The World Champion continued his tear with his third straight win while Caruana took out a top rival in Round 7.

The elite section of the Tata Steel tournament is turning into a two-player race. 

Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the World Champion, and Fabiano Caruana of the United States lead the elite section of the tournament by a full point after each posted wins in Round 7. 

Carlsen continued to play in an aggressive and inspired way and in Round 7 his opponent, Ukraine’s Pavel Eljanov, quickly collapsed in the complications created by the World Champion. Caruana kept pace with fine technical win against the third co-leader after Round 6, China’s Ding Liren.

In the B group, India’s Baskaran Adhiban snatched the sole lead by beating his co-leader after Round 6, Alexey Dreev of Russia, and he did it with a crushing victory.

Carlsen’s game was the first to finish, for the third day in the row, as he became unexectedly aggressive in an apparently solid position:

It might seem surprising how quickly White’s position deteriorated, but the Nd6 to f5 idea posed some interesting problems for White. And Eljanov did not back down as he tried his best to play ambitiously as well. Instead, he could have played the simple cxd5 after Nd6, which would have given him good chances for a draw.

In contrast to Carlsen, Caruana played in an incredibly solid style against Ding. The opening was a Spanish and for a while both players followed the usual strategy in that opening - slow maneuvering in a closed structure. At some point, however, Ding, who was Black, seemed to relax too much, or at least he underestimated the threats White had and played a little too casually and Caruana took the opportunity given to him to win a pawn:

The reason Ding did not defend his c pawn was that he couldn’t really do it by playing Rc8 or he would have fallen victim to a tactic:

Exactly the same tactical motif led to the first loss of the tournament for the world’s strongest female player, Hou Yifan of China. She played Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan, who got a great position out of the opening, but Hou defended incredibly well and almost managed to save the game. Her problems occurred in the following position:

In another decisive game, Holland’s top player, Anish Giri smoothly outplayed his much older countryman, Loek Van Wely. Van Wely has been playing solidly and well in the event so far, although his results haven’t been so great. In Round 7, he was simply completely outmaneuvered, even though Giri had Black.

There wasn’t much excitement in the game between Evgeny Tomashevsky of Russia and Michael Adams of England, who drew. In the matchup between the Chinese wunderkind, Wei Yi, and Wesley So, the most notable aspect of the game was that the American continued playing for a long time in a completely drawn endgame. Wei passed the endgame test and drew easily.

The last game in the top group was between David Navara of the Czech Republic and Sergey Karjakin of Russia. The game seemed to be headed for a quick draw, but both the players tried to create something out of nothing. In this, Karjakin was more succesful. He had a spurt of activity to almost net the point….but Navara found a cool queen sacrifice to neutralize things:

The big news in the B-group was the quick and brutal win by Adhiban to take the lead. The veteran Dreev had been somewhat lucky so far, but Adhiban was not in a particularly generous mood, and destroyed him soon after the opening:

Another young, but experienced grandmaster in Group B, Eltaj Safarli of Azerbaijan, is just behind Adhiban after an easy win against the World Junior Champion, Mikhail Antipov of Russia. The only notable moment in that game was Antipov’s surprisingly early resignation - although no one would argue that Black would have a great chance of rescuing the game in the following position:

Despite losing her first six games, Anne Haast of the Netherlands, the Dutch women’s champion, has continued to fight and scrap. Her perseverance was rewarded in Round 7 when she not only got on the board, she scored her first point by beating the uber-aggressive Romanian, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. The key tactical moment was:

In another interesting wild game, Samuel Sevian of the United States almost recovered nicely from Round 6’s queen blunder, but he failed to find at least two nice ways to break down the shaky defende of Benjamin Bok of the Netherlands:

In Round 8, Carlsen takes on Karjakin, his long time age-group rival. It will be interesting to see if Carlsen will go out once again, as he has done in the last few rounds, or if that strategy is reserved for the grandmasters just below the world’s elite. 

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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.