The thirteenth and final round of the Masters' segment of Tata Steel Chess saw Magnus Carlsen hold Anish Giri to a draw in a 30-move long game to clinch the title. For the reigning world champion, this was the seventh time that he has won the event " which also happens to be the record number of times any player has won the tournament. Anish Giri was a close second at 8.5 while Ian Nepomniachtchi, Ding Liren and Viswanathan Anand shared third place at 7.5.
Going into the final round, Carlsen and Giri were the only two players who had remained with a chance of clinching the title. For the latter, this was a must win situation if he was to stake his claim on the title. Magnus was half-a-point ahead of him and a draw would not have given Carlsen his seventh Tata Steel title.
"Why a must win?" Giri had asked Fiona Steil Antoni owhen she pointed out the tournament situation to him. "I mean you assume that I want to win the tournament for some reason," he added, evoking laughter from the audience.
Needless to say, the Dutch number one was only kidding. In the game, he decided to test the world champion in his favourite Sicilian Sveshnikov. After the fourteenth move, the game had reached the same position as in Carlsen's eleventh round game against Teimur Radjabov.
Giri deviated from Radjabov's novelty on the fifteenth move and went for the more known 15.Bg4. After the game, Giri said that he wasn't expecting Carlsen to repeat the line with 14¦Kh8 since he thought Black's bishop should not go to b7 in the position. Carlsen played his bishop there anyway, though, and reached a balanced position by the 20th move.
The computers evaluated the position to be equal after white gave up the exchange by capturing the a6 pawn on the 20th turn. Giri knew this but he also knew this was a straightforward draw. And therefore, he found another way to sacrifice the exchange and keep the game going.
"He (Carlsen) was sitting there so eager to go home that I thought: Okay, how can I keep him sitting here?" Giri said explaining his idea. While he was still worse in the resulting position, Giri said that his only hope was that Carlsen would go nuts because of the prolongation of the game, since he really wanted to go home.
The round also pitted the two Indians in the fray, Viswanathan Anand and Vidit Gujrathi against each other. Gujrathi, who had the white pieces in the game, chose the Petroff Defence once again. In the ninth round, Gujrathi had tried the opening against Nepomniachtchi, but had lost the game after making some inaccuracies in the endgame.
This time, the major difference was that Anand had chosen a symmetrical structure. While the position remained balanced for the most part, Anand said he could have made the position unpleasant for his young compatriot had he seen the idea of a pawn sacrifice on the nineteenth turn in time. Talking to Firstpost, he said, "I was quite annoyed when I saw this idea 19.d5 cxd5 20.Qg4 just a little bit too late. I think this is very unpleasant for Black. He was also terrified that I would play it."
Following this, Gujrathi doubled his rooks and exchanged a pair of knights before repeating the position to sign peace.
While most games of the round ended in draw " that included some really short ones " two games concluded decisively. Grandmaster Richard Rapport finished the tournament on a high note with his win over Jorden van Foreest in the final round.
The game had gone wrong for Jorden very early. Van Foreest's nineteenth move allowed Rapport a neat finish with a rook sacrifice that netted him a full minor piece in the end. Van Foreest could have tried to limp on for a few more moves but with his material disadvantage, he hardly stood a chance.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Kramnik and Sam Shankland played an exciting game in the Queen's Gambit Accepted. Following several ups and downs, Shankland, playing black, gave up a piece for three pawns, two moves before the first time control.
Shankland forced liquidation at this point on his 38th move giving up his bishop for three of his opponent's pawns. Kramnik took the offered material but was then on the back foot as the black pawns began marching down the board. About nine moves later, Kramink had the opportunity to force a draw.
On his 50th turn, Kramnik could have returned his extra piece for two of Shankland's pawns and called it a day. But Kramnik (version 2.0, if you will) decided to keep his bishop and continue the game but went on to lose eventually.
In the challengers group, Vladislav Kovalev won with a stunning 1.5 point margin over the rest of the field. Going into the final round, he was a clear favourite to win the event. Not only was he a half point ahead of his nearest rival, he also had the white pieces against Stefan Kuipers, who had struggled with form all through the tournament.
Meanwhile, Andrey Esipenko and Maksim Chigaev, both of whom had a chance to catch up with Kovalev had he drawn, lost their games to Evgeny Bareev and Benjamin Gledura respectively. But despite their final round loss, both Chigaev and Esipenko retained their joint second spot on the leaderboard, just that they had to share it with one more player who had joined them at 8.5/13,
Benjamin Gledura. After the application of tiebreaks Gledura took second place, Esipenko third and Chigaev fourth.
India's R Praggnanandhaa finished his run with a draw against Dinara Saduakassova and took the eleventh place in the final standings.