The Tata Steel tournament is the first major of the year, and each year since 1968 has taken place in the small hamlet of Wijk aan Zee on the blustery North Sea coast of the Netherlands. When it first began in 1938, it was known as the Hoogovens tournament, named after the giant Dutch steel and aluminium producer, Koninklijke Hoogovens, the IJmond region’s biggest employer, where the super-tournament originated from a simple works tournament.
Now on the eve of the 84th Tata Steel edition, it has had many iterations over the years: the first change came in 1999 when Koninklijke Hoogovens merged with British Steel plc to form Corus; and then in 2007 it changed again, this time to Tata Steel, after it was acquired by the Indian conglomerate.
Dutch winners though have been few and far between in the world’s longest-running super-tournament that dates back to those pre-war days. Former world champion Max Euwe and Jan Hein Donner were just two of the more notable early past winners, with the irrepressible Jan Timman, in 1985, proving to be the last local winner of the Netherlands’ biggest tournament.
But last year something strange happened, as rank-outsider Jorden van Foreest defied the overwhelming odds as he set the tournament ablaze with an astonishing finishing performance, to pip his fellow countryman, Anish Giri, to the title, as he snatched an unexpected famous home victory with a very dramatic final round win over Sweden’s Nils Grandelius.
But while Van Foreest gets set to defend his title, standing in his way is the formidable and omnipresent threat of a determined Magnus Carlsen, with his New Year’s resolution message of breaking the 2900-rating barrier, as he hunts down an 8th Tata Steel Masters title to add to his already record-breaking Wijk haul.
The full line-up (in rating order) is: Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Richard Rapport (Hungary), Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Santosh Gujrathi Vidit (India), Daniil Dubov (Russia), Andrey Esipenko (Russia), Sam Shankland (USA), Jorden Van Foreest (Netherlands), Nils Grandelius (Sweden) and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (India).
The first round draw sees a repeat of that aforementioned Van Foreest-Grandelius dramatic encounter, and also a chance of instant revenge for Carlsen, as he takes on the young Russian Andrey Esipenko, who sensationally beat the world champion last year and denied him a chance of his 8th Tata Steel title.
The action kicks off at 14:00 CET (8:00 ET, 05:00 PT) on Saturday 15th January. There’s full live coverage and commentary on Chess24 with GM Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson.
Photo: Can Jorden Van Foreest set the tournament on fire again? | © Tata Steel Chess Tournament
GM Jorden van Foreest – GM Nils Grandelius
83rd Tata Steel Masters 2021, (13)
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 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 for the young Dutchman. 8.a4 Nc5 9.Qe3 b4 10.Nd5 Ncxe4 11.a5 Nxd5 Forced, 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 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-tournmanet 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 sets the board on fire and 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 disire 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 Grandelius’s 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? After this final error, it’s all downhill for Grandelius with the velocity of Franz Klammer! 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 now 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 prosaic finish, as Grandelius “chases” Van Foreest’s king right up the board into the mating attack on g7 – on his own king! 47.Qxe5 1-0 Grandelius resigns, as he can only delay the inevitable by a few moves with desperate measures.