Jorden Van Foreest battles in bid to repeat at super-strong Tata Steel chess tournament

Jorden Van Foreest battles in bid to repeat at super-strong Tata Steel chess tournament

Jorden Van Foreest’s victory in the 2021 Tata Steel Chess Tournament last January was a feel-good story in a year that could have used a few more of them.

The 21-year-old Dutch grandmaster was ranked 11th in the elite 14-GM field in the storied chess-mad town of Wijk aan Zee, but electrified the hometown fans by finishing in a tie for first ahead of such stars as reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen and American stars Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. He then upset fellow Dutch GM Anish Giri in a rapid playoff for the title.

Van Foreest thus became the first Dutch player to win his country’s most prestigious invitational event in more than three decades.

It does not look like lightning will strike twice: Van Foreest is a respectable 4-4 through Monday’s rest day in the 2022 Tata event with five rounds to go, 1½ points behind Carlsen and co-leader GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan. The results may not be there, but Van Foreest is again playing some of the most enterprising chess at the event, with a tournament-topping six decisive results in his first eight games.

Witness the Open Ruy Lopez battle between Van Foreest and Mamedyarov in Round 5, a win that has fueled a midtournament surge for the Azeri GM.

The Open Ruy almost always guarantees a fight, and this is no exception. Mamedyarov’s 14. c3 Ne7!? is a new move in this line, getting the knight out of the way to enable a queenside pawn push.

Things get sharp in the center on 17. Nd4 Bd7 18. N2f3!? c5 19. e6! (Ne2?? c4 loses a piece, while 19. Bc2 Ng6 20. Ne2 Bb5 21. Qd2 Bc6 22. Rfd1 looks roughly equal) Be8 20. Ng5 f5! (the right way to stop the mate threat; bad were both 20 … g6? 21. exf7+ Bxf7 22. Qh3 h5 23. Nde6 and 20 … Ng6? 21. exf7+ Bxf7 22. Nxf7 Rxf7 23. Nc6) 21. Nf7 Rxf7! 22. exf7+ Bxf7. White’s pieces remain en prise, but some tricky tactics will leave Van Foreest with a rook and two pawns for two minor pieces: 23. Nxf5 c4 24. Bxc4! Nxf5 (White’s point was that 24 … dxc4 is met by 25. Qxd8+ Rxd8 26. Nxe7+, winning) 25. Bxa6 Nd6 26. Qf3.

But the open position favors Black’s bishop and knight, and White misses a crucial opportunity to activate his queen on 34. Bxf7 Kxf7 35. Rc1? (perhaps the losing move; White had to play 35. Qb7+! and force Mamedyarov to find some shelter for his king) Qc7! 36. Kg2 (Rxc4?? Bxf2+ 37. Qxf2 Qxc4) Bd4, and Black can begin the slow but inevitable breaking down of the White c-pawn blockade.

It’s over after 41. f3?! (Qf3 was marginally tougher, as now Black gets mating threats as well) Qb2+ 42. Rc2 Qb1 (with the nasty threat of 43 … Nd5) 43. Qf5 Be3 44. Kh3 Qd1, and White resigned. One possible winning line: 45. Ra2 Bd2! 46. Kg2 Qe2+ 47. Kh3 Qf1+ 48. Kh2 Be3 49. Rg2 Bd2.


The big boys still dominate, but it’s getting a little more democratic in the ranks of college chess these days.

The familiar powerhouses from Missouri and Texas topped the field at the recent 37-school, 57-team 2022 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Championship, held right here in Dulles, Virginia.

In a mild upset, the Saint Louis University A Team, sporting an average rating of 2675, came out on top with a clean 6-0 record, including a 2½-1½ match win over crosstown rival Webster University, whose own A Team clocked in with an average rating of 2701. The Billikens also dispatched rivals from Texas Tech and University of Texas at Dallas, as all four schools earned an invite to the college chess Final Four this spring.

The final leaderboard isn’t surprising, but some other schools are starting to make some noise in the college game. The University of Chicago finished in a tie for fourth with 4½ points and my own alma mater, the University of Virginia, notched its best-ever result with a 4-2 match score and a tie for ninth place. Chicago took down my Cavs in their head-to-head match, helped by Board 1 GM Awonder Liang’s nice win from the Black side of a Queen’s Indian against FM Jason Morefield.

