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Reports Jan 18, 2023 | 12:20 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel Chess 4: Both Carlsen and Ding defeated

Anish Giri called it a “historic moment” as he beat Magnus Carlsen in Wijk aan Zee 12 years to the day after he last won a classical game against Magnus. The day would get even more dramatic as 17-year-old Praggnanandhaa played a stunning endgame to defeat world no. 2 Ding Liren, while Nodirbek Abdusattorov joined Giri in the lead by taking down Parham Maghsoodloo.

"One of them, for sure" said Giri, when asked if this was his greatest win | photo: Lennart Ootes, Tata Steel Chess

The much-anticipated Carlsen-Ding Liren had fizzled out into an early draw the day before, but the same 2800 players would be involved in two sensational games in Round 4.

Anish Giri’s 22-move win over Magnus Carlsen on January 17, 2011 was the stuff of legend. 16-year-old Anish, playing on what had become home soil, defeated the world’s best player in 22 moves, with the black pieces. Looking back exactly 12 years later, after finally beating Magnus again, Anish commented:

I think it’s sort of a historic moment. I’ve beaten him once, but everybody knows it was a little bit lame. He blundered something and I was so small, it was a different person back then.

What followed 2011 was five years in which Anish retained the bragging rights of having a plus score against Magnus, who in the meantime had become the World Champion. That run ended in Bilbao in 2016, and the first win opened the floodgates. Coming into the 2023 Tata Steel Masters, Magnus had a six classical wins to one score against Anish, with 22 draws.

Anish saw signs of hope, however, telling Fiona Steil-Antoni:

It was clearly going to happen sooner or later, because I’m playing very badly against him lately, and every time he ups the level of risk, and it was clear to me that, ok, I kept losing to him, but there might be light at the end of the tunnel, because he’s been taking enormous risks against me just like back when I was a little baby boy. And today I managed to play a good game.

Perhaps Levon Aronian didn't only share fashion tips... | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

The opening was already interesting, with Magnus going for the Queen’s Indian with Ba6, causing Anish to pause for 7 minutes.

It wasn’t that Anish didn’t know the key moves in this position, but he faced an interesting choice. He pointed out that in 2008 he’d prepared what he eventually played, 5.Qc2, to make a draw and gain his 2nd GM norm in the Groningen tournament. That game didn’t provide too much info, however, since it ended 5…Bb4+ 6.Bd2 and a draw, which suited both players, was agreed!

Anish commented of the line he went for:

I realised that in 2009 the engines were so bad, and how could they assess this position? And I was thinking during the game, oh no, but apparently he didn’t look at it either. He kind of bluffed there. I was hoping he would, because that’s why I played this Qc2 thing. I know he’s a little bit on the bluffy side, so I was kind of thinking, maybe he expects 5.Qa4, because it’s a very drawish line and something I would normally do, but what about 11.Qf5, and let’s see if he remembers this one.

Some observers weren’t impressed with Magnus’ choice of opening.

Anish himself later said, “in hindsight I [made] brilliant choices in the opening”, while there was something else that could make Magnus uncomfortable. The opening and early middlegame, all the way up to Giri’s new move 18.Ne5, had been played in a game Magnus himself won as a 17-year-old in 2008 against Yannick Pelletier… except back then he was playing White.

It was a tricky position for Black, but fundamentally nothing had gone wrong until 22…Nd4!? (22…Ne5! keeps things under control.)

The move Giri spotted here, and then said he had to double and triple check to be sure, was 23.b4! It was a move that included a concealed trap, since the most natural move in the world was 23…Rxd7?, as suggested by our commentators, but it turns out that loses almost on the spot to 24.Bd5! Remarkably, that’s just what happened in the game!

Magnus sank into a 29-minute think, perhaps at first trying to find a solution, but then finding none and switching to damage limitation.

It was a tough day at the office for Magnus | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

If Anish was vulnerable it was in the next few moves, and already after 24…Nd6 25.bxc5 bxc5 26.Ba3 Ke7 27.Bxc5!? he admitted to “blundering” 27…Ne6!, while the very human 28.Bb4?!, simply trying to maintain the advantages of his position, was another inaccuracy.

Anish commented:

Later there was a big moment when I messed everything up with this Bxc5 move, because I’m completely winning in multiple ways, and then he should have taken on c3 (28…Bxc3 29.Bxc3), 29…Nf5, and I think it was still very far from easy. I was very annoyed at that point, but he gave me the a-pawn.

On another day Magnus might have found the defence, but as Anish commented:

I didn’t feel the usual Magnus effect, because I felt like he was missing stuff and he was making moves that I thought were weaker than the moves I expected, and that gave me confidence.

The best hope of Carlsen’s 28…a5?! was perhaps to bluff Anish, but the Dutchman calmly took with 29.Bxa5 and made absolutely no mistake for the remainder of the game: 29…Rc8 30.Na4 Nc4 31.Rbc1 Be5 32.Bb4+ Kf6 33.Nc5 Nxc5 34.Rxc4 Rdc7 35.Ba5.

