With a win in Round 10, Wesley So now leads the field by a full point.

With three rounds to go in the top section of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, Wesley So of the United States is in excellent position to add another major title to his collection. 

With a win in Round 10 on Wednesday, So now has seven points and leads the rest of the field by at least a full point. Five players are tied for second, each with six points. 

So’s win in Round 10 over  Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland was a strategic masterpiece. It was reminiscent of Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian World Champion, at his best. After the opening Wojtaszek seemed to be doing just fine, but So, who had White, created many small strategic problems for Black and played with uncanny precision to overwhelm Wojtaszek in only a few moves:

So, Wesley vs. Wojtaszek, Radoslaw
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 10.7 | 25 Jan 2017 | ECO: E06 | 1-0
h6 13. Bd2! Threatening b4.
13... a4 This is the most natural way to prevent it, but practically it was perhaps not the best. Wojtaszek definitely did not expect the next move.
14. Bb4! This poses some interesting strategic problems for Black. He seems to have a lot of playable moves, but each one presents a challenge.
14... Nxb4
14... Bxb4 15. axb4! Nxd5 16. cxd5 Nxb4 17. Qd2 Nxd5 18. Nxe5 And Black's pawns will be very weak on the queenside after Qxd4.  )
14... Bd6!? Maintaining the status quo was perhaps the best move, but I can only say that with the knowledge of how the game went. During the game, this was a very hard move to make.  )
15. axb4 Nxd5 16. bxc5 Nb4 17. Qd2 Nc6 Black seems to be doing just fine, but there was a powerful and unexpected resource that even the computer engines failed to estimate correctly a few moves ago:
18. b4! Qe7 19. Qb2 Bg4 20. Re1! Another very precise move.
20. b5 Nd8 21. Qb4 f5 And Black is doing fine.  )
20... Rfd8 The rook is misplaced on this square because it blocks the retreat of the knight on c6. And e4 is actually easy to stop.
20... f5!? Would have perhaps created more problems for White. It allows interesting moves such as Nh4, but at least White can't just continue making easy moves that entail no risk.
21. Nh4 Kh7  )
21. Nd2! This makes the idea of Re1 very easy to understand.
21... Be6 22. b5 Nb8 23. Qb4 White is dominating the whole board. And the Black knight on b8 is very hard to develop.
23... f5 24. Nb3 Nd7 25. Bxb7 Some precise calculation by So.
25... Rab8 26. Rxa4 Rxb7 27. c6 Qxb4 28. Rxb4 The endgame with the extra pawn is clearly very good for White. The rest of the game was just a matter of technique.
28... Rc7 29. cxd7 Rxc4 30. Rxc4 Bxc4 31. Rc1 Be6 32. Rc8 Rxc8 33. dxc8=Q+ Bxc8 34. b6

In the past, So has been criticized for only winning when his opponent gets a bit too ambitious. But with games like this, So might soon become as intimidating an opponent for players as Carlsen.

Levon Aronian of Armenia and Sergey Karjakin of Russia both won their games with White, against, respectively, Richard Rapport of Hungary and Dmitry Andrekin of Russia to join the big pack at six points.

Aronian was in his element in Round 10. First, he uncorked a surprisingly simple novelty against Rapport’s favorite Queen’s Indian defence. The novelty helped him secure a nice edge. Aronian then followed with a stunning piece sacrifice a few moves later that was perhaps the prettiest sacrifice of the tournament so far.

