Tata Steel Chess 2021: Caruana, Giri Catch Firouzja As Carlsen Returns To Winning
Round 9 in action. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Tata Steel Chess 2021: Caruana, Giri Catch Firouzja As Carlsen Returns To Winning

| 49 | Chess Event Coverage

GMs Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri won their games in the ninth round of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament and are now tied for first place with GM Alireza Firouzja. After six draws and a loss, GM Magnus Carlsen finally won again but is still a point behind the leaders.

How to watch?
The Tata Steel Chess Tournament runs January 16-31, 2021. All rounds start at 14:00 CET (5 a.m. Pacific) except for the final round that starts an hour earlier. You can follow the games at and watch the broadcast at

With Carlsen not playing at his very best, the local fans are hoping more than ever for a Dutch winner this year. It would be for the first time in 36 years.

Although it might be too much to ask for GM Jorden van Foreest, who fell a bit behind after a quick draw with tailender GM Alexander Donchenko, Giri is still leading with four rounds to go. He'll play GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek tomorrow while Caruana will face none other than Carlsen. The third leader, Firouzja, will be playing GM Nils Grandelius.

Tata Steel Chess 2021 round 9 results
Caruana won a remarkable game. For starters, he played the King's Indian, something he has done only in a handful of games in his career. This cannot be seen without taking into account that the next big over-the-board tournament should be the Candidates. Now, his colleagues have to take this opening into account as well.

Furthermore, Caruana played it in a modern, highly concrete manner. He gave up his king's bishop for a knight on c3 in a position where early KID pioneers in the 1950s and '60s wouldn't even consider the move.

Interviewer WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni told Caruana about the above tweet, and the American player provided the following explanation:

"I think that these positions are a bit different than we knew in the past. The whole King's Indian has a lot of potential that we didn't realize. I didn't know if 13…Bxc3 was correct in this position, but I'd seen it in some similar positions where White can't really free himself. If he gets g3-Bg2, Black's position is completely awful, but he never gets it. But OK, I think he misplayed it soon after."

Wojtaszek Caruana Tata Steel Chess 2021
Wojtaszek vs. Caruana. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Caruana didn't believe in Wojtaszek's queen maneuvers to c1 and b1 and felt he was clearly better after that: "I thought I should be much better, but it remained very difficult to know how much better for a long time."

Giri's win was a great game as well and one where MVL seemed to be back on track. The way the French GM played the middlegame was just wonderful, and few people at that point would have guessed that he would lose his third Najdorf in the tournament.

"I think he played very well. At some point, he sacrificed an exchange and got beautiful positional compensation for an exchange and a pawn," said Giri. "I was trying to hold on honestly; I was just trying to defend at some point. I don't think White can ever be better. Such a horrible king. I was just hoping I wasn't get mated right away, and as long as I keep myself together, I have so much material that maybe I'm OK."

Anish Giri Tata Steel Chess 2021
Anish Giri. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

The Dutchman got ambitious again when "things started moving," such as his d-pawn and his bishop. He felt he was getting quite good chances again but only knew for sure that he was winning when the rook endgame appeared on the board.

By the way, don't miss the two rather pretty computer lines that this author found while watching the game at move 17 for Black and move 41 for White:

When Carlsen lost to GM Andrey Esipenko on Sunday, one could jokingly have stated that his unbeaten streak of seven games came to an end. Today, a streak of seven games without a win came to an end as Carlsen defeated Grandelius to get back to plus-one.

Magnus Carlsen Tata Steel Chess 2021
Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

"After so many games, it's good to get a win again," said Carlsen. "Obviously, it doesn't get me very far in terms of the tournament standings, but I have to start winning at some point, obviously."

Critical as always, he added: "The game itself was probably more interesting than good. I think my conversion was at some point pretty inaccurate, but then I managed to pull myself together at the end and finish it off quite nicely."

The clash between two of the biggest talents of the new generation ended in a draw. Not too much happened, to be honest.

Firouzja: "I didn't have any chance, I think. Maybe I had a little edge in the opening but in the middlegame, I think it was all a clean draw."

Firouzja Esipenko Magnus Carlsen Tata Steel Chess 2021
Firouzja vs. Esipenko watched by Carlsen. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Round 9 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Giri,Anish 2764 2829 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 6.0/9 25
2 Caruana,Fabiano 2823 2832 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 6.0/9 24.25
3 Firouzja,Alireza 2749 2836 ½ ½ 0 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 6.0/9 23.25
4 Esipenko,Andrey 2677 2836 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 5.5/9 25.25
5 Van Foreest,Jorden 2671 2818 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 5.5/9 23.25
6 Carlsen,Magnus 2862 2729 1 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0/9
7 Harikrishna,Pentala 2732 2745 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 4.5/9 20.75
8 Grandelius,Nils 2663 2750 0 ½ ½ 0 0 1 ½ 1 1 4.5/9 17
9 Duda,Jan-Krzysztof 2743 2649 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 3.5/9 16.5
10 Wojtaszek,Radoslaw 2705 2620 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/9 14
11 Tari,Aryan 2625 2657 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/9 13.75
12 Anton Guijarro,David 2679 2649 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/9 13
13 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2784 2589 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 3.0/9 14.25
14 Donchenko,Alexander 2668 2607 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 3.0/9 13.5

Games round 9

Tata Steel Chess 2021 Round 10 pairings

See also:

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.

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