Firouzja, Van Foreest Win; Carlsen-Giri Draw In Tata Steel Chess Opener
Carlsen-Giri was the most exciting pairing of round one but failed to live up to its expectations. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Firouzja, Van Foreest Win; Carlsen-Giri Draw In Tata Steel Chess Opener

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

Alireza Firouzja and Jorden Van Foreest won their games in the first round of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands. The top encounter between Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri ended in a draw.

The magnificent playing hall of the Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk Aan Zee. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

World Champion Carlsen's first game in the new decade had an anti-climactic end. He was facing his most fancied opponent in Dutch star Giri. Their Twitter rivalry and exchanges—and the fact that Carlsen can break Sergei Tiviakov's unbeaten record here—promised a fighting game. Alas, it fizzled in a draw after Carlsen's experiment with 4.Qb3 in AlphaZero style in the English that somewhat backfired.

Carlsen claimed that he was "embarrassed" by what he did and said: "The opening wasn't great but playable, and that's the most you can expect after you play Qb3." Then he explained: "After Giri played 10...Ne4, I am thinking like, that's it. I am worse after 11 moves as White and very little counterplay."

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

Carlsen-Giri was an anti-climactic draw that ended in 25 moves. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Rising star Firouzja, who is now playing under the FIDE flag, made a memorable debut at the highest level as he beat the 2019 Tata Steel Challengers winner, Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus. Firouzja is in superior form as he crossed the 2700-rating barrier and climbed further (up to number-24 in the world)! He also won the silver medal at the FIDE World Rapid Championship in Russia last month.

The 16-year-old prodigy employed his pet Spanish opening as White against the Belorussian who is playing his second super-tournament after Dortmund 2018. In a position still in rich theoretical waters, Kovalev made a mistake in the move order and misplayed horribly. This practically gifted two pawns that Firouzja happily grabbed. Kovalev tried to recover but eventually stopped the clock on move 36 and resigned.

Firouzja's happy interview after his win. Video: Tata Steel Chess.

Van Foreest was focused and scored an instructive win. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

Local star van Foreest delighted the home fans as he played the best game of the day to beat Chinese number-two, Yu Yangyi, in a thrilling and instructive endgame. Van Foreest played the innocuous Alapin variation against Yu's Sicilian. Black equalized comfortably in the opening as a series of exchanges followed. Van Foreest's interesting decision to give up his central bishop for the knight to play 18.Bxf6 gave him the luxury to play on for two results. 

Van Foreest showed decent technique until he allowed Yu to equalize in the rook endgame. The ensuing pawn race saw van Foreest promote his pawn to a queen while Yu was left with a rook and a pawn. The former then atypically (in queen vs. rook endgames) put Black in zugzwang multiple times to improve his position, gobble the pawn and then force resignation.

Van Foreest shares his impressions on day one's game of the day. Video: Tata Steel Chess.

In other games, Jeffery Xiong and Nikita Vitiugov were pressing against Daniil Dubov and Jan-Krzysztof Duda respectively but failed to convert. Viswanathan Anand-Vladislav Artemiev and Fabiano Caruana-Wesley So also ended in draws where neither side gained any significant edge.

You can find all these games below.

After reviewing all the action of day one, Norwegian grandmaster Jonathan Tisdall had an interesting suggestion for other major chess events.

The playing hall was filled with people of all ages enjoying the games. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

The challengers' group saw three decisive results where seasoned super grandmasters scored convincing wins over their young opponents. Two-time Olympic champion Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine scored a fine technical win over Germany's latest grandmaster, Vincent Keymer. Eljanov's advantage was never significant, but he kept persevering and was finally rewarded.

Former Asian and six-time Indian champion Surya Shekhar Ganguly scored an enterprising win over Dutch talent Max Warmerdam, who won the qualifier last year. Ganguly benefited from Warmerdam's mistake with 24...Qb5 when the latter tried to diffuse the attack by offering a trade of queens. Ganguly traded them and still continued his kingside onslaught to win material, which he later gave back to convert.

Nice win for former Asian champion Surya Shekhar Ganguly. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

In the last decisive game, Erwin L'Ami beat Australian junior Anton Smirnov in a fascinating game featuring a double-exchange sacrifice and pushed his pawns to victory!

L'Ami interviewed after the game. Video: Tata Steel Chess.

Top Indian junior Nihal Sarin put pressure on Swedish number-one, Nils Grandelius, who is also a second to the world champion. Grandelius kept his cool and showed impeccable technique to hold in the notorious rook-and-bishop vs. rook endgame in the longest game of the day.


Replay the live broadcast of the first round.

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. 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 will be 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.

Previous report:

IM Rakesh Kulkarni

Rakesh Kulkarni is the Director of Indian Social Media for and a correspondent on chess in India.

Rakesh has earned the International Master title and is a former Commonwealth Blitz Champion and a Commonwealth Bronze medallist in the junior category. Rakesh has a Masters of Commerce degree in Management & Business administration. He now is a professional chess player and trains young talents across the globe on

Company Contact and News Accreditation:
• Email:
• Phone: 1 (800) 318-2827
• Twitter: itherocky
• Address: PO Box 60400 Palo Alto, CA 94306

More from IM Rakesh
Chess Super League Playoffs: Kingslayers, Pivotal Pawns To Clash In Sunday's Final

Chess Super League Playoffs: Kingslayers, Pivotal Pawns To Clash In Sunday's Final

Comedians On Board, Part 2

Comedians On Board, Part 2