Aronian, Levon vs. Rapport, Richard
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 10.3 | 25 Jan 2017 | ECO: E18 | 1-0
Bf6 9. Be1!? I think in the past people considered this move to be too slow, but, as Aronian demonstrates, it certainly deserves attention. In other lines, like after Qc2, Black used to take on d2 with the knight. Now that option is not possible. And the onus is on Black to make use of this move.
9... Re8?! This appears to be too slow, and the move "wasted" by playing Be1 is now fully justified for White. Black was obviously thinking this is a flexible setup, that he could still hope to play c5 or d5. But he misses some concrete options.
9... c5 Makes the most sense to me but after
10. Qc2!? d5 11. Nxe4 dxe4 12. Nd2 Would be similar to the game, and I suspect what Aronian probably had in mind. It isn't clear if White is better, but he certainly has created an interesting shift in the position that could be uncomfortable for Black players.  )
10. Qc2 d5?! Rapport assumes that the symmetric nature of the position after Nxe4 should be ok for Black, but he underestimates the latent initiative in White's position.
10... Nxc3 11. Bxc3 justifies White's setup. White could then try to play e4 and keep an edge.  )
11. Nxe4 dxe4 12. Nd2 Bxd4 13. Rd1 Qc8 14. Nxe4 Bc5 15. Ng5 f5 16. Bxb7 Qxb7 17. Bc3 Bf8 18. e4! h6 19. exf5 hxg5 20. f6! The threat of Qg6 is crushing. Black needs to bring his queen over to try to protect his king.
20... c5
20... c6! was a much better defense. It might seem much more intuitive to play c5, but later on, while Black is struggling to develop, White can gain time with threats against the rook on a8.
21. f4! g4 22. f5  )
21. f4 g4 22. f5 gxf6
22... exf5 23. Rxf5 gxf6 24. Rg5+! White would also have had an advantage after a simpler move like Rxf6.
24... fxg5 25. Qg6+ Bg7 26. Qxe8+ Kh7 27. Qh5+ Kg8 28. Rd8+  )
22... e5 23. fxg7 And f6 and f7 can't be stopped. Another problem with Black having played c5 can be seen after
23... Qxg7 24. f6 Qf7 25. Qe4!  )
23. fxe6 Qh7
23... Rxe6 24. Qg6+ Qg7 25. Qf5! It is remarkable how Black's pieces are all tied up and the kingside will soon collapse.  )
24. Qg2! Again Black's pawn on c5 is to blame.
24... Na6 25. Rd7! Qh5 26. Rxf6 Black's kingside caves in.
26... Rad8 27. Rxf8+ Kxf8 28. Qf1+

Karjakin’s win was much less spectacular. His countryman, Andrekin, seemed to be doing fine for most of the game, but then  made some small errors to cede Karjakin an edge. A draw was probably still within reach, but Andreikin went further wrong to finally lose the full point:

Karjakin, Sergey vs. Andreikin, Dmitry
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 10.6 | 25 Jan 2017 | ECO: C50 | 1-0
28. exf5 f6!? The simplest way to keep equality was:
28... Rfc8! 29. Rxa8 Rxa8 30. Ne4 Rd8 31. Ra1 d5 Would have almost certainly led to a series of trades and a very drawish position.  )
29. Ne4 d5 30. Nd6 b4 31. cxb4 d4
31... Rab8 32. Ra5 Nc8! And the exchanges would just lead to a draw.  )
32. Ra5! Rab8 33. Ne4 Rfd8 34. b5 Nd5 35. Rc1 Black finally got the knight to d5, but he is still down a pawn and his central pawns are not that imposing.
35... Rbc8 36. Rc6! The same theme as Ra5.
36... Nc3 37. Nd2! Rook endgames have a drawish reputation for good reason. Keeping the knights on the board clearly adds to White's winning chances.
37... e4 38. Rxc8 Rxc8 39. Nc4 d3 40. b6 Black's central pawns remain woefully hard to push.
40... Ne2+ 41. Kf1 Nd4 42. b7 This actually required some very deep calculation on White's part.
42. Ke1 Nxb3 43. Ra4  )
42... d2 43. Ra1 Rb8 44. Na5 Nb5 The crucial move that White had to foresee before playing b7 was:
44... e3!? Seems tempting for Black but after:
45. fxe3 Nc2 46. Rb1 Nxe3+ 47. Ke2 d1=Q+ 48. Rxd1 Nxd1 49. Kxd1 And White's advantage should be enough to eventually win the game.  )
45. Rd1 Nd6 46. Rxd2 Nxb7 47. Nxb7! An elegant decision that demonstates a typical difference between how humans and computers think. In this position, the computer prefers not to exchange knights because it underestimates the the power of the White rook behind the passed pawn. Karjakin obviously knows better and plays flawlessly to convert the endgame:
47... Rxb7 48. Rb2 h5 49. b4 hxg4 50. Ke2 g6 51. fxg6+ Kxg6 52. Ke3 g3
52... Kf5 53. b5 Rb6 54. Kd4! The king penetrates Black's position.  )
53. fxg3 Kf5 54. b5 Rb6 55. g4+ Ke5 56. Rf2! The simplest plan.
56... Re6 57. Rc2 Re7 58. b6 Rb7 59. Rb2 Kd5 60. g3 Kc6 61. Kxe4

Karjakin played extremely precisely in converting the edge, particularly in how he coordinated his pieces around his passed b-pawn.

