Magnus Carlsen recorded the sole victory in Round 9, pulling him back to within a half point of So.

There was barely any movement in the standings of the top group at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament on Tuesday, as all but one of the games were drawn. That allowed Wesley So of the United States to stay in first for another day. 

He now has six points, trailed by Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the World Champion, Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine, and Wei Yi of Chine, who each have 5.5 points. 

Carlsen was the only one who won as he beat Loek van Wely of the Netherlands in his trademark style of gaining a small advantage and then nursing it to victory. Van Wely, who is having a truly miserable tournament, having lost six games, tried a slightly offbeat variation in the Keres Attack of the Sicilian Defense. Unfortunately for van Wely, he underestimated a finesse that left him with a worse pawn structure —  the kind of edge that Carlsen loves to have. After that, it was only a matter of time:

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Van Wely, Loek
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 9.1 | 24 Jan 2017 | ECO: B81 | 1-0
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. g4 h6 7. Bg2 Nc6 8. h3 g5 The move looks natural, but it hasn't been played many times before. Since White's idea does not include playing g5, there is no need for Black to do it. But van Wely wants to play Ne5 and then have the knight sit unchallenged on that square. Playing g5 makes f4 by White ineffective.
9. Nxc6! Spoiling Black's structure as White will follow-up with e5. This will Black with an isolated and weak pawn on c6. That is not a big deal yet, and might even turn out to be useful at points, but if the game gets to an endgame, the pawn structure does not bode well for Black.
9... bxc6 10. e5 Nd5 11. exd6 Qxd6
11... Bxd6 Trying to create a more active setup might have been a better plan. The idea would be to try to take control and make use of the f4 square.
12. Ne4 Be5 I still prefer White's position as I think the weak Black pawn structure will be hard for him to handle. But having an active bishop on e5, and controlling the f4 square would have improved Black's chances. Now, White is already clearly better.  )
12. O-O Ba6 13. Re1 Be7
13... Nxc3 14. Qxd6 Bxd6 15. Bxc6+ Ke7 16. Bxa8 Ne2+ 17. Rxe2 Bxe2 18. Be4 And White is up a pawn.  )
14. Ne4 Qc7 15. c4 Nb4 16. b3 Rd8 17. Qf3 Nd3 18. Rd1 Nxc1 19. Raxc1 Qf4 20. Rxd8+ Bxd8 21. Qxf4 gxf4 22. Nc5 Bc8 23. Bxc6+ Ke7 24. Bf3 Bb6 25. Nd3 Rd8 26. Nb4 Bd7 27. c5 Ba5 28. Rc4 Rc8 29. c6 Bxb4 30. Rxb4 Bxc6 31. Bxc6 Rxc6 32. Rxf4 a5 33. Kg2 Rc5 34. h4 Rd5 35. Kf3 f6 36. Ke3 h5 37. f3 hxg4 38. fxg4 Rd1 39. Ra4 Re1+ 40. Kf3 Re5 41. Rc4 Rd5 42. h5 Rd2 43. Ra4 Rd5 44. Ke3 Rg5 45. Rc4 Kd6 46. Kf4 Rd5 47. Rc8 Rd4+ 48. Kg3 Kd7 49. Ra8 Rd3+ 50. Kg2 Rd2+ 51. Kf3 Rd3+ 52. Ke4 Rh3 53. Rxa5 e5 54. Kf5 Rf3+ 55. Kg6 e4 56. h6 e3 57. h7 Rh3 58. Ra7+ Kd6 59. Ra8

Though he had White, So played unambitiously against Levon Aronian of Armenia. So’s strategy of taking few risks when he is in a good position in a tournament is hard to criticize as it has brought him great success in the last year as won the Sinquefield Cup, the London Classic and the Grand Chess Tour.

Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland and Sergey Karjakin of Russia had an uneventful draw, as did Anish Giri of the Netherlands and Richard Rapport of Hungary. That was a bit of a surprise as Rapport often creates crazy complications. But in Round 9, playing Black, he was happy to neutralize Giri with some precise play in a Queen’s Indian Defense.

