Tata Steel Chess 2021: Carlsen, Giri and Grandelius winners of the first round

GM Magnus Carlsen started his Tata Steel Chess Tournament with a win. The world champion took risks but was then rewarded by taking advantage of a blunder by GM Alireza Firouzja. Other winners of the day were Managing Directors Anish Giri and Nils Grandelius.

How to watch?
The Tata Steel Chess Tournament runs from January 16-31, 2021. All rounds start at 2:00 p.m. CET (5:00 a.m. PT), except for the final round which starts an hour later. early. You can follow the matches at chess.com/events/2021-tata-steel-masters and watch the broadcast at chess.com/tv.

With only 14 players and two arbiters in the playing hall, a unique edition of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament began on Saturday. No smell of pea soup, no hundreds of fanciers, no talented grandmasters hoping to make it from the Challengers group to next year’s Masters.

With a strict COVID-19 protocol in place, players seemed unaffected by the varying playing conditions. It helps that face masks aren’t mandatory (players, as well as all crew members, will be tested four times during the event), although some players wore one during parts of their matches.

General manager Radoslaw Wojtaszek said he felt “pretty safe” and probably summed up the general sentiment of the players when he noted: “The will to play again is stronger than my fear of catching something.”

Check out our preview for more information on how the tournament is handling the coronavirus situation.

The tournament started with a bang: we had a most interesting match, between the current world champion Carlsen and a potential successor, Firouzja.

In general, it’s very interesting to see how the Iranian youngster will fare. Last year he debuted with a decent 50% but lost to the biggest names in the business: Carlsen and general managers Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Vishy Anand. Nine months later, he finished in second place in Norway Chess in October 2020, the last over-the-board super-tournament that ended exactly three months ago.

Carlsen, who started his last seven Wijk aan Zee tournaments with draws, said his game in that opener was shaky. He came to the tournament just a day early after a long vacation in the Seychelles, but said it had more to do with the first round than jet lag or anything else.

“It was a typical first-round game, to be fair, overthinking and miscalculating,” he said.

Carlsen Wojtaszek Tata 2021
Carlsen checking Wojtaszek’s position. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

The world champion admitted he took risks at one point.

“When I played 23.d5 and ransacked the pawn instead of, say, repeating moves, that was already a gamble,” Carlsen said. “I felt like I would get decent pay. It was kind of a trend, you know. I knew in my heart that once I made that decision, I wasn’t going to back down later and look for the equality, so I knew that by then, at least mentally, I had already cut ties.”

Carlsen said what he did was “probably not right”, but thought it would give him more than a draw. As he was about to stop playing to win, he got help from his opponent.

Carlsen: “I don’t know if 32…a4 was a huge mistake but either way it was incredibly impractical, and I think that was the problem. is imposed, then it is impossible to calculate with such a short time. Instead, he made a mistake, which was very happy for me, of course.

“Overall, I don’t think any of us are particularly happy, but it’s a start,” Carlsen said. “At least in this tournament there are no early rounds with boring draws like last year. The first seven games were draws; I gladly take this one instead!”

The last time the tournament had a Dutch winner was in 1985 when GM Jan Timman clinched the top prize. Giri knows that, of course, and came close in 2018 and 2019 when he finished second, twice behind Carlsen.

For the moment, Giri is following the rhythm of the Norwegian GM as he won a great victory against another Norwegian player: GM Aryan Tari. The latter had the courage to test his opponent in his specialty, the field of opening theory, but it did not work.

Giri-Tari Tata Steel 2021
Giri and Tari in good spirits before the match. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Giri said he knew the piece was sacrificing 8…Nxg4 long before Carlsen played it against GM Hikaru Nakamura last year. The Dutch general manager had analyzed it in depth but didn’t expect it for this round as Tari doesn’t tend to play the Berlin defence.

“Fortunately, I managed to remember a lot of things, and he deviated from the line I had with Black quite early on,” Giri said. He pointed out that the configuration with the king on g2 and the rook on h3, blocking everything, was important. “He never really has counterplay. The only question is whether he has a fortress… In the end, I was very happy to break through without breaking through.”

Grandelius is playing at Wijk aan Zee for the fifth time but for the first time in the top group. He started his debut strong, beating general manager Alexander Donchenko at the last minute.

The German grandmaster, who Thursday morning still did not know he would play in this tournament, was solid in the opening. Then he played the slightly surprising move 15…d5 which opened up the center. “After that, it was very complicated,” said Grandelius, who couldn’t really refute it.

“At first I thought I would have something very good, but then I started to calculate deeper, and in every line there was one more move that I missed at the end and everywhere , it looked like he was barely surviving. And the thing is, if he survives he could be just fine. So I was burning all my time and with 10 minutes to play I decided to play a relatively even position , which was not the intention.

According to the Swedish grandmaster, black was not precise in the end and made the decisive error at move 36.

Of the four games that ended in draws, it’s worth mentioning Caruana’s game with GM Jorden van Foreest. The “other” Dutch grandmaster impressed last year with a fourth place (ahead of Giri!) and continues his excellent game a year later. Drawing a tough round ending against the world number two isn’t bad at all.

“There was a lot to calculate,” van Foreest said. “I thought the endgame of the tower should be an easy draw, but there was no way to force it, let’s say. I have to keep playing good shots.”

Caruana vs Van Forest Tata Steel Chess 2021
Van Foreest successfully played the Banana Variation as he tied with Caruana in a long endgame. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

Games round 1

Tata Steel Chess 2021 round 2 pairings


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