Giri paces Tata Steel Masters

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2021 - 12:00am

In the Netherlands, hometown GM Anish Giri continued to impress, posting an undefeated 7.5 out of 11.0 points to maintain the lead entering the penultimate round of the 2021 Tata Steel Masters Festival.

With two rounds remaining at Wijk aan Zee, the prestigious tournament remains wide open among four players.

Giri, 26, who is hoping to become the second Dutchman to win the title (since Jan Timman in 1985), halved the point with Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen for a 7.5 total, giving him a half-point lead over defending champion Fabiano Caruana (USA), compatriot Jorden Van Foreest and 17-year-old Iranian exile, Alireza Firouzja.

Russian teenager Andrey Esipenko, who upset Carlsen in round eight, was one point back at 6.5, followed by Carlsen with 6.0.

Van Foreest, 21, defeated India’s Pentala Harikrishna while Caruana and Firouzja battled to a 61-move draw.

Round 12 is underway with Giri pitted against Firouzja, Caruana vs. Anton and Van Foreest vs Esipenko.

Games can be watched live with commentaries at various chess websites.

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The following game is considered the gem of the Tata Steel Masters 2021.

W) A. Esipenko (RUS)

B) M. Carlsen (NOR)

Sicilian Defense

1. e4      c5; 2. Nf3     d6; 3. d4      cxd4; 4. Nxd4    Nf6; 5. Nc3     a6; 6. Be2     e6; 7. Be3     Be7; 8. g4       ....

The well-known Keres Attack against the Scheveningen Variation was named after Estonian world contender, Paul Keres (1916-1975).

8....       b5

Black’s last move is a risky action, as it creates early complications to White’s favor. Better is the engine’s 8....d5, which would compel exchanges and reduce the sting of White’s attack. For instance, 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxd5 Qxd5 11. 0-0 Qa5 12. c4 0-0, and the ensuing middle game is about even.

9. g5       Nfd7; 10. a3!?      ....

White offers an interesting Pawn sacrifice in preference to obtaining the initiative.

10....       Bxg5; 11. Qd2     Bxe3; 12. Qxe3    Qh4?!

Here, Black’s ineffective maneuvering starts. Better is the normal developing move 12....Bb7.

13. Rg1     g6; 14. O-O-O   Qe7; 15. f4       Bb7

The situation is slightly disturbing in that Black suffers from lack of development and an uncastled King in the center.

16. Kb1     Nc6??

A fatal error which loses material. Either 16....Nc5 or 16....Nf6 is a much better alternative.

17. Ncxb5!   ....

The start of a sparkling combination that nets White a decisive advantage.

17....       axb5; 18. Nxc6    Bxc6; 19. Qc3!    ....

White based his entire combination on this move, combining power and elegance.

19....       0-0; 20. Qxc6    d5; 21. exd5    Rfc8

21....exd5 should have been tried, though White emerges with a huge advantage after 22. Bxb5 Nf6 23. Rge1.

22. d6      Qd8; 23. Qxb5    Rcb8; 24. Qc4     Rxa3; 25. Qc7!     ....

Now with an advanced passed Pawn and material advantage, the rest is a routine win for the 18-year-old Russian. Henceforth, comments are no longer needed.

25....        Qe8; 26. Rg5     Ra4; 27. Ra5     Rab4; 28. B3      R4b7; 29. Qc3     Qd8; 30. Bf3      Rb4; 31 . Qc7     Qf6; 32. Ra8     Rxa8; 33. Bxa8    Qf5; 34. Kb2     Rb5; 35. Qxd7    Rc5; 36. Rc1     Qxf4; 37. Qe8ch    Kg7; 38. d7       1-0

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to move and win.

White=Kg2, Qg3, Nf3, Bg5, Pa2, Pb3, Pd4, Pe5, Pf2, Ph6

Black=Kh7, Qc7, Bb4, Nd3, Pa6, Pb5, Pd5, Pe6, Pf5, Pg6,

1. Bd8!      1-0

If 1....Qxd8 (1....Ne1ch 2. Kf1! ) 2. Ng5ch Kg8 3. h7ch Kg7 4. Nxe6ch and wins.

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