International grandmaster Vasif Durarbayli prepared an article about the best chess game of the week. “Report” presents the article.

As I’m sure is the case for many of you, the lack of in-person tournaments during the pandemic has only increased my craving for watching and analyzing high-quality chess games while at home, and the Tata Steel 2021 tournament did not disappoint! In my opinion, it was one of the most memorable tournaments of all time; in fact, I don’t recall any other tournament that I have followed as closely and enjoyed as greatly as this one in recent years.

The tournament boasted a diverse mix of young talents and well-established great players, and I hope that other super tournaments will follow suit in order to bring fresh perspectives and more exciting games to their competitions.

For example, what I enjoyed most from this tournament was the variety of unique opening ideas that appeared in almost every round, especially from tournament winner Jorden Van Foreest. 2 years ago, I happened to play a rare opening idea against him during our match. Even then, he was well-prepared. Of course, he is a well-rounded player, and thus I am not surprised that he was the victor of this tournament – after all, one cannot win Tata Steel only with their superior opening knowledge!

Game of the Week is: Jorden Van Foreest vs. Nils Grandelius

Van Foreest’s best game in Tata Steel was played in the last round and is annotated below. His trademark of great opening preparation in a rare line shines in this game.

(11) Van Foreest,Jorden (2671) – Grandelius,Nils (2663) [B90]

Tata Steel Masters 2021 (13), 01.02.2021


1.e4 c5 2.Af3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Axd4 Af6 5.Ac3 a6 6.Vd3 [This unorthodox move was used by Carlsen against Grandelius in the 9th round.Clearly, Grandelius was not prepared for this at that time.]

6…Abd7 [6…e6 13 minutes. 7.a4 Ac6 6 minutes. 8.Axc6 bxc6 9.Vg3! There are only two games in which this position appears and Black did not equalize in either of them. It is much easier to play with White here. (9.Fe2 This move allows Black to castle. 9…Fe7 10.Vg3 0–0 11.0–0 d5 (11…a5!?N Does not allow 12.a5!?N) 12.Fh6 (12.a5!?N Fixing a6 pawn could be a better option.) 12…Ae8 13.Ff4 1–0 (51) Gadimbayli,A (2404)-Sokolovsky, Y (2278) Skopje 2019 13…a5!= Double-edged position.) 9…Fb7?!N 11minutes. Looks like an over-the-board decision. 10.Fe2 Fe7 11.Ff4 e5 12.Fe3 0–0 13.0–0 Şh8 14.a5 1–0 (65) Carlsen,M (2862)-Grandelius,N (2663) Wijk aan Zee NED 2021; 6…g6 Aiming to play in spirit of Dragon variation. 7.Fg5 Fg7 8.0–0–0 0–0 9.f4 Abd7 (9…Ac6? 10.e5! (10.Axc6? bxc6 11.e5 Ad5 12.Axd5 cxd5 13.Va3 (13.Vxd5 Fe6 14.Vf3 Vc7–+ Black has enormous compensation for the sacrificed pawn. White does not have a good way to keep the pawn and defend his king.) 13…Vc7 14.Fd3 Tb8–+ 0–1 (22) Van Foreest,J (2461)-Von Meijenfeldt,B (2331) Dieren 2014) 10…Ag4 11.Axc6 bxc6 1–0 (34) Sunilduth Lyna,N (2618)-Keymer,V (2568) INT 2020 12.exd6! Af2 13.Ve2 Axd1 14.dxe7 Axc3 15.exd8V Axe2+ 16.Fxe2 Txd8 17.Fxd8 Fh3! 18.gxh3 Txd8 19.Fxa6 Ta8 20.Fc4 Ta4 21.Fb3 Txf4 Black has some hopes of drawing the game.) 10.Fe2 h6! (10…e5? 11.fxe5 Axe5 12.Vd2 Te8 13.Thf1+– It is impossible to get rid of the pin.) 11.Fh4 (11.Fxf6!?N Axf6 12.f5 The idea is to stop Black’s …e5 push. 12…e5 13.fxe6 fxe6 14.Vg3 Black has a couple of weaknesses in his pawn structure.) 11…e5! 12.Ab3 (12.fxe5 doesn’t work now because of: 12…Axe5 13.Vd2 Te8 14.Thf1 Axe4! This is the point of 10…h6! The bishop on h4 is in the air.) 12…exf4 13.Vxd6 Ve8 14.The1 Ve5 Unclear position 1/2–1/2 (48) Vitiugov,N (2740)-Kamsky,G (2670) Sochi 2018]

7.Fe2 b5 [7…g6!? 8.0–0 (8.Fg5 Fg7 9.0–0–0 Check 6. ..g6) 8…Fg7 9.Td1 0–0 10.Fg5 h6 11.Fh4 Te8 Dream position for Dragon players. 1/2–1/2 (54) Samusenko,M (2452) -Makoveev,I (2277) Moscow 2020]

8.a4 Ac5N [Grandelius follows other dutch player Giri’s recommendation. I think he should have checked this variation after his game against Carlsen. I would not have done it if I were him. Van Foreest is well-known for his preparation and he clearly reviewed his fellow countryman’s recommendation!]