The other three games of the day were much more interesting. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia introduced a very interesting new opening concept in his game against Pentala Harikrishna of India. Harikrishna responded well initially, but quickly went wrong, probably because of the stress of playing against a well prepared idea. Fortunately for Harikrishna, Nepomniachtchi has not been playing his best at Tata Steel and missed multiple tactical ideas that would have put the game away:

Nepomniachtchi, Ian vs. Harikrishna, Pentala
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 9.3 | 24 Jan 2017 | ECO: A34 | 1/2-1/2
exd5 7. b4!? c4!? The more active reply. The pawn on c4 restricts White's development (Bd3, etc). Of course, Black also wants to develop his own pieces quickly.
7... cxb4 Is, of course, the most natural reply, but Black may have been worried that after
8. Bb2 His development would be too slow. Black will probably have to play f6 soon as well, after which White would have an easy way to develop pieces for example, Bd3, Qc2, etc. But still, Black would be up a pawn. This position definitely needs a lot more analysis before making any conclusion about White's compensation. One thing that is clear though: the game would be interesting!  )
8. Bb2 Bxb4 9. Bxg7 Rg8 10. Be5!? The novelty, which was obviously prepared by Nepomniachtchi beforehand. David Anton Gujjaro, a Spanish grandmaster, had played the natural Bb2 in a previous game in which this position had arisen, but Nepomniachtchi evidently had the interesting insight that the bishop isn't particularly useful on b2. So he positions it on the less active-looking g3 square. But from there it blocks the g-file and makes White's kingside development easier as well.
10... Nc6 11. Bg3 Bf5 12. Be2 A very interesting position. Black has developed very quickly, but what does he do next? Clearly, he needs to do something quickly because in the long run his weak king position will be a big liability. Meanwhile, White's plan is simple: castle and play d3.
12... Be7!? 13. O-O h5 14. d3
14. h4 Weakens the kingside. The reasons might not be immediately apparent, but after:
14... Bf6 15. Rc1 Qe7! 16. d3 Rxg3! 17. fxg3 cxd3 18. Bxd3 Qxe3+ 19. Kh2 Qxd3 And Black has a big edge.  )
14... h4 15. Bf4 d4!?
15... Bh3 16. Ne1! Nothing dangerous is happening on the kingside, and Black's is still in big trouble because of his weakness in the center.  )
16. exd4
16. Nxd4 Nxd4 17. exd4 cxd3 Is probably what Nepomniachtchi did not like. Now, if White played 18. Bxd3 Qd5! 19. g3 Bh3 with mating threats. So White has to be able to play Bf3.  )
