We are still some six weeks away from the end of the year. Forty-six days and counting, and there’s still many big tournaments on the horizon – but already there’s a big buzz with the announcement this week for the field for the first major of 2020, the traditional Dutch classic of the Tata Steel Masters held, as ever, in the tiny windswept North Sea chess hamlet of Wijk aan Zee.
This is a tournament with a long tradition in the chess world and one that also prides itself on having a “special mix” with a diverse field of talents, with world champions present and past, playing alongside top elite-stars and potential challengers, and also coming up against newer-generational stars looking to make a name for themselves – and the upcoming 82nd edition looks to have outdone itself.
Returning once agin to defend his title is World champion Magnus Carlsen, who will be looking to add to his already record haul of 7 Wijk titles. But he faces stiff opposition with the 14-player field including rivals Fabiano Caruana, the former title-challenger and world No 2, Wesley So, who earlier this month humbled Carlsen 13.5-2.5 at Fischer Random, local Dutch star Anish Giri, and five-time ex-world champion Viswanathan Anand.
But, as is the Tata tradition, there’s also room for newer generational stars that includes Russia’s Daniil Dubov and Poland’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who recently battled each other in the semi-final of the ongoing FIDE Hamburg Grand Prix in Germany. More intriguingly – and making for even more of “special mix” feel – there’s also room in the Tata Masters field for even younger wannabes looking to make a major breakthrough on the world stage, such as Alireza Firouzja, the exciting 16-year-old attacking Iranian teen, and Jeffery Xiong, the No 1 US Junior.
The full line-up (in rating order) includes: Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia), Wesley So (USA), Viswanathan Anand (India), Yu Yangyi (China), Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), Vladislav Artemiev (Russia), Alireza Firouzja (Iran), Jeffery Xiong (USA), Daniil Dubov (Russia), Vladislav Kovalev (Belarus) and Jordan van Foreest (Netherlands).
Long-standing tournament director Jeroen van den Berg commented: “It will be very interesting to see how young talented players perform against the world’s best players. That is what makes the 82nd edition of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament already very fascinating long before the first moves will have been made.”
The 82nd edition of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee will run 10 – 26 January 2020. The organisers will also continue their new tradition of a “Chess On Tour Event”: The Tata Steel Masters will play round 5 in the Philips Stadium in Eindhoven on Thursday, 16 January 2020 – and this could well be a milestone moment for Carlsen, because if he continues his long unbeaten streak, he will set a new world record of 111 classical games without defeat!
This week, two of those enterprising newer stars included in the Tata Steel field, Daniil Dubov and Jan-Krzysztof Duda, fought out a very intriguing and enterprising battle in the semifinal of the FIDE Hamburg Grand Prix. The first two games were drawn, but Dubov won the first rapid tiebreak game in the playoff to take the advantage in the match – and the Russian looked all but set to join his countryman Alexander Grischuk in the final, needing only a draw in today’s game to go through.
But Duda played his big bluff just the right moment, and his bravery was paid off with a vital win to stay in the match. The Pole then went on to win the tiebreak 3½-2½, and he now plays Grischuk in the final – with the opening game of the final on Friday ending in a draw.
Photo: Daniil Dubov shows his disappointment after missing a crucial draw against Jan-Krzysztof Duda | © Valeria Gordienko / FIDE Hamburg Grand Prix
GM Daniil Dubov – GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda
FIDE Hamburg Grand Prix Semifinal, (4)
