Tata Steel Chess: Giri and Van Foreest bounce back

by Antonio Pereira
1/14/2019 – It was a good day for the locals in the Tata Steel Masters, as both Dutch participants recovered from their first round losses — Anish Giri got a third win in a row against Vladimir Kramnik and Jorden van Foreest defeated Jan-Krzysztof Duda with the black pieces after surviving a complicated time scramble. In the Challengers, young Vincent Keymer joined the leaders thanks to a win over Stefan Kuipers. GM DANIEL KING provides expert analyses of all the action. | Photos: Alina l'Ami / Official site

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Home (dis)advantage

While playing at home is a clear advantage in other sports, chess players do not always find this as a preferable circumstance. Magnus Carlsen, for example, has won the Norway Chess supertournament only once — by his standards, this might be seen as a subpar performance — and has posted two disappointing results in 2015 and 2017. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, on the other hand, won Shamkir Chess two years in a row (precisely when Magnus was not playing). In any case, some players regard the support they receive at home as an incentive while others feel that it creates unwanted extra pressure.

For Anish Giri and Jorden van Foreest, the start of this year's Tata Steel Masters was more like a rollercoaster ride. Only time will tell if playing in the Netherlands this time around works for or against them.

Giri was Kramnik's second at the Berlin Candidates Tournament | Photo: Alina l'Ami

In round two, Anish had the black pieces against his former nemesis Vladimir Kramnik — he had lost seven games in a row, not counting draws, in classical chess before beating the former World Champion twice in 2018 (first in Wijk aan Zee and then in Dortmund). The witty Dutchman declared afterwards that while he had played against Nepomniachtchi as a "drunk Tal" in round one, his round two performance was reminicient of a "drunk Petrosian".

The opening and early middlegame left Kramnik in a favourable position until he played what Giri considered to be a wrong pawn move:


Anish — and the computers — thought that this was the right time to go 19.g3, while Vlad's 19.e5 allowed Giri to offer an exchange sacrifice á la Petrosian after 19...b6 20.Bf3 Ba6. The Russian could have taken the material a couple of moves later, but instead chose to keep his bishop to protect the light squares. Coincidentally, moving his pawn to g3 three moves later was a critical misstep:


Giri felt that 22.Bxa8 was the right move here, albeit Black has enough compensation. However, Kramnik's 22.g3? allowed Anish to coordinate his pieces. White's expansion in the centre only weakened his pawns and left him material down before the time control. On move 42, Kramnik finally gave up.

This was Giri's third straight win over Kramnik. When asked about the reason for this shift in their personal record, Anish gave a straightforward answer:

I think it has mostly to do with the fact that his level clearly dropped. [...] Basically today it was in his hands, he could have won it...back in the day he would win it, go g3 instead of e5.

Meanwhile, Jorden van Foreest used the same weapon Vishy Anand had used to defeat him on Saturday to beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda: the Caro-Kann Defence. The young Polish grandmaster had the initiative on the kingside and was looking to create a direct attack against Black's king, but then played too ambitiously and was overtaken by Jorden's counterattack:


White does have a pawn on h6 and his queen is always threatening to infiltrate. Nonetheless, Duda never had a chance to make anything of it and, after a wild time scramble, Black was left with this completely winning position. Van Foreest captured with 45...Nxg3 and went on to comfortably force his opponent's resignation five moves later.

A rather coincidental slip of the tongue by Jorden in the post-game interview reminded us that all four decisive games in the Masters favoured the player with the black pieces: "It's just a great feeling, and it's good to bounce black..." The 19-year-old quickly corrected his slight mistake, while expressing joy after getting his first ever victory in the main event of the traditional tournament.


Duda had a good position but could not break through | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Different ways to draw

Probably the most anticipated match-up of round two was Magnus Carlsen versus Ian Nepomniachtchi. The Norwegian has never beaten "Nepo" in a classical game and tried to go for it against his friend with an exchange sacrifice, which according to the defending champion "was supposed to be playable". A succinct description of the game was given by Carlsen, who said that like his encounter against Ding this one was "brief but exciting". 

For Nepomniachtchi, it was tough to kick off the event with two black games against last year's best performers in Wijk aan Zee. However, he still leads the competition together with Vishy Anand. It was undoubtedly a promising start for the Russian. 

Nepo and Magnus

Two good friends sharing some laughs | Photo: Alina l'Ami

The biggest escape of the day was achieved by Richard Rapport, who held an inferior position against Sam Shankland until signing a 95-move draw. Compatriots Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Teimour Radjabov drew after 32 moves, while Anand vs Fedoseev and Ding Lirev vs Vidit lasted 33 and 34 moves, respectively.

Rapport grimace

Rapport fought hard to salvage half a point | Photo: Alina l'Ami


Vishy is still sharing the lead with Nepomniachtchi | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Daily round-up show

GM Daniel King analysed the games of round two for almost an hour 

Standings after Round 2 - Masters


All games - Masters


Keymer joins the leaders in the Challengers

Just like Giri and Van Foreest in the Masters section, Parham Maghsoodloo recovered from a loss on Saturday by defeating German IM Elisabeth Paehtz. 

The only other German participant — besides Paehtz — got a convincing victory to become the fifth co-leader in the Challengers tournament. Vincent Keymer showed great preparation to beat Stefan Kuipers in a 34-move game. The final position illustrates how White dominated his opponent positionally right from the get-go:


So the youngsters came back in round two. For Maghsoodloo, it might be time to take advantage of Kuiper's disastrous start — he lost both his games so far — as he will face the Dutchman with the black pieces on Monday.

playing hall

Always a huge chess celebration in Wijk aan Zee | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Standings after Round 2 - Challengers


All games - Challengers 



Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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