DANIEL FERNANDEZ – TATA STEEL CHESS TOURNAMENT 2021 – 750 pages – ISBN 9789464201420.
Before you is the tournament book of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021. The event that has been won in sensational fashion by the young Dutch grandmaster Jorden van Foreest. In a tiebreak in the third blitz game, he was just a bit faster of his compatriot Anish Giri. The barrage was necessary because both players very surprisingly ended with the wonderful score of 8½ out of 13 in joint first place. With this they had left behind, among others, World Champion Magnus Carlsen (7½) and the number two in the world, Fabiano Caruana (8). An unprecedented achievement, because the tournament in Wijk aan Zee is sometimes called the “Wimbledon of chess” of the elite tournaments. After the last round, in which Van Foreest in a formidable way had left the Swede Nils Grandelius chanceless, it was waiting for the game between the Spaniard David Antón Guijarra and Anish Giri. Our compatriot was in a bad position, lost perhaps, but he managed to free himself from the tangled position and gain an important half point. It was decided beforehand that a tiebreak would be held, consisting of at least two blitz games. Should these result in a 1-1 score, an Armageddon game would be played. This turned out to be a nervous and blood-curdling fight, with the pieces flying around. In the end the younger of the two, Jorden van Foreest, emerged victorious and thus the young Groninger booked the greatest success of his still young career. Apart from the commotion in the Dutch seaside resort of Wijk aan Zee, where the tournament was held – under strict corona rules – the whole of the Netherlands rose to its feet when this great result became known. Hadn’t we had to wait since 1985, when Jan Timman won the Hoogovens chess tournament, for a Dutch chess player to stand on the highest podium? And now it was even two players from this country who could dispute together who would take the highest honor.
That such a fine achievement should be immortalized, is beyond dispute. But who will pick up the gauntlet? We live in a volatile world where the Internet is dominant and when a tournament is over, the next one is already at the door. No time for reflection and historical awareness? Yet there was someone who had followed the tournament with great interest. The English grandmaster Daniel Fernandez, who also publishes for “ChessPublishing” came up with the idea of thoroughly examining all the games from this tournament. He did not take any chances in doing so. In addition to the various sources he found on the Internet, he of course used the strongest engines available at the moment. He also had engines in the cloud patiently calculate various positions. Together with his source research and his own insights, he has created a unique compilation of chess-technical material that is unprecedented. In doing so, Fernandez has painted a fantastic picture of the opening variants that were on the board in this tournament. He has done a thorough research of the ins and outs of the various variants and placed them in a broader perspective. And it must be said that the organization was kind to him by providing an interesting field of players who gave it their all every round. This resulted in many nice confrontations with extremely interesting opening theory! That Fernandez did not get away with the middle game and the many fascinating endgames was clear from a first estimate of the amount of material when it had to be converted to the format of this book. Initially, we ended up with almost 900 pages! That is far too much and therefore drastic cuts had to be made. Hundreds of (analysis) diagrams have been dropped, small side notes are no longer in the book and sometimes – pain in the heart – the trees of variations had to be cut back. That only happened, by the way, when the ingenious structure became so extensive that it would be hard to follow for “mere mortals”. It is being considered whether this can be made available digitally at a later date, and the moment that it is, we will of course put Fernandez’s entire analytical work on offer!
In the production of this book, tournament director Jeroen van den Berg, in consultation with their main photographer, Jurriaan Hoefsmit, provided many photos. Jurriaan has taken more than 1000 pictures during the tournament and made his archive available to me completely free of charge. Of the selection that I was allowed to make, he sent me the photos in the highest possible resolution. Without these pictures the book would not have become what it is now and I am very grateful for that. Because the photos show us the palpable tension and the emotions of the players in top concentration. Hoefsmit did a fantastic job, which are now “immortalized” in this book!
The format of this tournament book is different from what you might expect. The author chose the highly original idea to group all chapters around all the white games of each player. Starting with the player who finished at the bottom of the final table, Grandmaster Alexander Donchenko. He came to the start as a late substitute and had to pay for that with the last place. Yet he showed several times that he is an excellent chess player. The games were thus delivered to yours truly, who was charged with the further production of the book.
Because a tournament book should also be a report of the events, it was decided to use the round reports that were presented daily on the Dutch chess news web-site, www.schaaksite.nl. Together with GM Dimitri Reinderman and webmaster Lennart Ootes, I am co-owner of this website, after the founder of this site, Kees Schrijvers, handed it over to us after 10 years.
A number of volunteers showed their willingness to make a report with chess technical notes, usually directly after a round – on the very same evening. On the site this chess technical commentary can be found (in Dutch) via a pgn-viewer. In order to be at the beck and call of the reader of this book, we provided all the links to these articles (see Appendix at the back).
We have deliberately chosen to keep the chess technical notes of these reporters very brief. The detailed analyses are elsewhere in the book. But because the reporter tells his story about the games, we could not avoid printing diagrams sometimes and adding the much-needed commentary. We think this will give the reader a good idea of the events per round. Therefore we would like to thank all these authors, IGM Dimitri Reinderman, FM Richard Vedder, Michel Hoetmer, Jasper Dekker and Ardi Pierik for kindly making their stories and chess technical comments available. At the same time I would also like to thank Andy Burnett for checking the translation of these reports from Dutch into English and the many useful comments he made in the process. It must be said that he did not plunge into Fernandez’s intensive analyses. The Briton’s use of language is above reproach. With this we think we have put together a monumental work and I conclude with the words of Fernandez himself, “I hope it has become something to be proud of!”
~ Herman Grooten, December 2021.