Tata Steel R2: A second win for Grandelius

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/18/2021 – Swedish grandmaster Nils Grandelius is the first sole leader of this year’s Tata Steel Chess tournament. Grandelius grabbed his second win in as many games by defeating Jan-Krzysztof Duda with the black pieces on Sunday. The only other winner of the day was defending champion Fabiano Caruana, who got the better of Alexander Donchenko, also with black. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit – Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Caruana beats Donchenko

After two rounds, four players have a plus score in Wijk aan Zee, with Nils Grandelius the only participant to have won both his games so far. The chasing pack is formed by round-1 winners Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri, and Fabiano Caruana, who joined them after inflicting Alexander Donchenko’s second defeat.

Grandelius, who was announced as a replacement on December 30 after Ian Nepomniachtchi and Nodirbek Abdusattorov cancelled their participation, is making his debut in the main tournament — he had already participated once in the C group and three times in the Challengers previously. His best performance in Wijk was achieved at the 2017 edition, when he scored 7 (out of 13) points in the Challengers group.

Known for his adventurous style, Grandelius faced another intrepid player in round 2 — Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Duda apparently saw this game as a particularly good opportunity to score a full point, but instead found himself in trouble early in the middlegame. Grandelius explained:

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 know the plans really well, and he did not really find the best manoeuvres.

Duda will need to quickly recover from the loss, as he has the tough task of facing Caruana with black in Monday’s third round — right after the defending champion obtained a brilliant victory over Donchenko. Meanwhile, Grandelius will have the white pieces against the tenacious Pentala Harikrishna, Carlsen will face his compatriot Aryan Tari and Anish Giri will play white against Donchenko. 

Alireza Firouzja

Alireza Firouzja drew Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with black | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit 

Duda’s opening strategy backfires

Playing white, the Polish star could not quite find a way to handle the position he got out of a rather offbeat opening:


Duda spent two moves re-routing his knight from f3 to c2, allowing Black to first exchange the light-squared bishops on h3 and then expand on the kingside — 12...Bh3 13.Qd2 Bxg2 14.Kxg2 f5 15.b4 


15...f4 Black pushed his f-pawn all the way down to f4 and would later push it even further, while White tried to get something going in the centre.

16.bxc5 dxc5 17.e4 f3+ 18.Kh1 Nd4 19.Nxe7+ Qxe7 20.Ne3 Qd7 21.Bxd4 exd4 22.Nd5 Rbe8 23.Rg1 


Black was already clearly for choice, but here Grandelius played the imprecise 23...Qg4. Luckily for the Swedish GM, Duda did not find the best reply, as he played the passive 24.Qd1

[24.Qa5 creating counterplay was the way to go. Now if Black follows the same plan as he did in the game with 24...Re5 25.Nf4 g5 White has 26.Qc7 and it is tough for Black to find a way to break through.]

24...Re5 25.Nf4 g5 26.h3 Qd7 27.Qxf3 Re7 28.Rg2 Qc7 29.Qh5


Grandelius can safely capture the piece with 29...gxf4, and from this point on only needs to show good technique to convert his advantage into a full point.

30.gxf4 Qxf4 31.Qxc5 Qh4 32.Rg3 Kh8 33.Rag1 b6 34.Qd5 Qf4 35.c5 bxc5 36.Qxc5 Qe5 37.Qc6 Ref7 38.Rg5 Qf4 39.e5 


39...Qxf2 40.Qe4 Re7 and Duda resigned 0-1


Jan Krzysztof Duda

A tough day at the office for Jan-Krzysztof Duda | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Caruana wins wild game

The players followed a line which Caruana had played against Giri in the first half of the 2020 Candidates Tournament, until the world number 2 deviated on move 11:


11...a6 had been played before, at the 2017 World Blitz Championship, while Donchennko's 12.g4 was the novelty of the game.

12...dxc4 13.Bxc4 b5 14.Be2 


Caruana showed good preparation and managed to create a double-edged struggle — surely what he was looking for while facing Daniil Dubov’s late replacement. The American untangled with 14...c5, and immediately Donchenko went for the sharpest continuation, giving up a pawn with 15.d5 Nxd5 16.Nxd5 exd5 


17.f4 White is a pawn down, but it is all about the initiative in this position. Donchenko’s idea is to avoid Black from placing his bishop on the strong f6-square.



The German grandmaster stays true to his original intentions and plays 18.e4

[18.Kb1 seems to be more precise, placing the king on a safer square as the black queenside pawns advance dangerously down the board.]

Caruana responded with the sober 18...d4

[18...c4 was also playable, but the American correctly judged that it was not necessary to further muddy the waters.]

19.e5 Nb6 


Much like Carlsen in round 1, Donchenko sacrifices a second pawn on e6 — 20.e6

The situation is quite different, however, as Caruana does not need to take it and has the strong 20...Qd5 21.exf7+ 21...Kf8 in response, hiding his king behind the pawn.

22.h4 After dealing with White's expansion in the centre, Caruana went for it on the queenside 22...Qxa2 23.Qxg6 b3 24.Be1 c4 25.Rxd4 Na4 26.Qb1


Here, the American found the good-looking 26...Ba3 and Donchenko can only respond with 27.Qxa2

[27.bxa3 b2+ 28.Kc2 Qb3+ 29.Kd2 Qc3+ 30.Kd1 Qxd4+ winning.]

27...bxa2 28.Kc2 


28...Rb8 Another precise move by Caruana.

[Black cannot queen with 28...a1Q due to 29.Bb4+ Bxb4 30.Rxa1]

29.Rd8+ Rxd8 30.bxa3 c3 31.Bg3 Rd2+ 32.Kb3 Nc5+


[33.Kxc3 Ne4+ 34.Kb3 Nxg3] 0-1


Alexander Donchenko, Fabiano Caruana

Alexander Donchenko playing white against Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit 

Fighting draws

Five out of seven games finished drawn, but the points were not split without a fight. In fact, in four of these encounters, one of the players defended technical positions while being a pawn down. Notably, David Anton held the balance in his first-ever classical game against the world champion:


It was not easy but the Spaniard managed to draw with white from this position, by making the most of his active pieces.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

David Anton Guijarro

David Anton | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit 

Round 2 results


Standings after Round 2


All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register