- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2023

It was a double Dutch treat that gave GM Anish Giri a breakthrough win in his home country’s signature tournament at the 85th Tata Steel Masters tournament that concluded Sunday in the coastal Netherlands’ village of Wijk aan Zee.

Giri, a five-time runner-up in the event, took sole first for his biggest career win ever with an undefeated 8½-4½ result in the powerful 14-grandmaster round-robin courtesy of a final-round victory over Hungarian GM Richard Rapport. Just a few feet away, Dutch compatriot GM Jorden van Foreest ground out a tough win over tournament leader GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, allowing Giri to nip the 18-year-old budding Uzbek superstar by a half-point.

Abdusattorov wound up sharing second place with world champion Magnus Carlsen at 8-5, after the Norwegian put on a furious (in both senses of the word) late tournament rally with 5½ points in his final seven games, after rare midtournament losses to Giri and Abdusattorov.

Giri was a deserving winner, defeating both Carlsen and world No. 2 GM Ding Liren of China, but he also got a crucial bit of good fortune against Rapport in the tournament’s final moments. In a Sicilian Richter-Rauzer, Giri as White pressed continually throughout the early play, but Black was up to the challenge, using his two strong bishops to compensate for his chronically isolated and blockaded d-pawn.

But just when it seemed Black had earned a well-deserved half-point, this happened: 34. Nh5+ Kg6?? (a tragic advance, failing to see the Black queen is overloaded; White has nothing on 34…Kg8 35. Nxf6+ Qxf6 36. Qxf5 Qe7 37. Qd3 Re4, when 38. Qxd6?? actually loses to 38…Re1+ 39. Kg2 Qe2+ 40. Kg3 Rxd1) 35. Rxd6! Kg5 (there’s nothing better — 35…Qxd6 36. Qf5 mate; or 35…fxg4 36. hxg4 Qe1+ 37. Kg2, and the pin on the f6-bishop is crushing) 36. Rd5! (accurate to the last; there’s still an endgame to win after 36. Rxf6!? Qe1+ 37. Kg2 Qd2+ 38. Qf2 Qxf2+ 39. Kxf2 fxg4 40. hxg4 Rxg4 41. Rxf7 Kxh5) Qe1+ 37. Kg2 Be7 38. Rxf5+ Kh4 (Kg6 39. Rf6+ Kg5 40. Ng3 Qd2+ 41. Nxe2 Qxe2+ 42. Qxe2 Kxf6 43. Qe3 and White should win) 39. Qg3+, and Rapport resigned, as 39…Qxg3+ 40. Nxg3 Rc5 41. b4! Rxf5 Nxf5+ Kg5 43. Nxe7 wins easily.

Abdusattorov’s downfall also came late in his clash with van Foreest, which we pick up from today’s diagram after White has just recaptured on e2. White’s early central pressure has dissipated and his once-proud knight posted at f6 has become an odd liability — it threatens no useful squares, it can’t get back into the action on its own, and the pawns defending it will themselves soon prove vulnerable.

Having come so close to victory, the young Uzbek can’t make the transition from offense to defense and the tournament slips away: 34…a5! 35. a3 Ba6 36. Re1 b4 37. a4? (locking up the queenside only helps Black; better was 37. axb4 Nxb4 38. Ra1 Nc6 39. Ra4, limiting Black’s advantage) Nd8!, heading for f7 and eyeing the poor White pawns on e5 and g5. It’s over surprisingly quickly after 38. Be2? (another misjudgment; tougher was 38. Bf3!, meeting 38…Nf7 with 39. Bxd5! exd5 Nxd5+ Kf8 41. e6 Nd6 42. Nf4, with very real compensation for the lost material) Bxe2 39. Rxe2 Nf7 40. c3 bxc3+ 41. Kxc3 Nxg5 42. b4 Rh3+ 43. Kb2 axb4 44. Rc2 Nf3 45. Ng4 Nd4 46. Rc8 Rb3+ 47. Ka2 (Kc1 Rc3+ 48. Rxc3 bxc3 49. a5 Kd7 and wins) Ra3+ 48. Kb2 Rxa4 49. Nf6 b3, and White, suddenly three full pawns down, resigned.

A sad finale for Abdusattorov, but one suspects there will be many, many victories in his bright future.


As an old chess buddy used to say when weighing a critical move in a complex position, “Well, it either wins or loses.”

