So Scores First Win, Caruana Joins Chase After Abdusattorov

So Scores First Win, Caruana Joins Chase After Abdusattorov


GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov continues to lead the 2023 Tata Steel Chess Tournament, drawing a hard-fought clash vs. GM Praggnanandhaa R. in round six. GM Fabiano Caruana climbed the scoreboard with an attacking victory vs. Gukesh D., joining GM Anish Giri in the chase after Abdusattorov from half a point behind. GM Wesley So earned his first victory to reach the tie for fourth. 

In the Challengers group, GM Alexander Donchenko won to rejoin GM Mustafa Yilmaz in the lead.

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Caruana faced the youngest competitor―a player nearly half his age―Gukesh. This is Caruana’s 13th appearance at Wijk aan Zee while it’s Gukesh’s debut. With Gukesh’s upset victory vs. Caruana in the 2022 Olympiad hanging over them, this game was also a revenge match for the American grandmaster. 

In the Ragozin variation, Caruana gained the two bishops and an advantage after Gukesh inaccurately opened up the center 12…c5. Though Caruana’s king was uncastled (and remained so the entire game), the open center favored his bishop pair, especially the dark-squared one, which teamed up with his queen on the influential a1-h8 diagonal.

With 15.Bxf6, Caruana was able to slash open his opponent’s kingside structure and bring over considerable attacking resources with h4-h5 and a rook lift. The 2020 Tata Steel champion converted his attacking position with the 29.c5! break, trading into a winning ending where he captured all of Gukesh’s queenside pawns and doubled his rooks on the Indian prodigy’s seventh rank. 

This clash of generations is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

After the game, Caruana shared that his feeling that his opponent resigned slightly prematurely: “I was surprised he resigned in the final position, although it’s completely winning for White. Still, I thought he would play on a few more moves. He can play f5, try to get e4, try to activate the knight, and bank a bit on my time pressure. Of course, White has a very safe, decisive advantage. But I think at some point he more or less gave up on the game.”

With this victory, Caruana is back in the world top five in live ratings at 2773―just a half rating point ahead of his rival for second, Giri. 

GM Richard Rapport vs. GM Parham Maghsoodloo matched up the Romanian grandmaster known for his creative approach and the Iranian grandmaster with a love for fighting chess. As Maghsoodloo shared in his round five interview: “I enjoy playing against players with Jorden’s style. They are so aggressive. They want to play a fighting position… I hope to play more fighting games, and I hope I don’t make draws anymore.”

I hope to play more fighting games.

-Parlam Maghsoodloo

Rapport employed the Chekhover Variation of the Sicilian with an early Nd5 to establish a clamp in the center, leading a damage to Black’s pawn structure after an exchange of knights on f6. In the middlegame, Maghsoodloo realized the classic Sicilian center break 19…d5, soon leading to a trade of all the rooks down the open d-file.

While Rapport had the better pawn structure and queenside majority, Maghsoodloo created pressure on both sides of the board with with his light-squared bishop and queen along the a8-h1 diagonal, his knight on c4, and his dark-squared bishop along the h8-a1 diagonal. Each side worked to neutralize their opponent’s strengths: Rapport managed to trade away Black’s more active pieces while Maghsoodloo leveled out the pawn structure imbalance.  The players drew in an even minor piece ending with pawns only left on the kingside. 

Rapport’s creative approach can also extend to his game attire. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023.

Defending champion GM Magnus Carlsen faced 2021 champion GM Jorden van Foreest. In a Sicilian Taimanov, Carlsen offered an early queen trade, steering the game into the kind of subtle yet rich endgames where he’s most comfortable and can press with little risk. Though the world champion made a valiant effort for a decisive result, his 23-year-old opponent defended astutely. As Naroditsky observed: “Jorden doesn’t want to just draw from a position of weakness, he wants to draw from a position of strength.”

He wants to draw from a position of strength.

-Daniel Naroditsky

The two most recent Tata Steel champions face off, both looking to rise out of their challenging tournaments starts. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023

Giri vs. GM Arjun Erigaisi was one of the wildest games of the round. This was their first classical chess matchup while Erigaisi has a 2-0 lead against Giri in over the board rapid. The Semi-Slav launched into sharp conflict when the players castled to opposite sides, and Giri began dismantling Indian grandmaster’s queenside pawn cover. The Dutch number one doubled down by sacrificing his last queenside pawn to open the a-file and ripped open his dark-squared bishop on the h2-b8 diagonal. 

Nevertheless, just like in his game yesterday, Erigaisi tangoed around the land mines his opponent set up all over the board with tremendous verve and accuracy. The players’ warring pieces were traded away, and a peace treaty was reached in the resulting rook endgame.

Naroditsky summarized Erigaisi’s standout resilience: “Arjun putting together yet another stunning defensive display. It doesn’t matter what his opponents throw at him: time pressure, weak king―He doesn’t care. The guy just weathers whatever his incredibly strong opponents throw at him, and he does it with style and with grace. He’s just so hard to bring down.”

Arjun putting together yet another stunning defensive display.

-Daniel Naroditsky

The teenager matchup, Abdusattorov vs. Praggnanandhaa, was yet another explosive encounter. The Open Variation of the Ruy Lopez erupted into desperado-style play when the Indian grandmaster played the 19…d4 central break, and Abdusattorov ignored the chaos in the center to strike on the queenside with 20.a5!? 

When the dust settled from the wild middlegame shoot-out, Abdusattorov gained an extra pawn. However, between Praggnanandhaa’s accurate active defense and pawns left on only one side of the board, the tournament leader had to settle for a peaceful result.

GM Ding Liren vs. GM Levon Aronian was a clash between Ding’s IQP and Aronian’s isolated king pawn. Initially, the Chinese grandmaster’s d4-pawn gave him extra space in the center, but the four-time Wijk aan Zee champion steadily activated his pieces and created pressure on his opponent’s center pawn. With each side active yet with weaknesses to defend, the game concluded with a fitting perpetual check as both player’s queens broke into the enemy positions. As Naroditsky described: “This is a position where both sides are simultaneously active and stuck in molasses.”

Aronian displays his unique style on the board and off. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2023.

So vs. GM Vincent Keymer was a fascinating battle of ideas in the Ruy Lopez where the German grandmaster won a pawn in the opening but kept a majority of his pieces on the backrank in the process, offering White greater activity. So eventually gained the pawn back and then won another and exchanged into a minor piece ending. Though Keymer had drawing chances and played energetically on the queenside, So captialized on an inaccuracy and steered the game to a winning bishop vs. knight endgame. So’s first victory is annotated by IM Adrian Petrisor.

In the Challengers section, Donchenko defeated IM Eline Roebers in a highly dynamic battle where neither side bothered to castle. GM Erwin L’Ami beat fellow Dutch grandmaster, Max Warmerdam, with a spectacular tactical idea. Can you find it?

IM Vaishali R. scored her first victory of the tournament with tactical play in the endgame vs. GM Jergus Pechac

Results – Masters Round 6

Current Standings 

Pairings – Masters Round 7

All Games – Masters Round 6

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