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Reports Jan 26, 2019 | 10:12 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 2019, 11: Shankland commits hara-Giri

Sam Shankland resigned in a drawn position in Round 11 of the Tata Steel Masters, enabling Anish Giri to catch Magnus Carlsen with only two rounds to go. The other big result for the title race was Ian Nepomniachtchi beating Vladimir Fedoseev to move into clear second place. Vladimir Kramnik finally picked up his first win of the event against Jorden van Foreest, but Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is still winless and has plummeted out of the 2800 club and dropped to world no. 5 after losing to Vidit with the white pieces.

Look away now, kids! | photo: Alina l'Ami, official website

We got four decisive games in the Tata Steel Masters as the 13-round event entered the final weekend:

Jan and Peter were once again our hosts for the full six hours:

Go Premium to watch Jan and Peter live. Now’s a great time to try it out as the voucher code TATA2019 will give you 30% off all subscriptions!

Giri 1-0 Shankland: Did you resign?

A game that was going nowhere became the sensation of the round after Anish Giri played 45.b6 “with a stone cold face”…


…and Sam Shankland immediately resigned what it turns out was a drawn position. Giri commented:

It was quite peculiar, because initially the endgame was of course equal, I didn’t think I’m playing for anything, and then he blundered into this position, and from his body language I realised he thinks he’s lost. But I thought it was a draw, so it was very difficult for me to behave, because on the one hand I wanted to think about the position and try to figure out if there is still a chance without going b6, but on the other hand I realised that there is probably none, and I thought after b6 he thinks he’s lost, so ok, I decided to give it a shot, and with a stone cold face I go b6, and then he extends his hand. Ok, I shake it, and to be sure ask, "did you resign?" He says, "yes".

Giri was asked what Sam had missed:

He had a hallucination, because he thought that since the king doesn’t get back to a8 it is not a draw, but there are many studies based on this trick. As long as you provoke b6 the king can stay on c8 and it’s a draw as well. He had a hallucination of some sort – it can happen. But it’s quite funny that the only way for him to lose is to resign, because if he wouldn’t have resigned I wouldn’t have been able to break through. Maybe Magnus Carlsen would, but I wouldn’t be able to!

There’s no-one better to take us through the game than Peter Svidler, not just because he’s the best chess commentator out there, but because he knows exactly how it feels, having resigned a drawn endgame against Vladimir Kramnik in Wijk aan Zee in 2004. Peter comments:

A nice psychological calculation by Anish… but obviously a very heart-breaking experience for Sam, one with which I’m quite intimately familiar, having resigned in drawn positions. Mainly the one game where I resigned in a completely drawn position was in Wijk, though I have done some other silly things as well. I have offered draws in winning positions. I know just how horrible of a feeling this is and I feel for Sam. This will be a very bitter pill to swallow for him.

Some World Championship Challengers were watching!

It was as if Giri knew how the day was going to pan out | photo: Alina l'Ami, official website

The result of the game was good news for the tournament, since Giri is now neck-and-neck with Magnus Carlsen after the World Champion’s game against Teimour Radjabov, a Sveshnikov Sicilian with 7.Bg5, ended in a draw by repetition on move 25. Magnus said he’d checked out Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan’s new book Game Changer:

I skimmed through the book yesterday – it was quite an inspiration and I was thinking at several points during the game, “how would AlphaZero have approached this”, but then I thought, AlphaZero would have played f5-f4 and then very slowly tried to go g6 h5, and then I realised I’m not AlphaZero and made a draw!

Giri has White against Carlsen in Sunday’s final round, which is now guaranteed to have the title at stake whatever happens in the penultimate round. Time for more trashtalking...

Magnus said he’s not afraid of me, so now I’m really depressed and I don’t know what to do with myself!


Nepomniachtchi 1-0 Fedoseev: Survival

Nepomniachtchi may not be feeling great, but he's just half a point off the lead with two rounds to go | photo: Alina l'Ami, official website

For most of the round it looked as though the main story was going to be Ian Nepomniachtchi bouncing back from his loss to Jorden the day before to beat Vladimir Fedoseev and close the gap to Magnus to half a point. Nepo felt he was helped by Fedoseev being out for blood himself and playing the Caro-Kann, an opening he was unfamiliar with, so that a rare 5th move already had Vladimir thinking. Nepo commented that after 15.f4! his position “is already much better and it’s easy to play”:


White went on to win a pawn, but then gave that back in strange circumstances, with Ian admitting his play, “was very far from some excellence”. Fedoseev missed the chance to equalise, however, and Nepo pulled off an important win. He claimed not to be thinking so much about that, though:

I’m fighting for 90% of the tournament with some cold, so for me it’s a question of survival not winning the tournament…The main part is to survive!

