Reports Jan 13, 2020 | 5:47 PMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 3: Firouzja leads as Carlsen ties streak

16-year-old Alireza Firouzja is the sole leader of the 2020 Tata Steel Masters on 2.5/3 after easing to victory over Vladislav Artemiev in Round 3. Fabiano Caruana picked up his first win by defeating Yu Yangyi, while Jorden van Foreest made it two Sicilian Alapins, two wins by beating Daniil Dubov. Magnus Carlsen lived dangerously, but with a draw against Jeffery Xiong has now matched the 110-game unbeaten streak of Sergei Tiviakov. He can set a new record when he plays Jorden with Black in Round 4.

16-year-old Alireza Firouzja is the sole leader of his first supertournament | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

You can replay all the games and check out the pairings from the Tata Steel Masters using the selector below:

And here's the day's live commentary from Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson:

Firouzja on fire

Players who are destined to dominate the chess world come along very rarely. Since Garry Kasparov exploded onto the scene in the early 80s you might say that only future World Champions Vladimir Kramnik and Magnus Carlsen have looked to be world beaters before the age of 20 (though there are other candidates such as Vassily Ivanchuk, Vishy Anand and yes, Gata Kamsky). Some players have flattered to deceive, like Wei Yi, while we still don’t know where the ceiling will be for the likes of Praggnanandhaa and Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

Right now, however, 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja has already climbed to a 2732.7 rating and the world no. 22 spot, and though he may of course go on to plateau out it feels as though he’s just warming up. Magnus Carlsen didn’t win a game at the same age in his debut in the top group in Wijk aan Zee, while Firouzja has now won two of his first three, and has every right to be disappointed:

I could have gone even better! I was winning yesterday [against Duda], but ok, I will take it, of course.

In Round 3 he faced 21-year-old Russian Vladislav Artemiev, a chess talent many feel has been held back by a lack of top-notch opening preparation. This game seemed to provide more evidence for that, as Artemiev’s Caro-Kann left him a cramped, uncomfortable position. He’d brought his queen out to b6 with the threat of capturing on b2, but then failed to follow through with that threat, which after 15.Qd2 was no longer an option:


Vladislav here retreated his queen with 15…Qd8 (he would later capture the h4-pawn) while Alireza was able to implement a plan after which he felt he was “much better”: 16.Nd1, 17.Ne3, 18.Nxf5. He soon went on to open up the position with the e6-break and was simply winning, with the young Iranian hyper-alert to tactical details:


32.Qh4! exploited the pin of the black rook to the queen, while after 32…Qd5 33.Re8+ Rf8 34.Qe7 Nd7 35.Bc2! Qxd4 there was a chance to finish in style!


Peter Svidler spotted almost instantly that White can play 36.Qe6+! Kh8 37.Qf5!! and the threat of mate on h7 and the attack on the f8-rook would have left Artemiev with no real choice but to resign immediately.

In the game Vladislav Artemiev tried to convince himself he wasn't sinking...

Instead Alireza quickly played 36.Rxf8+ Nxf8 37.Bb3+, which was completely winning and would have been just as good a choice if the players had been competing at internet blitz. It had the huge disadvantage at this time control, however, that Vladislav Artemiev was able to play on to an ending with a couple of pawns for a bishop:


And here, in this lost position, Vladislav spent a staggering 37 minutes and 53 seconds before finally playing 49…Ke6 50.Kg4 a5 51.Kxh4, when the white bishop easily dealt with the queenside pawns while the g-pawn advanced. Jan Gustafsson pointed out that long games are not ideal in the Tata Steel Masters since, “the Wijk is long and full of terrors!”

Wins for Fabiano Caruana and Jorden van Foreest

Two losses in three games so far for Yu Yangyi | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The usually solid Chinese player Yu Yangyi has had a tough start to Wijk aan Zee, now losing two of his first three games. In Round 3 he played a Petroff against Fabiano Caruana and gave up a pawn for active pieces and play against the white king. It seemed close to equality, but Yu Yangyi went astray in time trouble and was losing by force when the dust had settled:


41.Rd7! Re7 (there’s no choice) 42.Qg5+! Kf7 43.Rxe7+! Qxe7 44.Qxe7+ Kxe7 45.gxf5 and the pawn ending is won for White. The Chinese player resigned three moves later.

