The title of course alludes to one of Alfred Hitchcock’s early iconic thrillers, the 1934 movie that introduced to the film industry the first proper screen “MacGuffin” that went on to become the auteur’s signature trademark. But now in chess small screen streaming-land, it’s the title bestowed on Anish Giri.
With a hat-trick of bizarre back-to-back wins at the 84th Tata Steel Masters, the Dutch No 1 dramatically rocketed up the standings to now join the leading pack. In round six, like a scene more familiar in a lowly amateur tournament rather than the first major of the year, Fabiano Caruana unexpectedly gifted Giri a rook and not long later resigned; that was then followed by a no-show win over Daniil Dubov, as the Russian refused to play wearing a mask pending the outcome of a PCR result, as per the tournament guidelines, after one of his “inner-circle” had tested positive for Covid. (Dubov’s PCR test subsequently came back negative, and he returned to play in round 8)
While those two wins were unexpected gifts, the third was nothing short of pure Giri genius, as the Dutchman’s renowned opening preparation came to the fore against Andrey Esipenko with a piece sacrifice in the opening for three good pawns – and as it all unfolded at the board, Peter Svidler, the Chess24 commentator, was moved to describe the always-innovative Giri to be “The man who knew too much.”
A fitting movie-land honour from the Chess24 lead commentator, given that Giri has been systematically releasing of late a series of must-watch opening videos for Chessable, and indeed the Dutchman basically confirmed after the game that he’d been playing against his own recently released Lifetime Repertoires: Giri’s 1.e4. And then with just a hint of a mischievous self-promotional grin on his face, Giri added: “It’s a win-win for me and my students, of course, because they get very, very juicy detailed analysis. And you see, my opponents are getting punished for not studying the course thoroughly!”
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov also turned on the style with a third straight win – though in more conventional style – heading into the second rest-day, as he beat the young Indian teenager Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. The on-fire Azeri now joins Magnus Carlsen in the joint-lead at the top, a half point ahead of Giri and Santosh Vidit, with the leaders set to clash on Tuesday, following the rest-day.
Play resumes on Tuesday with live coverage on Chess24 starting at 14:00 CET (8:00 ET, 05:00 PT) on each day (with the exception of rest days on 19, 24 & 27 January) with top Grandmaster commentary from Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson.
Round 8 Standings:
1-2. M. Carlsen (Norway), S. Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 5½/8; 3-4. A. Giri (Netherlands), S. Vidit (India) 5; 5. R. Rapport (Hungary) 4½; 6-9. A. Esipenko (Russia), F. Caruana (USA), S. Karjakin (Russia), J. van Foreest (Netherlands) 4; 10-11. J-K. Duda (Poland), S. Shankland (USA) 3½; 12. D. Dubov (Russia) 3; 13. R. Praggnanandhaa (India) 2½; 14. N. Grandelius (Sweden) 2.
GM Andrey Esipenko – GM Anish Giri
84th Tata Steel Masters, (8)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 0-0 6.0-0 d5 The bold try for equality in the Giuoco Piano. 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.Re1 If White want’s to make anything of his opening advantage, he has to the weak e5-pawn. 8…Bg4 9.Nbd2 Also a good option is the early expanding on the queenside with 9.a4. 9…Nb6 Indirectly under-mining White’s d3-pawn, as allowing …Nxc4 would offer Black the better long-term prospects with the bishop-pair. 10.h3 Adding to the mix a little tactical resource – and all known to theory. But if we’ve learned anything in chess, it’s that in the opening, Anish Giri is more prepared than a world Boy Scout jamboree, as this game demonstrates! 10…Bh5 11.Bb3 Qxd3 12.Nxe5 Qf5 13.Nef3 Rfe8!? “This is a rare move, but people obviously know about it,” confided Giri in his post-game interview. “It is on my [Chessable video] course for White; I say White is slightly better in this game.” 14.g4 The only way to challenge Black’s plan is to meet it head-on ; but in doing so, it leads to a very unbalanced position – one that Giri has clearly done his homework on. 14…Bxg4 15.hxg4 Qxg4+ 16.Kh1 Ne5 17.Nh2 Qg6 18.Bc2 Nd3 19.Bxd3 Qxd3 All forced up to this point, and all this has been seen before in a relatively obscure email correspondence game – but it seems that Giri has had crunched this position at home just a little deeper. 