Tata Steel Chess: Caruana Catches Firouzja, Carlsen Breaks Deadlock
Action is underway early in round eight. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Tata Steel Chess: Caruana Catches Firouzja, Carlsen Breaks Deadlock

| 34 | Chess Event Coverage

After surviving a close to lost position against Vishy Anand, Fabiano Caruana ended by winning his game to join Alireza Firouzja in the lead at the Tata Steel Chess tournament. Magnus Carlsen ended his streak of seven draws and defeated Nikita Vitiugov.

The challengers group saw no fewer than four decisive games, but Pavel Eljanov is still the sole leader going into the second rest day.

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.

Caruana himself described the win as "a miracle," while for Anand it must have been a very painful game. The Indian legend seemed to be having a technically winning endgame but lost it instead.

The battle, sharp from the start, became "a huge mess" (Caruana) when Anand sacrificed a pawn, and Caruana an exchange. He felt he had the better chances twice in the game until he blundered horribly with 37.Qf6+.

"I panicked before the time control," said Caruana.

Fabiano Caruana. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.
Fabiano Caruana. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Anand remained an exchange up and started to invest quite some time but couldn't find the best way to continue.

"Somehow imperceptibly it became difficult and then losing for him," said Caruana. "I realized my pawns are running."

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

Instead of being disappointed by his status, Caruana is now suddenly in full contention to win his first Tata Steel tournament. On the second rest day he is sharing the lead with Alireza Firouzja, who drew his black game with Jorden van Foreest.

The Dutchman surprised his opponent with 6.Rg1 in the Najdorf, an off-beat variation that's already more than two decades old. Commentator Peter Leko immediately mentioned an Ivanchuk-Kasparov game (Moscow, 2002), but the Hungarian GM played it himself as well against Veselin Topalov in 1999. 

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

Firouzja replied with natural moves and at one point threatened a fork with a knight on f3 to White's queen on d4 and king on e1. Van Foreest's solution was stunning: he voluntarily gave up the right to castle and chose 11.Kd1.

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

A few moves later the players entered into the endgame. Van Foreest felt he had an advantage, but at the same time he didn't know exactly what was going on. 

Firouzja: "I think he had some pressure but OK, it was not easy to break."

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

Carlsen finally scored a win—and a surprisingly quick one because Vitiugov not only played way too passively but also resigned the game somewhat early. White does have beautiful harmony in the final position with two strong minor pieces on d5 and f5 and a queen on h1, and it's just a matter of time before Black will lose material.

"I think he was just fed up," was Carlsen's explanation.

Carlsen Tata Steel 2020
Finally a win for Carlsen. Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

He was obviously happy after his first win of the year:

"It's the first chance that I actually had in this tournament, and it ends in a win so obviously that's huge for me, and it means that I can still sort of hope for something, and obviously coming into the rest day it's a massive boost."

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

Jan-Krzysztof Duda also scored his first win after seven draws at the expense of Yu Yangyi. The Chinese grandmaster seems to be lacking form because losing this equal endgame was completely unnecessary.

Duda admitted that initially his opponent was pressing. "When he allowed me this 17...e5 and 19...Be6, it was getting unpleasant, I think, and he played 24.b4 needlessly also."

Perhaps it was still within drawing margins, but when Yu blundered 37...f5+ it was game over.

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

Yet another player won his first game today. Vladislav Kovalev, the so far luckless GM who was promoted from the challengers last year, defeated Jeffery Xiong from a dubious-looking middlegame position. The young American played a somewhat reckless piece sac when he was clearly better:

Masters games, round 8

Eljanov is still leading the challengers, but the group of players chasing him has become bigger. Among them is top-seed David Anton, who defeated Nihal Sarin in the longest game of the day. Vincent Keymer won his first game in the tournament against Jan Smeets.

Challengers games, round 8

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 eighth round from Wijk aan Zee.

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