© 2022 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

On Chess: 2021 Tata Steel Chess Tournament Crowns New Champion

Austin Fuller
St. Louis Chess Club
Grandmaster Jorden van Foreest won the 2021 "Wimbledon of Chess." He's shown here in the 2019 Fall Classic Tournament.

The 2021 Tata Steel Chess tournament just wrapped up at the end of January. The “Wimbledon of Chess,” as it is known among many chess fans, is a traditional event held in the small Dutch town of Wijk aan Zee. Tata typically invites the very best players from around the world. This year, the organizers decided to invite the world’s best juniors and prodigies instead.

The event started out slow for reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen. The Norwegian tried to climb back to the top of the field, but much to everyone's surprise, the 18-year-old Russian grandmaster, Andrey Esipenko, stopped Carlsen’s ascent to the top. This left grandmasters Alireza Firouzja and Anish Giri vying for first place before the last three rounds.

It seemed like nothing surprising could happen, but out of the blue, Netherlands' newest talent, grandmaster Jorden van Foreest scored an impressive 2.5 points out of three games to tie for first place. Before the last round, both Alireza Firouzja and Anish Giri seemed like two early candidates for the 2021 title, but Alireza misplayed a promising position, while Giri only needed to draw to guarantee himself a tiebreaker against Spanish grandmaster Anton Guijarro David.

Anish Giri played his vintage chess, outplaying his opponents in slightly better positions and holding on when worse. On the other hand, his young rivals, Firouzja and van Foreest, aimed for complications right from the beginning. Firouzja drew his final game, while van Foreest defeated Swedish grandmaster Nils Grandelius.

This meant that Jorden van Foreest was to face Anish Giri in an all-Dutch final to see who would take the 2021 Tata Steel crown.

After a couple of uneventful draws, the two played an Armageddon game, where Jorden van Foreest had the black pieces, four minutes on the clock and draw-odds. Giri received five minutes and was in a must-win situation. Jorden was struggling against Giri’s cagey play, but knowing that even a draw would clinch him the title he defended tenaciously. With time trouble looming, Giri lost control and ultimately lost on time in an advantageous position.

Ultimately, van Foreest became the new champion of the 2021 Tata Steel Tournament and the first Dutch player to win the tournament in 36 years.

Grandmaster Denes Boros is originally from Budapest, Hungary, but currently resides in St. Louis. He holds a bachelor's degree in psychology. In addition to playing competitive chess, he is a commentator and chess journalist for various chess tournaments. He was a special commentator for the Carlsen-Karjakin World Championship Match held in New York, for the New York Times.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.