With his second consecutive win, Magnus Carlsen pulled into a tie with two others after Round 6 of the elite tournament in the Netherlands.

There were missed opportunities, valiant efforts and two clean and instructive wins in Round 6 of the top section of the Tata Steel tournament. One of those wins was by Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the World Champion, and it helped propel him into a tie for first with Fabiano Caruana of the United States and Ding Liren of China.

Carlsen beat Evgeny Tomashevsky of Russia and he did it with a sudden and deadly surge of aggression towards the end, but he started with the slow 1. d4, 2. Nf3, 3. Bf4 system. Tomashevsky played in his usual, solid manner, and it seemed as if Carlsen might not have played the opening aggressively enough. But then he found the amazing and unexpected idea of trading his light-squared bishop for a knight.

Carlsen’s two knights were formidable, and certainly Black wasn’t happy with his bishop, but I doubt he could have expected the storm that was going to hit him:

The 1. d4, 2. Nf3, 3. Bf4 system has become somewhat popular among stronger players in rapid tournaments, so it is possible that if the system isn’t as harmless as it looks. Judging by this game, it may be played more often in the future.

Caruana, who had led the tournament since Round 3, faltered a bit in Round 6. Caruana, who transferred federations from Italy to the United States last year, played against the other recent super-grandmaster transrer to America, Wesley So. So, who had White,, played an excellent technical game to put pressure on his new teammate , but perhaps he should have striven for more than the three pawn and knight vs two pawn and knight endgame that he got. This endgame has often been described as difficult for Black to defend, so aiming for it was a logical decision The problem may have been that he had a weak pawn on f3, so his king could not maneuver freely. It’s hard to say for sure, but Caruana also came up with an excellent, and aesthetic, fortress:

Ding, the other leader after Round 5 had White against David Navara of the Czech Republic. Ding started with a slow, and harmless looking symmetric opening, but these positions are never easy, and Black went astray going after the b2-pawn, which let White gain a solid lead in development. In the following position, White had many interesting ways to keep the pressure on, but Ding missed a nice tactical resource to let Navara off the hook:

Anish Giri, the Dutch star, finally got his first win of the event with a very measured and controlled game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan. The players quickly left t known openings, but Giri seemed to be more familiar, or at least more comfortable, with what to do in the position - coming up with the excellent piece arrangement of Rc1, Nb3, c5 plan - while Mamedyarov shuffled his pieces. In a few moves, White had achieved complete domination. It was instructive and pretty to watch:

The top ranked woman player in the world, Hou Yifan of China, continued to match up very well against the best male players in the world. In Round 6, she had White and took on her countryman, the Chinese prodigy Wei Yi. It was a back and forth tussle. She seemed to break some opening rules, but she was able to build pressure against Wei, forcing him to  enter an endgame in which she seemed to be better. She soon began to dominate with precise play. But at the end, she panicked and tried to win in the cleanest possible fashion with an exchange sacrifice. But thatlet Wei organize a nice defense against 3 connected passed pawns:

Though Wei got away, if Hou continues playing like this, one can only pity all her future World Championship match opponents, including Maria Muzychuk of Ukraine who she will face in March for the title.

Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, who had White, never got much of an edge against the very solid Ukrainian, Pavel Eljanov, and they had a comparatively uninteresting draw. In the game between the tailenders in the tournament, Michael Adams of England sacrificed a pawn in hopes of getting a nicer pawn structure, but Loek Van Wely of the Netherlands showed a nice touch with the following pretty move to avoid losing a pawn:

It wasn’t quite enough to win the game, however, as Black does have a lot of weaknesses.

In the B-Group, America’s young prodigy, Samuel Sevian, seems to be afflicted with a virus that causes him to lose or give up his queen early in games. He did it again against Miguoel Admiraal, a young Dutch international master. Unlike the last time he lost his queen, in Round 4 against Jorden Van Foreest, in Round 6 it was a bad blunder on Sevian’s part:

Nothing changed at the top of the standings though, as Russia’s veteran, Alexey Dreev, drew without any excitement against one of the other most experienced grandmasters in the group,the much younger Dutch grandmaster Erwin L’Ami. The other leader, India’s Baskaran Adhiban, had a somewhat more interesting game against World Junior Champion, Mikhail Antipov, but neither side ever had serious chances for an advantage.

Round 7 will have some interesting clashes, particularly with Caruana facing Ding, one of his co-leaders. It should also be interesting to see if Carlsen can continue to hustle his way past another extremely solid opponent tomorrow when he plays Eljanov.

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Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 83 in the world, he is currently a sophmore at Stanford University.