Wherever Black moves the c7-rook, Bb6 will follow, winning the knight. Magnus finally bit the bullet and resigned.

Giri expanded on the theme of it being a historic moment:

It’s always a kind of weird story, because I always tell my story, you know that I beat him at 16 and I’ve never beaten him ever since, and that’s always weird, and I was thinking, I have to beat him at some point. We’re not going to wait until we’re both 50 and we play this match like Timman and Karpov, so I’m really happy that I won. Now it was fair and square.

Or as he put it more succinctly on Twitter:

If Magnus could take any solace from Round 4 it was that he wasn’t the only 2800 player to be toppled.

Praggnanandhaa's win took him within 8 points of a 2700 rating | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

Against Praggnanandhaa world no. 2 Ding Liren continued his experiment of playing 1.e4, but only found himself in an uncomfortable middlegame. He lost control, and by the time control found himself in an endgame with scattered pawns.

Would Pragg really be able to convert such a position into a win against as tough an opponent as Ding, however?

The answer was a resounding yes, as Pragg for long periods played with the precision of a supercomputer as he ground the world championship challenger into dust. You could point out some slip-ups along the way, but overall it was a stunning display of strength from the 17-year-old, who won in 73 moves.

Afterwards Pragg described it as “great” after his disappointment at being unable to convert a good position against Vincent Keymer the day before. He also revealed he plans to play in the rest-day football match, adding, “hopefully my teammates won’t be too upset!”

Another teenager was on fire, with 18-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov catching Anish Giri in the lead by taking down Parham Maghsoodloo.

Just how good is Nodirbek Abdusattorov? | photo: Lennart Ootes, Tata Steel Chess

Nodirbek could have seized a huge advantage with 17.cxd4!, while in the game Parham could have drawn with one sober move in the run-up to the time control.

38…Qe3+! 39.Qxe3 Rxe3 40.Rxc5 Ra3! and Black should hold the rook endgame, but Parham kept queens on with 38…Qh4!?, which his opponent described as “very dangerous for him”.

Parham made the time control without any more incidents, but Nodirbek felt it was “practically impossible to defend” the ensuing position, and sure enough, he soon gained a winning advantage in a heavy-piece endgame. Parham tried every trick, but in the end he decided to fall on his sword by allowing mate-in-1.

There were draws in So-AronianKeymer-ArjunVan Foreest-Gukesh and Rapport-Caruana, with some curious moments. For instance, 7.a3 followed by 8.a4!? by Vincent Keymer.

The most curious incident, however, occurred in Rapport-Caruana. Fabiano played a novelty and got an initiative, but after a queen exchange on move 21 he was ready to accept his opponent’s draw over.

He saw that 22.Rxh6 Rxh6 and then e.g. 23.Kd2 and 24.Rh1 next, to exchange the other rook, was just a draw. However, Fabi wasn’t sure if there were anti-draw rules banning draws before move 30 and decided to ask an arbiter. In fact the players were within their rights to agree a draw, since it’s more of a gentleman’s agreement.

Short draws

We kindly ask all players to show their best fighting spirit. The sponsor and Organizing Committee respect it a lot when draws within 30 moves, or within three hours of play, will not be seen during the event. The player(s) who will not respect this ethical rule, may risk not being invited for future Tata Steel Chess Tournaments. 

The arbiter, however, suggested playing some more moves, which is where things got strange, since with 23.Rc1!? Kd7 24.Rc3!? Nc8 25.e4!? Richie seemed determined to sabotage his position, until by the end Black had every reason to play on. Fabi decided, however, that he should stick to the earlier agreement.

Check out his explanation of it all:

That meant Fabiano Caruana is level with Praggnanandhaa on 2.5/4, half a point behind co-leaders Anish Giri and Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

There’s a rest day on Wednesday, but then both leaders face an interesting challenge on Thursday. Abdusattorov has the black pieces against a wounded Carlsen, while Giri is White against Praggnanandhaa.

In the Challengers, meanwhile, some players are gaining momentum, with Velimir Ivic (vs. Vaishali) and Mustafa Yilmiz (vs. Max Warmerdam) both winning a 2nd game in a row, while Alexander Donchenko won a 2nd in three games (vs. Jergus Pechac) as they all took the co-lead on 3/4.

Velimir’s finish was impressive.

35.g6! Kxg6? (35…Kh6! holds) 36.Rg1+ Kf7 37.b4! (to prevent Rxb3+) 37…axb4 38.Rbg2! and suddenly the black king comes under huge checkmating threats.

It was a 2nd attractive win in a row for Velimir Ivic | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

Erwin l’Ami also picked up a win after two losses in what he described as “an awful game”, against Abhimanyu Mishra.

The Challengers play Round 5 on Wednesday, while the Masters players have a rest day before they completely change their routine on Thursday for the “on-tour” round in the Ajax Stadium in Amsterdam.

The games kick off at 14:00 CET (8am ET, 18:30 IST), but they'll be visible from 14:15 due to the 15-minute delay: Tata Steel Masters | Tata Steel Challengers

See also:

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