The challenger’s group at Tata Steel features some very strong players. It also offers a chance to advance to next year’s top section.
The main event at the Tata Steel Chess Tounarment is the Masters section, which has been well covered on World Chess by Sam Shankland. But there’s a second important tournament at Tata Steel: the Challengers group (which in past years has been referred to as the “B” group). It’s a very strong tournament in its own right, and the winner each year is promoted to next year’s masters group.
After five rounds, the leader is the top seed, Markus Ragger of Austria, His pre-tournament rating was just under 2700, and with 4½ points out of 5 he has surpassed that barrier and achieved the highest rating of his career.
In Round 1, Ragger defeated Jeffery Xiong, a 16-year-old American, who is the co-second seed, in an impressive; though not quite perfect game. (Xiong scored 3½ points in Rounds 2 to 5, so their first-round battle could prove critical to the final standings.)
After beating Xiong, Ragger defeated Lei Tingjie, a Chiinese woman’s grandmaster, with Black. He then beat Eric Hansen, a Canadian grandmaster, with White. And then he won with Black against Vladimir Dobrov, a Russian grandmaster. In Round 5, Ragger was probably winning at one point against Lu Shanglei, a Chinese grandmaster, but ended up drawing. Even with that lapse he leads the other co-second seed, Ilia Smirin, an Israeli grandmaster, by half a point.
I analyzed Ragger’s victory over Xiong earlier this week on my blog, but here it is again, along with his scorching victory over Hansen from Round 3.
Ragger, Markus vs. Xiong, Jeffery
79th Tata Steel GpB |Wijk aan Zee NED |Round 1.6 |14 Jan 2017 |ECO: B90 |1-0
1. e4c5Ah, youth. Give Xiong a few more years in elite company and he'll
realize that 1...e5 is the way to go against other top players, especially
against the top seed in the tournament when you're #2. (Except in a must-win
situation.) 2. Nf3d63. d4Nf64. Nc3cxd45. Nxd4a66. h3For now, this
is White's main weapon against the Najdorf. 6... e57. Nde2b5
( 7... h5has been
the top choice for years, and remained so even as recently as a couple of
weeks ago in the World Rapid & Blitz Championships. But Xiong's move is also
well-known and not a step into the unknown. )
( 8. g4, not
surprisingly, is the main move - there's a reason for all those 7...h5 games. )
8... Qc79. Bd3Be6A novelty already.
( 9... g610. O-OBg711. Bg5Nbd712. Re1O-O13. Nf1b414. Nb1Bb7was slightly better for Black in:
Motylev,A (2663)-Sarana,A (2457) Tallinn 2016 (blitz) (0-1 (74)), but White
had more than one improvement along the way. )
10. O-ONbd711. f4
( 11. Qf3 )
11... Be712. Qf3O-O13. Kh1Qc6
( 13... exf4followed by ...Ne5 is another
traditional Najdorf plan, and it looks like a good choice here. 14. Bxf4Ne5 )
18. Nxf6+Bxf619. Bxc4Qxc420. Nd5White has achieved the positional anti-Najdorf player's
dream: the beautiful steed on d5 against the semi-hapless dark-squared bishop.
The game is by no means over, but White is going to have a lot more fun than
Black is. 20... Qxc2Forced, otherwise Black will suffer for nothing. 21. b3
( 21. Rf2 )
21... a522. Qe3Kh8?
( 22... Rfe8is better, giving the king the
option of scampering towards the center. )
23. Rac1Qxa224. Nxf6Rxc125. Rxc1gxf626. Qh6Kg827. Qxf6?A reprieve for Xiong.
( 27. Rf1!wins quickly: 27... Qxb328. Qxf6Qg329. Rf3Qg730. Qh4a431. Rg3b332. Kh2!Ra833. Rxg7+Kxg734. Qg5+Kh835. Qd2a336. Qd5and
surprisingly, the White queen will eliminate both of Black's passers. )
79th Tata Steel GpB |Wijk aan Zee NED |Round 3.5 |16 Jan 2017 |ECO: C65 |1-0
1. e4e52. Nf3Nc63. Bb5Nf64. d3One of the three major anti-Berlin
( 4. O-Ois the traditional main line, and after 4... Nxe4White has
a choice between the endgame arising after 5.d4 and the currently popular 5.
Re1. The former move was almost automatic for a long time, but at the moment
the trend is heavily in favor of 5.Re1. 5. Re1Nd66. Nxe5Be77. Bf1looks a boring
sort of Petroff, but White has found some nuances, and at least for now Black
hasn't managed to prove that the position is completely equal after either 7...
Nxe5 8.Rxe5 0-0 or 7...Nf5 8.Nf3 0-0. )
4... d6Now it's a sort of Steinitz
Variation (3...d6), albeit a relatively favorable one because White has played
d2-d3 rather than d2-d4.