20.Ndf3N Diverging from the aforementioned game that instead opted for: 20.Nb3 Qxd1 21.Rxd1 Bxf2 22.Ng4 Bh4 23.Rg1 Kh8 24.Kg2 and the game eventually fizzled out to draw, as in Rohs,R (2318)-Larsson,M (2287) ICCF email 2016. 20…Qxd1 21.Rxd1 Bxf2 As Uncle Bryn from the BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey fame would often say, “So what’s occurring?” Well, we have a genuinely unbalanced position on the board with Black having three good passed pawns on the kingside for the piece, that’s what’s occurring – and with it, Esipenko has to imaginatively position his pieces to try to prevent the pawns rolling down the board. 22.Bf4 c6 23.Rd2 Not the most critical move, according to Giri. The best move is 23.Ng4! Bc5 24.b4 Re4 25.Be5 Rxg4 26.bxc5 Nd5 which the Dutch No 1 claims to be equal, the difference being that White will soon be getting in the stabilising Bd4. 23…Be3! Giri is in his element now, adding: “After the trade of the bishops I was comfortable. Generally, if I trade the right pieces, and if White does not jump quickly on my king with some Nh2-g4 and Ra1-g1 then I am safe.” 24.Bxe3 Rxe3 25.Nd4 Nc4 26.Rf2 Rae8 27.Raf1 Not bad per se, but this is when it all started to get difficult for Esipenko. The engine comes up with the better option of 27.Nf5!? Re1+ 28.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 29.Kg2 Ne3+ 30.Nxe3 Rxe3 31.Nf3 h5 32.Rd2 which definitely looks the best way to contain those soon-to-be-storming kingside pawns. 27…Nd6 28.Nf5 The alternative was 28.Ng4 but after 28…Re1 Black is a little better. 28…Nxf5 29.Rxf5 f6 30.Kg2 Kf7 31.Rd1 h5! By a clever little tactical point, Giri starts rolling the pawns down the board – and Esipenko realises too late that he should have avoided swapping pieces. 32.Rf2 The point is that the forcing line 32.Rxh5 Re2+ 33.Kg3 Rxb2 34.Rd7+ Re7 35.Rxe7+ Kxe7 36.Ra5 a6 sees Black’s rook very active and it will eventually pick off one or more of those weak queenside pawns. 32…g5 33.Rd7+ Giri thought this was Esipenko’s losing move, claiming he didn’t see how he was going to win after 33.Nf3 but the engine disagrees with Giri, and it is hard not to be convinced Black is still winning after 33…Kg6 34.Nd4 Re1! 35.Rdd2 g4! and ominously those pawns are on the march. And no better is 33.Nf1 Re2 34.Ng3 Rxf2+ 35.Kxf2 h4 36.Nf5 Kg6 37.Nd6 Re5 38.Nc4 Rf5+ 39.Kg1 g4 etc. 33…R3e7 34.Rd6 Re6 With the kingside pawns already storming up the board, the task for Black now is to trade a set of rooks – but Esipenko isn’t easily going to play ball. 35.Rd7+ R8e7 36.Rd8 g4! Restricting the options for Esipenko’s knight. 37.Rh8 It may well have been more prudent heading backwards with 37.Nf1! as the forcing line 37…h4 38.Rd4!? g3 39.Rf3 Re2+ 40.Kg1 R7e4 41.Rd7+ Ke6 42.Rxb7 g2 43.Ng3! seems to offer genuine chances to save the game. 37…Kg6 38.Rg8+ Rg7 39.Rf8 Kg5 All Esipenko has achieved is to help Giri bring his king up the board to better support the pawns. 40.Nf1 h4 41.a4 a5! A nice, nuanced response from Giri, just holding White’s queenside pawns back, and not rushing into it with 41…g3?! 42.Nxg3 hxg3 43.Kxg3 and we are in the realms of a probable saving endgame scenario. 42.b4 If 42.b3 then 42…Rg6 with the idea of …Re5 followed by …f5 is killing. 42…b6 43.bxa5 bxa5 44.Ra8 Re5 Setting up …f5. 45.Nd2? It’s tempting to want to improve the knight, but under pressure, Esipenko has blundered, as he can still make life difficult for Giri by first playing 45.Rc8! Rg6!? 46.Rxc6 f5 47.Rc8 f4 though admittedly this does look rather scary for White. 45…g3! There’s a cunning winning plan for Giri that’s clearly been missed by his opponent. 46.Nf3+ Kf4! Walking into the discovered check on the f-file and with the rook under attack, so just how is Giri going to prevent the loss of his h-pawn? 47.Rf1 h3+! [see diagram] Forcing home the win by simply sacrificing the h-pawn, that’s how! And with it a truly fitting finale to an entertaining game from the Dutch No 1. 48.Kxh3 There was an even more prosaic finish after 48.Kg1 g2 49.Rf2 Kg3 50.Nxe5 h2#. 48…g2 49.Rf2 Ke3! 0-1 And Esipenko resigns, as 50.Rxg2 will see the stunning mate 50…Kxf3!! 51.Rxg7 Rh5# or loss of the rook.