Anish Giri was close to securing the 1st Dutch victory in
Wijk aan Zee in 36 years when he reached an overwhelming ending against
17-year-old Alireza Firouzja. If he’d won he’d need only a draw in the final
round to be certain of the title, but Alireza pulled off a great escape and
joins Fabiano Caruana (held by David Anton) and Jorden van Foreest (a draw against Andrey Esipenko) just half a point behind before Sunday’s final
round. None of the frontrunners play each other so even Esipenko, a point off
the pace, can be champion, but there’s nothing at stake in Carlsen-MVL.

You can replay all the games from the 2021 edition of the
Tata Steel Masters using the selector below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Peter Leko, Jan
Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent, with a cameo appearance by none other than the
top female chess player of all time, Judit Polgar.

Don’t miss the chance to Go Premium with the code TATA2021, which gives you 40% off all of our memberships!

There may have been six draws in the penultimate round of
the Tata Steel Masters, but there were battles wherever you looked, with Judit Polgar
praising the fighting spirit.

The quietest draw was perhaps surprisingly
Wojtaszek-Carlsen, which ended in an uneventful 35 moves. Radek Wojtaszek
summed it up afterwards by explaining that his second and others
had told him the key was to play actively against the World Champion. But then…

I thought that ok, maybe I should go e4 or something, and I
ended 10.a3 and 11.h3, so I’m not sure that my second will be proud of this,
but still… One thing is to have a plan and the second is to execute that!

Radek felt the game was already heading to a draw after Carlsen’s
13…c5, with the final result confirming that although five players can still
win this year’s top event in Wijk aan Zee, Magnus is not one of them. 

He’s on
course for his worst result in Wijk in a decade, with the only result he’s
certain to beat his joint last in 2007 when he was just 16.

  • 2020: clear 2nd behind Caruana (aged 29)
  • 2019: clear 1st (28)
  • 2018: 1st after winning playoff vs.
    Giri (27)
  • 2017: clear 2nd behind So (26)
  • 2016: clear 1st (25)
  • 2015: clear 1st (24)
  • 2014: didn’t play
  • 2013: clear 1st (22)
  • 2012: joint 2nd behind Aronian (21)
  • 2011: joint 3rd behind Nakamura and Anand (20)
  • 2010: clear 1st (19)
  • 2009: joint 5th behind Karjakin, Aronian, Radjabov & Movsesian (18)
  • 2008: joint 1st with Aronian (17)
  • 2007: joint last with Shirov (16)

In the final round Magnus will take on Maxime
Vachier-Lagrave
, who has just as little to play for. Alexander Grischuk a few
days ago explained Maxime’s disastrous 3 losses and just 1 win as a consequence
of uncertainty over the Candidates.

Maxime’s 12th round game against Jan-Krzysztof Duda could
have seen the French no. 1 plummet even further down the world rankings – he’s
currently down 8 places at 13th on the live list. From the post-game interview
with Duda it seems that despite thinking for 27 minutes in this position he thought
he had nothing.

After 32…Nb8? 33.h5 the game did fizzle out to a draw, but it
seems Black was actually winning after 32…Ke6, or 32…Rb5! first. Black rounds up
the d6-pawn and pushes his queenside pawns, and there may have been little
Maxime could have done about it.

Grandelius-Tari ended
in an abrupt repetition, but Nils Grandelius explained later that when he
grabbed a pawn in a promising position he’d missed that he’d be forced to take
a draw. Esipenko-Van Foreest was a
well-played draw by two young stars of the tournament, with Jorden ultimately sacrificing
a pawn because he felt that otherwise he’d be significantly worse. It worked,
and he kept a half point advantage in the standings over his 18-year-old
opponent.

The two remaining draws were the highlights of the round. Caruana-Anton got off to a spectacular
start with something from the Caruana-Kasimdzhanov laboratory. The novelty
12.Qc1 was followed by 13.Nf6+!

David Anton, like the watching Jan Gustafsson, had seen this
before, however, with the Spanish Champion commenting:

I was lucky that I knew the line, but it’s extremely
dangerous for Black. As I said, I knew the best moves, so after Bc5 I knew
Black is ok there, so I was not that scared.

We got to witness the engine’s first line of 13…Kh8 14.Rd1
Nd7 15.Rxd4 Be7 16.Qf4 Bc5
and now 17.Qe4.

