Tata Steel R3: Five leaders as Harikrishna beats Grandelius

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/19/2021 – An exciting third round in Wijk aan Zee left five players sharing the lead on 2/3, as Pentala Harikrishna defeated former sole leader Nils Grandelius from the black side of a French Defence. Fabiano Caruana would have become the sole leader had he made the most of his chances against Jan-Krzysztof Duda, but the latter’s resourcefulness allowed him to save a draw in a messy position. Meanwhile, Alireza Firouzja beat David Anton from a slightly better endgame. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit – Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

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Firouzja wins, Duda escapes

The most important result of round 3 was Pentala Harikrishna’s win with black over former sole leader Nils Grandelius. However, we also saw Jan-Krzysztof Duda barely escaping in a double-edged struggle against Fabiano Caruana, and Alireza Firouzja showing impressive endgame technique to get his first victory of the event.

Due to Harikrishna’s victory, five players are now sharing the lead on +1 — besides the Indian, Grandelius, Caruana, Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri have also collected 2 points so far in the tournament.

At 34, ‘Hari’ is, remarkably, the oldest player in the field. Currently ranked 22nd in the world, he was called up as a replacement when Shakhriyar Mamedyarov cancelled his participation in mid-December. This is not his first time in the Dutch fishing village, though, as he was first invited to the chess festival back in 2001. Harikrishna himself pointed out that a couple of this edition’s participants had not been born yet at the time — he was talking about Alireza Firouzja (b. 2003) and Andrey Esipenko (b. 2002).

Harikrishna played once in the C group, three times in the B group, and this is his fourth participation in the main event. He achieved his best result in 2017, when he won the B group with an impressive 9/13 score, ahead of Alexander Motylev and Lazaro Bruzon.

Anish Giri

Co-leader Anish Giri | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

A spectacular draw

Duda later commented that he expected for Caruana to play 1.d4, and when 1.e4 appeared on the board he did not shy away from playing the Petroff, a defence Caruana had used with immense success prior to and during his World Championship match against Carlsen.

1...e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Be3 Nd7 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 Nf6 10.Bd3 c5 


This line had been explored in the London World Championship match, and many times later on. Caruana was the first to deviate, though, as he played the impressive 11.Rhg1 preparing to advance his g-pawn.

11...b5 12.g4 The idea.



[In case of 12...Bxg4 White planned to go for an immediate attack with 13.Bh6 as 13...Bxf3 is not possible due to 14.Rxg7+ Kh8 15.Qg5 Rg8 and the spectacular 16.Qxf6 Bxf6 17.Rxh7# mate.]

13.Qe2 c4 


The plot thickens as White is forced to play 14.Bf5 and the bishop has nowhere to go in case of ...g6 — although capturing the piece would dangerously open up the g-file. Thus, 14...Re8 15.Nd4 Nd5 


Caruana spent almost 45 minutes before deciding on 16.Ne6, while with 16...Qa5 Black went for counterplay on the queenside.

White here found the strong 17.Qf3 


A hugely complicated position has appeared on the board. Duda, of course, spent a long time before playing 17...Bf6

[Duda needed to calculate 17...Nxc3 18.Qh3 (18.Qxb7); and
17...g6 18.Rxd5 Qxa2 with a mess on the board.]



18...Bxc3 19.Bxh7+ White’s bishop sacrifice comes with a check.

And after 19...Kxh7 White checks again —  20.g6+ fxg6 21.Ng5+ Kh8 22.Bd4 


Two tactical wizards have found precise moves one after another! 22...Bxd4 23.Rxd4 and the game continued 23...Nf6 24.Qxb7 Rab8 25.Qf7 Re1+ 26.Rd1 Rxg1 27.Rxg1 


27...Re8 planning to give up the exchange after 28.Ne6 as otherwise White’s attack is too strong.

