Tata Steel Chess: Firouzja Joins So In Lead
All the players in the masters group at the Philips Stadium in Eindhoven. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess.

Tata Steel Chess: Firouzja Joins So In Lead

| 25 | Chess Event Coverage

Alireza Firouzja defeated Anish Giri to join Wesley So in the lead after five rounds of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, which visited the city of Eindhoven for the "Chess on Tour" day of the event.

Viswanathan Anand won against Jeffery Xiong while Magnus Carlsen struggled to a draw against Daniil Dubov.

Traditionally, the players in the masters group of the Tata Steel Chess tournament play two of their rounds at an external location. But this year the organizers planned one event outside Wijk aan Zee. Today, players visited Eindhoven, where the venue was the iconic Philips Stadium, home of the famous Dutch football (soccer) club PSV Eindhoven.

In a different environment, the players delivered even more exciting games. Anand was the first to strike as he finally managed to win a game after struggling in the earlier rounds. The American junior Xiong has been steadily climbing the rating ladder while grinding out good results against top-quality opposition. He had drawn Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana in previous rounds and has clearly shown that he is a force at the chessboard.

Anand faced the talented Xiong for the first time in his career. Such is the age difference that he was a world champion even before the Xiong was born. In fact, Anand won this event in 1989, before all the players except Vitiugov were born.

Anand in a good mood. | Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

The game started off in a French Winawer, but Xiong avoided the highly complicated and well-known theory. The players took Vladimir Kramnik's advice to heart and played a game of no-castling chess! The game was well-fought with plenty of complications. Later on, Xiong blundered as he allowed Anand to break open with 31.c4. Xiong forced the game into a bad rook ending, which Anand duly converted.

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

The former Iranian prodigy Firouzja is having a sensational debut at his first super-tournament. Today, he managed to defeat the Dutch number-one Giri and catch So, who drew fairly quickly against tail-ender Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus. Firouzja and So now jointly lead with 3.5 after five rounds.

Tata Steel Chess, Chess, Netherlands
Firouzja vs Giri starts with the Philips Stadium in the background. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess.

Firouzja employed the exchange variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined with 5.Bf4. Giri got the bishop after 11 moves but ended with a bad structure. White, holding the the two knights, tried to open the center with a pawn break in an ironic plan. The two bishops never really flourished for Giri but he was definitely never worse. Frequent trades led to a rook ending where only White had some chances. On the fateful 40th move, Giri blundered horribly just before making time-control. Firouzja quickly snapped up a pawn, then traded rooks and coasted home in the king-and-pawn ending.  

An ecstatic Firouzja shared his thoughts. | Video: Tata Steel Chess.

A somewhat similar king-and-pawn endgame arose on the neighbouring boards in Jan-Krzysztof Duda vs Vladislav Artemiev. But their road to the endgame was completely different. This was a slugfest. In typical isolated queen pawn style, Duda let loose and went for broke!

He had all his pieces directed against Black's king and was all-in with a dodgy piece sacrifice. Artemiev misplayed the best defense and allowed Duda back into the game. The latter had forseen a series of exchanges resulting in an allegedly winning ending.

Artemiev defended like a machine, making seven moves with seconds on his clock to hold the draw in our game of the day.

The world champion Carlsen took on his second, Dubov. Carlsen now has the longest unbeaten streak but he is still struggling overall. Embarrassingly, he has more wins in football than chess this year!

Carlsen summed up his performance so far: "The good thing for me is that there are eight more rounds left and the bad thing of course is the score and the way that I'm playing, but it's not too much to be laid on right now."

Magnus Carlsen has more wins in football than chess this year. | Video: Tata Steel Chess.

Other games like Caruana-Van Foreest and Vitiugov-Yu also ended in draws. The former was an intense struggle where the world number-two sacrificed a piece while the latter was a quick, 24-move draw.

Masters games, round 5

The challengers group played in Wijk as usual along with the lower sections in a round that saw six decisive results in seven games. Three players lead with 3.5 out of five games.

The overnight leader Surya Shekhar Ganguly of India played the only draw of the round in a Spanish opening against the top seed, David Anton Guijarro of Spain.

The seasoned campaigner Pavel Eljanov played energetic chess to outwit the Australian junior Anton Smirnov to join the leaders. In an interesting Slav, Eljanov managed to castle artificially on the queenside and later blew open the kingside to launch a decisive attack on the black king. 

Erwin l'Ami scored an impressive win over Dinara Saduakassova, showcasing the importance of outside passed pawns in opposite-colored-bishop endings. He won a pawn in the opening and maintained it throughout to win in 53 moves and become another co-leader. 

The "comeback kid" Jan Smeets scored his second consecutive win to beat Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan. Smeets, whose last tournament was in 2013, looked in perfect harmony and played a fine game that finished with a checkmate on the board.

Challengers games, round 5

Chess, Tata Steel, Netherlands, Eindhoven
GM Robert Hess and FM Tex de Wit provided commentary today. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess.

Like in previous years, the official video broadcast is produced 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.

Replay the live broadcast of the fifth round from Eindhoven.

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

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