Fabiano Caruana played the game of the day in Round 3 of the
Tata Steel Masters but one slip-up and some fantastic defence by Jan-Krzysztof
Duda meant the world no. 2 failed to take the sole lead. Instead we have five
co-leaders after Harikrishna beat previous sole leader Nils Grandelius with the
black pieces. The only other player to win was 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja,
who recovered from his first round loss to Magnus Carlsen by winning a fine
game against David Anton.
You can replay all the games from Wijk aan Zee using the
And here’s the Round 3 live commentary from our team of Peter
Leko, Tania Sachdev and Jan Gustafsson.
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Caruana almost wins a stunning game
There were five draws in Round 3 of the Tata Steel Masters,
but Caruana-Duda was worth any number of run-of-the-mill wins. Polish no. 1 Jan-Krzysztof
Duda more than played his part, and first of all by his opening choices. He admitted
he’d failed to predict the first move:
I expected my opponent to play d4 on the first move, to be
honest, and it was obvious when he went for 1.e4 that he had something in store, but still I decided to go for
the Petroff, which is very risky, obviously, because it’s the very line that
Fabiano prepared against Magnus in their match, but anyway I decided to see
The Petroff line that followed was in fact the infamous “leak”
variation with 9…Nf6 that was clearly
visible in a video the Saint Louis Chess Club produced on preparation for the
Caruana eventually decided to play the line in the match
anyway and lived to tell the tale, but it was arguably an even bolder decision
for Jan-Krzysztof to repeat it, especially as he’d already played the same line
against Fabi in their
Speed Chess match in November.
This time, however, the world no. 2 came prepared with the
novelty 11.Rhg1!? and the follow-up 12.g4.
The computer disapproved, at least at a glance, but it was a
treacherous position to play, and by move 16 Fabiano had a chance to unleash the
dogs of war.
It took him 43 minutes to decide, but he did indeed go for
16.Ne6! Although it’s easy to see that 16…fxe6 17.Bxe6+ and capturing on d5 is very good for White,
there was mayhem on the board after 16…Qa5!. Both players found almost all
the computer-approved moves as they launched sacrificial attacks on opposite
sides of the board.
It was a true thriller, with Peter Leko – who during the
show admitted he’s never tasted coffee in his life – even more enthusiastic than
No quick summary can do it justice, so don’t miss in-depth
analysis by Jan Gustafsson.
When the dust had settled, however, we got an endgame with
rook against knight, where all the deep thinks earlier in the game came back to
The players were forced to play at blitz pace in the run-up
to move 40, and here it seems Caruana’s 38.Re1?! let most of the winning
chances slip. That move prevented 38…Ke6, but not 38…Ke8!, so that after 39.a4
Kd7 40.axb5 axb5 the black king was in time to defend the b-pawn. After the
immediate 38.a4! Fabiano would have won the pawn and perhaps the game.
On the other hand, it felt like a fair outcome, since both
players had played their part, as summed up in tweets by Azerbaijan Grandmaster
It was an example of how much harder it’s become to win in
sacrificial style in the modern game.
If anyone can handle that disappointment, however, it’s
Harikrishna takes down leader Grandelius
That turned out to be a missed chance for defending champion Fabiano
Caruana to take the sole lead, since Nils Grandelius was brought back down to
earth by Harikrishna. It felt like a self-inflicted loss, since Nils unnecessarily
tried to complicate matters on move 17 of a French Defence.
Here after exchanging bishops on b4 White would remain
better and be “playing without any risk”, according to Harikrishna, but instead
Nils decide to preserve the bishop with 17.Bf4?! only to run into 17…Qa5! 18.b3
b5! 19.Nb2 Ba3!, after which the Indian grandmaster felt it’s “pretty easy” for
Black. He’s dominating on the queenside, while White has no counterplay on the kingside.
Another unfortunate move with the same bishop, this time retreating it to c1 to exchange it off, may have been the last nail in
Grandelius’ coffin, as the Indian no. 2 made the rest look very easy.
