Tata Steel Chess 2021: Giri Sole Leader Before Final Rest Day
Giri (right) in his game with Wojtaszek. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Tata Steel Chess 2021: Giri Sole Leader Before Final Rest Day

| 42 | Chess Event Coverage

With three rounds to go, GM Anish Giri is the sole leader at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament. The Dutch GM managed to beat GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek from an equal endgame after GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Magnus Carlsen drew their game. GM Alireza Firouzja also split the point with GM Nils Grandelius.

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 and watch the broadcast at

Besides the excellent developments for the Dutch fans (will this be Giri's year?), today we also saw giant-slayer GM Andrey Esipenko join the group of leaders, shortly before Giri moved ahead of that group. The 18-year-old Russian GM beat GM David Anton to get to 6.5/10 and a shared second place.

Meanwhile, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won his first game in the tournament after surviving a bad position vs. GM Alexander Donchenko. Thursday is the third and final rest day in Wijk aan Zee.

Tata Steel Chess 2021 round 10 results

The game between the number one and two in the world was obviously the main attraction of the round. Unfortunately, it was also the first to end in a draw. As we noticed in their 2018 world championship match, "chess is a draw" especially if you put some pretty decent players against each other!

Caruana felt a draw was a normal result, but early in the game he was hoping for more: "I thought that I had a very good position out of the opening. I don't think this is how Black is supposed to approach the opening, but there were so many options that I wasn't really sure."

Caruana Carlsen Tata Steel Chess 2021
Caruana-Carlsen. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

The chances came when Carlsen unnecessarily allowed the nice tactic 16.Nxd5! which netted White a pawn.

"It's a bit frustrating to be honest," said Carlsen. "I sort of got what I wanted from the opening; usually in this line White is a little bit better but I have the bishop pair and, in that sense, I have some long-term chances. I think when I played 13…b6 I blundered about, conservatively estimated [laughs], three things."

With super-accurate play, Caruana could have pressed with an extra pawn but the way he played it turned out not to be too dangerous.

"I somehow overestimated my position when I'm a pawn up," he said. "I thought I would have an advantage from afar but once I got there it suddenly seemed like very little. At the end I was almost worried that I started to risk things."

This draw between the two Cs was probably the best result for Giri in his quest to win his first Tata Steel Chess Tournament. The Dutchman put himself in an excellent position with three rounds to go and when his interviewer called this a good result to stay in the race for tournament victory, Giri was quick to point out that it's the others who need to stay in the race!

The Dutchman wiped a small tear from his face as he continued, jokingly: "I am crying not just because I won my game but also because the COVID test keeps getting deeper and deeper, just like my preparation." The players had their fourth and final COVID-test right after their game today, even before getting interviewed.

"At some point in the opening I was sort of flirting with being slightly worse but maybe it never was slightly worse," Giri described the game. "Then, when he started some …f6, …e5 business I transitioned into a very good position. Then I think I could have gotten more than what I got but I already had little time. I somehow managed to allow him to trade everything; it was very hard for me to see how to keep pieces on the board and the problem was I had too little time."

Anish Giri Tata Steel Chess 2021
Anish Giri, fiddling with the extra white queen that is always provided at the start. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

But then he did what a top grandmaster does these days (and following Carlsen's example): continue pushing, trying, and hoping the opponent might still make a mistake. And that mistake came.

"It's a draw of, course, but he doesn't want to go into three against two [pawns] obviously, and the smallest problems are unpleasant because it's a completely drawn position," Giri said. "As it happens sometimes in such cases, once you get some small chances then things can go very well."

Commentator GM Robert Hess had been more optimistic than Giri himself, giving the Dutchman as much as 25 percent of winning the endgame because it was so unpleasant for Black. Giri, who heard about that while waiting in the studio for his wife IM Sopiko Guramishvili to end the broadcast, had put his chances at just two percent. His thoughts are probably already on the big game that awaits him on Friday when he faces Carlsen.

