Reports Jan 14, 2020 | 5:34 PMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 4: Magnus Carlsen sets 111-game record

World Champion Magnus Carlsen has surpassed Sergei Tiviakov to set a new record of 111 classical games unbeaten after surviving a real test at the hands of Jorden van Foreest. The other big story of Round 4 of the 2020 Tata Steel Masters was Wesley So taking down Alireza Firouzja in a technical ending to leapfrog the 16-year-old into the sole lead. Artemiev won the battle of the Vladislavs against Kovalev to go into Wednesday's rest day just half a point behind the leader.

Things almost went badly wrong at the very last moment but Magnus Carlsen now indisputably has the longest classical unbeaten streak in top-level chess history | 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:

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Magnus Carlsen breaks another record

Since losing to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the Biel Chess Festival on 31st July 2018, Magnus Carlsen has now gone 111 classical games, and 532 days, without losing a game of classical chess. His draw against Jorden van Foreest in Round 4 of the Tata Steel Masters means that we no longer need to have the discussion of whether Sergei Tiviakov’s 110-game streak, against significantly weaker opposition, is comparable (it turns out Garry Kasparov, 64 games, and Matthew Sadler, 76, could be added to the list below):

Magnus himself had previously noted that for him his streak was two games shorter, since he’d played two opponents rated far below him in the Norwegian League, but since Tiviakov had also played similar opponents no-one else was making that distinction. In the post-game interview Magnus agreed:

I’m all for that too, so I consider my streak against elite opposition is 109, and against good opposition is 111, so both are a record and I’m happy about that!

The way Magnus finally got across the line wasn’t what we’ve grown accustomed to, with the World Champion significantly worse in three of his four games so far in Wijk aan Zee this year, although as he commented:

It’s going ok, I’m saving bad positions every game – what’s not to like!

Going into the Round 4 clash with Jorden van Foreest the talk was of the Alapin Sicilian with c3 that Jorden had made look like a deadly weapon as he won his first two games with the white pieces:

Peter Svidler has now analysed the game:

If Magnus stuck to the Sicilian he’d been playing almost exclusively against 1.e4 since the start of the match in London we could expect a chance for Jorden to make it three Alapin wins in a row, but instead the World Champion ducked that challenge by playing 1…e5. It was a case of out of the frying pan into the fire, however, as Jorden proved to be ready for Carlsen’s Two Knights Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6) when he blitzed out the rare 10.Nc3!?


Magnus spent 8 minutes over his next two moves, but after 10…0-0 11.Be2 Nf4 he also returned to blitzing: 12.0-0 Bg4 13.d3 Nxe2+ 14.Qxe2 f5 15.h3 Bh5


The World Champion had a confession to make afterwards:

I was in definite trouble. I was trying to bluff him a bit in the opening, and I thought I’m getting these positions with bishops and some initiative for a pawn, and I thought I was not too worried, then he went 16.g4! and I realised that I’m lost… so there you go!

The point is that 16…fxg4 was met not by a recapture but 17.Ng5! and suddenly Black, if not lost, is certainly on the defensive. Jorden’s second Norwegian GM Johan-Sebastian Christiansen confirmed in the chess24 chat that this was all still their home preparation.

Obligatory shot of Giri looking unimpressed by Carlsen's life choices | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Jan Gustafsson’s description of what Magnus was thinking in the 12 minutes he took to respond with 17…Qd7 seems to have been about right!

“I thought a bit like yesterday I’d go for an endgame a pawn down, which is pretty sad,” said Magnus, but once again he made it look easy. Both players agreed that the turning point came when Magnus replied to 28.b3 with 28…Ba3:


After the exchange sacrifice 29.dxc4!! Bxc1 30.Rxc1 Magnus felt he would have been in “huge, huge trouble”. Although he spent only 4 minutes in this position, the idea had also occurred to Jorden:

Of course I saw the idea, but I wasn’t sure how good it was and I thought in the game I had good winning chances also, but in hindsight I should have played it for sure. I thought in the game he had no counterplay and I can just safely push an extra pawn, but I missed this Bc1 idea and then actually I have to be careful to make a draw.

Jorden played 29.Rce1!? cxd3 30.cxd3 a5 31.Rf2?! Bc1! and couldn’t stop the bishop coming to e3. It soon became easy to see scenarios in which Magnus would take over and win, but Jorden did well to steer the game towards a draw. He called it “an amazing feeling” to get to play the World Champion:

Firouzja’s stay at the top is short-lived

Wesley So followed the old wisdom of taking kids into slightly worse endgames | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

We noted that facing Wesley So with Black would be 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja’s toughest challenge yet, and so it proved, though for much of the game it looked as though Alireza had things under control. Wesley had prepared an improvement on move 12 of a game Alireza played against Andrey Esipenko in the recent World Blitz Championship, but despite surprising his young opponent he commented that, “at some point I think he was outplaying me”.

