Firouzja Regains Lead At Tata Steel Chess
Alireza Firouzja vs. Jeffery Xiong with Magnus Carlsen watching. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Firouzja Regains Lead At Tata Steel Chess

| 65 | Chess Event Coverage

For the second time Alireza Firouzja is the sole leader in Wijk aan Zee. The 16-year-old GM defeated Jeffery Xiong, reached a 5/7 score and entered the top 20 in the world in the live ratings. 

Other winners in the seventh round of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament are Fabiano Caruana, who beat Daniil Dubov, and Jorden van Foreest, who won the first black game in the masters group against Nikita Vitiugov.

The challengers group saw just one decisive game with Nihal Sarin beating Dinara Saduakassova. Pavel Eljanov is still leading.

How to follow Tata Steel Chess
You can follow the live games here as part of our live portal. Live commentary is provided on every day at 13:20 CET (7:20 a.m. Eastern, 4:20 a.m. Pacific). Commentary is provided by GM Robert Hess and WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni during the first week, and by GM Peter Leko and IM Sopiko Guramishvili during the second week.

It was a battle between the top-two juniors in FIDE rankings from whom we'll be hearing much more in the coming years: Firouzja vs. 19-year-old Xiong. As Firouzja won this game, he kept a 100 percent score with the white pieces and continues to enthrall chess fans. 

Alireza Firouzja Tata Steel Chess 2020
Alireza Firouzja. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

On Saturday the Iranian player, who is representing "FIDEstan," as Nigel Short called it, won a fine, technical game in which his opponent didn't make any big error.

"I don't know where he made the mistake actually," Firouzja said. "It was slightly better from the beginning, but I think it was possible to defend better but OK, it was always an unpleasant position for him."

Topping the standings at this point is a great achievement for the youngest participant in the field. He will definitely be tested in the second half of the tournament, in which he will face two world champions.

Firouzja being interviewed after the game. Video: Tata Steel Chess.

It's worth noting his Elo gain and its effect on the live ratings:

Firouzja is not the only youngster who keeps impressing the audience. The 20-year-old Dutchman Van Foreest won his third game in round seven to reach 4.5 points, the same that he made over 13 rounds last year. Already virtually in the world's top 100, a 2700 rating is getting closer as well for the oldest brother playing in Wijk aan Zee this year.

Jorden van Foreest Tata Steel Chess 2020
Jorden van Foreest. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Van Foreest defeated Vitiugov but needed to win the game twice: "He blundered in the opening, I think, and then I made life extremely hard for myself. I just forgot about the move 38.Rxc5. That came as a complete shock to me. I was actually pretty sure the game was gonna finish in a draw."

This way he got the best of both worlds: a lesson that one always needs to be careful, even in completely winning positions, while still collecting the full point.

Van Foreest being interviewed after the game. Video: Tata Steel Chess.

At the end of a long day, Caruana also won his game with Dubov, who just played too passively in this one. Still Caruana thought it was difficult to break through and wasn't sure if he was winning almost until the end.

"But somehow the moves came naturally," he said.

Caruana being interviewed after the game. Video: Tata Steel Chess.

Magnus Carlsen started his 2009 Wijk aan Zee tournament with nine draws, and he's getting close to that undesirable streak. He drew with Vishy Anand, in what was again not a great game.

"It wasn't very good," the world champion admitted, noting that he missed a crucial detail when he went for 25...d4. He noticed the tactical flaw soon after.

"When that wasn't possible, my position was just awful," said Carlsen. "After that I think we both could have played considerably better, but at least I'm happy to save the draw."

Anand Carlsen Tata Steel Chess 2020
Anand vs. Carlsen. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Carlsen is not worried about the seven draws in themselves: "The problem is mostly that I'm playing awful chess. I would be OK with the draws if I was playing OK, but right now I'm mostly concerned about the fact that things are not working so well in my game."

Carlsen being interviewed after the game. Video: Tata Steel Chess.

The other games ended in draws. Interestingly, Anish Giri played the Marshall Ruy Lopez for the first time in his career. That seems like a smart choice: even if the Dutchman isn't planning to play it in the candidates', his opponents there still need to take it into account. 

Masters games, round 7

Nihal moved to a plus-one score in the challengers group with a win against Saduakassova. No fireworks here but definitely an excellent technical win for the 15-year-old Indian grandmaster.

Nihal Sarin
Nihal Sarin. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

A spectacular game was played between Surya Ganguly and Rauf Mamedov. We don't see a mainline Dragon that often, and both players didn't shy away from razor-sharp complications.

Mamedov must have been quite disappointed when he checked with the engine as he missed a beautiful tactical shot two moves in a row:

Rauf Mamedov Tata Steel Chess 2020
Rauf Mamedov. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Challengers games, round 7

Like in previous years, the official video broadcast is produced by, which you can watch on both and All rounds start at 1:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. Eastern, 4:30 a.m. Pacific) in Wijk aan Zee, except for round five.
  • On Jan. 16 (Eindhoven) the rounds start half an hour later at 2 p.m. local.
  • Rest days are scheduled for Jan. 15, 20 and 23.
  • The final round on Jan. 26 starts 90 minutes earlier at noon local time.

Commentary is provided by GM Robert Hess and WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni during the first week and by GM Peter Leko and IM Sopiko Guramishvili during the second week.

Replay the live broadcast of the seventh round from Wijk aan Zee.

Spectators Tata Steel Chess 2020
Spectators at Tata Steel Chess... Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.
Sopiko Daniel Giri Tata Steel Chess 2020
... including Giri's wife Sopiko Guramishvili (starting on Sunday as a commentator in our live broadcast with Peter Leko) and their son Daniel! Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Commentaar Tata Steel Chess 2020
The tournament also provides on-site commentary with wooden demonstration boards. Who says chess is not a spectator's sport? Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Previous reports:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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