It's remarkable that after 10 rounds there are still four players who didn't lose a single game. Besides Caruana and Giri, these are the younger grandmasters GM Jorden van Foreest and Esipenko. The latter, in his debut year, even added a third win to his score.

"I'm happy but it was a very complicated game," said Esipenko. "Somewhere he had the advantage, I think. I think he missed this stuff a3-b4 and after that, I think I had some advantage. "When I took his pawn on a6, after that I understood that maybe I will win."

Esipenko Anton Tata Steel Chess 2021
Andrey Esipenko. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Van Foreest today showed what a fine, creative player he is. The double pawn sacrifice he went for in the opening—behind-the-board inspiration to avoid his opponent's preparation—was just wonderful.

"This was definitely not preparation, I don't think my opponent played this system before. I just improvised this move …e5, it looked interesting," Van Foreest said. "I wanted to play a fighting game today at least."

He liked his chances but found it hard to get more out of this game than a draw: "I just didn't see a way to break his defences."

Grandelius vs. Firouzja was quite the game as well, with the co-leader taking some risks as Black against the former tournament leader. 

"I was trying to make things complicated by playing this opening," said Firouzja about his choice of the Classical Sicilian. "It went to the endgame very fast and I don't think I have a real chance during the endgame. He got maybe some pressure but I don't think it's anything big for him. A draw was a decent result."

Alireza Firouzja Tata Steel Chess 2021
Alireza Firouzja. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Grandelius had reason to be disappointed as he missed a big opportunity in that endgame. He explained in the live broadcast:

"I had one move that I sort of saw but couldn't choose the right way with very little time and it turns out that the move that I was choosing between was completely winning. But on the other hand, it's clear that there was absolutely no reason for Alireza to get under pressure. The reason that I got this chance was that he decided not to repeat moves in a position which is equal, but only equal because he can repeat moves, otherwise I'm much better, which happened in the game."

Vachier-Lagrave is having a bad tournament, but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel. He was close to losing yet another game, but Donchenko failed to deliver the knockout blow in the middlegame and then got outplayed in an equal queen endgame.

"Of course I played so badly in the opening stage and early middlegame, I really didn't expect to win this game," said MVL. "Things like this happen. I was playing badly and I was pretty unlucky so far so maybe I got a bit back today."

Vachier-Lagrave Donchenko Tata Steel Chess 2021
Vachier-Lagrave vs. Donchenko. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

It was pointed out to MVL that both Caruana in 2018 and GM Sergey Karjakin in 2016 had bad Wijk aan Zee tournaments before winning the Candidates.

"I didn't do this on purpose if that's the question!" said Vachier-Lagrave with a smile, before adding: "It's definitely a good thing that it happens here and not in the Candidates but there is still a lot of work to do to make it not happen in the Candidates."

Round 10 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Giri, Anish 2764 2856 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 7.0/10
2 Esipenko, Andrey 2677 2857 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 6.5/10 31.5
3 Caruana, Fabiano 2823 2834 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 6.5/10 30
4 Firouzja, Alireza 2749 2817 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 6.5/10 28.25
5 Van Foreest, Jorden 2671 2810 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 6.0/10
6 Carlsen, Magnus 2862 2738 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.5/10
7 Harikrishna, Pentala 2732 2733 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0/10 25.25
8 Grandelius, Nils 2663 2750 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 1 1 ½ 1 5.0/10 22.5
9 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2743 2652 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 4.0/10 21.25
10 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2784 2635 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 4.0/10 18.75
11 Tari, Aryan 2625 2665 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.0/10 17.5
12 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 2705 2597 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/10 15.25
13 Anton Guijarro, David 2679 2615 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/10 14.5
14 Donchenko, Alexander 2668 2586 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 3.0/10

Games round 10

Tata Chess Steel 2021 Round 11 pairings

See also:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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