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How a 2700+ prodigy punishes an opening mess-up

by Satanick Mukhuty - 12/01/2020

The Tata steel Chess Tournament found a mild start with two and three games turning decisive out of the possible seven in the two playing sections on the first day of the event yesterday. Among the Masters it was the 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja and Dutchman Jorden Van Foreest who emerged victorious. In the Challengers category Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Erwin L'ami, and Pavel Eljanov clinched full points. The highly anticipated Magnus Carlsen versus Anish Giri ended in an anticlimactic draw after looking promising initially, while Vishy Anand's encounter against Vladislav Artemiev too fizzled out into a split of point. A detailed report on round one from Wijk Aan Zee.

The Tata Steel Masters in Wijk Aan Zee began with a sparkling show by the youngest player in the field. The 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja who recently created a stir by winning the silver medal in World Rapid 2019 and almost beating Magnus Carlsen in the blitz event, started off his campaign by registering an emphatic victory over Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus.  

After the round Alireza described his game against Kovalev as strange because the latter had actually forgotten his opening preparation in a very old line of the Ruy Lopez. The Belarusian made a reckless pawn push on move 16 instead of consolidating his queenside and that really came to bite him in the face as his young opponent kept playing one good move after another to force a clinical victory in just 36 moves!  


Alireza Firouzja - Vladislav Kovalev, Round 1

Kovalev's critical mistake happened on move 16 when he pushed c5-c4. This might look harmless but actually leaves the dark squares on the queenside vulnerable and invites the immediate Nd4 which puts considerable pressure on b5.

Alireza, who was at first a bit startled by this decision, lashed out with 17.Nd4! and soon, quite easily, found a clearly better position.

Black didn't really have a satisfactory continuation from here. In the game Kovalev simply gave up on b5 and went 17...Nd7 but even a move like 17...Qb6 would not have been any better because after something like 17...Qb6 18.N2f3 Nd7 19.a5 Qc7 with the idea of following up with Be3 next, Black gets a very comfortable grip over the dark squares on the queenside.


Analysis Board

Position after 19...Qc7: Black has his pawns intact here but his position is a wreck!

The correct move instead of 16...c5-c4 would have been 16...Nd7 which sort of consolidates everything on the queenside and is also presumably the mainline. Check out the full annotated game below where the nuances of this variations is discussed in detail.

The only other game that ended decisively in the Masters was Jorden Van Foreest versus Yu Yangyi, where the former played a 75-move long game with white pieces to ultimately a force a win in a queen versus rook position. Jorden was able to liquidate into a slightly better rook ending out of a Sicilian Alapin but somehow misplayed quite a few times and missed clearer means to win.


The highly anticipated Magnus Carlsen versus Anish Giri failed to live up to its expectations as it fizzled out into a draw in just 25 moves and was in fact the quickest game to finish. Vishy Anand and Fabiano Caruana too drew fairly quickly against Vladislav Artemiev and Wesley So respectively.

Magnus played a very unusual 4.Qb3 in the opening and was somewhat worse after just eleven moves but Anish didn't really push his chances | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Wesley So played solidly with black pieces against Fabiano Caruana and held the world no.2 in an even rook ending | Photo: Alina l'Ami

The standings of all players after first round.

In the challenger's event Surya Sekhar Ganguly started off with a fine victory over Max Warmerdam. The Bengal Grandmaster found the upper hand with white pieces in a Sicilian Najdorf when his opponent weakened his castled king on move 20. Let's now see the highlights of this encounter.

Ganguly is up against the current Dutch Champion of chess Lucas Van Foreest and will be looking to keep up his good performance | Photo: Alina l'Ami  

Surya Sekhar Ganguly - Max Warmerdam, Round 1

Max played the move 20...g6 to support his knight on h5 and this although was not a blunder but was quite dangerous.

The decisive mistake was 24...Qb5 ... Black should have prevented White's h4-h5 here by going 24...h5.

Surya promptly exchanged queens and thrust forward with h5!

Black gave up an exchange to get rid of White's powerful dark-squared bishop but this hardly eased anything. The above was the final position on board when the game was resigned. There was really no way in which the white h-pawn could be stopped. 

Nihal Sarin fought a gruelling battle against Nils Grandelius and tried hard to win a R+B versus R ending, but his swedish opponent defended well in what was the longest game of the day | Photo: Alina l'Ami 

The challenger's event saw a total of three decisive results. Here are the final standings.

Round 2 pairings - Masters

Dubov, Daniil - Kovalev, Vladislav  

Duda, Jan-Krzysztof - Firouzja, Alireza  

Artemiev, Vladislav - Vitiugov, Nikita  

So, Wesley - Anand, Viswanathan  

Giri, Anish - Caruana, Fabiano  

Yu, Yangyi - Carlsen, Magnus  

Xiong, Jeffery - Van Foreest, Jorden


Round 2 pairings - Challengers

Mamedov, Rauf - Grandelius, Nils

Eljanov, Pavel - Nihal Sarin

Smirnov, Anton - Keymer, Vincent

Warmerdam, Max - L'Ami, Erwin

Van Foreest, Lucas - Ganguly, Surya Shekhar

Abdusattorov, Nodirbek - Smeets, Jan

Saduakassova, Dinara - Anton Guijarro, David  

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