9.Ve3 [9.Vf3 Does not create any problems for Black. 9…b4 10.Ad5 (White can’t do anything with e5 push: 10.e5? Fb7 11.Ac6 Vc7 12.exf6 Vxc6! (12…Fxc6? 13.Ad5 Vb7 14.fxe7 Fxe7 15.Fc4 White got very nice control over the d5 square…but Black is just in time to play Nd7 and Nb6. 15…Ad7! now …Nb6 will solve all the problems.) 13.Vg4 gxf6 Black is better.) 10…Fb7! 11.0–0 Afxe4 12.Axb4]

9…b4 10.Ad5 Acxe4 11.a5!? [I let engines run a bit here and this move was not in the top 4 of either of them. This is the 7th choice of the world chess engine champion Stockfish and 5th choice of Lc0. The move was not looked at by Giri.]

[11.Ac6 This does not create any problems so far. 11…Axd5 12.Vxe4 Vc7 (12…Af6 13.Vd4 Vc7 14.Axb4 e5 15.Vc3 Vxc3+ 16.bxc3 Fb7 Black is fine as well.) 13.Vxd5 Fb7 14.Ff3 Tc8 Black is fine after all.]

11…Axd5 [Principle move played by Grandelius after 18 minutes. The most annoying thing about 11. a5 move is that it is perplexing to understand what White wants!]

[11…Fb7 This could be another way… it is not the principle way to play, but just a way to take your opponent out of his home prep. 12.Ab6 This is probably the idea behind the 11.a5. There are a lot of strange variations here which we could follow with a computer, but for Grandelius it is kind of difficult to understand them without a computer. (12.Axf6+ Axf6 13.0–0 g6! is easier than 13..e5 (13…e5 if you ask the computer, it is O.K. to play in this way, but for a human not really: 14.c4 with the idea of playing Bd1–a4 14…Vc7 (14…Fe7? 15.Af5) 15.Ff3 (15.Fd1? 0–0–0! Position is still complex, but after getting a comfortable position for the Black King,, it should be at least O.K. 16.Ab5? This does not work. 16…axb5 17.cxb5 Şb8! 18.a6 Fe4 19.f3 (19.b6 Vc5–+) 19…d5 20.b6 Vc4–+) 15…Fxf3 16.Vxf3 Tc8 17.Te1 Vxc4! Computer evaluation is unclear, but for human it looks scary.) 14.Vb3 Fg7 15.Vxb4 Vd7 16.c3 0–0 Black is fine.) 12…Tb8 13.f3 Ac5 14.c3 position is complex, probably it’s part of preparation of Van Foreest. 14…b3 (14…bxc3 15.b4 Acd7 16.b5 Axb6! 17.axb6 a5! 18.Ac6 Ad5! 19.Vd4 Ab4!) 15.c4 Acd7 16.Axb3 Axb6 17.axb6 Fc8 Next, Black will play …Qb6 and finally we come to the position that a human can evaluate more easily than the other variations that could arise. (17…Ad7 18.c5) 18.Aa5 Vxb6 19.Vxb6 Txb6 20.Şf2 White definitely has compensation for the pawn thanks to his better development and initiative on the queenside.]

12.Vxe4 e6 [12…Fb7 Computer recommends this continuation for Black but complications are overwhelming and no one really wants to play this position against a well-prepared opponent. 13.c4!? (13.0–0 This leads to a somewhat equal position, but White is the one who tries to equalize. 13…Vc7 14.Ff3 g6 15.c4 bxc3 16.bxc3 Tc8 17.c4 Vxc4 18.Fe3 After a series of moves, the position will be around equal. 18…Fa8 19.Fe2 Axe3 20.Vxe3 Vd5 21.Ff3 Fh6 22.Vxh6 Vxd4 23.Tad1 Vf6 24.Fxa8 Txa8 25.Tb1 Still complicated but not risky for Black anymore.) 13…bxc3 14.Fd1 Vc8 15.Fa4+ Şd8 16.0–0 e5 Very complicated position.I analyzed a bit and it seems like Black holds the advantage.]

13.0–0 Fd7 [A natural move. Black does not want to allow any sacrifice on e6 and is preparing … Be7]

[13…Fe7 14.Ac6 Vc7 15.Axe7 Vxe7 16.Te1 Fb7 (16…0–0?? 17.Fd3+–) 17.Fd3 …g6 is needed at some moment to castle short, which weakens dark squares, therefore White has his chances. 17…g6 18.h4 seems to be dangerous for Black.]

14.Fd2 Fe7 15.Ff3 [Finally, White shows his intent! He wants to move the queen away from, take on d5, and play positional chess.]

15…0–0 16.Vd3 [Surprisingly Black is in a difficult spot.]

16…Vb8 17.c4! bxc3 18.bxc3 Ta7? [Easy to understand the origin of this mistake. Black probably missed move 21 by White.]

