlsen finished clear first scoring an unbeaten 9/13. Anish Giri was a close second at 8½, while Ian Nepomniachtchi, Ding Liren and Viswanathan Anand shared third place at 7½.Magnus Carlsen with his seventh Tata Steel Masters trophy

Going into the final round, only two players had remained with a chance of clinching the title – Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri. For the latter, this was a must-win situation if he was to stake his claim on the title. Magnus was half-a-point ahead of him and a draw would not have been enough to get a seventh Tata Steel title.

“Why a must-win?” Giri had asked Fiona Steil Antoni on Saturday, when she pointed out the tournament situation to him. “I mean, you assume that I want to win the tournament for some reason”, he added, evoking laughter from the audience.  

Needless to say, the Dutch number one was only kidding. In the game, he decided to test the world champ in his favourite Sicilian Sveshnikov. After the fourteenth move, the game had reached the same position as in Carlsen’s eleventh round game against Teimour Radjabov.

Image (right): Carlsen with his seventh Tata Steel trophy | Photo: Alina l'Ami


Giri deviated from Radjabov’s novelty 15.a3 and went for the more known 15.Bg4. After the game, Giri said that he was not expecting Carlsen to repeat the line with 14…Kh8, since he thought Black’s bishop should not go to b7 in the position. Carlsen played 15…Bb7 anyway, though, and reached a balanced position by the 20th move.


The computers evaluated the position to be equal after White gave up the exchange with 20.Rxa6 Bb5 21.Ra7 Bxf1. Giri knew this but he also knew this was a straightforward draw. And therefore, he went 20.Be2.

“He was sitting there so eager to go home that I thought, okay, how can I keep him sitting here?”, Giri said explaining his idea. While he was still worse in the resulting position, the Dutchman said that his only hope was that Magnus would go nuts because of the prolongation of the game, since he really wanted to go home.

Interview with Magnus Carlsen

Giri vs Carlsen annotated by Mikhail Golubev

In the ultimately decisive game for the whole event, Giri vs Carlsen, the Dutch grandmaster went for the opening line of the Sveshnikov Sicilian, which the World Champion had played against Radjabov two rounds earlier. But Giri was not able to create even a shadow of winning chances and should have been satisfied with a draw in the end. Magnus Carlsen has not always performed convincingly in recent years, but after his latest successes, no one should doubt that he is still the world's best player.


While most games of the round ended in draws — including some really short ones — two games concluded decisively. GM Richard Rapport finished the tournament on a high note with his win over Jorden van Foreest in the final round.


The game had gone wrong for Van Foreest very early. In the diagrammed position, Black went 19…Bc6? and allowed Rapport a neat finish with 20.Rxd7 Bxd7 21.Nd5. White’s threat is simply 22.Qc3, after which the g7-knight is lost. Against 21…Qe5 White has 22.Bf4 followed by Qc3 and the knight is doomed.

Richard Rapport talks about his win

Rapport vs Van Foreest annotated by Mikhail Golubev

Sometimes it is hard to explain strong players' poor preparation. The early start of a very difficult final round might be the reason? A really catastrophic preparation by Van Foreest resulted in a quick defeat against Rapport.


Vladimir Kramnik and Sam Shankland played an exciting game in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Following several ups and downs, Shankland, playing Black, gave up a piece for three pawns, two moves before the first time control.


Shankland forced liquidation at this point with 38…cxb5. Kramnik took the bishop, and after 39.Qxd5 Rxd5 40.Rxb6 Black has three pawns for his missing piece. About nine moves later, Kramnik had an opportunity to force a draw.


White could just return his extra piece and call it a day here with 50.Bxa6 followed by 51.Rxb2. But Kramnik ['version 2.0', if you will] decided to continue the game with 50.Ba2 and went on to lose eventually.

Mamedyarov vs Fedoseev and Anand vs Vidit annotated by Mikhail Golubev

The duel which really excited me on the final day turned out to be a rather quick draw between Mamedyarov and Fedoseev — look at the game and you will understand why. Meanwhile, in the game between Indians, Anand vs Vidit, a curious moment was White's refusal to regain the pawn on the 27th move. Afterwards, Vidit could have avoided the repetition of moves and try to play for a win — nothing particularly simple, though.