Carlsen and Giri among the players thwarted
The loss of the leader also looked like a great chance for
Anish Giri and Magnus Carlsen to take the lead, since they had the white pieces
against weaker opposition, but both were held to draws. 22-year-old German
Grandmaster Alexander Donchenko even had the better of his game against Giri,
but he admitted afterwards he was just happy to get off the mark in a tournament
he’d only known he was going to play two days before the start, when Daniil
“I finally feel like I’m playing this tournament,” he
I simply need time to realise from, ‘I’m sitting on the couch,
I’m not doing anything for the next two or three months’, to ‘I’m suddenly
playing 13 games against very, very strong players’!
Norwegian no. 2 Aryan Tari had lost both games he played
against Norwegian and world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen in Norway Chess last year, and
his choice of a Semi-Tarrasch in which Magnus had both won and lost against
Wesley So in the final of the Skilling Open seemed less than obvious.
Aryan said he thought it was an ideal choice if you’re happy
with a draw and have lots of time to think, however, and he justified his
decision on the board, even if he admitted there were some “scary moments”.
Magnus has whipped up a storm despite the limited forces,
but Aryan felt it was important here to find 29…Kf6! and after 30.fxe6 Kg5
31.Rd5+ Kf6 32.Nf4 Be3! the worst was over, with the game ending in stalemate.
Wojtaszek-Van Foreest followed the same opening, but with
Radek going for the sharper 7.Bg5 and ultimately getting what was close to a
winning position, though he may have missed a trick when he exchanged off all
the rooks rather than occupying the 7th rank.
The remaining draw was spectacular, with 18-year-old Andrey
Esipenko taking a fresh approach against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the opening.
The Qf4-Qh4 manoeuvre he then went for was also interesting, but
Best here may have been 13…Bxd5!? 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.b4 Ndxb4
when Black gets up to 4 pawns for a piece. Maxime couldn’t resist a chance to
sacrifice his queen instead, however, commenting, “no it wasn’t known, but it
was pretty natural to me, actually so natural that I even overlooked maybe
He went for 13…Nxd5!? 14.exd5 Bxd5 15.b4 Bxf3! (again 15…Nxb4
might have been considered).
After 16.bxa5 Bxe2 17.Rd5 Bxc3 18.Rb1 Nb4 Maxime had
excellent compensation with his hyperactive minor pieces terrorising the white rooks.
After 19.Rd4! Maxime admitted he’d missed that his intended
19…Bd3? loses to 20.Rdxb4!, but after 19…Bxd4 he still eventually had the
better of a draw.
Firouzja seizes his chance
After doing well to survive against MVL and avoid starting
with two losses the day before, 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja got back to doing
what he does best – making wins against top-class opponents look almost
effortless. David Anton, who himself had survived a first test against Magnus
Carlsen the day before, lived to regret a decision he made on move 14.
Here, under no compulsion, David went for an exchange of
queens with 14…Qb5!? 15.Qxb5 axb5 and after 16.a3! had a long struggle ahead.
As Alireza put it:
Of course after the exchange of queens he accepted to just
defend this endgame for 5 hours. He could have gone more active, castle even,
anything is possible, and the game is around equal.
Alireza set about establishing a bind on the position and
seemed to get a near decisive edge after the last move before the time control.
Suddenly all kinds of tactics were in the air.
Peter’s line there can be parried by meeting 45.Nxg7! with
45…f5+!, but another little trick proved decisive. 50…Rg8? was a mistake:
51.Ne7! was the decisive blow, since 51…Kxe7 52.Rxg7+ wins
back the piece with the passed h-pawn ready to win the game. David tried to
muddy the waters with 51…Ng5+, but after 52.fxg5 Kxe7 53.gxf6+ Kxf6 54.Rg6+ things were crystal clear – Alireza had total positional dominance and a simple
winning plan of transferring his knight to e5. The end, including 60.Kg4! to
set up a mating net, was one finesse after another, with 61.Rd7! provoking
The d6-knight is lost, since if it moves Rf7# will be mate.
Firouzja is therefore back to 50% and just half a point
behind what is now a 5-player leading pack.
Tuesday’s Round 4, the last before the first rest day,
includes the clash of the leaders Harikrishna-Caruana, while Carlsen and
Firouzja are likely to be out for blood even with the black pieces in Van
Foreest-Carlsen and Tari-Firouzja (Alireza won both their games in Norway
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