Abdusattorov Gives Carlsen His 1st 2-Game Losing Streak in 8 Years

Abdusattorov Gives Carlsen His 1st 2-Game Losing Streak in 8 Years


In their first-ever classical encounter, 18-year-old GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov with the black pieces defeated GM Magnus Carlsen in round five of the 2023 Tata Steel Chess Tournament. With his previous round’s victory vs. GM Parham Maghsoodloo, Abdusattorov has gained his second consecutive win while giving Carlsen a second classical loss in a row―an occurrence that we haven’t seen in eight years since Norway Chess 2015. Abdusattorov has captured the sole lead with GM Anish Giri in second, chasing him by half a point.

Maghsoodloo rebounded with a “bloodthirsty” attacking victory vs. GM Jorden van Foreest. Additionally, GM Levon Aronian gained his first win against GM Vincent Keymer

In the Challengers group, GM Mustafa Yilmaz has surged to the lead with three victories in a row. 

How to watch?

Round five was a unique one. For one, the players were coming off a rest day where some completed in a totally different sport at the John Cruiff Arena.

Secondly, the players played the round itself at the arena as a revival of the Chess on Tour tradition.

The players are ready and inspired by the new venue. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023.

If the goal of Chess on Tour is to get the players out of their heads and into a fresh, competitive environment, it certainly succeeded. Every single player emerged ready for a fight this round. 

In the all-American matchup, Caruana vs. GM Wesley So, the 2020 Tata Steel champion unleashed the risky Scotch Game, more common in the Romantic era of chess due to its fast development and opening of lines, on his compatriot. As Naroditsky commented: “I always love it when players bring back something that is out of fashion because you always wonder what they have in their pockets for that game.”

Matching the aggressive opening, the players castled to opposite sides, and Caruana ripped open the h-file to aim his heavy pieces at the black king. As the game progressed, Naroditsky observed: “Just terrifying preparation by Fabiano Caruana.”

Just terrifying preparation by Fabiano Caruana.

-Daniel Naroditsky

However, So defended with his standard high awareness, perceptively rerouting his light-squared bishop to the c8-h3 diagonal to keep Caruana’s queen from joining his rook on the h-file. When Caruana played the practical yet cautious 21.Nxc4, So was able to force a queen trade, calming the game down. In the ending, the players drew by repetition on move 41. 

An old rivalry in a fresh setting. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023.

GM Arjun Erigaisi vs. GM Ding Liren was one exchange after another of attacking play and resourceful defense by both players. In an Italian Game, Ding aggressively chased away White’s pinning bishop on g5 by expanding his kingside pawns to g5, g4, and h5. Erigaisi responded by sacrificing a center pawn on d4 still well within his opening preparation, as Houska noticed: “You know what scares me the most? Arjun has more time than he started with. When your opponent is playing a move like 14.Rb1, you know you’re in some home-cooked preparation.”

Ding characteristically countered with his attacking style, leaving his g4-pawn unguarded to focus on his counterattack, striking in the center with 19…d5!? This explosive move opened more lines for Ding’s long-range pieces. His a7-bishop stared down the a7-g1 diagonal joined by his f8-rook in adding pressure on Erigaisi’s f2-pawn. 

When Erigaisi chose the more cautious 26.Nf3 over 26.Ne4, Ding employed the insightful Ra5-f5 maneuver, activating his only undeveloped piece to triple on the f-file. With all five of his pieces aimed at the white kingside, Ding seized the attacking chances from his 19-year-old opponent. As Naroditsky observed: “Ding, the guy is a beast—the way he survives preparation, initiative, doesn’t matter.” 

In the final minutes of the game, Ding unleashed an incredible onslaught against Black’s king, yet Erigaisi countered with just as incredible creative defensive ideas despite his time trouble. This amazing back-and-forth duel ended in a fitting balanced result. 

Maghsoodloo vs. Van Foreest started with explosive play in the center in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted with the Dutch grandmaster throwing both his e5- and c5-pawns at White’s center. Maghsoodloo countered by accepting both pawns and then sacrificing his knight to create a potent advanced passed pawn as Naroditsky described: “There was a piece sac carried out by a bloodthirsty Parham.”

Though the game seemed to be calming down when Van Foreest gave the knight back, Maghsoodloo infused new aggression into the position with an additional pawn sacrifice, steering the game back into adventurous waters. 

Carlsen vs. Abdusattorov is a prime example of an intergenerational matchup: Abdusattorov was born in 2004, the same year that Carlsen made his debut at Tata Steel Masters. The players have developed a rivalry at the World Rapid Championship: Carlsen  recently defeated Abdusattorov on his way to winning the 2022 title, vengence for Abdusattorov beating him on the way to winning the 2021 championship.

In a symmetrical English where Houska noted: “In a tranquil pawn structure, the energy transfers to the pieces,” Carlsen sacrificed an exchange so his bishop could slice through the a3-f8 diagonal, preventing his opponent from castling kingside. Unfazed, Abdusattorov simply accepted the material and castled long. Then the world champion switched gears, gaining back a pawn on the kingside.

When Carlsen retreated his queen instead of playing the mindboggling yet engine-accurate 18.Qxh7, which would have further opened lines towards his own king, Abdusattorov wrangled the initiative from him with one fearless dynamic move after another. The Uzbek grandmaster then traded into a pawn-up queen ending and confidently converted his advantage against the highest-rated player in history.

This dazzling display is our Game of the Day (annotations by GM Rafael Leitao). 

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

In his post-game interview, Abdusattorov shared his thoughts about Carlsen’s exchange sacrifice: “I evaluated this whole exchange sacrifice as dubious because it seemed like I’m getting just a free exchange. And when he took on g7, I have a very powerful rook on g8. I think he underestimated long castles.”

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave added his two cents to the game, sharing how the queen ending holds unfathomable subtleties to a human player.

What will we see next from the relentless Abdusattorov? Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023.

GM Richard Rapport managed to solve all the problems posed by GM Gukesh D. in the Grunfeld Defense, reaching an equal ending, and they agreed to a draw on move 47. 

GM Praggnanandhaa R. and Giri faced off after both earning unbelievable victories against the world’s top two, Ding and Carlsen, respectively in round four. Their game reached a double rook ending early on with Giri pressing down the f-file and Praggnanandhaa creating pressure on the queenside. The position stayed fairly balanced as pawns and a pair of rooks were traded away, and the players drew also on move 47. 

Aronian won the last game to finish, grinding down Keymer in 79 moves in a minor piece ending. Annotations for this victory are by IM Adrian Petrisor.

In the Challengers section, Yilmaz defeated GM Amin Tabatabaei with the black pieces, tactically overpowering his opponent’s inaccurate exchange sacrifice, to reach four points. 

Results – Masters Round 5

Current Standings 

Pairings – Masters Round 6

All Games – Masters Round 5

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