Three of the seven games in the top section were decisive, including a win by the World Champion.

The pace picked up in the second round of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament with three of the seven games in the top section ending decisively. One of those victories was by Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine, the leader after Round 1, so he kept his lead and now has 2 points.

The other wins were posted by Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian World Champion, and Pentala Harikrishna of India. Carlsen and Harikrishna trail Eljanov by half a point.

The annual Tata Steel tournament is one of the premier festivals in the world. In addition to the elite players in the top, or masters, group and in the challengers section, there are hundreds of players also competing in the De Moriaan sports hall where the competition is held.

Eljanov’s victim in Round 2 was Loek van Wely, one of the two players representing the host country in the elite group. Eljanov had Black and took advantage when van Wely erred in a complex, but balanced middlegame.

Eljanov, Pavel vs. van Wely, Loek
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 2 | 15 Jan 2017 | 0-1
Bxc7 This position is roughly balanced, with the White knight's occupation of the strong outpost on e5 compensating for his slightly compromised kingside pawn structure and Black having the bishop pair. But now van Wely begins to go astray.
28. Ne1 Bxe5 29. fxe5 Ne4 30. Rd4?! The rook was already well positioned.
30. Qd7! The queen would have been pretty annoying on this square. He could then try to play Rc1 and Rc7, increasing the pressure.  )
30... Rc8! Black grabs the c-file.
31. Nd3 h6 32. h4 Kh7 33. Nf4? A blunder that leads to loss of material.
33. Qd7! Once again, this move was best. Black would then have to worry about White playing Nb4, so the best way for him to continue would be:
33... Rd8 34. Qc7 Rc8 And a draw would likely be the result.  )
33... Rc1+! 34. Kh2 Qd8! White has no good answer to the threat of Qxh4.
35. Nh3 Qxh4 The rest was easy for Eljanov.
36. Qe8 Rc4
36... Rc2 This was more accurate, but the move played by Eljanov was certainly good enough.  )
37. Rxd5 exd5?!
37... Nxf2! This would have led to mate, but Black is winning in any event.  )
38. Qf7 White has a little activity, but Eljanov plays accurately:
38... Qg4! Stopping Qxf5+
39. e6 Ng5! 40. Nxg5+ Qxg5 41. Bh3
41. e7 White is a tempo too slow.
41... Qh4+ 42. Kg1 Rc1+ 43. Bf1 Qg4+ 44. Kh2 Rxf1 And the White king dies despite having two wives.
45. e8=Q Rxf2+ 46. Kh1 Qg2#  )
41... Rh4! Another accurate move.
42. f3
42. e7 Qg4 With mate to follow  )
42... f4 43. exf4 Rxf4 44. Qc7 Rc4

Carlsen beat Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland in his trademark style as he intentionally played a non-theoretical move in the opening that did not seem to promise him any advantage, even though he had White.