28...Rxe6 29.Qxe6 Qxa2 30.Qh3+ Kg8 31.Qe6+ Kh7 32.Qh3+ Kg8 


Duda has shown amazing resourcefulness in defence, and now Caruana correctly decides to exchange down into an endgame with 33.Qa3

The game continued 33...Qxa3 34.bxa3 Kf7 35.Kd2 a6 36.Ke3 Nd5+ 37.Kd4 Ne7 


After finding one precise move after another, Caruana plays an imprecise move in the endgame — 38.Re1

[It was necessary to immediately go for 38.a4 Ke6 39.axb5 axb5 40.Rb1]

38...Ke8 39.a4 Kd7 40.axb5 axb5 


As endgame specialist Karsten Müller pointed out (see full analysis below), White was still winning here — 41.Rg1 was a mistake.

[41.Kc3 was correct.]

41...Kc6 42.h4 Nf5+ 43.Kc3 Nxh4 44.Kb4 Nf3 45.Rxg6 Nd4 46.c3 Ne2 47.Rxg7 Nf4 48.Ka5 Ne2 49.Kb4 Nf4 50.Ka5 Ne2 51.Kb4

This is the perfect example of how a drawn game can also be exciting! Caruana demonstrated his usual stunning calculating skills, while Duda defended impressively as the position got more and more complicated! ½-½

Endgame analysis by GM Karsten Müller



Fabiano Caruana, Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Did Caruana know beforehand this would be an insane fight? | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Winning with the French

Out of a French Defence, a balanced position appeared on the board in Grandelius vs Harikrishna. However, after 16 moves, the Swedish grandmaster played what Harikrishna considered to be an inaccuracy.



[Better was 17.Bxb4 Nxb4 18.Qd2 Nbc6 and the strategical battle continues.]

There followed 17...Qa5 18.b3 b5 19.Nb2 Ba3 


The engines consider this to be equal still, but, as Harikrishna mentioned, it is quite natural for a French player to place the bishop on a3, gaining a strong initiative on the queenside while White cannot create anything on the kingside — the knight on f3 is stuck defending e4.

20.Qe2 0-0 21.Rab1 Rc7 22.Nd3 Qb6 23.b4 a5 24.bxa5 Nxa5 25.Bc1 Bxc1 26.Rdxc1 Rxc1+ 27.Nxc1 Nc4 28.Nb3 Ra8 29.Rc1 Nc6 30.g3 Ra3 31.Kg2 Qa7 32.Rc2 


Black has three pieces attacking a2, while White can only defend passively — 32...Nb4 33.Rc3 Nxa2 34.Rd3 Rxb3 35.Rxb3 Nc1 36.Qc2 Nxb3 37.Qxb3 Qa4 38.Qb1 


An excellent positional victory by India’s second highest-rated player — 38...b4 0-1


Pentala Harikrishna, Nils Grandelius

Nils Grandelius is yet to sign a draw in the tournament | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Firouzja’s endgame skills

In round 3 Firouzja demonstrated that he can also win games without throwing all his pieces at the opponent in sharp tactical battles. Playing white, he converted his slight positional advantage into a full point. 


White started to slowly advance on the kingside with 36.g4 hxg4+ 37.Kxg4 Rh8 38.h5

This was the position twelve moves later:


Much like Grandelius, Anton found himself forced to defend passively for quite a while and, as it usually happens, he ended up cracking under pressure — the Spaniard missed the trick 51.Ne7

Black tried to complicate matters, but to no avail. There followed Ng5+ 52.fxg5 Kxe7 53.gxf6+ Kxf6 54.Rg6+ Kf7 55.Nf3 Rdf8 56.Ne5+ Ke7 57.Rxg7+ 


White has successfully broken through. The game only lasted four more moves — 57...Rxg7 58.Rxg7+ Kf6 59.h6 Rh8 60.Kg4 Rxh6 


Firouzja forced his opponent to resign with 61.Rd7 — Black is in zugzwang 1-0


Alireza Firouzja, David Anton

Alireza Firouzja vs. David Anton | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Round 3 results


Standings after Round 3


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.


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