Except for little less than impossible carambola, Magnus Carlsen will not win the Tata tournament either, the Roland Garros chess in 2021. His draw with Anish Giri keeps him in the lead with two rounds to play. The Dutchman faces the Iranian groundbreaking Alireza Firouzja in the penultimate, with white, who also tied, after making the 2nd in the world, the American Fabiano Caruana, suffer for six hours. The Spaniard David Antón will close the Wijk aan Zee (Netherlands) tournament against Caruana and Giri.
Carlsen, who did not achieve any substantial advantage today with White, has lost more games than he has won (adding all three modalities) since he turned 30 on November 30. And, unless he wins the last two (against Wojtaszek and Vachier-Lagrave), his performance at Wijk aan Zee will be the worst since 2009. But, as Russian Alexander Grischuk, 7th in the world, said a couple of days ago, “yes being in such low shape Magnus is not very far from the leader, we can get an idea of what a tremendous player he is ”.
Firouzja was close today to taking a huge step towards one of the great feats in chess history: winning the most prestigious tournament on the circuit and being among the top ten in the world at the age of 17. His fight with Caruana illustrates his exceptional talent, and a style that is somewhat reminiscent of Gari Kasparov at the same age: contrary to Giri, the only result that interests him is to win, against anyone and from any position. And for this he often opts for the plays that muddy the field the most and make his rival think, even though he is aware that they are not the best from a scientific point of view.
In addition, everything indicates that the Persian followed a well thought out strategy today: causing mutual time troubles, knowing that Caruana is inferior to him with a few seconds left on the clock. Everything worked out for him until the control of move 40: always walking on the edge of the abyss, Firouzja emerged from the complications with a cleaner pawn, and queen and rook on each side. The feat was in sight.
It was time to change the chip and prepare for a long phase of very technical and precise maneuvers, boring even, to turn that pawn into a victory. But there it became clear one of the weaknesses that Firouzja must fix to be a solid candidate for the world title. Instead of donning the overalls of an operator, he clung to the artist’s brush, seeking to create complications and beauty where none existed. It weakened their pawn structure; Caruana suddenly realized that he still had life left when seen in a coffin, and displayed his class to score half a point.
The other two young first prize candidates performed quite differently. Russian Andrei Yesipenko, Carlsen’s executioner last Sunday, was the one who had a less difficult schedule in theory. But he could not manage his nerves at the prospect of glory, he risked excessively – thus betraying his training in the Russian school – and lost to the Norwegian Aryán Tari. On the contrary, the Dutch Jordan Van Foreest hooked from the opening to the Indian Pentala Harikrishna, and won him in an unappealable way, in six hours.
The critical games on Saturday are: Giri – Firouzja; Caruana – Anton; and Yesipenko – Van Foreest. And those on Sunday: Antón – Giri; Firouzja – Wojtaszek; Tari – Caruana; and Van Forest-Grandelius. It can almost be assured that Firouzja will launch into Giri’s jugular, who plays with White, is 6th in the world and usually kills when forced to do so.
Results (11th round): Wojtaszek – Vachier Lagrave, tables; Carlsen – Giri, boards; Firouzja – Caruana, tables; Anton – Grandelius, tables; Tari 1 – Yesipenko 0; Van Foreest 1 – Harikrishna 0; Donchenko – Doubt, draw.
Pairings (12th round, Friday): Vachier Lagrave – Duda; Harikrishna – Donchenko; Yesipenko – Van Foreest; Grandelius – Tari; Caruana – Antón; Giri – Firouzja; Wojtaszek – Carlsen.
Classification: 1st Giri 7.5 points; 2nd-4th Firouzja, Caruana and Van Foreest 7; 5th Yesipenko 6.5; 6th Carlsen 6; 7th Grandelius 5.5; 8th-9th Harikrishna and Tari 5; 10-11º Duda and Vachier-Lagrave 4.5; 12-13 Wojtaszek and Antón 4; 14th Donchenko 3.5.
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