Although David knew this position was fine, he may still
have had to work out why, with 17…gxf6 simply losing to 18.Qh4! After 8
minutes, however, he correctly went for 17…Nxf6! and in fact went on to find a
clever way to give back a pawn to take most of the venom out of the position.
Surprisingly, despite a ruined pawn structure, it was Black who was pressing,
with Fabiano needing to find precise defence in the run-up to the time control
to hold his position together. In the end we got a 50-move draw that was
extremely impressive from both players.

It was Giri-Firouzja, however, that Round 12 will be
remembered for. Check out Jan’s in-depth analysis:

Anish Giri went for 1.e4, suggesting he had something in mind
against Alireza Firouzja’s Caro-Kann, but the Iranian teenager instead went for
the French, challenging Anish to play against his Chessable repertoires again. What
Anish did was impressive, with 16.Bd3! a star move just when the threat of
d4 seemed to be looming large.

There was nothing better than 16…d4 anyway, but after 17.Qe4!
Qxe4 18.Nxe4
White was on top. Firouzja later commented:

After Bd3 if I don’t exchange these queens it’s just
strategically lost, I can resign there, so it was all forced, and it was not
really in my hands after he played Bd3.

The only question was when Black’s position went from bad to
lost. 28…d3?! was one moment (28…f6!), while Alireza criticised his 36…Kf8 (he
suggested 36…f6), though by that stage it may have been late for finesses.

From there on you could point out some inaccuracies by Giri
(in hindsight he lamented 46.a4, weakening b4, which did seem to make his task
much harder) but objectively he did nothing wrong, even when he gave up his
bishop for four pawns. In the end it took a touch of genius from Alireza, who found
60…Nf4.

As Giri commented:

I thought I’m winning by force and I missed the Nf4 move. I
thought he goes Ne5, Nd7, which is much more logical… Ne5-d7 would be much faster
[to block on the 7th rank], but Nf4 was very clever.

The move in the game stopped h5, while after the most natural
move in the world 61.g4 the knight gained a tempo with 61…Ne6, hitting the
rook, before 62.Rf7 Nc7 left the a7-pawn ripe for the picking. It had
been an amazing career for the knight that started on g8.

Giri revealed that he had seen the computer’s one winning
move, 61.Ka4!, and even calculated the line, but failed to realise it was
winning. 

The game ended drawn in 67 moves, with Alireza drawing a parallel to
his failure to beat Caruana the day before.

It was a miracle, I guess. I guess it was the payback for yesterday
– same thing happened yesterday!

Anish Giri, meanwhile, tried to come to terms with letting
the chance to go into the final round with a full-point lead slip.  

To be fair, I think there would still be theoretical chances
that I would screw it up even if I would win today, but yeah, after the time
control I had this idea of rerouting the king to b3, which was very nice, and
then I thought I was completely winning… It was incredible that I messed it up,
but it happens sometimes!

A curiosity was that the one game to end decisively had
looked certain to end in a draw. Bottom-placed Alexander Donchenko could draw
at will against Harikrishna, but decided to play on and ultimately paid a heavy
price with 42…Qf6? (42…Qxc3! still holds).

43.c5! and White is suddenly winning, with the black king
hopelessly exposed. 43…dxc5 44.Rxc5 a3 45.e5! Qh8 46.Qb4! was the point, with
mate-in-3 on the board when Donchenko resigned shortly afterwards.

That took Harikrishna level with Grandelius on 50% and half
a point behind Carlsen, but all eyes are on the top five places.

We have the dream scenario (or nightmare scenario, depending
on your point of view!) that none of the top five players are playing each
other, so they’re all in with a chance of the title. Of course if Giri wins
with Black against Anton it’s all over and Anish is the Champion. If he draws,
however, Van Foreest, Firouzja and Caruana could all catch him with a win,
while if Giri loses those players could overtake him, while Esipenko could also
match Giri with a win. Jorden and Alireza have the advantage of the white
pieces.

If two players are tied for 1st place we’re going to get a
playoff with two 5+3 blitz games and a 5-minute vs. 4-minute Armageddon game if
the scores are still tied. It gets more complicated, however, if 3 or more
players tie for first place, since only the top 2 will play the playoff. That
will be determined by the tiebreakers, and since none of the top 5 have won
against each other the direct encounter won’t differentiate. That means
Sonneborn-Berger tiebreakers will come into play and the arbiters may need to
get out their calculators!

The action starts 2 hours earlier than usual at 12:00 CET and you definitely don’t want to miss this live here on chess24 from 14:00 CET.

See also:


Chess Mentor

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