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Tata Steel Masters R9: Giri regains his lead

by Shahid Ahmed - 27/01/2021

One of the most anticipated match of Round 9 between Firouzja and Esipenko ended up in a draw. Giri defeated Vachier-Lagrave to regain his lead. Caruana made a unique choice against Wojtaszek which eventually paid off. The three of them - Giri, Caruana and Firouzja now share the lead with 6.0/9. Carlsen scored his second win of the event, this time Grandelius was his victim. He moves to 5.0/9. Harikrishna was held to a solid draw by Anton. He is now at 4.5/9. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

Three way race among Giri, Caruana and Firouzja

Anish Giri scored a fine victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to move to 6.0/9 and regain his lead. Caruana defeated Wojtaszek by making an anti-positional move which sent shockwaves in the chess universe. It is only after his win, everyone more or less accepted such a unique idea. Meanwhile one of the most anticipated match of the round between Firouzja and Esipenko ended up in a draw. Carlsen scored his second win of the event, this time against Grandelius to move to 5.0/6.

Giri is back in the lead along with Caruana and Firouzja | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

Giri - Vachier-Lagrave 1-0

Vachier-Lagrave's tough form continues as he lost his third game of the event, this time against the super solid Giri who once again took the lead.

Position after 21...d5

21...d5 is an inaccurate break. Find out why. The game continued with 22.exd5 which was not the optimum reply. Thus Vachier-Lagrave got an opportunity to maintain pressure for a while as he had positional compensation for the exchange and a pawn.

Position after 38...Qd7

Giri provided strong resistance and eventually his opponent played a strange move 38...Qd7. Because black is not getting the d6-pawn for free. The price is the f7-pawn which he had to pay and eventually arrive at a lost Rook and Pawn endgame.

Position after 64...Rf7

White is completely winning here. However white needs to take care of something and make sure black cannot go for a draw/win after giving up his rook for the c-pawn. What should white do after 64...Rf7 ?

Anish Giri talks about the game | Video: Tata Steel Chess Tournament

Giri scored a solid victory | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

Wojtaszek - Caruana 0-1

Caruana played a novelty in King's Indian Classical which surprised a lot of people in the chess universe.

Position after 13...Bxc3

Nigel Short and Ivan Sokolov tweeted there thoughts about the move

13...Bxc3 is something we all can say to be anti-positional move. White has a bishop pair, the position is open, so white can easily control the dark squares. However if Caruana is playing it, you know he has good reasons behind it as he is almost always well prepared in these matters.

Position after 23...g5

Now it is evident why Caruana chose to go with 13...Bxc3 as the position looks promising for black.

Position after 33.hxg3

It is evident black is completely winning here. What is the best continuation after 33.hxg3 ? The game continued with 33...dxe4 and black won the game in another six moves.

Caruana talks about Bxc3 and more about the game | Video: Tata Steel Chess Tournament

Caruana is well on his way to defend his championship title | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

Carlsen - Grandelius 1-0

One thing is for sure. After losing a game whoever Carlsen faces the next, he should be ready to face the wrath of the mighty world champion. Unfortunately for Grandelius, it was his turn to be the latest victim.

Position after 23...Rxf5

Grandelius' position looked good and he seemed to avoid any kind of trouble until 23...Rxf5. After a couple of moves he misjudged his opponent's threat.

Position after 30.f4

Black has back rank issues, but it's not fatal. Find out black's best defence here. In the game, Grandelius could not manage to find it and faltered with 30...Qd8. Thus things turned completely into the world champion's favor and it became just a matter of time for him to score a victory.

Carlsen talks about his game, loss to Esipenko and the game he didn't like his performance so far in the tournament | Video: Tata Steel Chess Tournament

Carlsen moves to sole sixth position with 5.0/9 with his second victory of the tournament | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

Firouzja - Esipenko 0.5-0.5

This was definitely one of the most anticipated match of the round, considering the tournament situation. The game lacked any kind of fireworks and it was a solid draw.

Position after 15.b4

Black could have gone with 15...g5. Firouzja mentions in the post-match interview that computer might say black has an advantage after 15...g5 but in a practical game, it is dangerous to play. I completely agree with that thought.

Firouzja talks about the game, his tournament situation and more | Video: Tata Steel Chess Tournament

The most anticipated battle of the round had the most expected outcome | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

Anton - Harikrishna 0.5-0.5

David Anton Guijarro held Harikrishna to a solid draw.

Position after 16.Kf3

Anton made a very interesting journey of his king to the center, starting with 16.Kf3.

Anton talks about his king's adventure to the center, debuting at the Masters section and much more | Video: Tata Steel Chess Tournament

Anton was too solid for Harikrishna to make any kind of breakthrough | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021
Tata Steel Masters 2021 Round 9 Live Commentary by Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal | Video: ChessBase India

Replay all games from Round 9

Round 9 results

Top three boards had decisive games while the rest drew | Photo: Official site

Standings after Round 9

Anish Giri is back in the lead with Caruana and Firouzja | Photo: Official site


Starting from Saturday 16th January, all round starts at 6:30 p.m. IST, only Sunday 31st January, the final round will start at 5:30 p.m. IST. Rest days are - 20th, 25th and 28th January.

Time Control

100 Minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for 20 moves, then 15 minutes for the remaining moves with 30 seconds cumulative increment for each move starting from the first move.


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