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John Henderson
By John Henderson

The 83rd Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee is one of the most famous and storied super-tournaments in the annals of the game, but Dutch wins on home soil are few and very far between. Not anymore though, as a dramatic conclusion to the super-tournament on the Dutch coast witnessed the first home winner since Jan Timman in 1985 – but it didn’t go to the script of Anish Giri emerging victorious but the big pre-tournament underdog Jorden van Foreest!

Dutch top-dog Giri will be kicking himself for not securing the first major of the year with a round to spare. He had Alireza Firouzja, one of his nearest rival going into the final rounds, firmly on the ropes in the penultimate round, but he hesitated at the crucial moment to let the 17-year-old escape to stage what seemed an unlikely draw.

Instead, in the final round, rather than basking in the glory and the limelight, this time it was Giri who had to fight for his very life to save face and a draw against Spain’s David Anton – and while Giri was faltering going down the homestretch, his compatriot Van Foreest came of age with the 21-year-old scoring 2½/3 that included a sacrificial final round win over early-leader Nils Grandelius to strike a very rare ‘double Dutch’ tie for first place on 8½/13.

The Dutch No’s 1 & 2 then had to return for a playoff for the title, and once again Giri failed to take his chances when it mattered, only to watch on in horror as he ran out of time in the final Armageddon-decider, with Dutch #2 van Foreest taking the coveted title for the the biggest win of his career.

“On top of the world” was Van Foreest’s first reaction on his fairytale win in an event he’d followed since he was a toddler and also come through the ranks. “Playing as a kid in amateur sections I always dreamed of playing with the world’s best at Tata Steel Masters. Not in my wildest dreams would I have expected to ever win it one day!” And he did so with more than just a dash of style and flair, remaining undefeated throughout, scoring +4 and winning the blitz playoff against his Dutch rival. And along the way, he broke 2700 for the first time and gained 30 rating points to jump 31 places to No. 37 on the unofficial live rating list.

Now Jorden becomes the most famous of the famous chess-playing Van Foreest family! Previously, his biggest success to-date was winning the 2016 Dutch championship title. Younger brother Luke is also a grandmaster and national champion in 2019, and the siblings follow in a long ancestral line of Dutch champions of the late 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s! Their great-great-grandfather Arnold van Foreest was three times Dutch champion between 1889 and 1902, following on from his elder brother Dirk who was also champion three times from 1885-87.

Final standings:
1. Jorden van Foreest* (Netherlands) 8½/13; 2. Anish Giri (Netherlands) 8½/13; 3-5. Andrey Esipenko* (Russia), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Alireza Firouzja (FIDE) 8; 6. Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 7½; 7. Pentala Harikrishna (India) 6½; 8-9. Aryan Tari (Norway), Nils Grandelius (Sweden) 6; 10. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland) 5½; 11-13. David Anton (Spain), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) 5; 14. Alexander Donchenko (Germany) 3½.

