Reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen took the early lead in the the 83rd Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk-aan-Zee with rival Anish Giri and late replacement Nils Grandelius on tow.
Unlike previous years, the 2021 event is limited to just the Masters group. Despite the withdrawal of Nepomniachtichi, Dubov, and Abdusattorov (replaced by Wojtaczek, Donchenko and Grandelius) the field is a very interesting mix of established and promising players.
Round 1 saw three decisive outcomes although at some point it looked like all the games might have been drawn.
Magnus Carlsen was the first to draw blood after taking some risks in the game against Alireza Firouzja. The World Champion did not get much with White out of the Queen’s Gambit declined, but decided to push with 28.e6, sacrificing a second pawn. This gambling approach paid off just seven moves down the road – the teenager collapsed after 35…Bf7? and resigned shortly facing an imminent checkmate.
Nils Grandelius prevailed over Alexander Donchenko in a drawish endgame after the latter made a decisive mistake 36…Rd2? Apparently, the German missed that after 37.Re1+ Kd3 38.Re3+ White protects all his weaknesses and then active his king with decisive effect.
Anish Giri and Arian Tari were following the footsteps of Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura in a sharp line of the Ruy Lopez till some point, but on move 11 the Dutchman introduced a novelty (apparently, he analyzed the position in-depth in his home laboratory) and quickly obtained a very promising although blocked position in which Black did not have even a shred of counterplay. Anish gradually infiltrated the opponent’s camp and delivered a coup de grace on move 47.
All other games were drawn although Fabiano Caruana and Pentala Harikrishna had some winning chances against Jorden van Foreest and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave respectively.
Round One Results
Harikrishna, Pentala ½- ½ Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
Esipenko, Andrey ½-½ Duda, Jan-Krzysztof
Grandelius, Nils 1-0 Donchenko, Alexander
Caruana, Fabiano ½-½ Van Foreest, Jorden
Giri, Anish 1-0 Tari, Aryan
Wojtaszek, Radoslaw ½-½ Anton Guijarro, David
Carlsen, Magnus 1-0 Firouzja, Alireza
Standings after Round 1: 1. Magnus Carlsen, Nils Grandelius and Anish Giri – 1; 4. Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Pentala Harikrishna, Jorden Van Foreest, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Andrei Esipenko, David Anton – ½; 12. Alexander Doncheko, Alireza Firouzja, Arian Tari – 0.