Tata Steel R7: Four leaders

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/24/2021 – It was an eventful seventh round in Wijk aan Zee, as five out of seven games finished decisively, including Anish Giri beating former sole leader Nils Grandelius with the white pieces. Giri, who was sharing second place before the round, was not the only player from the chasing pack to win on Saturday though — Fabiano Caruana, Alireza Firouzja and Jorden van Foreest also scored full points to become co-leaders. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit – Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

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Crowded at the top

We had not seen more than three decisive results on a single day so far in Wijk aan Zee, as missed opportunities and good defensive efforts were a frequent feature throughout. The consequence was that no player managed to get a large advantage at the top of the standings, with Nils Grandelius grabbing the sole lead twice in the tournament but only with a +2 score. And then came round 7, when five decisive results left us with four players sharing the lead.

However, as Grandelius lost his game, +2 continues to be the highest score in the 14-player field. With a four-player chasing pack and a four-player leading group everything is still up for grabs in the fight for first place.

The new leaders are Anish Giri, who took down the leader, Fabiano Caruana, Alireza Firouzja and Jorden van Foreest. Andrey Esipenko also won in round 7 to join the players standing a half point behind the top scorers. Esipenko has as many points as Grandelius, Pentala Harikrishna and Magnus Carlsen.

The world champion has been having difficulties converting slightly better positions so far, but still has plenty of time to rack up some wins as he looks to get his eighth title in Wijk.

Fabiano Caruana

The defending champion is now sharing the lead | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Caruana and Giri beat the Najdorf

In round 5, Grandelius had won a remarkable game in the Najdorf against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Two days later, both Grandelius and MVL played the same system with black and both lost their games. 

Caruana entered a line that has not been explored frequently in top games recently, going for 10.Be2. Vachier-Lagrave did not expect this move and spent 20 minutes deciding on how to continue. Four moves later, the Frenchman erred and Caruana got to play a good-looking pawn push:


The world number 2 found 14.e6, and MVL responded with the committal 14…f6. Caruana later explained that against 14…Bxe6 he had either 15.f5 or 15.0-0, when White will most likely give up a number of pawns in order to keep the black king in the centre.

In the game, Vachier-Lagrave managed to avoid falling prey to a killer attack, but instead entered a queenless position in which White has all but full control of the whole board. Resignation came on move 37.

Meanwhile, Giri and Grandelius entered a more positional struggle out of the Najdorf. Grandelius’ biggest problem was his time management. According to Giri, the Swedish grandmaster’s imprecise 28th move allowed White to create uncomfortable tactical threats:


Instead of 28…Kf8, Black could have gone for 28…h4 when Black will create enough play to push for simplifications. After the text, Giri started pushing his pawns on the queenside and saw his opponent losing the thread while in deep time trouble. The game lasted 39 moves.


Anish Giri, Nils Grandelius

Anish Giri defeated former sole leader Nils Grandelius | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

The youngsters show their endgame skills

Coincidentally, the two youngest participants in Wijk aan Zee were paired up against the two Polish players that were invited to the tournament. In both cases, the youngsters got the better of their opponents by showing good technique in imbalanced endgames.

Playing black against Firouzja, Jan-Krzysztof Duda gave up a piece for three pawns:


Black went for 29…Bxa3 30.bxa3 Rxc3 31.Kg1 Rxa3, both activating his rook and getting a number of passers on the queenside. This sequence does not give white a clear advantage, but it is certainly easier to play with the extra bishop. Duda made a couple of imprecise moves shortly after and the youngster managed to get the full point after 59 moves.

Endgame specialist Karsten Müller took a closer look into both endgames!

Analyses by GM Karsten Müller


Select an entry from the list to switch between (end)games


Andrey Esipenko

Satisfied — Andrey Esipenko | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Van Foreest gets comfortable win

The two Dutch players in the field are part of the leading group as Jorden van Foreest obtained his second win in a row, beating Aryan Tari with the black pieces in round 7. Tari was already under some pressure when he made a strange decision on move 20:


Van Foreest later commented that he was surprised by 20.Bc2, although he had noted that his opponent was not happy with his position. After 20…fxe4 21.Ng5 Nf5 22.Ngxe4 Nf4 23.Nf3 bxc4 24.Nxe5 Nd4 25.Re1 Nxc2 26.Qxc2 Re6 Black has comfortably improved his pieces while gaining control of the centre:


Black needed no more than six moves from this position to force his opponent to resign.



Jorden van Foreest

Local hero Jorden van Foreest | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

Round 7 results


Standings after Round 7


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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