1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 a6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bb7 7.Re1 e6 8.c3 Nd7 9.a4 Ngf6 Needing to win to stay in the match, Duda adopts a more avant-garde path in the opening, with this being a sort of halfway house between the Modern Defence and the Hippopotamus. 10.Nbd2 0-0 11.Bc2 c5 12.Nf1 Qc7 13.Ng3 Rfc8 14.Bd3 b4 15.a5 c4 16.Bf1 b3 17.Ra4 d5 18.e5 Ne8 19.h4 The demarcation lines have now been fixed: Black is going to put his faith on the queenside, White on the kingside. 19…Bc6 20.Ra1 Rcb8 21.h5 Rb5 22.Ng5! While Duda may well win the errant a5-pawn, Dubov is going to go all-in with his kingside attack. 22…Nf8 23.Qf3 Ra7 24.Nh1 Not a retreating move as such, just clearing the path for the pawn storm of g4 and f4 for the all-out attack. 24…h6 25.Nh3 g5 26.Qd1 Rxa5 27.Rxa5 Qxa5 It’s a solid pawn – but it is going to take a lot of time for Duda to fully realise its value, while Dubov’s attack comes in quickly. 28.f4 g4 29.N3f2 f5 30.exf6 Nxf6 31.Ng3 Rf7 32.Be2 Bd7 33.Nxg4 Nxg4 34.Bxg4 The pressure is mounting on e6 – Dubov has more than enough compensation here for his pawn, and Duda isn’t going to get a6-a5-a4-a3 in as quickly as he’d like to. 34…Qc7 35.Ne2?! Dubov may well have been a little worried about the a-pawn push and decided to “make something happen”, but I thought a better plan was 35.Nf1 with the idea of Nf1-h2 followed by Bf3 and Ng4. 35…a5 36.f5 exf5 37.Bf3 Bc6 38.Bf4 Qd8 39.Qc1 Kh7 40.Be5 Ne6! Dubov was hoping for 40…Bxe5 41.dxe5 Ne6 42.Nf4 where he has good chances of staying competitive in the game – but Duda wants the trade of bishops on his terms. 41.Bxg7 Rxg7 Duda has some serious play now on the kingside with threats of …Qg5 or perhaps …Ng5. 42.Nf4 Ng5 43.Qe3 Qd6 44.Ng6 Qg3 Despite the knight looking menacing on g6, it threatens nor attacks nothing – and now was the time to be brave and push the a-pawn with 44…a4. White will have to stop the pawn pushing on to …a3, so now 45.Ra1 will be met by 45…Ne4! threatening …Be8, where now 46.Ne5 Qf6 and Black has control of the board. 45.Rf1 Rf7 46.Qe5! Dubov probably had a big sigh of relief at being able to play this move, as the trade of minor pieces and the queens considerably eases the pressure on his position. 46…Nxf3+ 47.Rxf3 Qxe5 48.Nxe5 Rf6 49.Nxc6 Rxc6 50.Rxf5 The rook and pawn ending should just be a draw – and this is all Dubov needs to go forward to the final. But he has to tread a little carefully, as Duda’s more advanced pawn chain d5-b3 could well be a target for a tricky rook sacrifice to queen one of the pawns. 50…a4 51.Rf7+ Kg8 52.Ra7 Re6 53.Kf2 Rf6+ 54.Ke2 Rf5 55.Rxa4 Rxh5 56.Ra1 Rg5 57.Kf3 Rf5+ 58.Ke2 Kg7 59.Ke3 h5 60.Ke2 Kg6 61.Ra8 Rf7 62.Ra5 Rd7 63.Kf3 Kg5 64.g3 Rd8 65.Rb5 Rf8+ 66.Kg2 Kf5!?! [see diagram] In a must-win situation to stay in the match, Duda is struggling to find a way to make any progress; but with the players down to their last few minutes on the clock (plus increment), he goes all-in on a big bluff – and it pays off. In normal circumstances, I would have expected to see 66…Rf5 67.Rb8 Rf7 68.Rd8 Rf5 69.Rg8+ Kf6 70.Rh8 Kg5 71.Rg8+ Kf6 and a draw. 67.Rxd5+ Ke4 68.Re5+?? What a dramatic table-turner! Dubov suddenly panics when faced with the bluff of …Ke2 and …Rf2+ and eating into the base of that weak White pawn chain on b2. He had a good few minutes left on his clock (plus the increment) and should have realised that he had a finesse and his only move was to first capture the h-pawn. After the correct 68.Rxh5! Ke3 69.Re5+ Kd2 70.g4! Kc2 71.Re2+ Kd3 the simple 72.Rf2! will draw and would have seen him through to the final, as with the trade of rooks there’s no time to play …Kc2xb2 with the g-pawn and the d-pawn being runners – and very fast! 68…Kd3 69.d5? Dubov is in full panic mode now. The only try was 69.Re1 Kc2 70.Re2+ Kd1 71.Re5 Ra8 72.Kf3 but even here, after 72…Kc1 73.Re2 Ra2 74.d5 Rxb2 75.Rxb2 Kxb2 76.d6 Kc2 77.d7 b2 78.d8Q b1Q Black looks to have a clear winning advantage in the ensuing queen ending due to the White pawn weakness on c3. 69…Kc2 70.Re2+ Kd1 71.Re5 Kc1! 72.Re4 The (full) point is that 72.Re2 Rd8 and the d-pawn falls, and with it the game. 72…Rd8 73.Rxc4 Rxd5 74.Rd4 Rc5 75.c4 Kxb2 76.Rd5 It’s desperation time now. 76…Rxc4 77.Rxh5 Kc3 78.Rh1 b2 79.Kh3 Kb3 80.Rb1 Rc1 81.Rxb2+ Kxb2 Unfortunately for Dubov, his g-pawn is too far down the board for the rook sacrifice to draw. 82.Kg4 Kc3 83.Kf5 Rf1+ 84.Ke5 Rg1 85.Kf4 Kd4 0-1