GM Jorden van Foreest – GM Nils Grandelius
83rd Tata Steel Masters, (13)
Sicilian Najdorf
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Qd3 One of the new breed of moves that attempt to confuse the usually well-prepared Najdorf players, but it does not seem very logical to me. The big idea, though, is to exploit the weak d5 square; and by defending the e4-pawn, the knight can jump into d5 and create a battery with Rd1 down the d-file. 6…Nbd7 This appears to be the most logical response; the point being that a later …Nc5 will at the very least gain a tempo. 7.Be2 b5 The straight-out, Najdorf reply – but curiously, the favoured handling of the Black side comes with a sort of hybrid Dragon set-up with 7…g6 etc. The problem though with …b5, is that early doors it can create weakness and vulnerable holes in the Black position – and that’s exactly what Van Foreest exploits in this crucial last round game. 8.a4 Nc5 9.Qe3 b4 10.Nd5 Ncxe4 11.a5 Nxd5 Force, otherwise Nb6 will be problematic. But with it, Grandelius is in uncharted opening territory with lots of open lines to have to be wary about. 12.Qxe4 e6 13.0-0 Bd7 The better and more natural square for the bishop is with 13…Bb7 – but Grandelius possibly over-worries about the possibility of a later Nxe6 sacrifice. 14.Bd2 Be7 15.Bf3 0-0 16.Qd3! Grandelius looked to have solid Sicilian set-up – but this simple retreat of the queen back to its d3 square highlights the problems in the Black camp with a6 now vulnerable. 16…Qb8 17.c4 Also good was the alternative 17.Be4!? h6!? (After 17…g6 18.Qf3! Qa7 19.Bxd5 exd5 20.c3 Black has too many weakness to try to defend against, not to mention his dark-square vulnerability around his king.) 18.Bxh6!? Rc8 (Another reason for 6.Qd3 being useful, as the bishop is taboo due to 18…gxh6 19.Qg3+ Kh8 20.Qh3 Kg7 21.Qg4+ Kh8 22.Bxd5! and White has a commanding position.) 19.Bd2 Bf6 with an intriguing struggle ahead for Black, having to fend off attacks on his weakened kingside. Horses for courses I suppose, as Van Foreest takes an alternative path by honing in on the weaknesses created on the queenside. 17…bxc3 18.bxc3 Ra7 19.Rfb1 Qc8 There’s no time for 19…Rb7? as 20.c4! Nb4 21.Qb3 promises much for White with the pin down the b-file. 20.c4 Also interesting was the alternative sacrifice of 20.Rb6!? 20…Nf6 21.Nb5! [see diagram] If you are going to win your first super-tournament on home ground, then do it with just a touch of élan and class! A dream position for Van Foreest, who with the knight sacrifice has the Swede tied in knots trying to stop the a-pawn storming up the board. 21…axb5 22.cxb5 Bxb5 Forced, otherwise the connected passed pawns storm home. 23.Qxb5 Nd7?! You can understand Grandelius’s desire to play …Bf6, but he simply had to the bite the bullet now and play 23…d5!? to block out Van Foreest’s influential light-square bishop – a decision that the Swede soon comes to regret. 24.Bb7! Qd8 25.a6! The White a-pawn, combined with his bishop-pair seals Grandelus’ fate – but kudos to new Dutch hero Van Foreest for how he now efficiently polishes off the win to be guaranteed the biggest result of his career. 25…Bf6 26.Ba5 Qe8 27.Bc7 The engine may well want to play 27.Ra4 , but the human gut reaction sees that Black is in dire straits – and not in a good way with Mark Knopfler on lead guitar! 27…Bxa1 28.Rxa1 d5 29.Bd6 Qd8 30.Rc1 g6? It’s all downhill with the velocity of a Winter Olympic-grade skier after this error. The only way to try to hang on was 30…Re8 31.Bb4 but Black will soon start to run out of useful moves to have to make, so something will have to give. 31.h3 Giving the little escape square for the king now gives Van Foreest free-range to bring his rook into the fray. 31…Re8 32.Rc7! Nf6 No better was 32…Nb8 33.Rc8 Qxc8 34.Bxc8 Rxc8 35.Bxb8! and we see the importance of the safety-valve of h3! 33.Be5 Black is simply tied in knots and running out of moves and hope. 33…Ne4 34.Qc6 Piling on the pressure, and Black can’t survive much more of this. 34…Rf8 35.Bd4 It gets the job done, but the engine will tell you that the clinical kill was 35.Rc8 Qe7 36.f3! Rxc8 (There’s no stopping Bd6, and the alternative of 36…f6 37.Bb8! wins just as quickly.) 37.Qxc8+ Qf8 38.Qxf8+ Kxf8 39.fxe4 dxe4 40.Bb8 and Black can resign. 35…Qb8 36.f3 Rxa6 37.Bxa6 Qb4 38.Be5 Qe1+ 39.Kh2 Van Foreest’s “dream win” at least comes with a fairytale ending to it, as he nonchalantly marches his king right up the board to take part in the mating attack! 39…Nf2 40.Qc3 Qh1+ 41.Kg3 Qg1 42.Rc8 Nh1+ 43.Kh4 Qf2+ 44.g3 g5+ 45.Kxg5 f6+ 46.Kh6 fxe5 It’s a very stylish and imaginative finish, as Grandelius “chases” Van Foreest’s king into the mating attack on g7! 47.Qxe5 1-0 Grandelius resigns, as he can only delay the inevitable by a few moves with desperate measures of 47…Qe3+ 48.Qxe3 Rxc8 49.Qxe6+ Kh8 50.Qf6+ Kg8 51.Qg7#

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