Wei Yi recorded the only victory of Round 11 to draw within a half point of the leader.

Wesley So may still win the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, but there is a little more pressure on him after Round 11. So, of the United States, drew in Round 11, while Wei Yi of China beat Sergey Karjakin of Russia won to pull within a half point. 

Six of the seven games ended in draws, but there was still plenty of exciting chess. The exception was So’s game against Dmitry Andreikin of Russia. With a one-point lead before the round, and playing Black, So, was clearly more than happy to play solidly against Andreikin, who also did not play particularly ambitiously. 

There was some drama between Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the World Champion, and Baskaran Adhiban of India. Carlsen, who had White, clearly had high hopes of beating the lowest-ranked player in the event. But Adhiban, who has been playing some unnusual openings throughout the tournament, surprised Carlsen with the Scandinavian. He equalized without trouble and then began to slowly outplay Carlsen. Carlsen didn’t seem to sense any danger, leading up the following position in which Adhiban had a beautiful tactical trick, but overlooked:

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Adhiban, Baskaran
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 11.1 | 27 Jan 2017 | ECO: B01 | 1/2-1/2
34. Bd2 Qc6 Thus far, Adhiban had not shown signs of being intimidated by his formidable opponent, but now he missed a killer blow:
34... Qg4! There aren't many ways to defend the rook.
35. Re1 Re3! A move that was probably overlooked by both players.
36. Bxe3 dxe3 37. Qxd5 exf2+! Black will take all of the White pawns.
38. Kf1 fxe1=R+ 39. Kxe1 Qxg3+ Alas, Adhiban was probably not looking for a killer blow -- an understandable psychology when playing Carlsen. The game now simplifies quickly from a series of exchanges.  )
35. Ne2 Qf6 36. Rc1 Qf5 The game is headed towards a draw.
37. Qxf5 gxf5 38. Kf1 d3 39. Nc3 Nxc3 40. Rxc3 Bd4 41. Rb3 g6 42. f3 Be5 43. g4 fxg4 44. fxg4 Bf6 45. h5 gxh5 46. gxh5 Re5 47. h6 Kh7 48. Rxd3 Rf5+ 49. Ke2 Bxb2

It is remarkable how Adhiban has managed to switch between openings in the tournament. The difficulty of remembering so many lines is no small task. This was apparent in Wei’s game against Karjakin. They followed a line that has been analyzed and is known to be bad for Black. Karjakin, who was playing Black, had clearly forgotten preparation and found himself in an almost lost position right after the opening:

Wei Yi vs. Karjakin, Sergey
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 11.6 | 27 Jan 2017 | ECO: C65 | 1-0
11. Nd2 This position has been played three times before in games between elite players and White has done rather well each time. It pays to know your openings, and unfortunately for Karjakin, he was not familiar with this one.
11... cxd4 A novelty, but not a particularly good one. Karjakin obviously did not have it prepared and tried to find a solution over the board. But he winds up in a bad endgame after some precise play by Wei:
12. Nxe4 dxc3 13. Qf3! Bb7 14. Bxf6 Bxe4 15. Qxe4 Qxf6
15... gxf6 Was possible, but I guess Karjakin thought that his drawing chances in the end game would be better. Perhaps the fact that Wei is an excellent tactician, but has sometimes had trouble in the endgame played into Karjakin's decision. In any case, White would have a rather pleasant initiative after:
16. Nc6 Qd6 17. Rad1 Qe6 18. Qf3 If Black continues
18... cxb2 19. Rfe1! Qxa2 20. Qxf6 And mate will soon follow.  )
16. Nd7 Qg6 17. Qxg6 hxg6 18. Nxf8 cxb2 19. Rab1 Kxf8 20. Rfd1 A nice intermediate move. Things wouldn't really be different after Rxb2, but not letting Black take the d-file is good, too. Wei did not let up on Karjakin the rest of the game:
20... Ke7 21. Rxb2 g5 22. Rbd2 Rh8 23. g3 Rh5 24. Kg2 Kf6 25. h3 Rh6 26. Rd8 Ke7 27. R1d7+ Ke6 28. Rd2 Rf6 29. Rg8 Rg6 30. Re8+ Kf6 31. Rd7

In the game between Anish Giri of the Netherlands and Pentala Harikrishna of India, Giri, who had White, got the upper hand as he outprepared his opponent in an ultra sharp variation. But Harikrishna found some interesting resources to create counterplay. There was even a moment where Black could have won:

