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Reports Jan 21, 2023 | 9:55 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel Chess 6: Caruana gets Gukesh revenge

Fabiano Caruana joined Anish Giri in 2nd place in the Tata Steel Masters after getting revenge for losing to 16-year-old Gukesh at the Chennai Olympiad. Wesley So picked up his first win of 2023 after Vincent Keymer again crumbled in the endgame, while Magnus Carlsen stopped the bleeding with a draw against Jorden van Foreest.

Caruana moved up to 2nd place by beating Gukesh | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

The Tata Steel Masters returned to Wijk aan Zee for Round 6, with Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So picking up the day’s two wins.

Fabiano Caruana was amazingly the 8th victim in a row for 16-year-old Gukesh at last year's Chess Olympiad in Chennai.

Fabi had also earlier lost to Nodirbek Abdusattorov, so it’s understandable he was feeling relieved to have got past them with a score of 1.5/2 in Wijk aan Zee.

The last two games I lost were in the Olympiad, to Abdusattorov and Gukesh, and I was responsible in large part from these games for the United States not doing very well, not medalling, and in this tournament I’m done with them. They can’t beat me anymore, at least in this tournament!

Fabiano drew with Abdusattorov in Round 2, while in Round 6 he picked up a win over Gukesh, who was in deep trouble right out of the opening. The Indian prodigy repeated the Ragozin in which he’d been crushed by Anish Giri earlier in the tournament, and while Fabiano chose a different 5th move, he also got an overwhelming position very early on.

Caruana pointed to 10…Ba6!? as “maybe not the best” and flagged 12…c5? as “for sure a big mistake”.

After 13.dxc5 Rxc5 (13…Ne4! is the computer’s suggestion to keep the game alive) 14.Qb2 Fabi said he was “almost winning, because [Gukesh's] pieces are completely uncoordinated”.

How would Gukesh defend against White taking twice on f6? He didn’t! 14…Qc8?! invited 15.Bxf6 gxf6 16.Qxf6 Ng6.

Fabi followed up with the natural 17.h4! and a very quick win looked on the cards, but he didn’t find the cleanest win and ultimately was somewhat puzzled when his opponent resigned on move 36.

He commented:

I was kind of surprised he resigned in the final position, even though it was completely winning. Still, I thought he would play on a few moves, f5, try and get e4 and activate the knight.

He concluded that his opponent “at some point more or less gave up on the game”, which is perhaps explained by Gukesh’s tough time in Wijk aan Zee. He’s now lost three games, without a win.

Wesley So had expressed frustration after Round 5 about making only draws in this year’s Tata Steel Masters, but that changed in Round 6, where he got the better of 18-year-old Vincent Keymer.

It was a familiar story for Vincent, who, as a round earlier against Aronian, survived serious pressure to reach what should have been a drawn endgame, only to go astray.

Wesley commented:

The endgame is probably just equal, until Vincent blundered with 31…Na3, so that was the decisive blunder of the game.

Wesley rightly suggested 31…c4! as “pretty much a draw”, though even in the game after 31...Na3!? 32.c4 a4 33.g3 Black was probably still fine until 33…Nb1?! (33…axb3) 34.bxa4 b3? (34…Nc3! was the last try). After that there was no way back as Wesley put himself within a point of the lead.

All eyes in Round 6 were on Jorden van Foreest vs. Magnus Carlsen, with the World Champion staring down the barrel of a 3rd classical loss in a row — something that last happened back when he was a kid.

Magnus Carlsen faced his World Championship second Jorden van Foreest | photo: Emilia Castelao

For most of the game no accidents seemed likely, as Magnus sprung an opening surprise, equalised, and then was able to take over.

Here Jorden should probably have taken on e5, with Magnus commenting:

I think it’s possible that both of us made like four positional mistakes in a row in not taking on e5, and then me allowing it, but at some point it becomes psychological as well, because at some point I thought he wasn’t taking and I tried to exploit that, but later on we got this sort of position which is equal.

Jorden played 16.a3, Magnus replied 16…g5 and then three moves later resolved the tension with 19…Bxd4.

Magnus looked to be better and noted he was playing for some tricks, but he also pointed out his opponent had a dangerous passed pawn. For a brief moment, the World Champion stared into the abyss.

The funny thing is in the game I was trying to win, and then at some point I realised I was almost losing. After he went 44.Kb4 I was about to go Ra1 immediately, and then Rc7 leaves me, if not losing, then at least on the precipice of losing, so fortunately I had some, well I had oceans of time, and I managed to pull myself together and make a draw and at least stop the losing streak.

