Nils Grandelius is the only player on a perfect 2/2 in the
Tata Steel Masters after he scored an effortless win with the black pieces over
Jan-Krzysztof Duda in Round 2. The only other player to win was Fabiano
Caruana, who found some brilliant moves to put late replacement Alexander
Donchenko to the sword in a game analysed by Jan Gustafsson. Magnus Carlsen
headed the list of players frustrated by draws as he couldn’t quite squeeze out
a win in a 6-hour marathon against David Anton.
You can replay all the games from Wijk aan Zee using the
And here’s the day’s live commentary from Peter Leko, Tania
Sachdev and Jan Gustafsson.
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Fabiano Caruana starts title defence
World no. 2 Fabiano Caruana on Sunday showed the kind of play
that saw him destroy the field in the 2020 Tata Steel Masters as he picked up
his first win of 2021. His German opponent Alexander Donchenko repeated a line
in which Fabi had got into difficulty in the Yekaterinburg Candidates Tournament
against Anish Giri, but the US star came prepared with the novelty 11…a6. Alexander spent 10 minutes
before going for an aggressive pawn push, but his continued ambition would
eventually backfire as Caruana smoothly refuted those aggressive intentions.
The counterattack was much more powerful than the attack.
Here there’s just one winning move for Black, but it’s a
scorcher! 26…Ba3!! and White is
lost, since 27.bxa3 runs into 27…b2+ and Black wins either the queen on b1 or
the rook on d4 with checks. Alexander put up heroic defence but couldn’t
prevent the inevitable and has now started a tournament he was only invited to
four days ago with two defeats.
Here’s Jan Gustafsson with in-depth analysis of an exciting
Nils Grandelius takes the sole lead
Swedish no. 1 Nils Grandelius is another player who’s
playing in Wijk aan Zee as a replacement, but so far he’s more than justified
his invite. He beat Donchenko in Round 1 and in Round 2 took full advantage of
some loose opening play by Jan-Krzysztof Duda. The young Polish star followed
up 1.c4 with an early b3 and a
double fianchetto of his bishops. Nils commented:
I think he really wanted to beat me so he played something
quite rare or quite strange, and I was lucky because I’m quite familiar not
with this specific position, but with the same structure. I’ve played a lot of
games, I know the plans very well, and he did not really find the best
Nils was particularly critical of the “very slow” manoeuvre
Nf3-e1-c2 and Qd1-d2, with Black taking over completely by move 14.
“Once I push f5-f4 I think already I’m doing very well”,
said Nils, who here played 14…f5!
15.b4?! f4! 16.bxc5 dxc5 17.e4 (“he surprised me greatly by playing e4 to
allow the pawn to f3, but on the other hand, I could not see what else he could
Duda is one of the more resourceful defenders in world
chess, but this time he had no answer, with the computer claiming the final
straw came on move 24.
It seems Duda could have gone after Nils’ queenside pawns
with the cold-blooded 24.Qa5!, and that after 24…Re5 25.Nf4 there’s no winning
attack for Black. That’s hard to believe, and in the game Duda instead went for
24.Qd1 Re5 25.Nf4 only to find
himself compelled to give up a piece after 25…g5.
“It should just have been game over immediately, I think,”
said Nils of the position after he’d won a piece, but although the game went on
he made no real mistake as he went on to convert his advantage into a full point.
Magnus Carlsen among those held to a draw
The remaining games were drawn, though there was some drama
everywhere. Anish Giri was amused that his Dutch colleague Jorden van Foreest
rejected a draw by repetition only to enter a worse ending a couple of moves
later, but he felt his advantage was only symbolic.
18-year-old Andrey Esipenko played the Caro-Kann against
Harikrishna and ended up with a significant edge in the endgame, but it fizzled
out into nothing. “It was a very complicated opening, the Caro-Kann – I love
this opening actually!”, said Andrey, and 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja clearly
feels the same as he used it as his weapon of choice against MVL.
Alireza got into trouble, but the way he escaped was very
much in the style of Maxime, finding a tactical solution to a difficult
position. “Suddenly I just got lucky and every pattern was working for me!”,
the Iranian said afterwards.
Here are the final moments:
Qxe3+! 35.Qxe3 Bxc5 and a draw was agreed rather than playing on in the
The longest game of the day saw Radek Wojtaszek spoil a
promising position against Aryan Tari and then get into real difficulties after
the rash pawn advance 28…a5.
After the finesse 29.bxa5
Rxa5 30.g3! Aryan was simply able to pick up the pawn on b5 and felt his
position at the time control “should be a technical win”. Our commentators felt
the same, but a combination of the generous time control in Wijk aan Zee,
inaccuracies by Aryan, and fine defence by Radek, saw the Polish star hold the
If Aryan was frustrated it was perhaps not as much as World
Champion Magnus Carlsen, whose 69-move clash with Spanish Champion David Anton
ended with bare kings.
David varied on move 7 from a
game Ian Nepomniachtchi had played against Magnus in their Skilling Open
semi-final and got the Norwegian thinking, but soon things began to go wrong. It
looked as though David was just where you don’t want to be against Magnus,
condemned to the long defence of a ruined pawn structure.
Surprisingly, however, Magnus later went for a tactical
sequence which only seemed to offer his opponent complete equality. He later
I felt from the opening that I was doing well, probably somewhat
better, but it wasn’t so easy and after a while I think he equalised completely
and there was nothing for me.
There were more twists ahead, however, as Magnus won a pawn
and then felt he got “real chances” when David missed the “little trick” of 45…Kg5!
Here it seems as though 46.Nxh7? should equalise, but after
46…Rxh7 47.Rxd1 Black in fact wins with 47…Re7+!, when 48.Kd6 is forced to
avoid losing the rook on d1 to Rd7+. After 48…Rxe4 Black would be a pawn up with
a winning endgame.
After 46.Ra7 Magnus felt he might be winning, but he also ran
into a little trick later with 55.Kf5!
The World Champion initially thought he could win with 55…Re1,
before spotting 56.Rxg5! (or 56.Kxg5) 56…Rxe3 and White wins back the piece with 57.Kf4!.
Perhaps the last chance in the game came after 55…Kh4 56.Ke5 Bg4 57.Kd4?! when
computers suggest 57…Ra1!, while after 57…Bh3 58.e5! David’s e-pawn proved
sufficient to force the World Champion to bring the game to a peaceful
So a frustrating day for Norway left Magnus tied with Giri
and Caruana half a point behind early Tata Steel Masters leader Nils
In Round 3 all the frontrunners have White, with Caruana
(vs. Duda) and Carlsen (vs. compatriot Tari) out to build on big scores so far
against those opponents. Grandelius, meanwhile, has a -2 score against
Firouzja, meanwhile, is hopeful of an easier life, describing
his start against Magnus and MVL as, “probably the two best players in the
tournament, and I was Black”. Will it get better now? “It has to!” He faces
Anton in Round 3.
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