Clock Ticks Down on Abdusattorov's Rivals
The Dutch number one and two meet again. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Tata Steel Tournament 2023.

Clock Ticks Down on Abdusattorov's Rivals

| 28 | Chess Event Coverage

With a seamless draw vs. GM Wesley So in the penultimate round, GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov enters the last day of the 2023 Tata Steel Chess Tournament still in the sole tournament lead. He's been at the forefront of the field since day one and held clear first since round five. His rivals have just one final game to catch him. 

GM Anish Giri remains in second by half a point after a draw against his compatriot, GM Jorden van Foreest. GM Magnus Carlsen engaged in a thrilling duel vs. GM Praggnanandhaa R. The Indian prodigy switched between counterattack and defense with precision vs. the world champion to maintain a double-edged balance. Carlsen remains in third, tied with So and a full point behind Abdusattorov.  

GM Parham Maghsoodloo scored a second victory in a row, defeating GM Arjun Erigaisi in a brilliant game. In addition, GM Richard Rapport defeated GM Ding Liren with a "knight"-mare of a tactic. 

In the Challenger tournament, GM Alexander Donchenko clinched first with one round to spare.

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Abdusattorov faced one of the players chasing after him on Saturday, the current world number-seven in live rankings, So. After an early queen trade in the Queen's Gambit Accepted, the players tussled for greater activity in the queenless middlegame.

Abdusattorov’s purposeful piece coordination, doubling on the c-file and taking control of the c3-square, soon gave him full equality with Black. The tournament leader even strived for the advantage by sacrificing a pawn to gain a rook on White's second rank. So responded by centralizing his knight, and the players landed in an equal ending with pawns just left on the kingside. 

After the game, Abdusattorov shared his take on his ability to perform well under pressure: "I think it's my character.... It's known that I'm very calm and without emotions."

GM Vincent Keymer out-prepared GM Fabiano Caruana in the d3 Ruy Lopez, gaining vast space and activity. In the tension-filled arising queenless middlegame, Keymer set up a knight on the d3-outpost, but Caruana overlooked a way to take over the queenside with his bishop pair. The German grandmaster fended off Caruana's rook on the eighth rank, and the players soon repeated to draw. IM Adrian Petrisor annotates this balanced game.

Maghsoodloo and Erigaisi reached a highly dynamic middlegame from a Grunfeld. When the Indian grandmaster grabbed White's a2-pawn to create connected passers on the queenside, Maghsoodloo sparked his kingside attack by intercepting the black queen's defense of the f7-pawn with 30.Rc4!? This set off one of the wildest battles of the round and our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

This was an absolutely wonderful game, and for me it's the best of the tournament so far. I want to thank both players for an open and uncompromising fight, with both seeking victory at all times, which provides me with fascinating discoveries when analyzing it. I'd like to apologize in advance to the readers for possible errors in my annotations and for offering such complicated variations sometimes without the proper explanation. In this game we have what Dvoretsky called an "irrational position," which you have to analyze for many, many hours until you understand all the details.

In a Chekhover Sicilian vs. Rapport, Ding offered an exchange of queens that left him with doubled isolated a-pawns. In the game that the Romanian grandmaster won, he managed to gain an edge in the resulting queenless middlegame due to his better pawn structure and greater space. Then Ding tried to win a pawn, overlooking Rapport's clever tactical reply. Can you find it?

Carlsen vs. Praggnanandhaa turned into a wild free-for-all when the prodigy pushed his center pawn to d4 and Carlsen allowed this ambitious pawn to capture on c3, so he could sink his queen onto Black's side of the board with Qxd7. From here, each player continued to add gasoline to the fire: The Indian grandmaster sacrificed his rook with check to march his c-pawn towards its dream of becoming a queen. The world champion retaliated by shoving his f-pawn into the black king's position to create mating threats while allowing Praggnanandhaa's promotion.

After the game, Carlsen expressed frustration in his inability to convert his appealing position into a win: "I'm really frustrated. I feel like I should've gotten a lot more from the position I had. But he [Praggnanandhaa] defends really well."

An incredible fight but a disappointing round for Carlsen. His only chance to be in contention for first now hinges on a last-round loss by the undefeated Abdusattorov with the white pieces. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel 2023.

