Anand, Nepomniachtchi Start With Wins At Tata Steel Chess Tournament

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

Viswanathan Anand and Ian Nepomniachtchi won their games in the first round of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands. The top encounter between Ding Liren and Magnus Carlsen ended in a draw.

Tata Steel Chess 2019 participants openingThe participants of the Masters, with dancers, at the opening on Friday. | Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Whereas he had played such a wonderful tournament last year, this time around Wijk aan Zee started most disappointingly for Anish Giri. He suffered a terrible loss vs Nepomniachtchi as he found himself in a middlegame position where some of his key pieces seemed wrongly placed.

In a Pirc, "Nepo" had cunningly postponed developing his king's bishop—especially strong when White castles queenside early—and then reacted well to Giri's slightly odd setup with Nh3 and Be2. 

Giri vs Nepomniachtchi Tata Steel Chess 2019Giri vs Nepomniachtchi Tata Steel Chess 2019. | Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

It was still OK for the Dutchman until he overpressed with the pawn push 16.f4. Black was fully ready to counter with his queen on a square that she rarely visits in these structures: h4. Giri was almost forced to sacrifice a piece but didn't get enough compensation.

Nepomniachtchi said that the piece sac was hard to avoid by that point, but still came a bit unexpected. "Anyway I was surprised as the idea exf5 never seemed to me like something real. When he decided to go for it, at least I wasn't disappointed."

Nepomniachtchi interviewed after the game. | Video: Tata Steel Chess.

It was a bad first day for the local fans as the other Dutchman, Jorden van Foreest, also started with a loss and also with the white pieces. In the past, Loek van Wely was sometimes suffering badly in this tournament and his visit (with his wife and two young kids) might have inspired his compatriots! (Don't worry, this is typical KingLoek humor.)

Loek van Wely son Tata Steel Chess 2019Loek van Wely with his oldest son. | Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess 2019.

Van Foreest played the solid Exchange Caro-Kann, a line that Bobby Fischer played a few times and that has seen a revival in recent years. Anand had no trouble equalizing, and got the upper hand really fast after the opening when Van Foreest weakened his kingside and missed the strong Nc6-e7-g6 maneuver.

"Maybe I just misjudged the position. I missed his idea with ...f4 and maybe it's just lost," Van Foreest said.

"Frankly I wasn't sure whether I was better or worse as the position was very hard to judge," said Anand. "He just kind of walked into ...f4 which was unfortunate. I was lucky it went so fast in the end."

Anand interviewed after the game. | Video: Tata Steel Chess.

Viswanathan Anand Tata Steel Chess 2019Anand in front of the interview camera. | Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Vladimir Kramnik played in Wijk aan Zee 13 times before (including his Candidates' match with Leonid Yudasin in 1994) but only won his first tournament, in 1998. On Saturday he escaped vs Radjabov.

The Azerbaijani had never beaten Kramnik in a classical game, and failed again. He was playing a fine Giuoco Pianissimo and reached a winning position but then got confused in timetrouble, and allowed the 14th world champion to escape. 

Radjabov vs Kramnik Tata Steel Chess 2019Radjabov vs Kramnik. | Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Ding vs Carlsen was a top clash between the third seed and the top seed. It ended in a draw, but it was the kind of draw that was very enjoyable to watch as both players didn't refrain from playing, so to speak.

Carlsen sharpened up things early with 4...c5 and soon sacrificed an exchange for great compensation. Few of us would have been able to deal with black's impressive pawn center, but Ding found all the critical moves and then Carlsen decided to force the draw with a small tactic. An excellent game on the highest level.

Magnus Carlsen Tata Steel Chess 2019Magnus Carlsen started his tournament with an fighting draw. | Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Ding, who still cannot do sports but can now walk without crutches (he broke his hip last year), liked the game. 

"This was very interesting!" he said. "The position became very crazy when he played ...Nc6. I thought I was better but he came with a very interesting plan to play ...e5 to block my bishop on b7." The Chinese GM thought the position was slightly easier to play for White, but he had missed the tactic on f3. "This was no boring draw!"

Ding interviewed after the game. | Video: Tata Steel Chess.

"I expected Giri to go for another first move," Carlsen started his interview. In an earlier interview before the tournament he had (jokingly?) suggested that he was going to pretend to be playing vs the Dutchman 13 times to get his motivation going, and he seems to be taking the trolling seriously again!

"When he went 1.Nf3 and 2.g3, I thought let's go for it!" Carlsen continued. "Perhaps ...Nc6 [sacrificing the exchange] was a bit overzealous. I was just so attracted to the idea of having all this central control and shutting his bishop out, but perhaps this wasn't quite correct. I feel like in the subsequent fight I was the one who was always kind of fighting for my life."

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

Vladimir Fedoseev, Sam Shankland and Jan-Krzysztof Duda were pressing against Richard Rapport, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Vidit Santosh Gujrathi respectively, but failed to convert. You can find these games in the PGN file.

The challengers group saw three more wins for Black, and just one for White, making the total score 5-1 for Black on the first day. The first winner was top seed Anton Korobov, who ended up checkmating the world junior champion from Iran:

Maghsoodloo vs Korobov Tata Steel Chess 2019Maghsoodloo vs Korobov. | Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

IM Stefan Kuipers, who promoted from the highest amateur group into the challengers last year, had a bad start vs Erwin l'Ami as his opening setup with Qd3 and Be2 in the Rauzer Sicilian didn't quite work. At move 16 he was already in trouble.

Praggnanandhaa R vs Evgeny Bareev was the game between the youngest (13) and oldest (52) participant on the stage. Experience won vs talent as "Pragg" erred in timetrouble.

Praggnanandhaa vs Bareev Tata Steel Chess 2019Praggnanandhaa vs Bareev Tata Steel Chess 2019. | Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

In a game between 22-year-olds, Maksim Chigaev started with a win vs Dinara Saduakassova:

Replay the live broadcast of the first round.

Just like in previous years, the official video broadcast is "proudly powered" by, which you can watch on both and All rounds start at 1:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. New York, 4:30 Pacific) in Wijk aan Zee, except for three rounds:

  • On January 16 (Alkmaar) the rounds starts half an hour later, at 2 p.m.
  • On January 23 (Leiden) the rounds starts half an hour later, at 2 p.m.
  • The final round, on Sunday January 27, starts 1.5 hours earlier, at noon local time.

Commentary will be provided by IMs Anna Rudolf and Lawrence Trent during the first week, and GM Robert Hess and IM Sopiko Guramishvili during the second week.

Kramnik autograph Wijk aan Zee 2019Kramnik giving autographs after escaping vs Radjabov. | Photo: Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Previous report:

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.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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