Tata Steel Masters: Harikrishna loses to Firouzja, Esipenko crushes Carlsen

P. Harikrishna suffered his first loss in the Tata Steel Masters chess after running into an in-form Alireza Firouzja who emerged as the sole leader after eight rounds in Wijk aan Zee, in the Netherlands.

P. Harikrishna paid the price for underestimating the danger posed by the position around the 33rd move (File photo).   -  RAJEEV BHATT

P. Harikrishna suffered his first loss in the Tata Steel Masters chess after running into an in-form Alireza Firouzja (5.5 points) who emerged as the sole leader after eight rounds in Wijk aan Zee, in the Netherlands, on Sunday.

On a day when 16-year-old Russian Andrey Esipenko crushed Magnus Carlsen with a flawless display, all other games were drawn.

Harikrishna paid the price for underestimating the danger posed by the position around the 33rd move. Notwithstanding a pawn-deficit, Harikrishna did his best to defend but 17-year-old Firouzja made him suffer by finding accurate continuations and tactics before winning in 56 moves. This was Firouzja’s third successive victory and fourth in all after starting his campaign with a defeat to Carlsen.

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Carlsen, whose last defeat to a teenager in this coveted event came against 16-year-old Anish Giri in the 2011 edition, looked lost by the 16th move against Esipenko, rated 2677. The youngster held his nerve to convert his advantage in 38 moves.

The defeat to Esipenko ended Carlsen’s unbeaten run of 51 games that included 16 victories in this tournament. This was also Carlsen’s first defeat to a sub-2700 rated player. The world’s top ranked player, rated 2862, has lost 18 rating points in eight rounds.

In 2013, a nine-year-old Esipenko was awestruck when Carlsen agreed to pose for a photograph with him. Later that year, Carlsen went on to beat Viswanathan Anand in Chennai and claimed his first World title. On Sunday, Esipenko met Carlsen for the first time in classical time-format and won impressively.

Eighth-round results: P. Harikrishna (4) lost to Alireza Firouzja (5.5); Andrey Esipenko (Rus, 5) bt Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 4); Fabiano Caruana (USA, 5) drew with Anish Giri (Ned, 5); Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra, 5) drew with Jorden van Foreest (Ned, 5); Nils Grandelius (Swe,4.5) drew with Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Pol, 3.5); Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Pol, 3) drew with David Anton Guijar (Esp, 3); Alexander Donchenko (Ger, 2.5) drew with Aryan Tari (Nor, 3).

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