Dutch grandmaster Anish Giri defeated Radoslaw Wojtaszek on Wednesday to take the solo lead at the Tata Steel Masters, but three players are within a half-point of him with just three rounds left to play.

Tata Steel Masters odds Giri
Anish Giri picked up another win on Wednesday, vaulting him into the lead at the Tata Steel Masters. (Image: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021)

Giri sits at 7 points after 10 rounds heading into Thursday’s final rest day in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands.

Rook Sacrifice Propels Giri into the Lead

Early on, Giri achieved little against Wojtaszek out of a London System. But the 26-year-old gained the initiative heading into the endgame. Wojtaszek still had chances of holding a draw until he blundered on his 48th move. That allowed Giri to sacrifice a rook in a stunning shot that immediately forced his opponent to resign.

“It’s a draw, of course, but he doesn’t want to go into three [pawns] against two obviously, and the smallest problems are unpleasant because it’s a completely drawn position,” Giri said afterward. “As it happens sometimes in such cases, once you get some small chances, then things can go very well.”

Carlsen Holds on to Draw Caruana

Heading into Round 10, all eyes were on the mouthwatering matchup between Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen. Caruana surprised the World Champion by playing 1. d4 and opting for a Catalan. The decision bore fruit, as the American won a pawn after Carlsen blundered early.

But that was never close to enough to achieve a winning position. The game ended in a draw after just 42 moves.

Tata Steel Chess Odds – Winner (via Unibet)
Anish Giri: +125 Fabiano Caruana: +200 Alireza Firouzja: +400
Andrey Esipenko: +700 Magnus Carlsen: +800 Jorden van Foreest: +3000

“I somehow overestimated my position when I’m a pawn up,” Caruana said. “I thought I would have an advantage from afar, but once I got there, it suddenly seemed like very little. At the end, I was almost worried that I started to risk things.”

The result continues Carlsen’s poor run of form. Now 1.5 points back of Giri with just three rounds left to play, the World Champion will need a miracle to even share the Tata Steel Masters title this year. That said, Unibet is still offering only +800 odds on such a comeback. And as some of his fellow grandmasters have pointed out, even Carlsen’s worst tournaments are pretty solid by nearly anyone else’s standards.

Caruana now sits a half-point back of Giri after that draw. Alireza Firouzja is also a part of that second-place tie after drawing Nils Grandelius with Black on Wednesday.

Esipenko Impresses at Tata Steel Masters

Andrey Esipenko has also risen to join them at 6.5 points. Esipenko emerged as the surprise of the Tata Steel Masters after beating David Anton Guijarro in Round 10 to put himself in an excellent position to make a run at his first major chess title.

The 18-year-old Russian has games against Aryan Tari, Jorden van Foreest, and Alexander Donchenko – three of the lowest-rated players in the field – in his final rounds, opening up the possibility that he could win the Tata Steel Masters. But, Esipenko isn’t entertaining that idea just yet.

“Not really, because every player is very strong and I can’t predict the rest of the tournament,” Donchenko said in regard to winning the title.

Unibet lists Giri (+125) as the favorite to win the Tata Steel Masters, thanks in large part to his half-point lead. But Caruana (+200), Firouzja (+400), and Esipenko (+700) could each surpass the leader at any time. Even Jorden van Foreest (+3000) sits just one point back with three games to play.

Tata Steel Masters – Round 11 Odds (via Unibet)
David Anton Guijarro: +350 Draw: -225 Nils Grandelius: +525
Magnus Carlsen: +250 Draw: -250 Anish Giri: +1250
Alexander Donchenko: +450 Draw: -200 Jan-Krzysztof Duda: +350
Alireza Firouzja: +550 Draw: -250 Fabiano Caruana: +400
Aryan Tari: +550 Draw: -200 Andrey Esipenko: +300
Radoslaw Wojtaszek: +650 Draw: -335 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: +500
Jorden van Foreest: +375 Draw: -225 Pentala Harikrishna: +475

Friday’s games could go a long way toward clarifying the situation. Firouzja takes White against Caruana, while Carlsen takes on Giri. Meanwhile, Esipenko will look to continue his run as he plays Black against Tari.

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