February 25, 2021

Status quo with stalemates abound

3 min read

Magnus Carlsen drew with Jorden Van Foreest (Photos by Jurriaan Hoefsmit)

All seven games in Round 4 at Tata Steel 2021 were drawn, although at least two encounters could have ended decisively. All the participants made a half-step forward with the standings remaining intact.

Magnus Carlsen was slightly better throughout the game with Jorden Van Foreest and even ended up a pawn up in an endgame but could not reverse a drawish trend.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had a discussion in a topical line of the Gruenfeld Defense in which Black sacrificed a pawn but got some compensation in the form of two bishops and pressure on c3-pawn.

White preserved his extra pawn, but Black managed to transpose into a four-rook drawish endgame. The opponents split a point one move before reaching control.

Nils Grandelius obtained a very promising position on the Black side of Najdorf variation of the Sicilian Defense against Andrey Esipenko and after White’s slow and somewhat passive maneuvers broke through in the center with 19…d5.

After Esipenko’s capturing on d5 his problems were snowballing but Nils failed to find several decisive continuations (40…Rxb2 is the last of them) and let the opponent off the hook.

Alireza Firouzja had a great chance to catch up with the leaders, but it was not meant to be. The teenager outplayed Arian Tari in a see-saw tactical battle but did not find a finishing touch 29…Be2! (which is not easy to spot, especially in time-trouble). After Firouzja played 29…Ne2+ a draw was agreed one move later.

The game between Pentala Harikrishna and Fabiano Caruana saw a popular line of the Ruy Lopez. The Indian GM introduced a novelty on move 17 but did not get anything out of it.

Moreover, Caruana got a slight edge and made White demonstrate accuracy to keep the game in the balance. Pentala was still facing some problems but Black’s 35…Qd4 turned out to be a mistake. Apparently, Fabiano missed 36.Nxg6! after which White had no problem reaching a draw.

Alexander Donchenko emerged slightly better with White against Radoslaw Wojtaszek and eventually won a pawn but Black was never in real danger and comfortably sealed a draw.

In the longest game of the Round 4 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. David Anton, the evaluation was hovering around equality all the way. Although White eventually won a pawn, Black’s task of netting a half-point was not that difficult. 

Standings after Round 4: 1. Pentala Harikrishna, Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Fabiano Caruana, Nils Grandelius – 2½; 6. Maxime  Vachier-Lagrave, Jorden Van Foreest, Andrey Esipenko, Alireza Firouzja, Radoslaw Wojtaszek – 2; 11.  Jan-Krzysztof Duda, David Anton, Arian Tari – 1½; 14. Alexander Donchenko – 1.

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