Four in the lead

3 min read

Round Seven of Tata Steel 2021 has been the most exciting one so far with five games producing the decisive outcome. After a huge reshuffle in the top echelon, there are four leaders – Anish Giri, Fabiano Caruana, Jorden Van Foreest and Alireza Firouzja – with 4½ points each and a quartet trailing by a half-point.

Anish Giri and Nils Grandelius had a discussion in the Najdorf variation where the Swede played the exact line, recommended by the Dutchman in his online-course.

Black was very close to reaching equality, being short on time Nils lost a thread. White sacrificed a pawn but got a potential a-passer which became a decisive factor. The leader after six rounds lost his first game and is now tied for second place with three other participants.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave suffered another painful defeat in his signature Najdorf variation, this time at hands of Fabiano Caruana. The Frenchman introduced a dubious novelty 13…exd5 (or maybe just mixed up the moves) that was refuted by the American in a clinical fashion. It seems after 14.e6 Black is doomed.

Jorden Van Foreest went for a rare line on the black side of Ruy Lopez against Arian Tari and obtained a quite promising position. After pushing 19…f5 the Dutchman was optimistic about his chances but hardly expected that things would go so smoothly for him. 20.Bc2? appears to be a decisive mistake after which there is no escape for White. Indeed, eleven moves down the road Tari threw in the towel.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda mishandled the London system with Black against Alireza Firouzja and by move 17 found himself an exchange down. To his credit, the Pole managed to coordinate his pieces and engineer some serious counterplay.

Alireza returned an exchange several moves later hoping for an endgame with an extra pawn, but Jan-Krzysztof sacrificed a bishop and snatched several white pawns. Most likely Black had sufficient compensation for a draw but Duda played somewhat passively and eventually, his king fell into a mating net.

Andrey Esipenko scored a victory with Black which, according to him, is a rare occurrence in his practice. Radoslaw Wojtaszek tried a sharp line with 4.f3 in the Nimzo-Indian but the young Russian demonstrated good preparation and made White work hard for equality.

The Pole went astray just one step from reaching safety – after 25. Rb1 followed by 26.b3 White holds the position. After Radoslaw opted for an immediate 25.b3 Andrey emerged a pawn up in an endgame and converted his advantage with great confidence.

David Anton got an upper hand against Alexander Donchenko, but probably underestimated Black’s chances on the kingside. The game transposed into an equal rook endgame and the opponents split a point on move 35.

Magnus Carlsen put some pressure on Pentala Harikrishna but the Indian GM was defending with great precision and held the World Champion to a draw.

Standings after Round 7: 1-4. Anish Giri, Fabiano Caruana, Jorden Van Foreest and Alireza Firouzja – 4½ 5-8. Nils Grandelius, Pentala Harikrishna, Magnus Carlsen and Andrey Esipenko – 4; 9. Radoslaw Wojtaszek – 3; 10-13. Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Arian Tari, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and David Anton – 2½; 14. Alexander Donchenko – 2.


Photos by: Jurriaan Hoefsmit – Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

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