( 4... Bc5is much more popular at the super-GM
level, and here White's fundamental choice is between taking on c6 and a
slower, more patient approach with 5.c3. )
( 5. O-Oimmediately is more
common at present, though transposition to the text is very possible. )
( 5... g6is another reasonable approach. Think of the Closed Ruy lines,
like the Breyer, where Black first develops the bishop to e7, and then plays ..
.Re8, ...Bf8, ...g6, and ...Bg7. )
6. O-OO-O7. Re1a6Not a new move, but
varying from another game where Ragger had White.
8. Ba4Nd7A relatively uncommon choice, though this sort of maneuver
is typical in many Ruy variations.
( 8... Re8looks most popular at preset,
chosen by none other than the world champion in a game last year. 9. Nbd2Bf810. h3Bd711. Nf1Ne712. Bc2c513. Ng3Ng614. d4cxd415. cxd4exd416. Qxd4Rc817. Bb3Ne5- (49) (49) Topalov,V (2761)-Carlsen,M (2855)
Paris 2016 (blitz) )
( 8... b59. Bc2d5is another important line, one Ragger
himself has used with mixed success. 10. Nbd2d411. h3a5Swiercz,D (2620)-Ragger,M (2698) Berlin 2015 (blitz) (1-0 (44)), and
now White should play ...12. cxd4exd413. a4with a
pleasant edge. )
( 9... Bf6is more popular but less successful. )
10. cxd4Nb611. Bb3
( 11. Bxc6bxc6hasn't fared well for White in its few
outings, but it's too soon to chalk this up to problems with the exchange on
c6 rather than the particular details of the relevant games. )
11... Bg412. Nc3Kh8The idea of playing ...Kh8 and ...f5 in the Spanish and Italian is
well known, though it's less common with such an open center (thanks to ...
( 14... Rxf5looks scarier than it is: 15. Be6Bxf316. gxf3Qf8!17. Bxf5Qxf518. f4d519. Qf3/+/- Black's
compensation for the exchange (mostly in the form of White's fractured
kingside) is insufficient. )
( 14... d5was the best choice, keeping White's
bishop out of e6. After 15. h3Bxf516. Ne5White's advantage is very slight. )
15. Ne4This also exploits Black's failure to play ...d5.
( 15. Be6!was stronger still. )
( 15... d5was still Black's best chance. 16. Nc5Bxf517. Rc1Bg418. Nxb7Qc819. Rxc6Qxb720. Rc1Be721. Bf4! )
16. Qxf3Nxd417. Bxd4Bxd4Material is equal and Black's bishop looks
nice. Nevertheless, he is lost. Black has one good piece, and White has four
or five: the bishop, the knight, the queen, the f-pawn, the rook on e1 and in
a moment the second rook will also join the action. Black's king needs
defenders, but if he's not given time for ...Nd7-f6 he won't survive. 18. Rad1!c5
( 18... Bxb2allows 19. Nc5!followed by Ne6. )
19. Qh5Threatening Ng5, of course, and Rd3 (with the trick Qxh7+ Kxh7 Rh3+ and mate
next move) is another problem for Black. 19... h620. Qg6
( 20. f6!is even
stronger, but the variations are more difficult. 20... Bxf621. Nxd6!Bd422. Re6!It's
possible that Ragger missed this nice move, threatening mate in two starting
with Rxh6+. 22... Qd723. Rxd4!cxd424. Qe5!Beautiful centralization. 24... Kh725. Qe4+Kh826. Bc2with inevitable mate. )
( 20... Qe821. Qxd6Qc6was Black's "best", but his chances to survive the endgame after 22. Qxc6bxc623. Be6aren't fantastic. )
( 20... Nd721. Nxd6Nf622. Nf7+ )
21. f6!The only winning move! 21... Qc7!The best try; again, White has only one
( 21... dxe4??22. Qxg7# )
( 21... gxf6?22. Qxh6+Kg823. Rd3 )
( 21... Bxf622. Nd6!Other knight moves are also strong, with the same
clearance idea. 22... Qxd623. Bc2Kg824. Qh7+Kf725. Bg6# )
( 21... Rxf622. Nxf6Qxf623. Re8+Rxe824. Qxe8+Kh725. Rd2leaves Black without any
compensation for the material. Worse, his king still isn't safe, as White will
play Re2, then Bc2+ g6 Re7+. )
( 22... hxg523. Re7Bxf2+24. Kh1Qxe725. fxe7Rfe826. Rxd5!c427. Bc2Kg828. Qe6+Kh829. Rxg5mates in at most three more moves. )
( 22... Bxf2+23. Kh1hxg524. Re7transposes to the last line. )
23. Qxh6+Kg824. Ne6
( 24. Ne6Qh725. Qxh7+Kxh726. Nxf8+Rxf827. Re7+is hopeless for
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players