Caruana wins Tata Steel Masters

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

82nd Tata Steel Masters
Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands
Jan. 10–26, 2020

Final Standings:

1. Fabiano Caruana USA 2822, 10.0/13

2. Magnus Carlsen NOR 2872, 8.0/13

3. Wesley So USA 2765, 7.5/13

4.–5. Jorden Van Foreest NED 2644, Daniil Dubov RUS 2683, 7.0/13

6–9. Anish Giri NED 2768, Viswanathan Anand IND 2758, Jan-Krzysztof Duda POL 2758, Alireza Firouzja FIDE 2723, 6.5/13

10–11. Jeffery Xiong USA 2712, Vladislav Artemiev RUS 2731, 6.0/13

12. Nikita Vitiugov RUS 2747, 5.0/13

13. Yu Yangyi CHN 2726, 4.5/13

14. Vladislav Kovalev BLR 2660, 4.0/13

Average Rating: 2740 Category 20

Time Control: 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 50 minutes for the next 20 moves followed by 15 minutes for the rest of the game with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1

The chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands is traditionally the first Super GM (Grandmaster) event of the year. The main sponsor of the chess festival, which started in 1938, remains the steel factory in Ijmuiden, which is now part of the Tata Group, one of India’s oldest and largest business empires with subsidiaries involved in steel, power, chemicals, communications, beverages, motor vehicles, hotels, and many more.

There is the Masters’ Tournament where the world no. 1 (Magnus Carlsen) and no. 2 (Fabiano Caruana) will be taking part, a Challengers’ event which will qualify the winner to next year’s Masters’ Tournament, several Qualifier’s events to determine the participants in next year’s Challengers’ tournament, and several other opens for amateurs, club players and top professionals to compete in.

All these events are held in the giant De Moriaan sports hall in the center of town. You can walk around the tournament hall during playing time and maybe even bump into Magnus Carlsen or other members of the chess elite similarly wandering around the hall.

This is a great attraction of the annual Wijk aan Zee event — almost without exception chess players welcome each other in a close-knit chess brotherhood and in no time you might be chatting with Vishy Anand or drinking coffee with Svidler, elbow-to-elbow with other chessplayers talking about anything under the sun.

This year, aside of course from world champion Magnus Carlsen, two players are under the microscope — Fabiano Caruana, the world no. 2, and Anish Giri. These two will be playing in the March Candidates’ Tournament in Yekaterinburg. As BW readers know whoever wins the Candidates’ will then challenge world champion Magnus later this year for the world title. Most people did not expect Fabiano Caruana or Anish Giri to be showing their best. Normally the soon-to-be competitors in such an important tournament as the Candidates’ would hide the openings and the special developing schemes that they would use and instead resort to safe and solid openings just so as to avoid loss.

It started out that way too. Caruana had a pretty normal first half of the tournament with two wins (against a totally out-of-form Yu Yangyi and Daniil Dubov) but then came his game with Viswanathan Anand.

Caruana, Fabiano (2822) — Anand, Viswanathan (2758) [D38]
Tata Steel Masters Wijk aan Zee (8.6), 19.01.2020

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4

Queen’s Gambit Declined + Bb4 = Ragozin’s Defense. I mention this because a lot of us were brought up in the Fred Reinfeld and Irving Chernev generation of chess books in the 60s when the Ragozin Opening did not exist. Ragozin is the Russian GM who sacrificed his career to serve as full-time second to world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. He was also the 2nd World Correspondence Chess Champion.

5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bf4 0–0 7.e3 Bf5 8.Qb3 Nc6 9.Bg5 a5

Can’t White win the d5–pawn?

10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.a3

Timing is not right yet. If 11.Qxd5 right away Black has 11…Rfd8 12.Qc4 (12.Qb3? a4 13.Qd1 a3 Black will win material; 12.Qb5 Nxd4! followed by …c7–c5 whichever way White recaptures on d4) 12…b5! 13.Qxb5 Nxd4! 14.Nxd4 c5 White’s weakness on the long diagonal a1–h8 will cost him. 15.Nf3 Bxc3+ 16.bxc3 Qxc3+ etc.

11…a4 12.Qxd5 Bxc3+ 13.bxc3 Na5 14.Qe5 Qc6! 15.c4 Nb3

The threat to the rook is not so easy to parry. If 16.Rd1? then simply 16…Bc2. This, plus the fact that obviously Anand is still within his preparation made Caruana look for something more complicated. After half an hour’s thought he decides to give up the exchange.

16.Qxf5!? Nxa1 17.Bd3 g6 18.Qf4

For the exchange Fabi gets to castle his king into safety and go on the attack.

18…Nb3 19.0–0 Qd6 20.Qh6 Qf6 21.c5 b6 22.cxb6 cxb6 23.Ne5

White’s plan is now Bd3–c4 followed by f2–f4–f5. Anand eases the tension a bit by forcing an exchange of rooks.

23…Rfc8 24.f4 Rc1! 25.Rxc1 Nxc1 26.Bc4 Ra7 27.Ng4 Qd6 28.Qg5 Qe7

Taking the pawn on a3 would clear the way for his passed a-pawn, but at this time it is not feasible: 28…Qxa3 29.Qd8+

29…Kg7? 30.Qf6+ Kf8 31.Qh8+ Ke7 32.Qe5+ Kd7 (the king has to stick to the 7th rank otherwise Qb8 is check and the rook on a7 is lost) 33.Qb8 Rc7 34.Ne5+ followed by mate).

