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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