Tata Steel R4: Missed opportunities

by André Schulz
1/20/2021 – On the fourth day of play in Wijk aan Zee, all games finished drawn. In a number of games, especially the players with the black pieces had better positions but could not convert their advantage into full points. In Aryan Tari vs Alireza Firouzja, both players missed chances to win. Wednesday is a rest day. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit – Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

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After the first three rounds of the Tata Steel tournament, five players — Pentala Harikrishna, Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Nils Grandelius and Anish Giri — were tied on two points apiece and entered round 4 with the hope of pulling away with a win.

Co-leaders Pentala Harikrishna and Fabiano Caruana were paired up against each other.

Pentala Harikrishna and Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Caruana built up a visual advantage with the black pieces out of a Spanish. The American grandmaster had a comfortable position.


Black has some space advantage and the black bishop is much more active than the white knight.

31...d5 32.exd5 Rxe3 33.Rxe3 Bxd5 34.Nf3 Be6 [34...Bxf3!? 35.Rxf3 Qb8 36.Rc3 Qxb4 37.Rxc4 Qxa5]

35.Ne5 Qd4 [The best move was probably to return with 35...Bd5]

36.Nxg6 Qd1+ 37.Qxd1 Rxd1+


38.Kh2 c3 [Wins a piece, but...]

39.Rxc3 fxg6 40.Rc6 Kf7 41.Rxa6 [...White gets three pawns.]

41...Rd2 42.Kg1 Rd1+ 43.Kh2 Rd2 44.Kg1 Rd1+ ½–½

That draw meant two players from the group of five had neutralized each other, so there was perhaps a chance for one of the other players to get ahead.

Alireza Firouzja also had the black pieces against Aryan Tari and played his trusted Caro-Kann Defence. The world’s best junior started the game sharply and went for a kingside attack by giving up an exchange. It seemed as if he would be able to get the better of his opponent. The game later got extremely complicated.


10...f6!? 11.Bxh5 [The prudent alternative was 11.exf6 Nxf6] 11...fxe5 12.g4 [Forces the next move. [12.Bxg6+ Bxg6 13.dxe5 Qc7 14.f4 0–0–0 with compensation for Black.]

12...Rxh5 [12...Be4 13.Nd2]

13.gxh5 Nf4 [Here too Black has compensation.]

14.dxe5 Nh3+ 15.Kg2 c5 16.f4 Qc6 17.Nf3 0–0–0 18.Nbd2 Nb6 [Threatens d4.]

19.Qe1 Be7


20.Rc1 d4 [Courageously played, given the juxtaposition of the fact that the white rook (c1) is on the same file as the black queen (c6) and king (c8). 20...Rh8 21.Nd4]

21.cxd4 Nd5 22.Nc4 Ndxf4+ 23.Bxf4 Nxf4+ 24.Kg1 Bg4?! [Black immediately rejects 24...Rxd4 25.Nd6+ (25.Nxd4 Qg2#) 25...Bxd6 26.exd6 Nh3+ 27.Kh1 Be4 28.Rc3 Ng5]

25.Rc3 [25.Ncd2!?]

25...Rxd4 26.Nd6+ Kb8 27.Qe3


27... Bg5? [Throws the game away. 27...Bxh5 and Black remains in control.]

28.Rxc5? [Returns the gift. 28.Qxd4 Ne2+ is no good. But 28.Kh1 with the intention Dxd4 was strong and would have turned the game around.]

28...Qxc5 29.Nxg5 Ne2+? [And another mistake. Obviously the players were in deep time trouble by now. 29...Be2 30.Re1 Rd1 would have won.]

30.Kg2 [30.Kg2 with the possible consequence: 30...Qc6+ 31.Nge4 Bf5 32.Qxe2 Bxe4+ 33.Qxe4 Rxe4 34.Rf8+ Kc7 35.Rc8+ Kd7 36.Rxc6 Rxe5] ½–½

Even the world champion, who is used to winning, could not break away at the beginning of the tournament in Wijk aan Zee.

Magnus Carlsen and Jorden van Foreest | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Magnus Carlsen reached an endgame with an extra pawn in his game against Jorden van Foreest, and started playing for a win. But the Norwegian apparently miscalculated afterwards.


46... h6 [Black has entered the endgame with an extra pawn and is playing for a win.]

47.Nh4 Bd8 [Preparing g5. With the bishop on e7, Nxf5 would come.]

48.Rh7 Rd2?! [48...h5]

49.Rxh6 Kg7 [That was the idea — a double attack with the king, which frees the diagonal of the bishop, but...]

50.Rxg6+ Kh7 [Two white pawns are hanging, but White has a refutation.]

51.Nf3 [Retreating and counterattacking.] Rxf2+ 52.Kxf2 Kxg6 [The draw is inevitable.]

53.Kg2 Kh5 54.Nd4 f4 55.Ne6 Bg5 56.Nxg5 Kxg5 57.Kf3 Kh4 58.Kxf4 Kxh3 ½–½

Nils Grandelius had a similar experience: he was clearly better with black against Andrey Esipenko, even close to a win. But the advantage suddenly slipped away.


40.... Kh8 [A superfluous precaution. The king does not protect the g6-knight any more. Correct was 40...Rxb2 41.Nh4 Bxh3 42.gxh3 Qxg3 43.Qxg6+ Qxg6 44.Nxg6 Kxg6 with won endgame.]

41.Nh4 Ne5 [41...Bxh3 42.Nxg6+ Kh7 43.Nh4+ f5 44.Qe5 Bg4 with an advantage.]

42.Qa8+ Kh7 43.Qe4+ Kh8 44.Qa8+ Kh7 ½–½

Alexander Donchenko seems to have overcome his “jet lag” by now and won his second half point against Radoslaw Wojtaszek. In a typical Najdorf game with short castling, the German grandmaster was never in danger, but he nevertheless had to fight to get the half point.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and David Anton played the longest game of the day. The Frenchman, playing from the white side of a Marshall, had an extra pawn in a double rook ending, but that ended in a draw despite all his efforts.

In the game between Jan-Krzytszof Duda and Anish Giri, White also got an extra pawn but could not make much of it.

Round 4 results


Standings after Round 4


All games



André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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