Tata Steel Chess Tournament: 4 Players Lead As Grandelius Stumbles

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GM Nils Grandelius couldn’t keep his lead at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament. In the seventh round, the Swedish grandmaster lost to GM Anish Giri, who is now in shared first place together with co-Dutchman GM Jorden van Foreest as well as GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Alireza Firouzja.

How to watch?
The Tata Steel Chess Tournament runs January 16-31, 2021. All rounds start at 14:00 CET (5 a.m. Pacific) except for the final round that starts an hour earlier. You can follow the games at chess.com/events/2021-tata-steel-masters and watch the broadcast at chess.com/tv.

It was an excellent day for the Dutch chess fans, who saw both participants from the Netherlands reach first place. For a few minutes, they were the only leaders but then Caruana joined them, and at the end of the day, Firouzja as well.

It brought up the question when was the last time that two Dutch players were sharing first place halfway the tournament. That’s hard to research actually (our readers are more than welcome to share their knowledge here) but the last time two Dutch GMs won together was in 1981: GM Genna Sosonko and GM Jan Timman. (Before that, it was in 1958 when GM Max Euwe and Jan Hein Donner tied for first.)


The Dutch success story started with Van Foreest scoring his second victory in the tournament. He defeated Norway’s GM Aryan Tari with the black pieces and was very happy with that.

“In this tournament no win comes easily but especially with the black pieces it’s very hard to win a game,” said Van Foreest. “I’m feeling very happy and very satisfied with my play as well.”

It seems Tari wasn’t fully ready for his opponent’s sideline in the Ruy Lopez: 4…Bc5 together with 5…Nge7, a specialty of the Israeli GM Tamir Nabaty. The decision to trade bishops on a7 and push d6 didn’t give White an advantage, and Black got the upper hand when Tari played his king’s bishop to c2.

Tari Van Foreest Tata Steel Chess 2021
Tari-Van Foreest. Photos: Alina l’Ami, Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Van Foreest was surprised about that (“It’s quite nice on b3”) and liked his position when he could pus his f-pawn. Three moves later, White was already lost as all the tactics worked against him.

The next winner was Giri, who brought down the tournament leader. From an opening theoretical perspective it was interesting that the players followed one of the main lines for Black in an online course on the Najdorf recently published by Giri.

Even so, both players thought for about an hour on alternative options before the game really took off. “That was very nice because by the time we started playing it was already like a rapid game and with the time pressure it was difficult for him,” said Giri.

Giri Grandelius Tata Steel Chess 2021
Giri-Grandelius. Photos: Alina l’Ami, Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

About the endgame, Giri said: “I felt like he should hold but I didn’t see how” but, helped by the engine, our annotator GM Dejan Bojkov found a better defense for Grandelius:

Caruana was the third player to reach 4.5/7 after beating GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, which was the second loss for the Frenchman. Incidentally, this Caruana-MVL pairing is the exact same pairing for the next (eighth) round of the FIDE Candidates Tournament, now scheduled to resume in the second half of April.

Vachier-Lagrave got his second Najdorf Poisoned Pawn in the tournament and was surely ready for the move 10.f5 which Grandelius played two rounds ago. Caruana was the first to deviate and one again MVL failed to remember the best way to counter it.

“I think Maxime wasn’t familiar with this old line 10.Be2 or maybe he had something prepared because this is his main opening and he couldn’t recall it at the board. Things went wrong for him quite quickly.”

10.Be2 has been a bit of a specialy of Dutch GM John van der Wiel, who played it in the early eighties, and it was picked up by none other than GM Mikhail Tal, among others. The main line seems to be 10…Nbd7 11.0-0 Be7 but Vachier-Lagrave played 10…Nc6 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.e5 Nd5 and after 13.Nxd5 and then took back with the wrong pawn.

Here, Caruana spent no less than 33 minutes on the clock but they were well spent. He found the killer move 14.e6!!—a blow Vachier-Lagrave never fully recovered from.

Caruana Vachier-Lagrave Tata Steel Chess 2021
Caruana-Vachier-Lagrave. Photos: Alina l’Ami, Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

A few hours later, Firouzja was the last player to reach the top of the standings. After losing to GM Magnus Carlsen, he has now surpassed the world champion in the leaderboard.

It was GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda who misalculated an “antipositional” recapture from his opponent that cost him an exchange. From that moment it was a long struggle for him, and in the end, he collapsed while Firouzja played the endgame strongly.

“It was a very difficult endgame to convert,” said the winner. “He sacrificed a bishop for these three pawns and it’s very interesting. I think he had chances to make a draw but it was very difficult, at least in a practical game.”

Alireza Firouzja
Alireza Firouzja. Photos: Alina l’Ami, Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

GM Andrey Esipenko started with six draws but today also won his first game, against GM  Radoslaw Wojtaszek. The tactic on move 19 was lovely, and actually the knight move to a1 also even though it actually gives away Black’s slight edge. Wojtaszek, however, got confused and lost a pawn for nothing.

“I am very happy because it’s a big surprise for me to win with the black pieces, I don’t remember the last time I won with the black pieces,” said Esipenko.

Andrey Esipenko
Andrey Esipenko. Photos: Alina l’Ami, Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

As said, Carlsen drew yet again (see the game viewer below). His opponent, GM Pentala Harikrishna, summarized it as follows:

“Actually I prepared something and I played something else. I do not know if the 13…c4 is the right way but I believe that it should be equal because almost any rook endgame with one pawn down should be not very difficult to hold. I just had to calculate one trick which actually happened in the game so I was not really worried when I managed to get this position. The e6 pawn looks nice but it’s not going anywhere.” 

Round 7 Standings














# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Van Foreest, Jorden 2671 2845 ½ ½ ½

½

½

1 1

4.5/7 15.25
2 Giri, Anish 2764 2784 ½

½ ½

1

½

1

½ 4.5/7 15
3 Caruana, Fabiano 2823 2808 ½

½ ½

½

½ 1

1 4.5/7 14
4 Firouzja, Alireza 2749 2820 ½

0

1 ½ ½ 1 1 4.5/7 11.75
5 Harikrishna, Pentala 2732 2803

½ ½

½ ½ 1 ½

½

4.0/7 15.25
6 Esipenko, Andrey 2677 2794

½ ½

½

½ 1 ½ ½

4.0/7 14
7 Carlsen, Magnus 2862 2746 ½

1 ½

½

½ ½ ½ 4.0/7 13.5
8 Grandelius, Nils 2663 2791

0 ½

0 ½

1 1

1 4.0/7 11.25
9 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 2705 2636 ½

½ 0

½

½ ½ ½ 3.0/7
10 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2743 2647

½ ½ 0

½ ½ 0 ½

2.5/7 10
11 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2784 2605

0 ½ ½ ½

0

½ ½

2.5/7 8.75
12 Tari, Aryan 2625 2642 0 0

½

½

½

½ ½

2.5/7 8.25
13 Anton Guijarro, David 2679 2622 0

0

½

½

½ ½ ½ 2.5/7 7
14 Donchenko, Alexander 2668 2591

½ 0 0

½ 0 ½

½ 2.0/7

Games round 7

Tata Steel Chess 2021 round 8 pairings


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