Chess: Anish Giri wins at Wijk aan Zee as Carlsen misses out by just half a point

Chess tournaments can be decided by the tiniest of margins, and that certainly happened in last weekend’s final two rounds at Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, the “chess Wimbledon”. The world champion, Magnus Carlsen, missed a likely winning opportunity in the penultimate round, while the Dutch home favourite, Anish Giri, received a gift point in his final game.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov, the Uzbekistan 18-year-old who had led all the way from round one, chose a conservative drawing strategy in the second half of the event, and came unstuck against the offbeat ideas of Giri’s compatriot Jorden van Foreest. Abdusattorov still made a major advance, reaching the world top 20 with a controlled focus contrasting with his rival Alireza Firouzja, whose career path has become uncertain.

Related: Chess: Magnus Carlsen jumps back into contention as final rounds loom at Wijk

Giri had finished second on five previous occasions at Wijk, which has a long tradition of Dutch victories dating right back to Max Euwe in 1940. He now has his sights on qualifying for the 2024 Candidates and a new shot at the world championship, which has suddenly become a more accessible target after Carlsen’s abdication.

The final-round decider, which gave Giri an easy point against Richard Rapport, was settled by a one-move blunder when Black’s 34…Kg6?? (Kg8 is level) allowed the cheapo 35 Rxd6 when Qxd6 36 Qxf5 is mate.

Quizzed about 22 Nxf7 by Norwegian journalists in a post-game interview, Carlsen said: “That’s just insane! I completely forgot about it.” He went on to describe his marathon draw with the Indian as a “backbreaker” and had not completely recovered from it by the time of his post-tournament interview the next day.

Objectively, Carlsen’s shared second prize was deeply impressive in the context of his overall Wijk performances where, since 2010, he has won seven times, finished second five times, and failed only when sixth in 2021. That is better than even Novak Djokovic at the real Wimbledon, where since 2010 he has won seven titles but has been eliminated before the final five times.

Carlsen also said that after Wijk he will now take a rest from classical tournaments for a while. His next scheduled appearance is not until his home event at Stavanger in May. The world No 1 has stated his interest in expanding his career as a streamer, and, sure enough, within a couple of days of pushing his final Wijk pawn he was viewable live on air on Twitch.

China’s Ding Liren came to Wijk for a warmup before his €2m world title match against Ian Nepomniachtchi in April at Astana, Kazakhstan. The outcome was a near-disaster as Ding fell away after a promising start, totalling only 5.5/13. His Fide rating dipped below the super-elite 2800 level, and he dropped from second to third in the rankings behind Nepomniachtchi.

The Russian will attempt his own warmup at Düsseldorf, Germany, where the WR Masters, a 10-player top class tournament, starts on 15 February. As at Wijk, the opposition is a mix of established world top 20s and the new generation z teenagers.

There were a trio of US players in Wijk, and they all had low-key performances. Levon Aronian, at 40 the oldest in the tournament, was virtually anonymous with a string of uneventful draws. Wesley So finished fourth behind Giri, Carlsen and Abdusattorov, and had opportunities for a higher place, but lacked ambition.

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So’s colleague, the US champion, Fabiano Caruana, explained the subdued performance 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”.

There are some difficulties with that argument. So is also in the field at Düsseldorf, following on from being one of only two seeded players (Carlsen is the other) in the Airthings Masters. The native Filipino is surely aware the world crown is suddenly a realistic target again, with Nepomniachtchi and Ding viewed as beatable in the next match due in 2025. There is a small window of opportunity here, the short period before the generation z teenagers mature into the peak years of their mid-20s.

3853: 1 Bd5+! Kxd5 2 exd7 g2 3 d8=N! g1=Q 4 c4 mate.