Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion, and Wesley So also won to stay within a half point of first.

Pavel Eljanov continues to do enough to stay in front of the elite field in the masters section of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament. Tuesday, Eljanov, a Ukrainian grandmaster, won his third game of the tournament to push his score to 3.5 points after four rounds.

It turned out that he needed that win as two of his closest pursuers, Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian World Champion, and Wesley So of the United States, who is ranked No. 4 in the world, also won. They now each have three points.

Eljanov’s latest victim was Baskaran Adhiban of India. Eljanov outplayed him from a level position after Adhiban became a bit complacent. 

Adhiban, Baskaran vs. Eljanov, Pavel
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 4 | 17 Jan 2017 | 0-1
29. gxh4 The position looks pretty level. White's extra pawn is meaningless and it appears that neither side has any serious plan to create an advantage.
29... c4 30. Qe2? White allows Black to execute his only idea for an advantage in the position.
30. Qc1 This move looked best. If Black cannot play c3, he has nothing to do apart from agree to a draw.  )
30... c3! 31. bxc3 Qxa3! Now White has serious problems. The outside passed Black a-pawn is very strong.
32. Kg2 a5
32... Qxc3? 33. Qxa6  )
33. Qc4 Qa4 34. Qxa4 Bxa4 35. Ba2 Bc2 The computer suggests that this ending is defensible for White, but the computer is wrong. Eljanov's technique was excellent from this point on.
36. Kf3 e5! Fixing the e-pawn on a light square.
37. Ke3 a4 38. Bd5 a3 This pawn is incredibly strong and White cannot quite get his king over to attack it.
39. Ba2 Otherwise Black would play Bb1, with an elementary win.
39. Kd2? Bxe4!  )
39. f3 Bb1  )
39... Kf8 40. f3? On the last move before making the first time control, White misses his last chance to put up real resistance.
40. c4 The computer suggests this move, but after
40... Ke7 41. Kd2 Bxe4 42. Kc3 Kd6 43. Kb4 f5 44. Kxa3 Kc5 Black would retain good winning chances.  )
40... Ke7 41. Kd2 Ba4 42. Kc1
42. c4 Kd6 43. Kc3 Kc5 And Black should win because
44. Bb3 Loses to
44... Bxb3 45. Kxb3 a2 46. Kxa2 Kxc4 And the king-and-pawn endgame is a simple one for Black to win.  )
42... f5! Well played by Eljanov. Black needs to create another passed pawn.
43. exf5 Bc6 44. Kd2
44. Kc2 Bxf3 45. Kb3 e4 White cannot survive.  )
44... Bxf3 45. c4 Kf6 46. Ke3 Bc6 47. Bb3 Kxf5 48. h3 Ke6 49. Ba2 Kd6 50. Kd3 Kc5 51. Kc3 e4 52. Bb3 Be8 53. Bd1 e3 54. Be2 Bf7 55. Kb3 Bxc4+ 56. Bxc4 a2

I thought that Carlsen would go after Wei Yi, China’s rising star, and this turned out to be correct:

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Wei Yi
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 4 | 17 Jan 2017 | 1-0
16. d4 Bf4?! I don't like this move. Black's bishop looks excellent on f4, but the problem is that it cannot necessarily stay there.
16... Bf6 This would have been my choice, after which Black would have been fine.  )
17. Ne2! Qf6
17... Bh6 18. h4! And Black would have some problems to solve.  )
18. Kg2 exd4?! Asking for trouble.
18... Rfe8 A simple move like this one would have been better. I don't love Black's position, but he would still be pretty solid in the center.  )
19. Nfxd4! White can take the bishop later; it is not going anywhere.
19... Rfe8
19... Be5? 20. f4! Bxf4 21. Rf1 And White should win.  )
20. Nxf4 Qxf4 21. f3 This structure is a disaster for Black. If white can play f4 at some point, he will have a large edge. There seems to be no apparent way to stop this plan.
21... Nb6
21... d5 Perhaps this move was best, but after:
22. exd5 cxd5 23. Rxe8+ Rxe8 24. Ba4! Black would have faced a long and unpleasant defensive task.  )
22. Qc1! Exchanging the queen on f4 to clear the way for the White pawn.
22... Qxc1 23. Raxc1 White is about to play. Black tries to slow it down with a semi-drastic measure, but it comes up short.
23... d5!?
23... a5 24. f4  )
24. e5 Nd7 25. f4 White's pawn majority on the kingside is much more dangerous than Black's on the queenside
25... Bxc2 26. Rxc2 Nc5 27. Re3 Rad8 28. Kf3 Ne4 The knight on e4 looks nice, but Carlsen just skirts around it. Eventually, c4 will undermine the knight's defense.
29. b4
29. c4 I would be very tempted to play this move now, but I suppose Carlsen did not want to allow Black to play Nc5.  )
29. g5 The engine recommends this move. It looks bizarre; I much prefer c4 or b4.  )
29... g5?
29... f6! Good or bad, Black had to play this move to have any chance.
30. e6 Nd6 31. f5 White is clearly better.  )
30. c4! White's king will be quite happy on f4, while Black's knight on e4 is in trouble.
30... c5?
30... Rd7 This move was more resilient, but Black would still have been much worse after:
31. cxd5 cxd5 32. h4!?  )
31. Nb5 gxf4 32. Kxf4 cxb4 33. cxd5 Wei resigned as he would lose a lot of material after
33... Nc3
33... Rxd5 34. Nc7  )
34. Nxc3 bxc3 35. Ke4!

So won his second game in a row, this time against Loek van Wely of the Netherlands who is struggling badly as he has only managed half a point so far in the tournament.

van Wely, Loek vs. So, Wesley
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 4 | 17 Jan 2017 | 0-1
Bc7 In this tense position, Black is up a pawn, but the White pawn On d7 is obviously dangerous. If it can be contained or captured, Black will have a big edge.
31. b3?
31. Rxd3! This was the way to continue. It looks a bit scary for White, but after
31... exd3 32. Rc1! Black cannot avoid the loss of the d-pawn. For example:
32... b6 33. Rc3 d2 34. Rd3 And White would be fine.  )
31... b5?!
31... Bd8! After this move, White is in trouble.  )
32. Be7? White misses his best chance.
32. Rc1! c4 33. bxc4 b4 34. Bf6! And White would have a fair amount of counterplay because the pawn on d7 cannot be taken immediately.
34... Kf7 35. Bd4 And in this messy endgame, chances would be about equal.  )
32... c4 33. bxc4 bxc4 34. Rc1 Rxd7 35. Ba3 Be5 Black loses one of his extra pawns, but his one-pawn advantage is more than enough for a player of So's strength.
36. Rxc4 a4 37. Rc6 Rd3 38. Bc5 a3 39. Rxg6+?
39. Bxa3 This move was more resilient.
39... Rdxa3 40. Rxg6+ Kf7 41. Rg5 And White can continue to resist a bit. He might even be able to draw.  )
39... Kf7 40. Rg5 a2 41. Rxf5+ Ke6 42. Rxe5+ Kxe5 43. Bd4+ Rxd4! White resigned instead of facing
44. exd4+ Kxd4 45. Ra1 Kc3 When Black will be able to promote the a-pawn after Kb2.

Wednesday is the first rest day of the tournament. When play resumes Thursday, I will be interested to see how Eljanov will handle White in his game against Levon Aronian of Armenia.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.