29…Qf8 30.Qxb6 Ra8 31.Qf6 Ra7 (31…a3 is met by 32.Bxf7+ Qxf7 33.Nh6+) 32.f5 Qg7 33.Qd8+ Qf8 34.Nh6+ Kg7 35.f6+ wins the black queen.

29.Qb5 Kg7 30.f5 f6 31.Qd5 Qf8 32.fxg6 hxg6 33.e4

With everything defended Anand is the one who can play for the win.

33…Qc8 34.h3 Rd7 35.Qe6 Qd8 36.e5 [36.d5? Rd6 traps the queen]

36…f5 37.Qf6+?

After the game Fabi remarked that this move was a mistake. He should have played 37.Nf6 On the surface 37…Re7 looks safer but it fails because of some spectacular chess: 38.Qd6! Qxd6 39.exd6 Rb7 40.Ne8+ Kf8 41.Nc7 (this is really impressive — the Black king cannot approach white’s passed pawn because all squares are covered by the white knight and bishop) 41…Rb8 42.Ne6+ Ke8 43.Bb5+ Kf7 44.d5 Nb3 45.d7 Ke7 46.Kf2 Nc5 47.d8Q+ Rxd8 48.Nxd8 Kxd8 49.Ke3 White is clearly better, if not winning;

37…Rxd4 38.Bd5 Ne2+ 39.Kf2 Nc3 40.Qf7+ Kh6 41.Qh7+ Kg5 42.g3 Rd2+ 43.Kf1 Rd1+ 44.Kf2 Rd2+ with a draw. If White tries to avoid the repetition then 45.Ke3? Nxd5+ 46.Kxd2 Nxf6+ with a horrible death.

37…Qxf6 38.exf6+ Kh7

Not 38…Kf8? 39.Ne5 Rc7 40.Nxg6+ Ke8 41.Ne5 Black has to give up his rook for the bishop.

39.Ne5 Rd6

[39…Rxd4 40.f7 Rd8 41.Nd7 Kg7 42.f8Q+ Rxf8 43.Nxf8 Kxf8 44.Bb5 followed by Bb5+ and equalizes material by taking the a4–pawn.]

40.f7 Kg7 41.Nf3 Nb3! 42.Ng5 Nd2! 43.Be6

Only move. If 43.Ba2 Nb3! the bishop’s all-important diagonal is blocked.

43…Rd8 44.Kf2 Kf6? <D>

Anand had to neutralize white’s passed d-pawn with 44…Nb3! 45.d5 (45.Bxf5 intending Ne6+ is refuted by 45…Rd5) 45…b5 46.d6 Nc5! Black is clearly winning.



Perhaps Anand had counted on 45.f8Q+? Rxf8 46.Nh7+ Kxe6 47.Nxf8+ Kf7 48.Nd7 Nc4 49.Ke2 b5 50.Kd3 Nxa3 with a win.


[45…Kxg5 46.Be8 the pawn queens]

46.Nxe4+ fxe4?

[46…Kxf7!! 47.Bxa4 fxe4 48.Ke3 Ra8 Black is playing for a win]

47.Be8 Ke7 48.Ke3 Rb8 49.Bxa4 b5?

I don’t understand why Viswanathan Anand did not take the f7 pawn. Now he will pay.

50.Bb3 Ra8 51.Kxe4 Rxa3 52.Be6 Ra1 53.d5 Rd1 54.Ke5 Rf1 55.d6+ Kf8 56.Kd5 Rf6 57.d7 Ke7 58.Kc6! Rf2

[58…Rxe6+ 59.Kc7 Rd6 60.f8Q+ Kxf8 61.Kxd6]

59.Kxb5 Rb2+ 60.Kc6 Rb8 61.Kc7 1–0

The finish after 61.Kc7 would have been 61…Ra8 (61…Rf8 62.h4 Rd8 [62…Kxe6? 63.d8Q Rxd8 64.Kxd8 Kxf7 65.g4 White wins] 63.g4 Rf8 64.g5 Rd8 65.h5 gxh5 66.g6 h4 67.f8Q+ Rxf8 68.g7 Ra8 69.g8Q) 62.Bd5 Rd8 63.Kc6 g5 64.g4 Ra8 65.h4 gxh4 66.g5 h3 67.g6 h2 68.g7 h1Q 69.f8Q+ Rxf8 70.gxf8Q+ Kxf8 71.d8Q+ Kg7 72.Bxh1.

After this very satisfying win Fabi took a short draw with Vitiugov and then, completely revived, won his four remaining games (against Alireza Firouzja, versus Kovalev, vs. Duda, and against Artemiev) to run away with the tournament. He tied Magnus Carlsen (2013) and Garry Kasparov (1999) with a dominating final winning score of 10/13, 2 full points ahead of runner-up Magnus Carlsen.

The Tata Steel Masters victorious Fabiano Caruana’s final tally of seven wins and six draws in a category 20 tournament equals an awesome performing rating of 2943. Mr. Caruana is starting to resemble Caruana of 2014 where he started off with 7-0 in the Sinquefield Cup and finally finished with 8.5/10, a performance rating of 3080, possibly the best tournament result of all time. It looks like he is on target for the March candidates.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.