The computer resolutely gives 0.00 as its evaluation even after the immediate 44…Ra1 (45.Rc7 Rxa7! is a draw), while Magnus went for 44…Ra6 45.Kb5 Ra1 and made a draw by pushing his h-pawn.

Magnus was asked about his not seeming too bothered by the two losses in a row:

It's probably not a good sign, really, but I try to not let it affect my day-to-day routine and just keep on going. I feel ok, so hopefully things will turn around, but losing is frustrating.

With seven rounds to go he’s a full two points behind the leader. What will be his approach?

I did take quite a bit of risk in both of those games and I did lose, so I’ll probably have to take even more risk now! But you know, I’ll try every game. I’ll try and play and we’ll see how far it takes me. Tournament victory is obviously not realistic, but regardless of what you’re doing, that’s not what you should think about, so I’ll take it day by day and we’ll see how I end up.

Elsewhere Rapport-Maghsoodloo was a hard-fought draw but one where neither side ever got a clear advantage.

Richard Rapport's T-shirt was arguably the most memorable part of the game | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

Ding Liren’s new 1.e4 repertoire looked more impressive against Levon Aronian than in some earlier games, though his pleasant position never looked close to winning.

Leader Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who has Rustam Kasimdzhanov as a second in Wijk aan Zee, seemed to be making progress against Praggnanandhaa, but Pragg managed to shut things down with a pawn sacrifice, after which he comfortably held a draw.

Pragg resisted Abdusattorov's attempt to extend his lead | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

The most dangerous initiative came for Anish Giri, whose new second Jan Gustafsson “outed himself” on the Chicken Chess Podcast. The opening went very well for Anish, with Arjun Erigaisi getting his opponent out of book only by playing the dubious 13…0-0-0!? The key moment perhaps came on move 26.

White is much better after a solid move such as 26.Nd4, but Anish was tempted into 26.a4!? You can’t take the a-pawn immediately, as e.g. 27.Qxd5+! is crushing, but 26…Qc6! asked questions. Arjun explained he’d been hoping for this line, since after 27.a5 Nc8! Black is suddenly doing fine, while 27.Rfd1 Nxa4 in the game at least gave him a pawn and counterplay.

The game soon got very complicated before eventually fizzling out into a draw, Arjun’s 6th in six games.

That leaves the standings as follows as we prepare to cross the halfway mark of the tournament on Saturday.

The Challengers once again provided countless twists and turns on Friday. The cleanest win of the day came for Alexander Donchenko, who outplayed Eline Roebers with the black pieces. That saw Alexander join Mustafa Yilmaz in the lead, after Mustafa took a repetition in a position that still seems to have been better against Thomas Beerdsen.

Amin Tabatabaei felt he had to change something | photo: Lennart Ootes, Tata Steel Chess

There were missed wins for Velimir Ivic (against Adhiban), Javokhir Sindarov (against Luis Supi) and especially Abhimanyu Mishra against Amin Tabatabaei.

72.Rxc8+! Kxc8 73.Ka7! (anything else loses) and 13-year-old Mishra would have picked up a big scalp, but after 72.Rf6? d4! it turned out the black d-pawn was enough to force a draw.

In the post-game interview Amin talked about the round before when he was “chilling, laying on my bed”, since he thought he had a rest day, when someone phoned to say his game had started. He also explained his new haircut with, “I just thought I have to change something!”

Vaishali picked up her first win of the event, despite having been struggling for most of the game. It just hasn’t been Jergus Pechac’s tournament and he blundered on move 41, when 41.Ka4 or 41.Kxa5 would have held the balance. 41.Kc5? was a disaster.

Jergus resigned before 41.Nxd6!, threatening mate-in-1 with Rb5#, followed. 41…Nxd6 42.Bxd6 Rc8+! wins back the piece with a dominant position.

The most remarkable game of the day, however, was 2022 Dutch Champion Erwin l’Ami’s win over 2021 Champion Max Warmerdam. Max had been on top, but everything suddenly turned around, with 27…Rfc8? already the losing move. It was after 28…Rc2 that we got to see why.

29.Rh8+!! Kxh8 30.gxf7! (the only winning move) and now you can’t take the queen on d2 as Rh1 will be mate-in-1. Max managed to keep the game going, but at a high cost, and Erwin didn’t put a foot wrong as he went on to win.

Erwin l’Ami has recovered from two earlier losses, though he described his score as “probably the most undeserved 50% ever!”. He explained he’d been playing some blitz with a friend to try and turn things around:

I’m trying to get my mojo back! Online blitz sometimes helps.

That leaves the standings in the Challengers as follows:

On Saturday the leaders meet in Donchenko-Yilmaz, while in the Masters Erigaisi-AbdusattorovAronian-Giri and Carlsen-Rapport are among the games to look forward to.

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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