16... Nxd4 Harikrishna saw that he now wins an exchange, but he failed to estimate how dangerous the position could become for Black.
16... Bh3! Was another way to go
17. g3 Bxf1 18. Bxf1 This position is clearly very complicated, but White's compensation is less of a problem for Black because White doesn't have such excellent development as in the game.  )
17. dxc4 Nxe2+ 18. Qxe2 Bd3 19. Qe5 Bxf1 20. Rxf1 Black's lack of development makes his life difficult.
20... Rc8 21. Re1 Rc6 22. Nd4
22. Qh5!? Would also create a lot of uncomfortable threats against Black, like Ne5. Black can put up a lot of resistance with passive moves like Rf6, but this is clearly less desirable than the more active plan of playing Rcg6. The problem is that is not a big threat:
22... Rcg6 23. Bg5 f6 24. Bxf6  )
22... Rcg6 23. g3 hxg3 24. hxg3 Kf8 There is no easy way for Black to fight White's dominantly placed pieces.
25. Rd1! White does not need to be in a hurry.
25... Qd7 26. Rd2 Rf6? 27. Qh5 White had some very pretty tactics after
27. Nf5! Rxf5 28. Bh6+! Ke8 29. Qb8+ Bd8 30. Rxd7 Kxd7 31. Qxb7+ And the exposed Black king will provide a constant target for the White queen as it goes around the board picking off Black's remaining pawns.
31... Bc7 32. Qe4 Re5 33. Qh7  )
27. Nf5 Qxf5 28. Bh6+! Is a nice little tactic as well. After Rxh6, Black would lose his queen:
28... Ke8 29. Qb8+  )
27... a6 28. Bg5 Rd6 29. Bh6+ Ke8 30. Qe5 b6 31. a4 Qb7 32. Bf4 Rd7 33. Nf5 Rxd2 34. Bxd2 Rg6 35. Bb4 Re6 36. Ng7+ Kd7 37. Qd4+ Rd6 38. Bxd6 Bxd6 39. Nf5 Qc6 40. Qf6 Bc5 41. Qxf7+ Kc8 White is up two pawns, but converting that advantage into a win is actually not all that easy. At least one of his queenside pawns will fall, after which Black will have its own source of counterplay with his a-pawn. Also, the White king will become vulnerable to checks as he pushes his kingside pawns.
42. Qg8+ Kb7 43. Qg7+ Kc8 44. Qh8+ Kb7 45. Qh7+ Kb8 46. g4 Qxa4 47. Qh2+ Kb7 48. Qf4 White has regrouped his pieces and now all of his pawns are well protected. Nevertheless, Black's a-pawn gives him enough counterplay.
48... a5 49. g5 Qc6 50. Nd4 Qg6 51. Nb5 Qg7 52. Kg2 a4 53. Qf3+ Kb8 54. Qg3+ Kc8 55. g6 a3 56. Nd6+ Kd7 57. Nf5 Qg8 58. g7 a2 59. Qg4 a1=Q 60. Nh6+ Qe6 61. Qxe6+ Kxe6 62. g8=Q+ Kd7 It appears as if White can still to win without taking much risk, but it's pretty hard to break through as the Black king is hard to target with the queen and knight. And it's also very hard to push the f-pawn without exposing White's king to a barrage of checks.
63. Qf7+ Kc6 64. Ng4 Qd4 65. Qf5 Bd6 66. Ne3 Qg7+ 67. Kf1 Bc5 68. Qc8+ Qc7 69. Qe6+ Kb7 70. Qe4+ Qc6 71. Nd5 b5 72. Qh7+ Ka6 73. Qe4 Ka7 74. Qh7+ Ka6 75. Nc7+ Ka5 76. Nxb5 Qf3 77. Qc2 Kb4 78. Qd2+ Kxc4 79. Qe2+

