Giri Wins On Demand To Finish 1st In Tata Steel Chess Masters
The 2023 champion, Anish Giri. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Tata Steel Chess 2023.

Giri Wins On Demand To Finish 1st In Tata Steel Chess Masters

| 82 | Chess Event Coverage

On a suspenseful final day, GM Anish Giri won the 2023 Tata Steel Chess Tournament with his triumph over GM Richard Rapport, his first victory in the super-tournament after finishing as the runner-up five times. This tournament victory was made possible by GM Jorden van Foreest's defeat of tournament leader GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who at the age of 18 led for the majority of the event and defeated the world number-one GM Magnus Carlsen.

Despite losing two consecutive games for the first time since 2015 in this tournament, Carlsen defeated GM Arjun Erigaisi and tied for second with Abdusattorov with 8/13 points. GM Wesley So finished fourth with 7.5 points after drawing GM Praggnanandhaa R. In Sunday's fourth decisive game, GM Parham Maghsoodloo gave GM Levon Aronian his first loss in the event.

In the Challengers section, fans were treated to seven (!) decisive games—zero draws. GM Alexander Donchenko, who already had clinched the tournament on Saturday with a round to spare, won against GM Velimir Ivic to finish a point ahead of the field. He earns an invitation to the Tata Steel Chess Masters 2024. GM Mustafa Yilmaz defeated IM Eline Roebers to finish second, and GM Javokhir Sindarov won against IM Thomas Beerdsen, finishing third. 

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Live broadcast of the tournament, hosted by GMs Daniel Naroditsky and Robert Hess.

Sunday was full of tension as four players contended for first place on the last day of this marathon, 13-round event. Abdusattorov led the tournament virtually from start to end and entered the day leading with eight points. Half a point behind followed Giri, and just behind him were So and Carlsen.

Carlsen and So depended on a loss by Abdusattorov to catch up; a Giri win and Abdusattorov draw would ensure a playoff between the two. A combination of immense pressure and fatigue after two weeks of high-stakes play produced a spectacle: Abdusattorov lost and Giri won, and no playoff would be needed.

Giri-Rapport was one of the two games that decided this year's winner. Giri is undefeated against Rapport in all time formats, both over-the-board and online, with three wins all in classical games and 11 draws before this game.

Still, Rapport won three of his last five games in this event, and his sails seemed full of wind. A hard-fought and even duel came to a shocking end with a one-move blunder 34...Kg6??, the only king move that loses, a fantasy come true for the Dutch number-one.

Giri was "slightly annoyed" to find out that he had spoiled an advantage earlier, but he maintained that this was his "best result so far," adding it is "harder to have a better result other than winning a world championship." The champion, who lost just seven out of 128 games played since 2014 at Wijk aan Zee, is runner-up no more.

He finishes the day with 8.5/13 and as number five in the world at a 2779.7 rating.

Van Foreest was the showstopper in round 13. Abdusattorov won their only previous encounter and had the white pieces in this game. A draw would have at least secured a playoff with Giri for first—all great reasons to believe the Uzbek superstar would take home the trophy this year. Van Foreest emerged victorious from the sharp Sicilian endgame after taking advantage of White's overextended e5 and g5 pawns. This is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

Van Foreest finished the event with 6/13, with a sweet memory of being the tournament's spoiler in the end.

In his interview, he stated: "I don't think I had any real chances in this endgame, but he made some, I think, at least practically dubious decisions by giving me this e5-square."

For many hours, the outside chances of Carlsen and So competing for first were still in play. GM Praggnanandhaa R had the white pieces against So—interestingly, he won their first-ever matchup in a rapid game just 15 days after earning his final GM norm. In classical chess, however, they had played just one game which ended in a draw.

In a Queen's Gambit Tarrasch Variation, So tried his best to win by sacrificing a pawn early, but the young Indian grandmaster gave the pawn back, traded queens, and neutralized the threats; the game ended in a draw. The eval bar never moved far from 0.00—sometimes there is only so much you can do with the black pieces. So finished with 7.5/13 and Praggnanandhaa with 6/13. 

A solid event for So (left), with two wins, 11 draws, and no losses. Photo: Maaike Brink/Tata Steel Chess 2023.

Carlsen and Erigaisi had never met in over-the-board classical chess. It was a tough pairing for the young Indian grandmaster who had a solid start but had lost four of his last six games before this one. Carlsen, on the other hand, was in fantastic form after having won three games since his debacle in rounds four and five. A tense, maneuvering game peaked when Carlsen sacrificed a piece for two pawns, with an attack that ultimately crashed through.

Asked about how he felt about finishing in tied-second, the world champion reflected that he came "tantalizingly close" to first on the last day—regretting a missed sacrifice against Praggnanandhaa the day before. He added: "I feel bad for Nodirbek. He was leading all the way basically" and "As for Anish, he broke a lot of records.... Huge congrats to him."

Erigaisi finished last with 4/13, a tough learning experience from which he will doubtlessly recover.

Prior to this encounter, Aronian led his record with Maghsoodloo with one win and one draw. The American GM had a solid tournament, winning one game and drawing 11, but not losing a single game. Maghsoodloo, on a two-game winning streak, continued to fight in his last game, uncorking a fascinating novelty 12...Ne8 and in the middlegame added a fresh example to the long list of ...Rxc3 exchange sacrifices in the Sicilian Defense. It never gets old, though!

Maghsoodloo finished on 7/13 and Aronian 6.5/13. 

Ding-Caruana was a quick, 19-move draw after a threefold repetition in a topical line of the Ruy Lopez. A less-than-ideal showing for the Chinese grandmaster who will face GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (now world number-two after Ding lost 23.4 points in this event). On the other hand, it was a so-so tournament for Caruana, who approximately broke even in rating, drew with the black pieces, and finished the event with a 7/13 score. 

After the game, Caruana said: "He had two options at the end. One is to continue to play with, let's say, he has various moves, like he could play Bf4 or b4. He had some options, but it was understandable, of course, that since he didn't know the position well and I did that he chose to repeat. I had no way out of the repetition."

Ding earned 5.5 points over the 13 rounds while Caruana finished with 7. 

Shortly after, Keymer-Gukesh also came to a close, although the players did make an effort at a full game. Their lifetime classical over-the-board score favored Gukesh (one win, one draw, both played in 2022). It was a bittersweet ending for Keymer, finishing on 5/13, who had no shortage of winning positions against leaders in the tournament but did not convert a single one. Most notably, he was winning against Abdusattorov in round nine.

 IM Adrian Petrisor analyzes this game below.

On paper, Gukesh's tournament does not look great. However, after losing four games in the first seven rounds, he earned two wins in the second half of the event with no further losses—victories that should leave a pleasant aftertaste when taken in context. 

Keymer finished the event with 5/13 and Gukesh with 5.5. 

In his interview, Gukesh said: "It's a good thing that even after such a horrible start I managed to pull myself together and score +2 in the next six games."

Although Donchenko already had clinched the event, he still won his last game to finish by a full-point lead. 

After winning the tournament, having won his final four games, Donchenko commented: "I will not force a draw when I am better. I just kept playing and he made a final mistake on move 40 as far as I can tell. and then I managed to win the rook endgame."

Results - Masters Round 13

Final Standings 

All Games - Masters Round 13

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