Click or tap the second game in the list to switch

Final standings - Masters


Round 13 round-up

GM Yannick Pelletier analysed the action from the final round

All Roundup shows

All games - Masters


Kovalev stuns in the Challengers

In the Challengers' group, Vladislav Kovalev won with a stunning 1½ point margin over the rest of the field. Going into the final round, he was a clear favourite to win the event. Not only was he a half point ahead of his nearest rival, he also had the white pieces against Stefan Kuipers, who had struggled with form all through the tournament.

Top three finishers of Tata Steel Challengers

Top three finishers of the Tata Steel Challengers | Photo: Tata Steel

Meanwhile, Andrey Esipenko and Maksim Chigaev — both of whom had a chance to catch up with Kovalev had he drawn — lost their games to Evgeny Bareev and Benjamin Gledura, respectively. But despite their final round losses, both Chigaev and Esipenko retained their joint second spot on the leaderboard, except that they had to share it with one more player who had joined them at 8½/13 — Benjamin Gledura. After the application of tiebreaks, Gledura took second place, Esipenko third and Chigaev fourth.

Final standings - Challengers


All games - Challengers



Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He holds a Master's in English Literature and used to work as an advertising copywriter before joining the ChessBase India team.
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Air Bubble Air Bubble 1/29/2019 10:50
@ Adilson, i agree, Carlsen is the best of his generation, even better than Kramnik and Topolov and Anand...not sure about Kasparov or Karpov...better than Fischer, mm, would be close.

but he is damn good. Hopefully is happy with his life as well.. that's the most important thing in life :)
Adilson Adilson 1/29/2019 01:28
@Jarman: For me, Carlsen is the Fischer of our time, remembering that Fischer said before his death that nowadays chess players are playing very strong chess, so, in my point of view, chess is much different today than it was in Fischer´s time. Maybe Fischer was a lot ahead the players of his period, but let´s remember again, things have changed in chess world.
Jarman Jarman 1/29/2019 12:26
@Adilson: a true Bobby Fischer of our time would have won this tournament with no less than a 2 point margin. Carlsen is the top player despite being unable to win a single classical game against Caruana in their WC match, but he isn't head and shoulders above the rest like Fischer was.
agm agm 1/29/2019 07:25
The people who should really be upset are Kramnik's fellow elite GM's. They are going to lose a lot of rating points soon, when Kramnik resumes playing like 2800 while having a rating of 2750.
mythiclott mythiclott 1/29/2019 12:05
Never ever have I seen poor Kramnik in last place before. He's going to lose a lot of rating points.
Adilson Adilson 1/28/2019 10:47
Carlsen is definetely the Bob Fischer of our time.
badibadibadi badibadibadi 1/28/2019 07:46
It's good that Anand performed well in the same tournament. Kramnik just had a bad tournament (Caruana did have some bad tournament too, and he is very young himself). I think/hope Kramnik will find the motivation now to perform well next, also he had a difficult period between 2003 and 2006, his main struggle is motivation now he is not really aiming for the world title anymore I think.
playd4 playd4 1/28/2019 02:25

Currently Anand is more objective in his evaluations of positions than Kramnik. If he is better he will play for a win. If he is worse he will play for a draw. If the position is equal he does not take wild risks. His opening repertoire is predictable but very well-researched.
Hamsuns Hamsuns 1/28/2019 02:04
Anand becomes 50 this year
Kramnik is 43y old
Ivanchuk becomes 50 soon.
Anand remains on a high level. I just wonder if it is because of a lifestyle and different approach to remaining healthy or fit. I know nothing about their private lives, but Kramnik looks overweight and not so healthy to me, Ivanchuk too. I mention Ivanchuk because I noticed that he is not doing so great in Gibraltar.
This is just a observation from afar - no provocation to fans or call for arguing.
KevinC KevinC 1/28/2019 12:30
I am returning my Kramnik 2.0 as defective.
Jarman Jarman 1/28/2019 10:05
A sad tournament for Kramnik. Not too long ago such a poor result would have been just unthinkable.