Tata Steel Chess 2021: Giri Maintains Sole Lead
Giri is still ahead of the pack. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Tata Steel Chess 2021: Giri Maintains Sole Lead

| 48 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Anish Giri is still the sole leader at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament with two rounds to go. The Dutchman held GM Magnus Carlsen to a draw in round 11 and saw GM Alireza Firouzja and GM Fabiano Caruana draw a tense battle.

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

Failing to beat Giri, Carlsen is now almost out of contention for first place, two rounds before the end. After his disappointing first half, he couldn't make the comeback he was hoping for. Even if he wins his last two games, he'll end on 8/13, the same score that was good for only second place last year and most probably this year as well.

The other Norwegian did have reasons to smile today. GM Aryan Tari won his first game in the tournament, and it was a good one. GM Jorden van Foreest was the other winner after responding well to GM Pentala Harikrishna's sacrificial play in the opening.

Tata Steel Chess 2021 round 11 results

Carlsen is always the biggest hurdle in a tournament, and perhaps especially so for Giri. The Dutchman finished in second place twice in Wijk aan Zee (in 2018 after losing the playoff, and 2019) and guess who won those tournaments. There's also a long history of mutual Twitter teasing between the two, but this year things have been remarkably quiet there.

Whether he stays away from daily tweets on purpose, it seems to work for Giri. He scored a solid draw today and had no reason not to be satisfied.

"If a draw with black against Magnus is not a good result, your life is in danger; something is really going wrong!" is how he put it.

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

In the final phase of the game, Giri was very comfortable, but he was under a bit of pressure before that. His light-squared bishop was out of play, almost as bad as William Winter's dark-squared bishop in what became a textbook win for Jose Capablanca in 1918.

"It was a bit suspect what I did," said Giri about his bishop being sidelined on the kingside. "It is well known that it's dubious to play this way, but on the other hand I got the rest of the position sort of fixed nicely."

Asked about his next opponent, Firouzja, Giri quipped: "I usually say that I'm terrified, and so far it worked out fine!"

Two players who were trailing Giri by half a point met in this round. This "intense game" (in Firouzja's words) ended in a draw as well, but all three results were possible.

Initially, Caruana was doing well in what was another Giuoco Pianissimo. This most trendy opening had only been seen in one game so far here in Wijk aan Zee, but today it was on the board in three games.

Firouzja's opening play wasn't accurate, and Caruana got very active play—so active that he was given the opportunity to play an interesting piece sacrifice on g2. He spent 40 minutes checking it but then didn't play it.

The position where Caruana calculated 18...Nxg2 for 40 minutes.

"I couldn't quite make it work, but I really wanted to play it. Every part of me wanted to take on g2," said Caruana. "I assumed that it's not worse for Black or anything, and maybe it's very strong, but I didn't quite see how to follow up and I thought: I shouldn't sac a piece without actually seeing the follow-up."

"I was lucky he bothered himself with all this Nxg2 and he spent a lot of time," said Firouzja, who wasn't that worried about it during the game: "At that point, I just kind of didn't care. If he takes, I was going to start thinking."

Things remained complicated while the players were approaching the time-trouble phase. Firouzja was like a fish in the water then as he found some tactics that eventually got him an extra pawn, with a rook and queen for both.

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

The final phase, after the time control, was winning for White according to Firouzja, and Caruana also thought he was going to lose. However, an erroneous pawn push allowed Caruana to get back in the game and eventually come up with a miraculous save with 48...Qf5!!.

"Insane" (Firouzja)
"A miracle" (Caruana)

This draw is good for Giri, who remains alone at the top, and also for van Foreest. The other Dutchman joined Caruana and Firouzja in second place, thanks to his win against Harikrishna.

The Indian player helped his opponent by sacrificing a piece (in the third Italian of the day) that just doesn't look correct. Harikrishna must have mixed up something in his preparation.

Van Foreest Harikrishna Tata Steel Chess 2021
Van Foreest-Harikrishna. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Van Foreest found a good setup that killed all the danger and remained a piece up, but in time trouble he made things a little difficult for himself. He decided to give back the piece thinking that it would win by force, but it was "way more complicated than I thought it was," he said afterward.

For the Dutchman, it felt like his opponent really got back into the game and came close to drawing, but in reality, it was always winning for White.

Tari's win was excellent. The 2017 World Juniors Champion played healthy moves against GM Andrey Esipenko's sideline in the Ruy Lopez and got a very nice advantage almost with no effort. To make matters worse, the young Russian played the suicidal 25...f5 as he missed a tactic that would soon appear on the board.

Round 11 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Giri 2764 2855 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 7.5/11
2 Caruana 2823 2826 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 7.0/11 36.5
3 Van Foreest 2671 2836 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 7.0/11 36
4 Firouzja 2749 2817 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 7.0/11 34.75
5 Esipenko 2677 2802 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 6.5/11
6 Carlsen 2862 2741 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 6.0/11
7 Grandelius 2663 2744 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 1 1 ½ ½ 1 5.5/11
8 Harikrishna 2732 2696 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0/11 27.75
9 Tari 2625 2698 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0/11 25.75
10 Duda 2743 2654 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.5/11 25.25
11 Vachier-Lagrave 2784 2642 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 4.5/11 22.75
12 Wojtaszek 2705 2615 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.0/11 19.5
13 Anton 2679 2620 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.0/11 19
14 Donchenko 2668 2602 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 3.5/11

Games round 11

Tata Steel Chess 2021 Round 12 pairings

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