Anish Giri, the world No 5 and Netherlands home favourite, won the “chess Wimbledon” at Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee on Sunday, after Uzbek 18-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who had led for 12 of the 13 rounds, suffered his only defeat. The teenager dominated the first half of the tournament, but played too conservatively in the closing stages.

Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, lost to both Giri and Abdusattorov in successive games early on, then produced a strong recovery and looked set for at least a tie for first. In the penultimate round, Carlsen missed a chance to win a key pawn and probably the game against the Indian Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 17, and was visibly upset when Norwegian journalists asked him to explain his mistake in the post-game press conference.

“That’s just insane. I completely forgot about it” replied Carlsen, who went on to call the marathon ending “a backbreaker” and later declared that he would now take time away from classical tournaments. Objectively, however, his tied second prize was deeply impressive in the context of his overall performances at the “chess Wimbledon” where, since 2010, he has won seven times, with five second places and failed only in 2021, when he was sixth.

The most significant result at Wijk was a negative one. China’s Ding Liren came for a warm-up before his €2mn world title match against Ian Nepomniachtchi in April, an event arranged because Carlsen is abdicating his crown.

Ding fell away after a good start and scored only 5.5/13, dropping from second to third in the rankings behind his Russian opponent. Perhaps he was keeping his prep in reserve for his match in Kazakhstan, but it did not seem like it.

There were three Americans in Wijk, and all had low-key performances. Wesley So, in particular, finished fourth and could easily have made a bid for first, but chose not to vary from his usual solid game.  

His colleague, US champion Fabiano Caruana, explained it by lack of incentive: Wesley, he said, would have had to make a huge effort (travel, long days, hours of prep) for a $25-30k start fee at Wijk, whereas he could make $50k from the internet Champions Tour, which starts next week with the Airthings Masters, without leaving his front room. Caruana concluded that “classical chess is dying a slow death”.

Puzzle 2505
Amin Tabatabaei vs Rasmus Svane, Titled Tuesday 2022. White to move and win. White is a pawn up, but Black threatens an instant win by Rh1+.

For solution, click here

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