Eljanov Falters and So Takes the Lead at Tata Steel
BySamuel ShanklandJan 20 — 1:00 AM
Image by Tata Steel Chess
The leader after four rounds finally lost, while So won his third consecutive game.
Tata Steel has a new leader: Wesley So of the United States. So, who had been tied for second after four rounds, won his third consecutive game to seize the lead after Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine, the leader since Round 1, finally lost.
So now has 4 points, followed by Eljanov and Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion from Norway, who each have 3.5 points.
So is continuing his incredible stretch of play during the last few months, in which he has won the Sinquefield Cup, the London Classic and the Grand Chess Tour, a year-long series of super tournaments. During this stretch, So has run up an unbeaten streak of 49 games.
Tata Steel Chess
Round 5 was played in Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam.
Eljanov had White against Levon Aronian of Armenia and I expected him to play a low-risk opening. Indeed he did, as he chose the Catalan. But low risk is not the same as no risk, and it’s not possible to choose a line in which errors will not lead to a bad position. Eljanov had an off day, and Aronian won a fine game.
Eljanov, Pavel vs. Aronian, Levon
Tata Steel Masters |Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands |Round 5 |19 Jan 2017 |0-1
Rad8This position looks level, but the difference in the minor pieces knight vs. bishop can create some imbalance. 25. Rc4?!A step in the wrong direction. Now Black's knights find good squares.
( 25. Bf1!This would have disturbed Black's coordination because 25... Nc6Is a bad move because of: ...26. Bxb5axb527. a6 )
25... Nc6!26. Qf4Rd7!Black wants to double his rooks on the d-file. 27. Ne1Nbd4
( 27... Rd4!This move was even better. )
28. Qe3Rfd8Black's rooks are much better positioned than their White counterparts, and the Black knight on d4 is very effective. 29. h5?
( 29. Nc2This move was necessary to limit the problems in White's position. )
29... Nf5!The White queen doesn't have any good squares. 30. Qc5
( 30. Qf4Rd4 )
( 30. Qc3Ncd4 )
( 30. Qb6Nxe5 )
30... Qg5!31. Bxc6bxc632. Qxc6Qxh5This pawn exchange leaves White's king very exposed. 33. Qf3Qg534. b4Rd2
( 34... Rd4This might be even stronger, but the move played by Black is very natural. )
35. Qf4Qxf436. Rxf4Rb2Even in the endgame, White's problems persist. The White queenside majority is not mobile, Black can advance his pawns on the kingside, and Blacks rooks are active and well positioned. 37. Rc1?A blunder, but Bhite was already in significant trouble. 37... Nd4White resigned as he must lose an exchange.
Eljanov’s loss opened the door for So and he came through against Pentala Harikrishna of India, who erred in the opening and was never able to recover.
So, Wesley vs. Harikrishna, Pentala
Tata Steel Masters |Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands |Round 5 |19 Jan 2017 |1-0
5. Nc3d5?This is not a good move in this position.
( 5... O-OThis move is better. Black would seem to be okay after 6. d4cxd47. Nxd4Qc78. b3d5! )
( 6... O-O7. dxc5dxc48. Qxd8Rxd89. Ne5This position is also no fun for Black. 9... Nbd710. Nxd7Nxd711. Bg5 )
( 7... e58. Qa4+!?Bd79. Ndb5d4?10. Bxb7 )
8. Qa4+Nbd79. O-O!O-O10. Rd1!White is being very patient. The pawn on c4 is not going anywhere, so first White works on restricting Black's development.
( 10. Qxc4Nb6And Black would be more or less okay as he can develop his pieces. )
10... Nb6This holds onto the extra pawn, but after 11. Qa3What can Black do about the upcoming discovered attack on his queen? 11... Qd6An unfortunate necessity for Black.
( 11... Bd712. Bxb7 )
( 11... Qe812. Ndb5Threatening Nc7. )
( 11... Qc712. Ndb5Qb813. Qxe7 )
12. Qxd6!exd613. a4!So far, this game had followed one played between Vladimir Kramnik and Ian Nepomniachtchi, which Black lost badly.
( 13. Bf4d5It's not that easy to dislodge the knight on b6 )
( 13... a514. Ndb5d515. Be3And White has a decisive edge. 15... Ra616. Nc7 )
14. Bf4d515. a5Nbd716. Rac1Patient, simple and strong. White will eventually win the pawn on d5.
( 16. Nxd5Nxd517. Bxd5Nc5Black is much worse, but he can fight on for a while. )
16... Rd817. Bc7Re818. Bd6?!