Carlsen played solidly with Black in his game against Pentala Harikrishna of India. There were a couple of moments where Carlsen seemed to be trying for more, but Harikrishna kept everything well under control and the game was drawn just before the 40th move.

Two other two draws in the round featured some curious moments around the first time control. In the game between Baskaran Adhiban of India and Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, Adhiban out-prepared and then outplayed Nepomniachtchi. But in the time pressure leading up to the 40th move, he made a few inaccuracies. It was a hard position to play and featured a slightly unusual combination of pieces and pawns and that contributed to Adhiban’s failure to find the precise way to attack the Black king:

Adhiban, Baskaran vs. Nepomniachtchi, Ian
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 10.4 | 25 Jan 2017 | ECO: B96 | 1/2-1/2
Kd6 40. Qc7+
40. Rc4! Would almost have given White a decisive advantage. Black would be forced to play:
40... Qd5 41. Kc3 Ke6 42. Qc7 And now Qc6+ forces an exchange of queens, after which the endgame would be rather unpleasant to defend for Black. There are many plans he can try. One very interesting endgame arises after:
42... e3 43. Qc6+ Qxc6 44. Rxc6+ And Black would be suffering a great deal. White would have to be careful to take care of the pawn on e3 pawn:
44... Kd5 45. Rxa6 Nc5! 46. Rxh6 f5 Creating counterplay with the two pawns while keeping the White king at bay. It isn't clear how White could make progress. One possibility:
47. Rh4 Ke5 48. Rc4 Kd5 49. Rf4 Ke5 50. Rh4! Zugzwang! The idea is that if Black plays f4, then after Rh5+ and Kd4, the White king manages to catch the pawns. And if:
50... Ne6 If plays Kd3, then Nf4+ prevents White from making any progress. But White has:
51. Rc4! And only then Kd3. Once again, White manages to catch the pawns.  )
40... Ke7 41. c4? Unfortunately for Adhiban, he didn't find the plan of trying to get his rook to Rc4, as mentioned earlier, or he could have still tried Qd8. It is actually surprisingly hard to find such moves because there are so many pieces crowded around these squares that it makes it hard to calculate everything precisely.
41... e3! The Black pawn on e3 poses such a threat that White is held in check.
42. Qd8+ Kd6 43. Qc7+ Ke7 44. Qd8+ Kd6 45. Qc7+

It was definitely a lucky escape for Nepomniachtchi.

In the last game, Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine against Wei Yi of China, the game seemed headed for a quiet draw, until Wei injected excitement into the game with a piece sacrifice around move 40. He clearly overestimated his chances and things were soon very tricky for Black:

Eljanov, Pavel vs. Wei Yi
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 10.5 | 25 Jan 2017 | ECO: A13 | 1/2-1/2
39. Qc3 Black is doing fine, but Wei decides to introduce some instability into the position. He certainly could have tried to force a draw in other ways, so he was clearly hoping for more:
39... Rxe3 40. fxe3 Bxe3+ 41. Kh1 Bxc1 42. Qxc1 e3 At first, the position does look a little scary for White, but he can defend everything after:
43. Bxa7 e2 44. Qe1! And the bishop is able to come back to f2 to keep the queen in place. Now Black may actually have to worry about drawing the game. Wei doesn't panic though and finds a way:
44... Kh5 45. b5 Kg4 46. Kh2 Qh7+ 47. Kg1 Qd3 48. Bb6 f5 49. Ba5 b6
49... f4 50. gxf4 gxf4 51. Qf2! f3 52. Be1!  )
50. Bxb6
50. Bb4 Qe4 And it's hard for White to actually make any progress.  )
50... f4! 51. gxf4 gxf4 52. Bc5
52. Ba5 Kh3! The key to the whole setup.
53. Qf2 Qg6+! 54. Kh1 Qe4+  )
52... Qc4 53. Bb6 I'm surprised Eljanov didn't try:
53. Kh2! Qxc5 54. Qxe2+ And White can continue trying to win without any apparent risk. Of course, Black has excellent drawing chances, but why not try for more?
54... Kh4!  )
53... Qd3 54. Bc5 Qc4 55. Bb6 Qd3

A nice save by Wei.

It seems hard to imagine So letting the tournament title slip from his grasp now. But Carlsen will play Adhiban with White in Round 11 and if he wins, he could still put some heat on So.


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.