The tension and excitement in that game was nothing compared to the craziness in the match between Dmitry Andreikin of Russia and Eljanov.

Eljanov obtained a very comfortable position from the opening. After Andrekin’s quick loss in his previous game, it seemed very ominous for him, but Andreikin came up with some remarkable ideas to pull off an incredible save. There were several amazing moments in the game, including the final position with White’s king on c5 and passed pawns on b7 and c6 and Black having a queen and two rooks:

Andreikin, Dmitry vs. Eljanov, Pavel
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 9.5 | 24 Jan 2017 | ECO: A45 | 1/2-1/2
Qc7 17. f3 e3
17... b6 18. fxe4 bxc5 19. bxc5  )
18. b5 b6
18... Na5 19. b6 Qc6 20. Nb3 Nc4  )
19. bxc6 bxc5 20. Nb3 c4 21. Nc5 Nf4 22. Re1 Bf8 23. Ba4 Bxc5 24. dxc5
24. Nxf4 gxf4 25. dxc5 Bf5  )
24... Nd3 25. Nd4 Nxe1 26. Qxe1 Re8 27. h4 Re7 28. hxg5 hxg5 29. Rb7! An amazing practical idea. White was probably going to have suffer for a long time because of his material deficit and broken pawn structure, but this move shakes up the position.
29... Bxb7 30. cxb7 Rb8 With hindsight, it was easy to say that Black shouldn't have allowed White to establish the two pawns on b7 and c6, but it was obviously not clear during the game. Black may also worried that White had some resources on the kingside, but he does not.
30... Qxb7! 31. Bc6 Qb8 32. Bxd5 Re8! And White's threats are winding down already. It is important to note that Black's queen is keeping an eye on g3, which is perhaps something neither player noticed during the game.  )
31. c6 Things aren't so easy for Black anymore. I don't think Black made any obvious mistakes in the next few moves but his advantage dwindles very quickly:
31... Rbe8 32. Ne2! f6 33. Qd1 Rh7
33... Qd6 Might have been a better practical try. Giving up d5 seems to be asking for trouble. Black was obviously confident that he has a mating net on the kingside, but he does not.
34. f4! The position is not at all easy for Black. The pawns on c6 and b7 can quickly turn the game around.  )
34. Qxd5+ Kg7 35. g3 Rd8
35... Reh8 36. f4 Rh1+ Now 37. Kg2 g4 will lead to a mate, but White has
37. Qxh1! Rxh1+ 38. Kxh1 And with the Black queen permanently tied to preventing the White pawns from promoting, it is easy to imagine that White will be just fine in this position.  )
36. Qe6 Rdh8 37. f4 Rh1+ 38. Kg2 R1h2+ 39. Kf3! Amazing how quickly things have changed. It is impossible to say who was playing to win at this point. I think Eljanov still had hopes, but it isn't unreasonable to think that White also was optimistic.
39... Rf2+! 40. Kxe3 Rhh2 41. Bd1 gxf4+
41... Qb6+ 42. Nd4! And White's advantage would be decisive.  )
42. Nxf4
42. gxf4 Rxe2+! 43. Bxe2 Qb6+ 44. Kf3 Qf2+ 45. Ke4 Qxe2+ 46. Kd5 Qd3+ 47. Kc5 Rh5+  )
42... Qb6+ 43. Ke4 Qb1+ 44. Kd5! Andrekin is now trying for more than a draw!
44. Ke3 Qc1+ 45. Ke4 Would be an easier way to draw.  )
44... Qxd1+ 45. Kc5 An extraordinary position!
45... Rxf4! 46. Qe7+ White decides that he has had enough and forces a perpetual.
46. b8=Q Rh5+  )
46. gxf4 Qg1+ 47. Kd5 Rd2+ 48. Kxc4 Qf1+ 49. Kc5 Qf2+ 50. Kc4 Qxf4+ 51. Kc5 Black has nothing better than to agree to the perpetual.  )
46... Kg6 47. Qe8+ Kg7 48. Qe7+ Kh6 49. Qf8+ Kh7 50. Qf7+ Kh6 51. Qf8+ Kh7 52. Qf7+ Kh6 53. Qf8+ Kh7 54. Qf7+

The final game to end was between Wei  and Baskaran Adhiban of India. Adhiban, the lowest ranked player in the field, has done very well in the tournament. But in Round 9 he was in trouble against Wei and ended up in a very unpleasant endgame. Down a pawn, Adhiban pulled off a stunning save as Wei clearly tired in the seventh hour of play:

Wei Yi vs. Adhiban, Baskaran
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 9.7 | 24 Jan 2017 | ECO: A15 | 1/2-1/2
80. Ng8 Kd4 81. Ne7 Kd3 82. Rc2 Rxa5! 83. Nxg6 Ra2+!! A surprising resource. The White pawns can't advance quickly enough and the Black king is able to get back in time.
84. Kxa2 Kxc2 85. h4
85. g4 Kd2! 86. h4 Ke3 87. h5 Kf3 88. h6 Ng5!  )
85... Nf6! 86. Ne5 Kc3 87. Kb1 Kd4 88. Nf3+ Ke3 The king is in time to stop the White pawns.
89. Kc2 Kf2 90. Kd3 Kxg2 91. Nd2 Kg3 92. Ne4+ Kxh4

So has White against Wojtaszek in Round 10, and with so many players close behind him, I expect him to try a lot harder to push for a win than he did in Round 9.


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. 77 in the world, he is a junior at Stanford University. He can be found on Twitter at @parimarjan.