Tata Steel Chess 2021: Giri Misses Chance To Increase Lead
Anish Giri, still ahead of the pack. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Tata Steel Chess 2021: Giri Misses Chance To Increase Lead

| 51 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Anish Giri missed a big chance to beat GM Alireza Firouzja today and increase his lead at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament to a full point. The Dutchman is still half a point ahead of the pack as GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Jorden van Foreest also drew their games.

How to watch?
The Tata Steel Chess Tournament runs January 16-31, 2021. The final round starts at 12:00 CET (3 a.m. Pacific), which is two hours earlier than the previous rounds. You can follow the games at and watch the broadcast at

At the end of the day, there was just one winner in the penultimate round. GM Pentala Harikrishna defeated tailender GM Alexander Donchenko, which means the Indian grandmaster is back to a 50-percent score.

Tata Steel Chess 2021 round 12 results

The last two hours of today's 12th round were a nail-biting affair for Dutch fans. Giri was very close to winning his game, and taking into account the other results, he would have only needed a draw in the final round to clinch tournament victory. But it went differently.

Earlier in the event, Firouzja had shown that he is capable of grinding down opponents deep in the endgame. Today he showed more of that stamina to execute a Houdini-like escape.

The game was interesting from the start: Firouzja opened 1...e6, the French Defense. Black pieces or not, he wanted to play for a win.

Giri nonetheless managed to steer the position into one where he was in full control, using the nice little tactic 16.Bd3! for positional gains. From that moment, the Dutchman was, as they say, playing for two results.

Anish Giri frowning Tata Steel Chess 2021
Anish Giri, thinking hard during the endgame. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

In a RB vs. RN endgame, the Dutchman was increasing his advantage further as Firouzja's knight got stuck on the rim. When Giri maneuvered his king to the queenside, he thought he was "completely winning," and the engines confirmed that.

Instead of liquidating to a winning rook endgame, he decided to keep the rooks—not bad in itself, but not the most direct way of converting either.

"Then at some point, he got some sort of strange coordination, which was kind of very hard to break. Obviously, I'm still winning, but suddenly I got stuck with my pawn on a4," said Giri, who conducted a professional and cheerful interview despite the circumstances.

He had nothing better than to liquidate to an endgame with rook and four pawns vs. rook and knight. It was still winning, but Giri missed the clever 60...Nf4! and gave away the win with 61.g4, not believing anymore there was still a win. (There was, with 61.Ka4.)

"It was incredible that I messed it up but it happens sometimes," said Giri.

Firouzja: "It was a miracle. I guess it was the payback for yesterday!"

None of the players in second place managed to catch Giri. On SB points, his compatriot van Foreest is in second place now, slightly ahead of Caruana and Firouzja who also have 7.5/12. This tiebreak might play a role tomorrow (see the end of this article for more details) because mutual result won't make a difference as all games in this group of players ended in draws.

Van Foreest might have missed a slight chance as well today in his draw with GM Andrey Esipenko. The Russian GM sacrificed a pawn for dubious compensation, but van Foreest didn't take it.

Jorden van Foreest Tata Steel Chess 2021
Jorden van Foreest. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

"I don't think I was ever early better or something and at some point, I was even slightly worried," said van Foreest. "Maybe, in the end, I had something but I didn't see it, at least. His defenses looked solid, so I didn't see anything more than a draw there."

Caruana was definitely going for it today as well and brought some sharp and deep opening preparation to the board. GM David Anton, however, was fully up to the task.

"I was lucky that I knew the line, but it's extremely dangerous for Black," said Anton. "But I knew Black is OK there, so I was not that scared."

Eventually, an endgame unfolded on the board where, if anyone, it was Black who was pressing.

Caruana Anton Tata Steel Chess 2021
Caruana vs. Anton. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

It's Anton who is playing Giri tomorrow, so in a tournament where he hasn't been doing too well, he can still play the role of spoiler.

"For me, it's just one more game, and it's not going to change so much the opponent; I will just try to win," said Anton. "It hasn't been a good tournament for me, so I hope I can win the last round."

Another player who is not having a good tournament is GM Magnus Carlsen. The world champion understandably wants to get it over and drew quickly with GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek.

"It was funny because I was told that I should play active, and after he went 9...Qe7 I thought maybe I should play 10.e4 or something, and I ended up playing 10.a3 and 11.h3," said Wojtaszek, adding: "I'm not sure my second will be proud of this!"

Wojtaszek Carlsen Tata Steel Chess 2021
Wojtaszek vs. Carlsen. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Harikrishna won, but for a long time, he didn't have anything as White in this game. Donchenko was comfortable out of the opening and only erred in time trouble. He was punished for it with the pretty 43.c5.

GM Nils Grandelius and GM Aryan Tari played a very theoretical line, which was tested just recently in the online British Championship. In this variation of the Italian, Black sacrifices a piece but can give a perpetual in many lines, like in the game today.

Grandelius, however, thought he had missed a big opportunity. He was doing well, but his 27.Qxb7 was a big oversight, where 27. Qc3! instead is better for White.

Grandelius: "The pawns aren't moving anywhere, and the king might look a bit unsafe but in fact, it's difficult to get at it."

Round 12 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Giri 2764 2845 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 8.0/12
2 Van Foreest 2671 2822 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 7.5/12 43.25
3 Firouzja 2749 2812 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 7.5/12 42.25
4 Caruana 2823 2814 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 7.5/12 42
5 Esipenko 2677 2791 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 7.0/12
6 Carlsen 2862 2738 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 6.5/12
7 Harikrishna 2732 2723 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 6.0/12 33.75
8 Grandelius 2663 2734 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 6.0/12 31.75
9 Tari 2625 2695 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.5/12
10 Duda 2743 2665 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0/12 29.75
11 Vachier-Lagrave 2784 2650 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 5.0/12 27.25
12 Wojtaszek 2705 2636 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.5/12 24.75
13 Anton 2679 2637 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.5/12 24.75
14 Donchenko 2668 2580 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 3.5/12

Games round 12

Tata Steel Chess 2021 round 13 pairings

The final round starts two hours earlier, at 12:00 p.m. CET / 6 a.m. Eastern / 3 a.m. Pacific, and it will be an exciting one. Giri still has fate in his own hands: if he wins his game, he wins the tournament, simple as that. If he doesn't, there are all kinds of scenarios where two or more players will finish in a tie for first place. 

If that happens, there will be a playoff between just two players, who will play two blitz games and if needed, an armageddon. 

Tata Steel Chess 2021 playoff tiebreak rules

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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