Jorden van Foreest Wins Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021
Jorden van Foreest wins in Wijk aan Zee. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Jorden van Foreest Wins Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

| 428 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Jorden van Foreest became the first Dutch player in 36 years to win the Tata Steel Chess Tournament. The 21-year-old grandmaster defeated his compatriot GM Anish Giri in a dramatic playoff after both had finished on 8.5/13.

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The Tata Steel Chess Tournament ran January 16-31, 2021. You can find the games here.

"On top of the world," was Van Foreest's answer to the question of all questions—how he felt after winning the super-tournament in Wijk aan Zee.

The oldest brother from a large family of chess players won the "Wimbledon of chess," a tournament of 13 classical rounds over the course of 16 days by remaining undefeated, scoring plus four, and winning the blitz playoff in the armageddon game. He also broke 2700 for the first time as he won 30 rating points.

Meanwhile, it was a massive disappointment for Giri and his fans. The Dutch number-one seemed destined to finally win his first major tournament in which GM Magnus Carlsen participated, but instead he lost his second playoff in Wijk aan Zee, after the one in 2018 against Carlsen.

On the decisive moment, at the end of today's armageddon game, over 80,000 online viewers were watching the combined broadcast streams (Twitch, YouTube, and international channels), and more than 700,000 watched over the course of the day. These are incredible numbers for over-the-board tournament play, normally only seen during world championships. The chess boom is real, and Wijk aan Zee profited from it.

The many online spectators witnessed a special moment in the history of Dutch chess. It has been mentioned many times, but van Foreest finally did what predecessors like Jeroen Piket and Loek van Wely couldn't: become the first Dutch winner since GM Jan Timman won it, 36 years ago, in 1985.

Tata Steel Chess 2021 Final Round 13 Results

A big part of van Foreest's success was his final-round win against GM Nils Grandelius, and that win was largely based on his highly successful opening preparation.

"I have to give a big shoutout to my second, GM Max Warmerdam," said van Foreest. "We had this position on the board this morning. He said, '13...Bd7 is the human move.' We played around a bit, we got to this position with 16...Qb8, and he played 17.c4 and said it was slightly better for White according to the engines, but I didn't know the follow-up."

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

"In general, it's a very risky line for White," van Foreest added. "I believe Black is better if he knows it, but in this situation, the line is really very well-suited for this game."

Van Foreest continued playing the engine's preferred choices, including the wonderful 21.Nb5!. Grandelius initially defended well but got low on time and at one point collapsed. A nice final touch was van Foreest's king walking to h6, in the style of GM Nigel Short's win vs. 1985 winner Timman.

"It's crazy, it didn't really get through to me yet, I just finished the game. It was a really tough game, and I think happiness will come later," said van Foreest after this game, not realizing how prophetic these words would be.

By then, he knew that his win was going to be good for a tiebreak because it became clear that Giri was going to draw his game. Spanish GM David Anton was in control in this game but failed to convert his long-term advantage.

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

For a while, Giri's prospects did look rather grim. After two and a half hours, his wife IM Sopiko Guramishvili—on a short break from her own commentary—told an interviewer of the Dutch national broadcaster NOS: "I'm pretending not to be nervous!"

Giri himself was strolling confidently through the playing hall after almost every move he made and was out of trouble when he could play the thematic ...d5 pawn break.

GM Fabiano Caruana, who could still catch the leaders, had little chance for more than a draw against GM Aryan Tari, but that cannot be said about GM Alireza Firouzja. The Iranian teenager was doing rather well against GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek, and he had good chances to finish on the same number of points as Giri and van Foreest.

His Sonneborn-Berger (SB) tiebreak, however, was worse. During the round, it was already clear that a win wouldn't be enough for Firouzja to make it to a playoff, which according to the regulations would only be played by two players.

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

The all-Dutch playoff was scheduled to start at 18:10, two tables away from Firouzja-Wojtaszek, who were still playing. When these players reached the time control, the arbiters asked them to move to one of the tables farther away so that they would be less bothered by the moves of Giri and Van Foreest.