Magnus Carlsen, Nihal Sarin and Alireza Firouzja take a look at the opening of Van Foreest-Dubov | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

20-year-old Jorden van Foreest came straight back from his loss in Round 2 to win another game with the Sicilian Alapin (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 in this case, or 2.c3 immediately). Jorden has clearly done his homework and labelled Daniil Dubov’s 16…Qd7 a mistake:


I got my preparation on the board. His move Qd7 is not supposed to be good, even though many people play it. At least that’s what I think. I didn’t know how or why it was bad, I just remembered 17.Rd1 and then I think I played a bunch of only moves. It looked kind of tricky at first, but then when the dust settled I had a very promising position and some crazy things happened, but I think I had it more or less under control, if I’m not mistaken.

The “crazy things” were a lot of fun, with the following position arising after 32…Re4:


White could simply move the queen, but why do that when you can play the much more enjoyable 33.c6! instead! Daniil’s hopes lay in a desperate attack, with Jorden commenting, “My king is under fire so the evaluation doesn’t matter – I just have to calculate I’m not getting mated.” He wasn’t, and Dubov threw in the towel, two rooks down, on move 47.

So Jorden had defeated Magnus Carlsen’s second before he takes on Magnus himself, again with the white pieces, in Round 4. Will we get the Alapin again? There’s going to be a huge amount at stake…

Magnus Carlsen matches Tiviakov’s streak

19-year-old Jeffery Xiong described his draw against the World Champion as "a very satisfying result" | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

For the first time in this year’s Wijk aan Zee Magnus Carlsen got a real game, but that was almost the end of the good news for the Norwegian against Jeffery Xiong. Magnus commented afterwards:

The Semi-Tarrasch has proven to be solid, but I wanted to try this new idea trying h5, g4, to take space. The problem is that positions like this are very difficult to play when you have this open king. In theory it kind of looks nice with the space and everything, but it’s easy to go astray and I feel like that’s what I did.  

This was the position where things began to go awry:


21.Kh2!? was described by Magnus as “a weak move” after it was met by Jeffery Xiong’s reply 21…Qd6+!. Carlsen admitted his mistake with 22.Kg1 and after 22…Na5!, “very, very strong” according to Magnus, he sank into a 36-minute think before going for 23.Bd3 Rxc1 24.Rxc1 Nc6 25.Bb5:

Magnus himself explained:

At that point it was about damage limitation, so I chose to go for an ending hoping I could make a draw there, and fortunately I managed.

After 25…Nxd4 26.Qxd4 Qxd4 27.Nxd4 Rxd4 Black had an extra pawn, but it’s not clear that Jeffery missed any winning chances before the game ended in a draw. A close shave for Magnus, but the streak is intact:

White applied pressure in the remaining three draws, with Kovalev-Duda and Vitiugov-So ending logically in positions where both sides had exhausted their options.

Vishy Anand could have pressed for more against Anish Giri | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The same couldn’t be said for Anand-Giri, where Anish Giri’s draw offer after 21…Qd3!? proved to be inspired:


The computer gives White a more than one-pawn advantage in this messy position, but Vishy, who had lost the day before, eventually took a draw. Anish explained his draw offer:

I guess he was shocked by my offer and took it. I actually didn’t offer a draw for him to agree, I offered a draw to change the course of the game a little bit, because I thought I’m surviving the position already but I was feeling way too uncomfortable and I spent way too much time and I just needed a break, so I thought ok, I’ll offer a draw, he’ll take some time to think, he’ll start to doubt a little bit, then I will calm down, I will look at the position, I’ll calculate and then I’ll eventually survive, but yeah, he took it, which was a short cut, which was nice!

That means that after three rounds we have 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja out in front, with the US trio of Jeffery Xiong, Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana joined by Jorden van Foreest in joint second place:


Meanwhile in the Challengers there’s still a 5-way tie for first after that rarest of outcomes in Wijk aan Zee – draws in all games in Round 3! 

Round 4 is the last round before the first rest day, and there’s a lot to look forward to. Alireza faces one of his biggest challenges yet as he takes on Wesley So with the black pieces, while Magnus Carlsen has a potential date with chess history. 

Can Jorden succeed where Giri failed and spoil Carlsen's life? | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

He can finally set his own undisputed unbeaten record if he avoids defeat to Jorden van Foreest in Round 4. He has the black pieces and may have good memories – a year ago he started Wijk with four draws and then scored the first of five wins with Black against Jorden. Back then we got to see some of Carlsen’s leftover World Championship preparation in the Sveshnikov – will Magnus now show us how to play the Alapin? 

If you Go Premium during Tata Steel Chess you can take advantage of one of the offers above! 

Follow all the action live here on chess24 from 13:30 CET: Tata Steel Masters | Tata Steel Challengers

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