International Chess Federation
Tuesday, 14 Jan 2020 18:00
Tata Steel Masters 2020: So stops Firouzja

All eyes were on the 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja in the fourth round of Tata Steel Masters 2020. The sole leader after three rounds was playing with Black versus World Fischer Random champion Wesley So - his first game against a Top-10 player in this event.

Firouzja went for Queen's Gambit Accepted once again (he was close to a win in his Round 2 game against Duda), but So's strategic approach to the game seemed perfect. He opted for a calmer line where White has no direct threats, but Black should be very accurate and patient. Patience is not a typical teenager’s virtue - Firouzja made some dubious decisions trying to solve all his problems too quickly. This game definitely needs a more detailed analysis, but 18...Na7 and especially 30...e4 were not the optimal defensive options. Black lost a central pawn and a bishop endgame was probably already lost but 37...fxg4 and 38...g5 just made things easier for the American GM. So taught the youngster a good lesson and became a new leader.

Another winner of Round 4 is Vladislav Artemiev from Russia. His opponent and namesake Kovalev is struggling in Wijk aan Zee constantly finding himself in terrible time trouble. This time Kovalev was hanging in there till move 35. With only a minute on the clock he didn't venture upon a counterattack with 35...b4!, lost a pawn on d5, but still had chances for a draw. However a horrible blunder by the Belarusian 39...Rd8?? became the last straw. A standard exchange sacrifice finished the game immediately as the black king was left without any guard.

Black is still winless in Tata Steel Masters, but today they at least managed to draw all other games. In Dubov – Duda and Yu Yangyi - Anand encounters Black equalized comfortably and the games were over in just two hours. Anish Giri against Nikita Vitiugov and especially Jeffery Xiong versus Fabiano Caruana were pressing with White and probably are not completely satisfied with just half a point result.

Magnus Carlsen desperately tried to change the course of a not very successful tournament and played the Two Knights Defense against Jorden Van Foreest. It's not really a defense, but an attack with Black sacrificing a pawn for an active counterplay. In one of the sidelines that was first introduced by Isidor Gunsberg in his match against Mikhail Chigorin back in 1890 (!) Van Foreest proved once again that he was not afraid to mix it up with the chess tycoons - he gave a pawn back with 16.g4! and forced into a better endgame. If Jorden was bold enough to sacrifice an exchange with 29.dxc4 he would have a chance for a major upset. After 29.Rce1 Magnus was out of the woods and even made an attempt to play for a win, but van Foreest was up to the task. Carlsen is still at 50%, and the 20-year old from Utrecht (actually Van Foreest is an aristocratic Dutch family well-known since XIII century) has 2.5 points after 4 rounds.

By making this draw, Magnus Carlsen took his unbeaten streak to 111 games with classical time control. The World Champion broke the record (110 games in a row without a loss) set by Sergei Tiviakov back in 2005.

Tomorrow is the rest day. The participants have a chance to recharge batteries before Round 5, which will be played on January 16 in Eindhoven.

Official site:
Photo: Alina l’Ami

Tata Steel Masters 2020 Standings after Round 4:

1. So - 3;
2-6. Firouzja, Xiong, Artemiev, Caruana, Van Foreest - 2½;
7-10. Dubov, Duda, Giri, Carlsen - 2;
11-12. Anand, Vitiugov - 1½;
13. Yu Yangyi - 1; 
14. Kovalev - ½.