Tight Race for First in Challengers Group at Tata Steel
ByDennis MonokroussosJan 27 — 11:00 AM
Image by Tata Steel Chess 2017
With three rounds to go, three players are tied for first and two others are within a half point of the lead.
With three rounds to go, first place in the Challengers group of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament is still up for grabs. At stake, in addition to prize money, is the chance to move up to the top group in next year’s tournament.
The top three seeds — Markus Ragger of Austria, Ilia Smirin of Israel, and Jeffery Xiong of the United States – are tied for first with 7 out of 10, and two players – Eric Hansen of Canada and Gawain Jones of England —- are only half a point behind.
Hansen is the lowest-rated of the group by a wide margin – 62 points – but after a slow start (two draws followed by a loss to Ragger in Round 3) he has come on strong with four wins, including a victory over Xiong in Round 6. His win in Round 10, with Black against Lu Shanglei of China, was especially impressive:
Lu, Shanglei vs. Hansen, Eric
79th Tata Steel GpB |Wijk aan Zee NED |Round 10.2 |25 Jan 2017 |ECO: A00 |0-1
1. Nc3The Dunst is a rare guest in tournament play of any sort, never mind
grandmaster chess. On the other hand, it can often transpose to more
mainstream openings, so a player could adopt it with those transpositional
possibilities in mind.
( 1. e4c62. d4d53. Nc3dxe44. Nxe4Nf65. Nxf6+exf66. c3Bd67. Bd3O-O8. Ne2Re8is a well-known theoretical position
which is very similar to what arises in the game after White's 8.Ne2. If Black
were to play ...c6 there it would transpose to this exact position, but Black
was able to do better by playing ...c5 instead. Even so, the family
resemblance was not obliterated, and the play there was very much in keeping
with the play here. White's main move here is 9. Qc2and now 9... g610. h4Be6or ...11. h5f5is common and strongly reminiscent of
the game. )
1... d52. e4Now play has transposed to a Scandinavian with 2.
Nc3. 2... dxe4
( 2... d4is the more principled choice, but Hansen's move is fine
and leads to a more open battle. )
3. Nxe4Nf6Now the position becomes a lot
like the Classical Caro-Kann with 4...Nf6 - see the note with 1.e4. 4. Nxf6+exf65. d4Bd66. Bd3O-O7. c3
( 7. Ne2is the most common move, maintaining
the option of castling kingside. This was played in a very high-level blitz
game about 2 1/2 years ago: 7... Nc68. c3f59. Qc2Qf610. Bd2h611. O-O-Oa512. Ng3Ne713. f3a41/2-1/2 (46) Topalov,V (2772)
-Kramnik,V (2783) Flor & Fjaere 2014 )
7... Re8+8. Ne2c5A good
move, taking advantage of the fact that this isn't exactly a Caro-Kann. If
White wants to castle queenside, Black will be ready with his counterattack. 9. Be3Nd7
( 9... cxd410. Nxd4Bf4was a good alternative. )
10. Qc2g6It was also possible to play ...h6, but this is at least as good. Black,
correctly, is unafraid of h4-h5. 11. O-O-OQc7This is not a purely innocent
developing move; White must now attend to the possibility of ...c4. 12. Qd2?!
( 12. b3weakens White's queenside a little, but it may still be the best move. )
12... c4!It's possible that White underestimated this move, perhaps
considering that it would make it harder for Black to open lines against White
king. It turns out that Black's inability to open the c-file is more than
compensated by two gains: a fantastic outpost on d5, and the chance to keep
attacking with ...b7-b5-b4. 13. Bb1With the benefit of hindsight we may
( 13. Bc2was more accurate, but it's easy to think that Bb1 is
better, so that White can defend b2 laterally if he has to. )
13... Nb6?!The immediate
( 13... b5at least looks more natural, not only for the
sake of the coming ...b4 advance but to develop the bishop on b7 as well. )
( 14. d5!was necessary to minimize the damage. After missing this
chance, White's position quickly deteriorates. )
14... Nd5/-+ 15. h5Bg4!16. Rh4
( 16. Rde1was better, but White's plight remains dire after 16... b5, with an attack that practically plays itself. )
16... f517. Rdh1It looks
like White is attacking, but he is in fact in huge trouble. White's minor
pieces on the e-file are vulnerable to ideas like ...Bxe2 Qxe2 f4, or even to
an immediate ...f4 (excepting worries about Rxg4 in reply). Black is already
winning. 17... Re7A nice move, defending h7 laterally (after hxg6 fxg6) and
preparing to double rooks on the e-file.
( 17... Bxe2?doesn't work,
however, because White's counterattack is too strong and too fast: 18. hxg6!fxg619. Rxh7Qxh720. Rxh7Kxh721. Qxe2/+/- and the bad luck for Black
is that 21... f4??loses on the spot to 22. Qh5+ )
18. Bc2Aimed against the
plan of doubling rooks, but Lu is in for a surprise. 18... Rae8!19. Ba4Rxe3!
( 20. fxe3Rxe321. Rxg4fxg422. Kb1Qe723. Nc1Bf4leaves Black with only one extra pawn, but his
pieces dominate the board to such an extent that he is winning here. )
( 20... Rxe2!was stronger if unnecessarily tricky. Hansen prefers to
keep things simpler; an eminently reasonable decision when the simpler method
is also clearly winning. Still, this is extremely strong. For example: 21. Bxe8fxg622. Rxh7Bf423. Rxc7Bxd2+24. Kb1Nxc7 )
( 20... fxg621. fxe3Rxe322. Rxh7Qxh723. Rxh7Kxh724. Bd1Rxe225. Bxe2Bf426. Bxc4Bxd2+27. Kxd2Nf4White has only one pawn
for the knight, and it's nowhere near enough. )
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