( 18. Nxd5I think it was time for White to take the pawn. The position of White's pieces can't really be improved. )
18... Ne519. Bxd5Nxd520. Nxd5Bg421. Rd2?
( 21. Nc7There was nothing wrong with this move. 21... Nd322. exd3Bxd123. Rxd1Bxd424. dxc4Bxb225. Rb1Bc326. Nxa8Rxa827. Rxb7Bxa528. c5And White obtains an overwhelming advantage in this long and forcing line. )
21... Red8!22. Nb6Rxd623. Nxa8Nc6Black now has some chances to survive. 24. Nf3Rxd225. Nxd2Bxb226. Rxc4Bxe227. Re4Bd328. Re3Nb4?This move makes it easy for White.
( 28... Ne5!With Bd4 to follow. I have a feeling Black would still lose eventually, but it would have definitely been more of a fight. )
29. Nb6Bd430. Re7The point. Once the rook becomes active, resistance is futile. 30... Nc631. Rxb7Nxa532. Rd7Nc633. Nb3Bf5
( 33... Bxb634. Rxd3And White should win easily. )
34. Rxd4!Nxd435. Nxd4A piece is a piece. So converted his edge into victory without any real trouble. 35... Bd336. Kg2Kf837. Kf3Ke738. Ke3Bf139. Nf3Kd640. Kd4f641. Nd2Be242. Nd5f543. Nc3Bh544. Nc4+Ke645. f4Kd746. Kc5h647. Nd5Ke648. Nc7+
Sergey Karjakin during Round 5. He lost to Baskaran Adhiban.
Another very notable result was a victory by Harikrishna’s compatriot, Baskaran Adhiban, over Sergey Karjakin of Russia. Karjakin had played very solidly in the first four rounds, while Adhiban had struggled. But in Round 5, Adhiban won with Black and he made it look easy.
Karjakin, Sergey vs. Adhiban, Baskaran
Tata Steel Masters |Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands |Round 5 |19 Jan 2017 |0-1
8. Qd2a6!?This move is becoming more popular.
( 8... O-OI've played this move twice in my games. )
( 9. dxc5Nxc510. O-O-OThis move looks more natural. White should castle long. Now if he does, the pawn on a3 is not especially well placed. )
9... O-O10. dxc5Nxc511. Qf2
( 11. O-O-Ob5Black is threatening b4, after which he will have real counterplay. )
11... Nd7Strategically, this position is a disaster for Black, but he intends to change the course of the game by playing f6. 12. Nd4
( 12. Bd3 )
12... Nxd413. Bxd4f614. exf6Bxf615. Bxf6?!Helping Black develop his pieces.
( 15. O-O-O!White should have castled queenside. Then he would have been a bit better after: 15... e516. Bc5!Nxc517. Qxc5exf418. Nxd5White's pieces are very active. )
( 18. Rd4!This move would have given White decent prospects. 18... fxg319. Qxg3+Kh820. Rh4Rg821. Qh3Nf822. Bd3White has a dangerous attack for his sacrificed pawn. )
18... f3!19. g4?
( 19. Rd4Once again, this move was best. )
19... Ne520. g5Qg7Black is basically just up a pawn. Karjakin started throwing his pawns at Black and hoping for the best, but he is already pretty much lost. 21. g6?!
( 21. h4Bd722. h5Rf4Black should win. )
21... hxg622. Bd3Bd723. Rdg1Nxd3!24. cxd3Rf5Black's king is totally safe, he is up two pawns, and the White knight cannot get to d4 to create some counterplay. 25. Rg4Raf826. Rhg1Be827. Nd1Rh528. h4Re529. Ne3Bb530. Rd4There are many ways for Black to convert his advantage, but I like how Adhiban closed out the game. 30... Re4!?31. Rxg6
( 31. dxe4Qxd432. Rxg6+Kf733. h5Qxe4+34. Ka1Ke7Black's king is quite safe in the center and his pawns can advance easily. )
31... Bxd3+!The point. White resigned immediately.
( 31... Qxg632. dxe4dxe4And White's position is hopeless. )
There was one more decisive result — a win by Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland over Loek van Wely of the Netherlands. Van Wely is having a terrible tournament, having now lost four of his five games.
In Round 6, I am looking forward to the game between So, who will have Black, against Adhiban.
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, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.
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