Dutch grandmaster Jorden van Foreest entered the Tata Steel Masters as a +25000 long shot to win the tournament, according to Unibet. But he did just that on Sunday, beating Nils Grandelius to force a playoff with Anish Giri, then defeating his Dutch compatriot in a dramatic tiebreaker to win the title.
Both van Foreest and Giri finished with 8.5 points, forcing two blitz games and, eventually, an Armageddon decider for the title.
Firouzja Foils Early Celebration for Giri
The drama began on Saturday when Giri nearly put the tournament away against Alireza Firouzja. Giri reached a winning endgame where he had several pawns spread out across the board against an overworked knight. But, Giri made several inaccuracies, which was just enough for Firouzja to find a brilliant defense and hold a draw.
— chess24.com (@chess24com) January 30, 2021
“I thought I’m winning by force and I missed the Nf4 move,” Giri said afterward. “I thought he goes Ne5, Nd7, which is much more logical … Ne5-d7 would be much faster, but Nf4 was very clever.”
That left Giri with a half-point lead over Firouzja, van Foreest, and Fabiano Caruana. All three in the chase pack had seemingly winnable Round 13 matchups as well: Firouzja took White against Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Caruana had Black against Aryan Tari, and van Foreest went first against Grandelius.
Caruana got a slight advantage in his game, but was never close to winning, agreeing to a draw in 42 moves. Van Foreest launched a blistering queenside attack in his game against Gradelius, winning a piece for two pawns and going on to win in just 47 moves.
Van Foreest Survives Frantic Tiebreaker
When Giri drew David Anton in his own game, that guaranteed a tiebreaker between the two Dutch grandmasters. Firouzja could have made it a three-way tie at the top if he had converted a winning position against Wojtaszek, but the tiebreak scenarios would have left him in third place and out of the championship playoff.
In the end, Firouzja only managed a draw, saving the organizers some potential controversy. Instead, it set up a tense final, which guaranteed the first Dutch winner of the Tata Steel Masters in 36 years.
Van Foreest got himself into trouble in the first blitz game, but managed to find a brilliant defense and launch a counter-attack that required precise play from Giri. Both found the necessary moves, and the game ended in a draw. In the second, van Foreest played a pet variation with Black in the Ruy Lopez, reaching a worse – but very holdable – endgame, which was enough to take the match to Armageddon.
Van Foreest took Black in the Armageddon game, meaning he only needed to hold a draw to win the tournament. Giri held a winning advantage in the middlegame, but van Foreest found a clever knight maneuver that gave him chances, and forced Giri to spend far too much time on a single move.
Tata Steel Chess Title Eludes Giri
That left both players moving almost instantaneously, leading to confusion about the finish for commentators and viewers. Van Foreest blundered a piece in a drawn position, giving Giri a winning advantage. A few moves later, Van Foreest emerged as the winner. It appeared that Giri might have run out of time before the three-second increment kicked in at move 60. Later, though, it emerged that Giri had misplayed the position and was completely lost, despite getting to move 62.
Playing as a kid in amateur sections I always dreamed of playing with the world’s best at @tatasteelchess. Not in my wildest dreams would I have expected to ever win it one day!
— Jorden van Foreest (@jordenvforeest) January 31, 2021
The victory marks van Foreest’s first major tournament crown. He had previously put up strong results at the Tata Steel Masters, finishing fourth in 2020.
For Giri, the tiebreaker loss continued a series of heartbreaking finishes at super tournaments. This is the second time Giri has lost the Tata Steel Masters in a tiebreaker, previously doing so against Magnus Carlsen in 2018.