International Chess Federation
Sunday, 26 Jan 2020 23:00
Tata Steel Masters 2020: Rich Man, Poor Man

Fabiano Caruana finished Masters event in Wijk aan Zee in style winning his last game against Vladislav Artemiev in the longest and the most interesting encounter of the round. All the other games were drawn. summarizes the results of the first super tournament of 2020.

Fabiano Caruana guaranteed himself a tournament win after Round 12, but he still wasn't in a hurry to get a bowl of traditional pea soup. He easily equalized after highly unorthodox 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nd7!? and then secured a clear advantage after Artemiev ran in circles for a while in the middlegame. All games were over long ago, but Caruana kept looking for a win. The Russian GM found an interesting opportunity to escape by sacrificing his knight to activate the queen and deliver a perpetual. Unfortunately for him, he chose the wrong "checking route" - 49.Qd7+ would have saved the game as after 49...Rf7 50.Qd4+ Kf8 there is a key check from d8. After 49.Qe7+ Artemiev was doomed as Caruana's king ran away and found a safe haven in White’s camp.

4 out of 6 other games were not exciting at all as in So - Carlsen, Duda - Anand, Firouzja - Dubov, and Kovalev - Vitiugov duels both participants had nothing against a peaceful outcome. On the contrary, Anish Giri badly wanted to beat Jorden van Foreest and to surpass him in the tournament standings - he had a clear advantage at some moment after van Foreest didn't dare take a pawn on b4, but even White's extra pawn in the rook endgame wasn't enough for a win. Yu Yangyi had a chance to shut the tournament door with a bang as he was up an exchange against Jeffery Xiong, but suddenly the Chinese GM just offered a draw in a position where he could have pushed for a win for a long stretch of time.

Tata Steel Masters 2020 will be remembered for Fabiano Caruana's outstanding performance. He finished with a remarkable score of 10 out of 13 (7 wins with no losses) two points ahead of Magnus Carlsen. It's his best tournament performance since Sinquefield Cup 2014 when he won 7 games in a row at the start. Here, in Wijk aan Zee he won the last 4 games. Twice, against van Foreest and against Anand he was on the brink of defeat but managed to escape both times - in the game with the Dutchman by simply offering a draw. Caruana's live rating is up to 2842 after the event, only 20 points behind Magnus Carlsen.

Magnus Carlsen was out of form at the beginning of the tournament but still finished in clear second place with a respectable 8/13 keeping his unbeaten streak alive. His most important achievement is undoubtedly a victory over Firouzja with Black - a prelude for their long upcoming battle.

Wesley So finished third with 7.5 points and also undefeated. He started the event with two victories and was even leading for a short moment, but his energy level was seemingly not high enough as he went on nine game drawing streak.

Jorden van Foreest turned in by far the best tournament in his life. He managed not only to finish with +1 score (three wins and two losses) but played some fighting, spirited chess throughout the event and showed absolutely no fear in mixing up with the "big boys". The lowest-rated participant tied for the 4th place with Daniil Dubov who was actually 3rd lowest-rated player in the tournament.  It's also a pretty good result for Dubov who is almost back into "2700 class" with live rating of 2699.  Meanwhile, Jorden will increase his rating by 23 points and enter the top 100 (Open) for the first time in his life.

Alireza Firouzja once again became the main magnet to spectators’ attention in Wijk aan Zee. The 16-year-old prodigy from Iran, now living in France and playing under FIDE flag, was sensationally leading the tournament until Round 9. He played some amazing games (his wins against Artemiev and Xiong were especially good) and went for the big battles against the world's best - he suffered three losses in a row in these clashes, but definitely can be really proud of how he handled himself in his first classical chess super tournament.

50-year-old Vishwanathan Anand also played a nice tournament. His two wins - against the two youngest opponents, Firouzja and Xiong - were almost perfect, and his two losses were dramatic: he could have forced a draw after very deep combo versus So and was clearly winning against future tournament winner Caruana.

All other players were not at their best in Wijk aan Zee, but still contributed into a tournament that was a real joy for all the chess fans around the globe. team and the whole chess community are already waiting for Tata Steel 2021. One participant is already known - David Anton Guijarro won the Challengers event and according to a long-standing tradition will play Masters next year.

Official site:
Photo: Alina l’Ami

Tata Steel Masters 2020 Final Standings:

1. Caruana - 10;
2. Carlsen - 8;
3. So - 7½;
4-5. Van Foreest, Dubov - 7;
6-9. Firouzja, Duda, Giri, Anand - 6½;
10-11. Artemiev, Xiong - 6;
12. Vitiugov - 5;
13. Yu Yangyi - 4½;
14. Kovalev - 4