My favorite game at Wijk aan Zee came in the second-tier Tata Steel Challengers tournament. German GM Alexander Donchenko booked a berth in next year’s Masters tournament with a fine 10-3 result, but Turkish GM Mustafa Yilmaz had a superb result to finish alone in second at 9-4, losing only Donchenko.

Yilmaz took down Challengers’ top seed GM Amin Tabatabaei in a Round 5 QGD battle in which the players resemble Gen. George Meade and Gen. Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, concentrating their armies for one big fateful clash. Savor the exquisite tension in the position after 35. Nh3 Bf7 36. Nf4 Rd8 — every piece is focused on the battle for two squares, d4 and d5, and Tabatabaei as White has to ask himself whether to charge or hold his fire.

He chooses wrongly, but the choice was noble: 37. d5? (much as we’d love to give this two !!s, it proves premature; with 37. g4 Kg8 38, Nc2, the waiting game goes on) cxd5 38. Rxd5 Bxd5 39. Rxd5 Rxd5 40. Nexd5 Qxf5 41. Nxf6, and eight consecutive captures have radically transformed the position. But now Black has 41…Kf7! (Qxf6?? 42. Nh5+) 42. N6d5 e3!, a timely diversion that leads to a winning simplification.

The finale: 43. Kf3 (Nxe3 Qe4+ 44. Kf2 Re8 45. Nfg2 Re6 46. Qb3 Bd4 47. h4 Kg7, and White will be paralyzed when his pawn moves run out) Rxd5! (walking into a nasty pin, but Yilmaz has things under control) 44. Qb3 e2! 45. Kxe2 Qe4+ 46. Kf1 Qh1+ 47. Ke2 Qxh2+ 48. Kf3 Qf2+ 49. Ke4 (Kg4 h5+ 50. Nxh5 [Kh4 Qh2+ 51. Nh3 Bd8 mate] Qf5+ 51. Kh4 Qxh5 mate) Qd4+, and White resigns as the pin will be broken after 50. Kf3 Qd1+.

(Click on the image above for a larger view of the chessboard.)

Giri-Rapport, 85th Tata Steel Masters, Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, January 2023

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 g6 7. Bxf6 exf6 8. Bb5 Bd7 9. Bc4 Bg7 10. Nxc6 Bxc6 11. O-O O-O 12. Qd3 Rc8 13. Nd5 Re8 14. c3 Bd7 15. Bb5 Bc6 16. Bc4 Bd7 17. Rfe1 f5 18. Bb3 fxe4 19. Rxe4 Bf5 20. Rxe8+ Qxe8 21. Qd2 Be6 22. Rd1 Qd7 23. h3 b5 24. Qf4 Rc5 25. Ne3 Be5 26. Qe4 Kg7 27. f4 Bf6 28. g4 h6 29. Bd5 Bxd5 30. Nxd5 Rc4 31. Qf3 Qe6 32. f5 gxf5 33. Nf4 Qe5 34. h5+ Kg6 35. Rxd6 Kg5 36. Rd5 Qe1+ 37. Kg2 Be7 38. Rxf5+ Kh4 39. Qg3+ Black resigns.

Tabatabei-Yilmaz, Tata Steel Challengers, Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, January 2023

1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 Nf6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 c6 6. e3 Be7 7. Bd3 Nbd7 8. Nf3 Ne4 9. Bf4 Ndf6 10. O-O O-O 11. Ne5 Bd6 12. Na4 g5 13. Bxe4 Nxe4 14. f3 gxf4 15. fxe4 dxe4 16. exf4 f6 17. Nc4 Bc7 18. Ne3 Kh8 19. Rc1 Qe7 20. Qc2 Bd6 21. a3 Re8 22. Rce1 Qc7 23. g3 Bh3 24. Rf2 Rad8 25. Nc3 Qe7 26. Rd2 Bc7 27. Ncd1 Bb6 28. Nf2 Be6 29. Qc3 Bf7 30. b4 Qe6 31. Rb1 Rd6 32. f5 Qd7 33. Rbd1 Bd5 34. Kg2 Kg7 35. Nh3 Bf7 36. Nf4 Rd8 37. d5 cxd5 38. Rxd5 Bxd5 39. Rxd5 Rxd5 40. Nexd5 Qxf5 41. Nxf6 Kf7 42. N6d5 e3 43. Kf3 Rxd5 44. Qb3 e2 45. Kxe2 Qe4+ 46. Kf1 Qh1+ 47. Ke2 Qxh2+ 48. Kf3 Qf2+ 49. Ke4 Qd4+ White resigns.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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