Debutant Grandelius Leads Tata Steel Chess 2021
Nils Grandelius leads after two rounds. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Debutant Grandelius Leads Tata Steel Chess 2021

| 32 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Nils Grandelius is having a dream debut in the Masters group of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament. The Swedish grandmaster is the only player on 2/2. There's a group of three players right behind him with 1.5 points, including GM Fabiano Caruana who won a good game as Black against GM Alexander Donchenko, the only player still on zero points.

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

The first bit of Dutch snow this winter fell on Saturday and dominated the local news. Little of it was left by the time the second round started, thanks to a rather sunny morning in Wijk aan Zee, which made a stroll over the beach very attractive. One group spotted there consisted of GM Magnus Carlsen together with his father Henrik and his long-time second, GM Peter Heine Nielsen.

Inside the playing hall it was another Scandinavian grandmaster who took the spotlights: debutant Grandelius.

Tata Steel Chess 2021 round 2 results

Grandelius played in Wijk aan Zee for the first time in 2010, when he participated as a teenager in what was still called the "C group." After another appearance in the B group in 2013, he played it two more times in 2017 and 2020, when it was renamed to "Challengers."

Having been one of Carlsen's seconds for the 2018 world championship match must have done well for his chess. An excellent result for Grandelius came a few months later when he tied for first place at the European Individual Championship in March 2019 in Skopje. It's rather early to say, but the always cheerful Swedish GM might be taking the next step in his career.

"I could never have expected it," Grandelius said after his second win. He suggested his opponent, GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda, played too much for a win.

"I think he really wanted to beat me, so he played something quite rare. I was lucky to be familiar not with this specific position but with these structures.... I just made normal moves, and then I had a very promising position."

It did look a bit odd how Duda allowed the black pawn to f3, but the engine shows that he could have defended tactically on move 24.

The first winner of the day was Caruana, who scored an always very welcome win with the black pieces. The winner of last year countered strongly after Donchenko played a razor-sharp sequence of moves that involved queenside castling and a run with his e-pawn ("e" for excelsior!) up the board.

That pawn ended up as a perfect cover for Black's king, while Caruana's attack was the decisive one, nicely finished with 26...Ba3!.

Caruana-Donchenko Tata Steel Chess 2021
A tough 0/2 start for Donchenko. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Carlsen had to let go of his early lead as he drew his game with the Spanish GM David Anton Guijarro. It was a long battle that ran for almost six hours, with the players playing until only bare kings.

"It was a game where clearly I had some chances," the world champion said about the first half of the game. "I felt from the opening that I was doing well. [I was] probably somewhat better, but it wasn't so easy, and after a while, I think he equalized completely, and there was nothing for me."

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

Carlsen managed to create some chances after all as he found a nice little trick on move 45. After that, he would never get a clearly winning position, though. That, combined with Anton doing an excellent job of defending, led to the players splitting the point.

The round also saw the clash between the two local heroes, GM Jorden van Foreest and GM Anish Giri. With reversed colors, the two drew their game last year, and they did so again today.

For the first time in two and a half years, Giri played the Petroff, perhaps hoping to outplay his younger opponent later in the game. That was never a realistic scenario though, even after van Foreest played inaccurately at one point.

"It was a funny moment," said Giri. "We were repeating moves. I could also have deviated, but he decided to deviate instead, and two moves later he is in a slightly worse endgame."

Van Foreest vs. Giri. Tata Steel Chess 2021
Van Foreest vs. Giri. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess

GM Alireza Firouzja has had the toughest schedule of all: two black games in a row vs. the world number-one yesterday, and today the world number-five, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The Iranian GM avoided a second loss by giving up what looked like a monster of a bishop.

"Maxime played very well with the knight maneuver, and I couldn't do anything with the bishop on d5. So finally I gave it up on c4, and suddenly I got lucky, and every pattern was working for me," Firouzja said.

Alireza Firouzja Tata Steel Chess 2021
Alireza Firouzja receiving another bottle of water. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

In the longest game of the day, GM Aryan Tari was pushing for a win against GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek. In what was an endgame with queens and opposite-colored bishops, the youngest of the two Norwegian participants felt he was close to earning the full point:

"I thought it should be a technical win but somehow I think I pushed h6 too fast. It was very, very close. Black has some resources but it should be winning."

Tari Wojtaszek Tata Steel Chess 2021
Wojtaszek was under pressure for most of the game but even the engines cannot demonstrate a very clear winning path for Tari. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Round 2 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Grandelius,Nils 2663 3505 1 1 2.0/2
2 Carlsen,Magnus 2862 2904 ½ 1 1.5/2 1
3 Giri,Anish 2764 2838 ½ 1 1.5/2 1
4 Caruana,Fabiano 2823 2860 ½ 1 1.5/2 0.5
5 Van Foreest,Jorden 2671 2793 ½ ½ 1.0/2 1.5
6 Anton Guijarro,David 2679 2783 ½ ½ 1.0/2 1.25
7 Harikrishna,Pentala 2732 2731 ½ ½ 1.0/2 1
8 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2784 2741 ½ ½ 1.0/2 0.75
9 Wojtaszek,Radoslaw 2705 2652 ½ ½ 1.0/2 0.75
10 Esipenko,Andrey 2677 2737 ½ ½ 1.0/2 0.75
11 Firouzja,Alireza 2749 2633 0 ½ 0.5/2 0.5
12 Duda,Jan-Krzysztof 2743 2480 0 ½ 0.5/2 0.5
13 Tari,Aryan 2625 2544 0 ½ 0.5/2 0.5
14 Donchenko,Alexander 2668 1943 0 0 0.0/2
Tata Steel Chess 2021 playing hall
The playing hall. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Games round 2

Tata Steel Chess 2021 round 3 pairings

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