In a Ragozin, Gukesh D. built up pressure against GM Levon Aronian's hanging pawns in the middlegame. Gukesh gained an extra pawn and pressed in the arising rook ending, but Aronian defended actively, creating his own passer for counterplay. The players drew on move 72.

In another Ragozin, van Foreest unleashed an experimental novelty with 8.h4!?, sacrificing an exchange against Giri. After a complex middlegame where both sides wrestled for the initiative, the players traded into an unusual materially-imbalanced ending. The Dutch number-one maintained his extra exchange and created an advanced passer on the queenside while van Foreest supported his connected passed kingside pawns with his active king, rook, and bishop. After 79 moves, this complicated struggle ended with a perpetual check. 

Giri and van Foreest had a jovial post-round interview together, sharing ideas from the game and making jokes.

One day remains to decide the fate of Tata Steel 2023. What's it like for the top contenders as they head into the final round? There's a unique blend of emotions that can occur when on the verge of achieving something a player once only dreamed of: A restless energy somewhere between nerves and excitement. Perhaps a hint of disbelief or a wave of determination.

The moment arrives when you can transform possibility into reality. You stand face to face with the question: Can you live up to the goals you've set for yourself? Can you bring your dream to life?

Two players at very different stages of their chess careers now face this challenge: Giri and Abdusattorov.

In one corner, we have 18-year-old Abdusattorov, the Uzbek prodigy in the midst of a meteoric rise. A decade Giri's junior, Abdusattorov first entered the elite chess stage in 2021 when he knocked the Dutch number-one out of the World Cup and, later that year, became the world rapid champion.

In 2022, he followed that up by leading the Uzbek team to an Olympiad gold medal on board one and winning the Gashimov Memorial. He finished second at Tata Steel Challengers in 2020, and this is his first-ever appearance in the Masters tournament. Can he cap off his astounding performance so far with his highest achievement yet?

One last round between the Uzbek sensation and the greatest tournament victory of his career so far. Will he continue his dazzling performance? Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Tournament 2023.

In the other corner, we have 28-year-old Anish Giri, Dutch number-one. Giri practically grew up as a chess player over the years at tournaments in Wijk aan Zee. In 2009, he gained his final GM norm in Group C as a 14-year-old. The following year, he won Group B (equivalent to the Challengers now) to qualify for the top section where he's competed ever since.

This is his 13th appearance in the Masters tournament, starting with performances in the mid-range and even last place once and working his way up to fight for the top spots. He's been the runner-up five times; in two he tied for first in the main event but lost in the playoffs―including his heartbreaking loss in an armageddon to his fellow countryman, van Foreest, in 2021.

Here he is again in second place within striking range of the leader. He earned his competitive score by defeating the world number-one and the world number-two during the course of this tournament. Can he win on demand on Sunday and give himself the best chance at his first-ever Tata Steel title?

Giri has competed for his chance to win Wijk aan Zee for 13 years. With one more exceptional game and a little luck, could he clinch his first championship? Photo: Lennart Ootes/Tata Steel Chess 2023.

Meanwhile, Carlsen and So are on standby, still tied for third and potentially in contention―ready to join the fight for first if given the chance by a slip from the leader. 

In the Challengers section, Donchenko defeated IM Thomas Beerdsen by getting the better of a desperado tactic.

The German grandmaster clinched the tournament victory a round early when he won and his closest rival, GM Mustafa Yilmaz, drew. With this victory, Donchenko gains the chance to compete in the Masters group next year. 

The Challengers group was loaded with other decisive games this round. GM Velimir Ivic created a potent passed c-pawn to defeat IM Eline Roebers. GM Abhimanyu Mishra sacrificed a knight for two pawns to enter an ending where his opponent was nearly paralyzed, grinding down GM Jergus Pechac in 70 moves. 

In addition, GM B. Adhiban won an 85-move marathon vs. GM Erwin l'Ami by gradually converting his extra pawn into a decisive advantage. Lastly, GM Max Warmerdam won a double-edged game vs. IM Vaishali R. by converting a kingside attack into a winning two bishops vs. rook ending. 

Results - Masters Round 12

Current Standings 

Pairings - Masters Round 13

All Games - Masters Round 12

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