[18…Ff6! 19.c4 Ab4!? Gets rid of the pressure, though it’s not easy to do that anyway here. (19…Va7 20.Ab3 Fxa1 21.Txa1 Af6 22.Fe3 Vb8 23.Fxa8 Vxa8 24.Vxd6 Fc6 25.f3 Thanks to the c4 pass pawn White is slightly better here.) 20.Fxb4 (20.Va3 Fxd4 21.Fxb4 Fxa1 22.Txa1 Va7 23.Fxd6 Tfc8 24.Fxa8 Vxa8= Comparing this variation with 19…Qa7, having knights on the board creates higher chances for White who has the advantage.) 20…Vxb4 21.Fxa8 Txa8 bishop pair and a pawn should provide enough play.]

19.Tfb1 Vc8 20.c4 Af6 21.Ab5!! [The idea that Grandelius missed.]

21…axb5 22.cxb5 [These pass pawns are much stronger than a knight especially when they are supported by all of the White pieces, except for the king on g1.]

22…Fxb5 [22…Ad5 23.b6 Axb6 24.axb6 Txa1 25.Txa1 d5 26.Ff4 Fc6 27.Ta7 Fd8 28.Fc7+–]

23.Vxb5 Ad7 24.Fb7 Vd8 25.a6 Ff6 26.Fa5 [26.Fe3 Computer’s recommendation. 26…Ac5 27.Ta2 Vc7 28.Td2 Prepares Rd6 sacrifice. 28…Fe7 29.Tc1 Threatening Rc5 and Rd7 29…Td8 Black is paralyzed. (29…Tb8 30.Fxc5 dxc5 31.Td7) 30.g3 g6 31.Tc3 Ff8 32.Fxc5 dxc5 33.Txd8 Vxd8 34.Td3+–]

26…Ve8 27.Fc7?! [[9 minutes. There was not a need to sacrifice an exchange. Van Foreest said that he was nervous and therefore was playing fast. Luckily for him, everything ended well for him; however, if Grandelius had found the right continuation…]

[27.Ta2! Ac5 (27…Fd4 28.Fc7 Fc5 29.Tc2 Ae5 (29…Ve7 30.Td1 Threatening Rc5. 30…Ab8 31.Txc5 dxc5 32.Fd6 Td8 33.Vb6 Axa6 34.Vxa7 Ac7 35.Şf1 (35.Vxc5? Ae8; 35.Td4) 35…Txd6 36.Txd6 Vxd6 37.Vb8+ Vf8 38.Vxc7 h6 39.Vc8 This endgame is lost for Black.) 30.Txc5+–) 28.Vb6 Vb8 29.Vxa7!! Vxa7 30.Fb6 Vb8 31.Fxc5 dxc5 32.a7 Vc7 33.a8V Txa8 34.Txa8+ Fd8 35.Td1 g6 36.Taxd8+ Şg7 37.Ff3+–]

27…Fxa1 28.Txa1 [Objectively, this is the actual mistake that could have cost Van Foreest the championship title, but if you play Bc7 move after 9 minutes of thought, you probably did not aim for a position with a piece sacrifice.]

[28.Fxd6! Ff6 29.Fxf8 Şxf8 30.Tc1! Fd8 (30…e5 31.Tc8 Fd8 32.Vb4+ Şg8 33.Vd2! g6 34.Ve3 Ab6 35.Vxb6 Fxb6 36.Txe8++–) 31.Td1 Ab6 32.Vc5+ Şg8 33.Vd6+– Black cannot keep both light pieces alive and the rooks are stuck.]

28…d5?? [28…Ac5! If Grandelius found this move, Van Foreest probably would have greatly regretted his last two moves. This could have been the motive of his nightmares for a while. 29.Vb6 Vd7! 30.h3 (30.Fxd6? Vxb7! 31.Fxc5 Vxb6 32.Fxb6 Td7; 30.Vxa7 Vxc7 31.Tb1 g5 32.Vb6 Vxb6 33.Txb6 Axb7 34.Txb7 Ta8 35.a7= Şg7 White cannot make any progress. 36.Şf1 d5 37.Şe2 e5 38.Şd3 Şf6 39.g4 Şe6 40.Şc3 h6 41.Şb4 d4=) 30…Axa6 31.Txa6 Txa6 32.Fxa6 d5 Very close to equality.White has symbolic advantage. 33.Fb5 Vc8 34.Fd6 Td8 35.Şh2 h6 36.g3 (36.Fe7?? Vb8+–+; 36.Fe5 Şh8 37.g4 Şg8=) 36…Şh8! Created a square for the rook on g8. 37.Fe7 Tg8=]

29.Fd6!+– [Black is paralyzed. Now White has many ways to win, and Van Foreest did not give any chance to his opponent.]

29…Vd8 30.Tc1 g6 31.h3 Te8 32.Tc7 Af6 33.Fe5 Ae4 34.Vc6 Tf8 35.Fd4 Vb8 36.f3 Txa6 [Hoping to create some attack, but there is no more than checks.]

37.Fxa6 Vb4 38.Fe5 Ve1+ 39.Şh2 Af2 40.Vc3 Vh1+ 41.Şg3 Vg1 42.Tc8 Ah1+ 43.Şh4 Vf2+ 44.g3 g5+ 45.Şxg5 f6+ 46.Şh6! fxe5 47.Vxe5