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Wojtaszek, Radoslaw
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 2 | 15 Jan 2017 | 1-0
a6 6. a3!? Nowadays, people are trying all sorts of nonsense against the Najdorf Variation; I've seen Nb3 as well. Despite this move, Carlsen manages to win a nice game.
6... e5 Wojtaszek responds with the most principled continuation.
6... e6 This would be my choice as the move a3 looks really out of place against a Scheveningen setup.  )
6... Nc6 This should also be fine as Black could play an improved variation of the Dragon Sicilian.
7. Be2 g6  )
7. Nf5 d5! 8. Bg5 d4 9. Bxf6 Qxf6
9... gxf6!? I would seriously consider this move to prevent the White knight from reaching d5.
10. Nd5? Bxf5 11. exf5 Qxd5  )
10. Nd5 Qd8 11. Qg4 Carlsen was clearly prepared up to this point.
11... Bxf5!
11... g6? A tempting move, but a poor one.
12. Qg3! And Black is in big trouble:
12... Nc6 13. Nxd4! Nxd4 14. Qxe5+  )
12. Qxf5 Bd6 The computer evaluates this position as equal, but it looks very unpleasant for Black. The light squares are chronically weak and White's bishop will be better than the Black counterpart.
13. h4!? An interesting way to develop the rook.
13. Bc4 I'd probably go for the obvious move.  )
13... Nc6 14. Bc4 b5 15. Bb3 Ne7 16. Qg4 O-O 17. Rh3 I really don't understand how the computer can evaluate this position as equal. Black has no activity and no targets to attack, while the White bishop on b3 is a monster.
17... Nxd5
17... Qc8 18. Qg5!  )
18. Bxd5 Ra7
18... Qc8 19. Qg5! White does not worry about the c2 pawn since
19... Qxc2 Loses to
20. Rg3 g6 21. h5 With mate soon to follow.  )
19. Rg3 Qf6 20. a4! White prepares to activate his other rook.
20... Bb4+
20... b4 It's worth considering keeping the a-file closed, but after
21. a5! Black has weak pawns on b4 and a6 that will require a lot of attention. And once again, though the computer considers this position to be equal, I dont understand how that is possible.  )
21. Kf1 bxa4 22. Rxa4 a5 23. Ra1 Rc7 24. Bb3! Patient. Black cannot attack anything in White's position, and White has all the time in the world to swing his other rook over to the kingside.
24... Ra8 25. Kg1 Bf8 26. Qh5 g6? This just gives White a target to attack.
26... Raa7 Black should wait and overprotect f7. His position would still be unpleasant, but at least White could not immediately open any more files for his attack.  )
27. Qg4 Ra6 28. h5! Now Black is really coming under fire.
28... Qf4 29. Qe2 Qf6 30. Qb5 Qc6? I do not understand this move.
30... Rc5 31. Qd3 Black is suffering but the game goes on.  )
31. Qxe5! Simple and strong. White wins a pawn.
31... Re7
31... a4 32. Rxa4! Rxa4 33. Bxa4 Qxa4 34. Qxc7  )
32. Qf4 It's possible Black missed that 32... Qxe4 would run into 33. Bxf7+ when he played Qc6.
32... a4
32... Qxe4 33. Bxf7+! Kg7 34. Qxe4 Rxe4 35. Bc4 White's edge should be decisive.  )
33. Bd5 Qc7
33... Qxc2 Restoring material equality fails to
34. Rc1 Qxb2 35. Rc8 And Black would be mated.  )
34. Qd2 White has consolidated his extra pawn and Black still has all the same problems he had when material was equal. The game is all but over.
34... Qb6 35. Ra2 Rc7 36. Rf3 Qb4 37. Qe2 Rb6 38. hxg6 hxg6 39. g3 Kg7 40. Kg2 Rd7 41. Qd1 Rf6 42. Rxf6 Kxf6 43. c3 dxc3 44. Rxa4

I had predicted after Round 1 that the clash between the two Indian players in the masters section, Harikrishna and Baskaran Adhiban, would be a lively one. It wasn’t that exciting, but it was decisive.

Harikrishna, Pentala vs. Adhiban, Baskaran
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 2 | 15 Jan 2017 | 1-0
29. Ree1 Black has the slightly more pleasant position, but now he begins to falter.
29... Kg6?! The king is vulnerable here
29... Bg6 I prefer this move as I believe in safety first.  )
30. Nd2 Kg7 31. Nf3 Kg6 32. g4!? Harikrishna boldly decides to play for a win.
32. Nd2 Would repeat the position and lead to a draw.  )
32... Bc8 33. Nd3! Black must now take time to defend c6.
33... Bd7 34. h4! The point of White's previous moves -- Black cannot take on g4.
34... gxh4
34... Bxg4 35. Rxc6  )
35. Nxh4+ Kg5! A necessary move.
35... Kf7 36. Nf5 The position would be very bad for Black.  )
36. Nf3+ Kxg4
36... Kg6 37. g5! Black has problems because
37... fxg5 Fails to
38. Nde5+! Kf5 39. Rg1!  )
37. Rh1 White is trying to create a mating net.
37... Kf5!
37... Rxe3? 38. Rh4+! Kf5 39. Rf4+! Kg6 40. Rg1+ Kf7 41. Ng5+ Ke7 42. Kxe3 Finally White wins material.  )
38. Rh5+ Ke6 39. Rh6 Kf5? Black blunders just before time control.
39... Kf7 This move and Kd6 both hold pretty easily.
40. Nf4 Rg8!  )
39... Kd6 40. Rxf6+ Re6  )
40. Nh4+! Well calculated
40... Kg5
40... Ke6 41. Nf4+ Kf7 42. Rg1 And Black is mated.  )
41. Rg6+! Kxh4 42. Rh1+ Bh3 43. Rg3

Looking forward to Round 3, the key game would seem to be between Eljanov and Harikrishna.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.