Carlsen Beats Firouzja In Tata Steel Chess Round 9
The start of Firouzja vs. Carlsen. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Carlsen Beats Firouzja In Tata Steel Chess Round 9

| 72 | Chess Event Coverage

On Tuesday, Magnus Carlsen defeated Alireza Firouzja in a model game to join the group of players half a point behind Fabiano Caruana in the standings at the Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee. In the challengers group, David Anton and Erwin l'Ami joined Pavel Eljanov in first place.

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 in the second week is provided by GM Peter Leko and IM Sopiko Guramishvili.

It was a much-anticipated battle between the "chess prince of Persia" (Firouzja) and the "Mozart of chess" (Carlsen). While the latter was struggling for seven games in a row, it was Firouzja who had grabbed the headlines in the first week of the tournament.

Today, however, Carlsen restored order in the chess star hierarchy. He gave his 13-year younger opponent a "master class" in the Ruy Lopez, as commentator Peter Leko put it. As the Iranian teenager was tricked by his opponent's move order, Carlsen got a dream version of a Breyer defense and easily built up a winning advantage.

Firouzja Carlsen Tata Steel Chess 2020
Firouzja vs. Carlsen. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

"I got a nice, playable position early on and it felt like it was easier for me to play," said Carlsen. "It felt like he was drifting, sort of. He couldn't really find a plan there."

Carlsen played the Berlin, and was happy to see 4.d3, which meant he would get a position where not much would be decided in an early phase" "Just to get some position with a bunch of pieces on the board," said Carlsen. 

The memory of the seven (struggling) draws was wiped away in just two rounds. "I'm very happy obviously, as happy as you can be beating a 16-year-old and moving into plus-two in round nine," Carlsen said with a grin on his face.

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

That was the only decisive game of the round, which means that Carlsen is in full contention for tournament victory now. That's also the case for Fabiano Caruana, whose very quick draw in a theoretical Nimzo-Indian with Nikita Vitiugov gave him the sole lead.

Jorden van Foreest missed a chance to join Caruana at the top of the leaderboard. The Dutchman got a dream position out of the opening as Vladislav Kovalev's opening experiment (6.Qe2 against the Najdorf) had backfired, but the Dutchman couldn't find the most accurate way in a highly-tactical endgame.

"I just forgot in the end that he had this fortress and then it's just a draw," van Foreest said.

Kovalev-Van Foreest Tata Steel Chess 2020
Kovalev-van Foreest, with Carlsen watching. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

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

Masters games, round nine

More spectacle was seen in the challengers group, where two players caught the leader Eljanov, who was held to a draw by Dinara Saduakassova.

Eljanov Saduakassova Tata Steel Chess 2020
A good draw for Saduakassova vs. Eljanov. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

According to the commentator Leko, Erwin l'Ami is showing his best chess since he won the 2015 Reykjavik Open. With yet another excellent win, this time against Rauf Mamedov, the Dutchman reached plus-three.

It became unpleasant for Black when the light-squared bishops were traded:

Erwin l'Ami Tata Steel Chess 2020
Erwin l'Ami has been in good shape so far. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

The top-seeded Anton also gained ground as he defeated Nils Grandelius with the black pieces. It was surprising how easily the Spaniard got a better position out of the opening.

Anton Smirnov will have regrets after what happened in his game with Nodirbek Abdusattorov. The Australian grandmaster was trying to win a highly-promising position for six hours, and must have felt there was no way he could still get into danger himself.

However, one careless king move turned the tables completely, and totally unexpectedly. The pawn endgame turned out to be lost for him by one tempo. What a disaster!

Anton Smirnov Tata Steel Chess 2020
Poor Anton Smirnov lost in the most horrible fashion. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Challengers games, round nine

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 ninth round from Wijk aan Zee.

Previous reports:

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