Firouzja was visibly disturbed (understandably so) and refused to leave the table. While the playoff was underway, he spoiled his promising position, and afterward, he was very angry at the arbiters and shouted at the main organizer. The whole affair was a stain on an otherwise wonderfully organized event in pandemic times.

The regular round saw two more decisive games. For starters, a win for the world champion, who at least managed to finish a bad tournament on a plus score as he outplayed GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a Grunfeld.

"He went for a plan in the middlegame, which probably wasn't very good," explained Carlsen. "After he sac'ed the exchange, I think I was considerably better. 29.Nd2 was pretty nice, giving up another pawn but eventually winning based on domination."

"The overall performance was … shameful, to be honest," Carlsen reflected. "There were really very few moments of redemption in the tournament, it was really quite poor, and I have to do better in the future."

Besides van Foreest, another young grandmaster broke into the elite club of 2700 players for the first time in this tournament. GM Andrey Esipenko finished with a win against the luckless GM Alexander Donchenko.

Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Van Foreest 2671 2839 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 8.5/13 53
2 Giri 2764 2832 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 8.5/13 52.25
3 Esipenko 2677 2809 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 8.0/13 49
4 Caruana 2823 2799 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 8.0/13 48.25
5 Firouzja 2749 2804 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 8.0/13 48
6 Carlsen 2862 2768 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 7.5/13
7 Harikrishna 2732 2725 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 6.5/13
8 Tari 2625 2705 0 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 6.0/13 38
9 Grandelius 2663 2702 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 6.0/13 34
10 Duda 2743 2670 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.5/13
11 Wojtaszek 2705 2645 ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0/13 30.75
12 Anton Guijarro 2679 2647 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0/13 30.75
13 Vachier-Lagrave 2784 2639 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 5.0/13 29.75
14 Donchenko 2668 2556 ½ ½ 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 3.5/13

The playoff consisted of two blitz games; the time control was 5|3. Giri missed a chance to take the lead:

Giri was also better in game two, where he won a pawn. However, too much had been traded by then, and van Foreest held it to a draw with accurate defense.

The match went down the wire with an all-decisive armageddon game. Van Foreest won the toss and chose to play with the black pieces.

Once again, it was Giri who took the upper hand, this time in a must-win game for him. He reached a winning position indeed but then blundered it all away in one move, missing an intermediate check, despite thinking for half a minute on that fateful 26.c6.

Giri Van Foreest armageddon Tata Steel Chess 2021
The Giri-Van Foreest armageddon game. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

As the players got low on time, it was van Foreest's turn to blunder, first a pawn and then a full piece. Giri was winning again.

In a hectic final phase, the moves were made so fast that the digital chessboard stopped registering them after move 58. To the online viewers, it looked like Giri lost on time in a winning position.

In reality, four more moves were made, and Giri turned out to be the last to blunder. In the final position, he couldn't prevent his opponent from queening a pawn, and as he leaned back in disbelief, he resigned while letting his clock run down to zero.

"In these blitz games, it basically comes down to a lot of luck," said van Foreest. "He played the better chess, but maybe I played the faster chess in the end. Blitz is just a coin flip basically."

Jorden van Foreest Tata Steel Chess 2021
The surprising winner, obviously all smiles. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Some viewers must have felt uncomfortable with the fact that a 13-round classical tournament is decided in a time scramble like this—especially the ones who were rooting for Giri. 

Van Foreest: "I felt bad for Anish, and I felt a bit bad about this game. There was a lot of throwing pieces around. You don't want to win this way but it happened like this, and I'm just really happy now."

The youngest of the two Dutchmen, who is a friend and has helped Giri as a second in the past, praised Giri: "Full credit to him, he played a really good tournament, really deserved to win it. I mean, he could have won both of his last games too, but that is just how it goes."

Giri (second), Van Foreest (first), Esipenko (third). Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.
Giri (second), van Foreest (first), Esipenko (third). Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

During the tournament, little happened on Twitter between Carlsen and Giri but right after it was over, the world champion poked up the fire again. He also thought Giri had lost on time on move 58 as he joked:

Soon, Giri replied:

Games round 13 + playoff

Closing ceremony

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