Kramnik 1-0 Van Foreest: Better late than never

For a while, at least, this was more like the Vladimir Kramnik of old. He bamboozled young Jorden van Foreest with obscure opening moves (6.Qe1?! had been seen only 3 times before) that paid off when he was able to plant a knight on g6 for a crushing position:


Now was the chance to salvage something from the tournament by playing a brilliancy with 20.Nh8!!, or better 20.Nxd6! Qxd6 21.Nh8!! when White can follow up with Rf3-h3 and there’s no defence for Black. Kramnik said afterwards that he saw that, but he simply felt his position was so winning that there was no need to complicate matters. However, after 20.Rf3!? Nxg6 21.fxg6 hxg6 22.Qxg6 Nxc4 23.bxc4 Qc8! there was no immediate knockout blow. Kramnik commented:

Today I think I played another bad game, but finally managed to win. The position was basically simply winning after some 20 moves and I made some absolutely ridiculous things and I had to try and win a slightly better endgame.

At some points he even seems to have been worse, but 49…Be8?, instead of exchanging bishops, was a losing mistake from the Dutchman:


After 50.Be6!, with the threat of Bd5+, Kramnik was able to play 51.Kg4 and defend the h-pawn, which ultimate queened and brought home victory. So Vladimir had won a game and can now hope to get out of last place before the tournament ends, but his ambitions aren’t too lofty for now:

Here I’m completely out of mind and I just cannot manage to play one decent game in a row.

Mamedyarov 0-1 Vidit: Out of the 2800 club

It's a shock to see Mamedyarov struggling after what seems like a couple of years of unbroken success | photo: Alina l'Ami, official website

After Round 11 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has now lost more rating points in Wijk than Kramnik (23.4 compared to 23) and is the only player without a win. Given the obviously poor form of the Azeri no. 1 it looks to have been a clever choice by Vidit to go for a “very complicated” opening line where his opponent would be, “a pawn down, so he has to prove compensation”. At his best Mamedyarov might well have risen to that challenge, but instead he cracked when he grabbed a pawn on b5:


20…Bxe4! was a heavy blow Shak seems to have missed, with the point being that 21.Rxe4? fails to 21…Qc6!, forking the two white rooks. From there on White’s position was in tatters, and another blunder allowed Vidit to power to a 30-move win – a nice follow-up to crushing Kramnik the day before, and some revenge after losing all three games to Mamedyarov in the recent Tata Steel India Rapid & Blitz.

That result meant Vidit is comfortably back in the 2700 club (gaining 14.6 points in Wijk), but more significantly Mamedyarov has dropped out of the 2800 club, plummeting to 2793.6 and dropping below Giri (2797) to become the world no. 5. The biggest beneficiary of that outcome is Ding Liren, whose 16-move draw against Richard Rapport left him 20 points ahead of his closest rival in the race for the one 2020 Candidates Tournament place to be decided by rating.

Dramatic changes at the top of the rating list | source: 2700chess

The remaining result was a 31-move draw in Anand-Duda, with Jan-Krzysztof Duda doing well to defuse his formidable opponent’s pressure in a Petroff Defence. 

A good draw for Duda before facing Carlsen and Ding Liren in his last two games | photo: Alina l'Ami, official website 

That leaves the standings as follows with just two rounds to go:


Kovalev makes his move

Kovalev and Carlsen are leading their respective tournaments | photo: Alina l'Ami, official website

Vladislav Kovalev now looks to be the favourite to qualify from the Challengers for the 2020 Tata Steel Masters after giving mate on the board against World Junior Champion Parham Maghsoodloo in Round 11:

He’s now the co-leader with Maksim Chigaev, and his remaining two games are against outsiders Elisabeth Paehtz and Stefan Kuipers. There are no guarantees, however, as Paehtz showed by having Evgeny Bareev on the ropes:


She would have been winning after 28…Be6!, but instead, low on time, she forced a draw with 28…Rxg2 29.Kxg2 Qxe2+ 30.Kh1 Qf3+. If leaders Kovalev and Chigaev slip up, 16-year-old Andrey Esipenko is poised only half a point behind.

Elisabeth Paehtz had a great chance to beat Evgeny Bareev | photo: Alina l'Ami, official website

In Saturday’s penultimate round of the Masters all eyes will be on Carlsen-Duda and Radjabov-Giri, while Ding Liren-Anand and Shankland-Nepomniachtchi will also be crucial for the standings before the final round. Tune in to live commentary with Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler from about 13:20 onwards!

See also:


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