Anish Giri, 28, whose talent is as great as his fear of losing, took a risk for once, and the play paid off. He brilliantly beat Romanian Richard Rapport while his compatriot Jorden van Foreest knocked out the tournament leader, 18-year-old Uzbek Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who sank at the decisive moment despite his coolness seeming like a deactivator. of bombs. That gives first prize to Giri at the Wijk aan Zee Tata Festival, the Roland Garros of chess, where the world champion, the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, 3rd and defeated by Giri and Abdusattórov, failed at the beginning of the year to renounce the title.
Even on the brightest day of his career so far (it’s his first win in Wijk aan Zee), Giri confirmed his lack of ambition and murderous instinct: “I didn’t expect this outcome, frankly. I did consider the possibility that Jorden would win, Magnus would win, and I would draw, which would have forced us to play a sudden death [ajedrez relámpago] which I am absolutely against as a tie-breaking method; I even thought about not playing the tournament for that reason, ”he explained, after hugging his wife, the Georgian grandmaster Sopiko Guramishvili, and her two children.
“Sometimes I am capable of taking risks,” added Giri, who beat Carlsen in the 4th round, with a sneer, referring to the numerous criticisms he has received for many years for not doing so. Then he turned more serious to thank his compatriot van Foreest for his golden help: “He didn’t have any special motivation to fight hard in the last round against the tournament leader. And he yet he has done it. It is very impressive, because we have played as if it were a team competition, looking at each other’s positions every so often. I’m really grateful to you”. And he underlined the enormous hardness of the Tata Festival, a league system between fourteen: “Winning a tournament where Carlsen plays is already very difficult in itself. But it is also that this one in particular has been very hard due to the great quality of all the participants. A good example of this is that it would not have been a big surprise if the last one, Arjun Erigaisi, had been the winner because the fourteen of us had the strength to be so”.
Carlsen, happy for just one month
“After my early losses to Giri and Abdusattorov, I made it a point that the tournament wouldn’t be a disaster for me. But I have not succeeded, ”Carlsen told EL PAÍS as he left the Wijk aan Zee sports center, where he has triumphed in eight editions. The enormous happiness that he felt on December 30 for being triple champion (classical, rapid and lightning chess) is already eclipsed by this failure at the Roland Garros of chess. Instead of approaching the very tough goal of 2,900 points on the world list, his third place (for a worse tiebreaker than Abdusattórov) makes him lose 10.5.
During the celebration with his relatives on the night of December 30 in Almaty (Kazakhstan), after being proclaimed champion of rapids and lightning, Carlsen highlighted: “What I have achieved here is very important. My self-esteem now has gasoline for at least a year.” And not for any year, because 2023 will always be highlighted in the Norwegian’s biography: on May 1 he will cease to be the classical chess champion because he has renounced the title, arguing as the main reason – see especially his interview with Lex Friedman on YouTube – His fear of losing to rivals he considers clearly inferior.
The number one of a ladder is the Finisterre: beyond, nothing. That’s why Henrik Carlsen, Magnus’s father, has tried to motivate him in various ways in recent years; the main one, highlighting that below number one it is freezing cold: much less money from various sources (awards, fixed, publicity, value of their shares in companies…), fame, social recognition to be received at high levels, etc. .). In this context, it is essential to remain the undisputed number one the year in which he renounces the title of the classic modality (and still the most important, by far). And the setback in Wijk aan Zee will leave him with that thorn, at least until the tournament in Stavanger (Norway), at the end of May. In 2022, Carlsen triumphed in Wijk aan Zee and Stavanger, and withdrew in the 3rd round of the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis (USA) after losing to the American Hans Niemann and accusing him of cheating without evidence. They are the only individual classical chess tournaments he has played all year.
On Saturday, after fighting for six hours without being able to beat the Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa, Carlsen seemed destroyed: “I have never seen him in such bad shape in my life,” says Fiona Steil-Antoni, in charge of official interviews with the players after the games. The final victory over Erigaisi gave him the strength to congratulate Giri and say goodbye with a smile. But the indomitable strength and intrinsic loneliness of the number one came to the fore when a Dutch journalist asked him if, since he didn’t win, he thought it was a good thing for the local idol to win. Carlsen smiled, and did not hold back: “If I thought like that, it would have been time to retire.”
As things were going in the 3rd hour of the last day, everything indicated that Abdusattórov could not lose, due to the solidity of his position, while Giri put a lot of pressure on Rapport, but still without achieving a clear advantage. Suddenly, the Romanian, as brilliant as he was unstable, made a serious tactical error and was struck down by Giri in spectacular fashion. Seeing him, Abdusattórov’s supposed bombproof serenity melted like a sugar cube: he had a logical continuation that guaranteed him a tie and he opted for another that left him clearly worse. And Van Foreest did not fail in his patriotic duty.
Giri’s victory, which moves him to 5th place on the world list, eliminated Carlsen’s remote chance of winning the tournament. However, the champion kept fighting until, after five and a half hours, he defeated Erigaisi. In addition to his failure, the weakness of the 2nd in the world, the Chinese Liren Ding (who now drops to 3rd), is striking, although it must be taken into account that he saves his best weapons for the duel for the title against the Russian Ian Niepómniashi in April. And also the Iranian Parham Maghsoodloo, 22, tied for 5th place and now 23rd in the world, who reinforces the great rise of chess in his country after the flight of the phenomenon Alireza Firouzja, 4th in the world at 19, to France at beginning of 2020.
Last round: Praggnanandhaa – So, tables; Erigaisi-Carlsen, 0-1; Aronian – Maghsoodloo, 0-1; Keymer – Gukesh, draws; Ding – Caruana, draws; Giri-Rapport, 1-0; Abdusattorov – Van Foreest, 0-1.
Final classification: 1st Giri 8.5; 2nd-3rd Abdusattórov and Carlsen 8; 4th So 7.5; 5th-6th Caruana and Maghsoodloo 7; 7th-8th Aronian and Rapport 6.5; 9th-10th Praggnanandhaa and Van Foreest 6; 11th-12th Ding and Gukesh 5.5; 13th Keymer 5; 14th Erigaisi 4.
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