So was full of praise for Firouzja:

Again I’d like to thank the Lord for an amazing win - after a win it’s always my main priority - but it’s clear that Firouzja is the next big talent, he’s probably underrated right now and it’s amazing all the things he does, because he’s only 16 and he’s fighting already with the world’s best.

In the game Wesley thought his opponent had gone astray when he planted his knight on d3, perhaps having missed the power of 32.Bc3!


The knight can go nowhere and will be lost along with the e4-pawn but, as Magnus has been showing us, positions a pawn down can be surprisingly tough to break down. Wesley was given a big helping hand by Alireza’s time trouble, however, with 38…g5? proving to be the final mistake:


39.Kd4!! was the star move of the game, walking into 39…Bb6+, winning the f2-pawn, but enabling the white king to pick up the pawn on a6. It turned out there was no defence against White then playing a4 to create a second passed pawn and win the game.

That victory saw Wesley So leapfrog Firouzja into the sole lead, but Alireza is only half a point behind in second place alongside Xiong, Caruana, Jorden van Foreest and now Vladislav Artemiev, who bounced straight back from his loss to Firouzja to beat Vladislav Kovalev. Artemiev played the sideline 4.Bd2 in the Nimzo-Indian and talks in detail about how that led to his opponent burning up time:

Black already had an uncomfortable position when he finally cracked with 39…Rd8?, allowing what Artemiev described as a “great combination”:


40.Rxe6! fxe6 41.Ne5! (41.Qxg6+ first also works) and there’s no defence. Kovalev resigned after 41…Rf8 42.Qxg6+ Kh8 43.Qh6+ Kg8 44.Ng6


The mating threats are obvious, while if all the pieces are exchanged, e.g. after 44…Qd8 and capturing on f8, the pawn ending is a trivial win for White.

Four more draws

The other games were drawn, but it was only in Yu Yangyi-Anand that there was little to report. Xiong-Caruana and Giri-Vitiugov were interesting double-edged struggles in both chess and psychological terms, with Fabiano and Anish taking us through them afterwards:

Dubov-Duda was only 23 moves long, but that was time for some memorable moves:


Daniil Dubov’s 18.Ba7! here avoided the exchange of bishops and seized control of the b-file, while simply being the kind of move that Svidler said can give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. 

Dubov and Duda were colour-coordinated for Round 4 | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Jan-Krzysztof Duda wasn’t about to miss out on playing as if it was an exhibition, however, and responded 18…Rfd8, walking into the fork 19.f4:


What did he have in mind? 19…Qd6! (19…Qa5 also works) doesn’t lose a piece since after 20.fxg5 Black has 20…Rxa7 21.Rxa7 Qb6+ and wins back the material. An enjoyable skirmish!

That leaves the standings as follows going into the first rest day on Wednesday:


Ganguly out in front

In the Challengers it’s Surya Ganguly who’s the sole leader on 3/4 after winning with a devastating kingside attack against Dinara Saduakassova in Round 4:

There were also wins for 15-year-old Nihal Sarin, who won a rook ending against Max Warmerdam, and top seed David Antón, who gained an overwhelming advantage in the opening against Jan Smeets’ Petroff and then finally took home the full point after letting things slip in the middlegame. 

Top seed David Antón grabbed his first win by beating Jan Smeets | photo: Alina l'Ami,  Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The most memorable clash, however, was perhaps the draw between Lucas van Foreest and Vincent Keymer. A bold piece sacrifice by Lucas was rewarded with a winning position until he played 45.e7? instead of stopping any tricks with 45.c4! (mate-in-18, says our computer!):


15-year-old Keymer pounced with the only moves 45…Rd5+! 46.Ke6 Ba2! 47.Rf8+ Kc7 48.e8=Q Rd8+ 49.Ke5 Rxe8+ 50.Rxe8 and Black was able to hold the position an exchange down.

On Thursday, Carlsen, Caruana and Anand all have White against weaker opposition (Dubov, Van Foreest and Xiong) and will be playing catch-up with So, who has Black against Kovalev. Firouzja-Giri and Duda-Artemiev are more games to watch, with the action moving to a football stadium in Eindhoven. The Masters games will start half an hour later than usual at 14:00 CET:

Follow all the action live here on chess24: Tata Steel Masters | Tata Steel Challengers

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