Wei Yi had just won a riveting game in round 11 of the Tata Steel Masters event (see puzzle no. 786). His post-game interview ended with the question: ‘With two rounds to go, do you still have energy?’
‘No,’ replied Wei, smiling. And yet China’s second strongest grandmaster (after the world champion Ding Liren), somehow rallied himself to win the final two games. His opponents must have been running on empty too. I was present in the playing hall on the final day, when apart from the matter at hand, the players also had to contend with a persistent tooting noise made by climate change protestors outside the playing hall. They were objecting to the tournament’s sponsorship by Tata Steel, which owns an enormous steel plant in Wijk aan Zee, the village on the north coast of Holland where the event is held.
It is chilly and windswept there, but also rather homely, and the Wijk aan Zee event has a grand tradition dating back to the 1930s. Fourteen players compete in the traditional Masters tournament, which is held each January. Alongside the world elite, there are always a few accomplished but ‘lesser’ grandmasters, so the top players are forced to play ambitiously. After two weeks of intense competition, only the Indian teenager Praggnanandhaa survived without losing a game. (And that only by good fortune, since he had a lost position in the penultimate round when Gukesh miscounted the moves and allowed a draw by threefold repetition.)
Here is Wei’s magnificent win, against a top Dutch grandmaster. Wei ended in a four-way tie for first place with Gukesh, Giri and Abdusattorov, and then won the title in a knockout blitz playoff, beating Gukesh in the final.
Wei Yi-Max Warmerdam
Tata Steel Masters, Wijk aan Zee, January 2024
1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 Bc5 4 Nc3 c6 5 f4 d5 6 exd5 Ng4 7 Nf3 After almost 50 minutes of thought! Wei will lose the Rh1 to a knight fork, but correctly judged that he will gain ample compensation.