Giri, Anish vs. Harikrishna, Pentala
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 11.2 | 27 Jan 2017 | ECO: A34 | 1/2-1/2
e6 At this point, Giri came up with an unexpected novelty
12. c6! With the White king still in the center, this does not feel so dangerous, but the main idea is that the Black pieces are stuck and hard to develop. It is particularly hard to deal with such novelties during a game:
12... b4 13. Qd4 Rc7
13... Qe7 Was possibly a better move. Now, after Nxa4 and exd5, White can't recapture with the pawn because of the pin on the e-file. But the position remains very unclear and White has many other options. I am pretty sure that Giri had prepared a lot more surprises for Black in this position.  )
14. Na4 exd5 15. exd5 To finish his development, Black has to give up the pawn on g7 as well.
15... Be7 A practical choice. Giving up the pawn on g7 opens up files for the Black pieces and gives him chance to increase the activity of his pieces.
15... Qf6 It seems as if exchanging queens would be a relief for Black, but his position is also rather hard to play in the endgame:
16. Rhe1 Qxd4 17. Nxd4 Be7 18. Kd3 O-O 19. Rxe7!? Not necessary. A move like Nb6 would have given White a more stable edge. But it's hard to resist a move like Rxe7.
19... Rxe7 20. Nb6 f6 21. Kc4 Black's pieces are really tied down.
21... a5 22. Kb5  )
16. Qxg7 Bf6 17. Qh6 Re7+ 18. Kf1 Qxd5!? Another interesting practical choice. Black's position is very far from pleasant, so Harikrishna decides to sacrifice some material in return for obtaining a small initiative. This decision seems catch Giri off guard, and he begins to make some small mistakes in the next several moves.
19. Qxf6 Rg8 20. h3 Not best; g3 was better. The move Bh3 might have seemed annoying, but it posed no real threat to White.
20. g3! Black should probably play Re6, but then compared to the actual game, White would have an extra tempo.
20... Bh3+ 21. Kg1 And it isn't clear what Black will do next.
21... Re6 22. c7! The problem with Bh3.  )
20... Re6 21. Qf4 Nxc6 22. Nc5 Re7 23. g3 Rg6 24. Kg2 Qd6 25. Qc4
25. Qxd6 Rxd6 Would have given White a solid edge. It was also more in spirit of how Giri usually plays. But there are some defensive chances in the endgame and Harikrishna is quite resilient. So Giri decided on a different path.  )
25... Qf6 26. Rce1 Qxb2 Clearly the players were getting low on time. White had many tempting moves, but instead he forces Black's pieces to improve their positioning with every move - not the best strategy!
27. Na4? A bad miscalculation.
27... Qa3 28. Nb6 Bb7! The bishop and queen are perfectly placed and the knight on f3 knight is in trouble.
29. Nd5 Rge6 Both the players seem to have missed that
29... Rd6! Would have changed the game.
30. Nxe7 Ne5!! 31. Qf4 Qxf3+ 32. Qxf3 Nxf3 And White will probably lose!  )
30. Qc5 Rxe1 31. Rxe1 Rxe1 32. Nxe1 White once again has an initiative against the Black king, but it is much harder to convert this advantage. The ups and downs clearly took their toll on the players, and Giri no longer makes a serious effort to win.
32... Qxa2 33. Nf3 Kd7 34. Kh2 Qe2 35. Nf6+ Kc7 36. Nd5+

Hungary’s Richard Rapport continued to play obscure openings. In Round 11, he tried Larsen’s opening (1.b3, which is named after the great Danish grandmaster) against Loek van Wely of the Netherlands. It was a close and strategically complicated game throughout. But Rapport’s patience got the better of him, and he couldn’t resist playing some fancy tactics that nearly led to his defeat:

Rapport, Richard vs. Van Wely, Loek
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 11.3 | 27 Jan 2017 | ECO: A01 | 1/2-1/2
hxg5 23. g4?! Rapport gets credit for making the game interesting, and I can understand why it is so hard to resist playing such a move, but there was really no need for this.
23. Ne6! Bxe6 24. dxe6 White would have had a pleasant position. He will still be able to play g4 in the future, but without sacrificing a piece.  )
23... gxf4 24. gxf5 fxe3! 25. Qxe3 Nxf5! 26. Qg5
26. Rxg7+!? Kxg7 27. Rg1+ Kf7 28. Qg5 Would have led to some crazy complications, but it doesn't look like White had a winning position.
28... Ke7  )
26... exf3! Very precise defense by Black. He is in time to launch his own counterplay against the White king.
27. Bxf6 Rxf6 28. Qxf6 Qe3+ 29. Kb1 Qxf2 30. Qd8+ Kf7 31. Qc7+ Kf6 32. Qd8+ Kf7
32... Ke5 Would have been a fun continuation, but White would have been fine.
33. Bc2 Qd4 34. Re1+! Kf4 35. Re4+ The only way to save the game. I don't know what is happening after:
35... Qxe4 36. Bxe4 Kxe4  )
33. Rxg7+? Rapport continues to be very ambitious.
33. Qc7+! Was really necessary. Clearly, Bd7 isn't enough to stop his position from collapsing, so he would have to accept the repetition of position.
33... Kf8  )
33... Nxg7 34. Qc7+ Kg8 If this was the only move, then Rapport's idea made sense because:
34... Bd7!! Would have forced the White queen to become misplaced and it would not have any checks on the eighth rank. Now the mating threats on the queenside are deadly.
35. Qxd7+ Kg8 36. Bc2 Qg2 And the f-pawn will soon promote. In addition, Re8 will follow. Meanwhile, there are no threats against the Black king.  )
35. Bc2 Black does need to solve some problems as Bh7+ looks quite annoying. But van Wely finds the best defense.
35... Bf5 Forcing a draw.
36. Qxb8+ Kf7 37. Qc7+ Kg8 38. Qd8+ Kf7 39. Qc7+ Kg8

The remaining two games weren’t quite as exciting. From a technical perspective, the nearly effortless draw by Levon Aronian of Armenia against Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland, despite being down a pawn for much of the game, was impressive:

Wojtaszek, Radoslaw vs. Aronian, Levon
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 11.7 | 27 Jan 2017 | ECO: D19 | 1/2-1/2
35. axb5 White seems to have a very solid edge -- an extra pawn without any clear compensation for Black. But Aronian, having played, the Marshall for many years, is used to defending a position like this down a pawn. In the rest of the game, he never seemed to have any particular problems.
35... Rc1+ 36. Kf2 Rh1 37. Kg2 Rb1! The rook is placed rather nicely on b1 -- It targets the pawn on b2 and keeps White's pieces tied up.
38. Re5 White needs to try and do something to find counterplay.
38. h3 Bf5! And the pawn on b2 will fall.  )
38... Bd3 39. Rd2 Bf1+ 40. Kf2 h6 41. f4 Bh3!? 42. Nd8 Kf8 It is possible that White had better moves in the next stage of the game, but Aronian defends without difficulty.
43. Rxe7 Kxe7 44. Nc6+ Kf6 45. fxg5+ hxg5 46. Ne5 Bf1! 47. Nd7+ Ke6 48. Nxb6 Bxb5 49. Rc2 a4 50. Kf3 Be8 51. Re2+ Kf7 52. Nc8 Kf8 The pressure on the pawn on b2 remains.
53. Rf2 Bh5+ 54. Ke3+ Kg7 55. Nd6 a3! 56. bxa3 Black has a perpetual with Rb3 and Rb2+.

Of course White could have perhaps improved his play, but I think Aronian never was in serious danger.

In the game between Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia and Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine, there was a very curious moment in which White’s pieces were completely passive, but Black didn’t really have any obvious ways to exploit that:

Nepomniachtchi, Ian vs. Eljanov, Pavel
79th Tata Steel GpA | Wijk aan Zee NED | Round 11.4 | 27 Jan 2017 | ECO: A45 | 1/2-1/2
Nf4 19. Bf1! Pretty much the only move to maintain the balance. White's position looks very suspicious at first, but he has plenty of threats as well. And the passive placement of his pieces is only temporary. Perhaps Black could have tried to be more ambitious, but it is not obvious what he should do. Instead, he rapidly traded pieces and simplified:
19... exd4 20. Bxd4 Bc5 21. g3 Ne6 22. Bxc5 Ndxc5 23. exd5 cxd5 24. b4!? White has a more or less normal position. The battle continued for a while, but neither player was ever close to having a significant advantage.

The crucial matchup in Round 12 is between So and Wei. It is hard to imagine that the ever-pragmatic So will take many risks, but perhaps Wei will try to do something out of the ordinary to create some chaos and some winning chances. 


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.