Liang as Black gets a nice solid set-up out of the opening, with all his pieces coiled for an attack when the center opens up. White’s intended queenside play comes too slowly, even as his king is drained of defenders: 16. Ne1?! (redeploying to the other flank, but more prudent was 16. Bf4!? Bxf4 17. gxf4 Qe6 18. Ne5 Rad8 19. Rac1, with equal chances) Ne4 17. e3?! (bolstering the center but cutting White pieces off from the kingside) Ndf6 18. Nd3 h5!, wasting no time going for the jugular.

White misses a last chance to slow down the Black attack, and Liang conducts the final phase with great energy: 22. Nxe4? (wrongly opening more lines; the surprising 22. Ne5! actually would have given White some promising counterplay in variations like 22 … Bxe5 23. dxe5 Qxe5 [Nxe5? 24. Nxd5 Bxd5 25. Qxd5 Nd6 26. Bc3, with strong pressure] 24. Nxe4 dxe4 25. Rd7) dxe5 23. Nc5!? — the move White may have been banking on.

But Black’s piece activity and White’s weak kingside prove a lethal combination: 23 … bxc5 24. bxc5 (see diagram) Bxg3! (Rab8?! 25. cxd6 Qxd6 26. Bh3 Nf6 27. Bb4 and White’s problems are solved) 25. fxg3 (Qxb7 Bh2+ 26. Kf1 Qf6 27. Qb3 — to stop 27 … Nxe3+ — Rab8 28. Qc3 Bg3 29. Rd2 Re6 and White is completely tied up) Qg5!, and if 26. Qxb7?, Black breaks through with 26 … Qxe3+ 27. Kh1 [Kf1 Nh2 mate] Qh6+ 28. Kg1 Qh2+ 29. Kf1 Ne3+ 30. Ke2 Qxg2+! 31. Kxe3 Qf3+ 32. Kd2 Qd3 mate.

Morefield tries 26. c6 Bc8 27. d5, but the Black pieces are not to be denied: 27 … Qh6 28. Rd2 (Bf2 Qh2+ 29. Kf1 a5! as in the game) Qh2+ 29. Kf1 a5!, and the Queen’s Indian bishop, playing solely on the short c8-a6 diagonal, enters the play with decisive impact. White resigns as 30. Bf2 Ba6+ 31. Rc4 Rab8 32. Qc2 Bxc4+ 33. Qxc4 Rb1+ 34. Be1 Qxg2+! 35. Kxg2 Nxe3+ is just one fun way to win.

Van Foreest-Mamedyarov, Tata Steel Tournament, Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands, January 2022

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. a4 b4 10. Be3 Be7 11. a5 O-O 12. Qd3 Nc5 13. Bxc5 Bxc5 14. c3 Ne7 15. Nbd2 bxc3 16. bxc3 Ba7 17. Nd4 Bd7 18. N2f3 c5 19. e6 Be8 20. Ng5 f5 21. Nf7 Rxf7 22. exf7+ Bxf7 23. Nxf5 c4 24. Bxc4 Nxf5 25. Bxa6 Nd6 26. Qf3 Bc5 27. Bd3 Rxa5 28. Rxa5 Qxa5 29. h4 h5 30. g3 Ne8 31. c4 dxc4 32. Bh7+ Kf8 33. Bg6 Nf6 34. Bxf7 Kxf7 35. Rc1 Qc7 36. Kg2 Bd4 37. Qa8 c3 38. Qa2+ Kg6 39. Qc2+ Kh6 40. Qd3 Qb7+ 41. f3 Qb2+ 42. Rc2 Qb1 43. Qf5 Be3 44. Kh3 Qd1 White resigns.

Morefield-Liang, Pan-American Intercollegiate Championships, Dulles, Virginia, January 2022

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Bg2 d5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. O-O O-O 10. Nc3 Bb7 11. Qc2 Re8 12. Rfd1 Nbd7 13. a3 a6 14. b4 Bd6 15. Qb3 Qe7 16. Ne1 Ne4 17. e3 Ndf6 18. Nd3 h5 19. Rac1 h4 20. Be1 hxg3 21. hxg3 Ng4 22. Nxe4 dxe4 23. Nc5 bxc5 24. bxc5 Bxg3 25. fxg3 Qg5 26. c6 Bc8 27. d5 Qh6 28. Rd2 Qh2+ 29. Kf1 a5 White resigns.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at