Tata Steel 2024: Wei Yi Wins Four-Way Playoff

Image Caption
Wei Yi: the 2024 Tata Steel champion (courtesy Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024)


Anything can happen in Wijk aan Zee. The 2024 Tata Steel Chess Tournament, held January 13 through 28 in the Netherlands, saw the reigning FIDE World Champion, Women’s World Champion, and five-eighths of the 2024 FIDE Candidates vie for top honors. With such a star-studded line-up, it’s no surprise the 14-player Round Robin ended with a multi-way tie at the top.

Stunningly, of the four players to end the final round on 8½/13, there were no world champions and only one candidate among them. Talk about depth!


Image Caption
Gukesh (L) and Wei moments after the end of the tiebreaks (courtesy Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024)


In the end, Chinese GM Wei Yi beat Indian GM Gukesh D (the only Candidate of the group) in their second blitz game to earn the top prize.



To get to the final tiebreaks, Wei defeated Uzbek GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov  1½–½ in their previous blitz match, and Gukesh defeated Dutch GM Anish Giri in their third game after splitting the two-game match 1–1.


Nepo Wei
Image Caption
Round nine was the "chess on tour" round, featuring games played in front of a wider audience on an ominously lit stage. Here, Wei conducted his finest maneuver of the tournament against Nepo (L). (courtesy Lennart Ootes/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024)


To catch the leaders, Wei ended his tournament on a 4½/5 finish, beginning with a masterful king walk against Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in round nine:



Like last year, Abdusattorov led by himself after 11 rounds. And like last year, a late-round loss opened the door for a number of other hopefuls. Here’s Indian GM Vidit Gujrathi fantastic effort to shake up the race in round 12:



But Vidit’s own bid to join the leaders fell short when he lost to Wei in the final round.



Last-round wins by Giri and Gukesh allowed them to catch Wei, and Abdusattorov’s bounce-back win against German GM Alexander Donchenko made it a “final four” in for the playoffs.


standings M


The 24-year-old Wei’s result also catapulted him into the top ten on the live ratings list for the first time. Wei first reached 2700 at age 15, and the multifaceted member of Team Ding has been a regular fixture in international play for so long it is easy to forget that he is still young and improving. Also on the ratings list: Giri overtook Firouzja, just a weeks too late to qualify for the Candidates’ ratings spot.  


top 3
Image Caption
The top three finishers (on tiebreak): Abdusattorov (L), Wei, and Gukesh. Once again, Giri (also tied for first) missed out on the podium. (courtesy Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024)


A number of other noticeable matchups peppered the two weeks of play, including Chinese GM Ju Wenjun becoming the first reigning Women’s World Champion to take points off the reigning World Champion, holding GM Ding Liren to a draw in their last-round game.

We were also treated to another installment of the Ding – Nepomniachtchi saga, perhaps even as a teaser of what to expect later this year (if Nepo manages to win a third-straight candidates):



In addition to her draw against Ding, Ju held multiple top-25 players to draws, gaining 10 rating points in the process.


Firou Ju
Image Caption
Ju Wenjun's win over Firouzja (world number six at the time of writing) was definitely a career-best performance for the women's world champion. (courtesy Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024)


Of course, most of those came from her most shocking result, a fifth-round upset over French GM Alireza Firouzja in a marathon of an endgame:



In the Challengers group, American GM Hans Niemann entered the tournament as the ratings favorite, but finished an up-and-down tournament with a 7/13 score and a finish in the middle of the pack.  


Niemann Roebers
Image Caption
The 17-year-old Dutch phenom quickly took Niemann out of theory, but he seemed to be in control for most of the game until he overestimated his position (courtesy Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2024)


His upset loss to Dutch IM Eline Roebers is a nice summation of Niemann’s tournament, where a promising start but a few too many imprecisions and possibly underestimating the opponent resulted in a bit of a rude awakening by the end:



Of his wins, his game against Indian GM Harika Dronavalli most cleanly showed the talented firebrand’s upside:



Looking at the leaderboard, perhaps the 20-year-old Niemann is getting too old for this game? Indian GM Leon Luke Mendonca won the tournament outright with an impressive 9½/13 score, and Mendonca is only 17 years old!




To do so, Mendonca overtook  16-year-old French GM and 2023 World Junior Champion (over Niemann) Marc'Andria Maurizzi with one round to go when Maurizzi lost to 19-year-old Belgian GM Daniel Dardha. Then, Mendonca’s last-round win against Indian IM Divya Deshmukh sealed the deal, although it was a three-result game until the final moments:



Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a number of Wednesday Workouts drawing from the glut of mesmerizing chess from the Dutch winter. In addition to this week’s edition, highlighting a few key moments from throughout the event, readers can expect an all-Hans edition, a break-down of the blitz playoffs, and an entire week dedicated to one particularly thrilling rook endgame.