Blunders and oversights plagued the players in Round 7, but at the end of the day, Wesley So still led, trailed now by three players.

Another day, another escape for Wesley So.

So, the leader of the top group of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, was in trouble in Round 7 on Saturday. But just as he had before, he went on to draw. That was enough to hold on to the lead.

So, who plays for the United States, now has 5 points, followed by Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the World Champion, Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine and Wei Yi of China, who each have 4.5 points.

Almost all of the games were lively and for a while it looked like there might be as many as six decisive results, but it turned out to be a day of missed opportunities for some players.

Wei moved into a tie for the lead by beating Loek van Wely of the Netherlands, who lost his fifth game of the tournament. It was an opening disaster for van Wely as he played a system that is known to be suspect. (I have certainly been aware of the problems with it since 2014.)

Wei Yi vs. van Wely, Loek
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 7 | 21 Jan 2017 | 1-0
8. O-O Qc5? I don't think this move is any good.
9. Bd5! e6 10. Re1! The point. Black has spent a ton of time trying to win the bishop pair, but it does not work as White can now leave the light-squared bishop on d5.
10... Be7
10... exd5 11. exd5+ Kd8 12. Ne4 White has a massive attack.  )
11. Be3! Qa5
11... exd5 12. Nf5 Qc7 13. Nxg7+ Kf8 14. Nf5 And the Black king will almost certainly perish in the center.  )
12. Bxe6! fxe6 13. Nxe6 This position is extremely dangerous for Black.
13... Nc5?
13... Kf7 This move was best, but even so, after:
14. Ng5+ Kf8 15. f4 White is having all the fun in this game.  )
14. b4!?
14. Nxg7+ This looks more natural to me but of course the move played by White wins as well.  )
14... Qxb4 15. Nc7+ Kd8 16. N3d5 Nxd5 17. Nxd5 Qa3
17... Qa5 18. e5 And Black's king will die in the center.  )
18. Nb6
18. e5 I would be very tempted by this move.  )
18... Rb8 19. Nc4 The simplest solution. It takes a while to win, but there's not really any doubt of the final result.
19. e5 This would have ended the game more quickly.  )
19... Qb4 20. Nxd6 Nd3 The only possible chance to salvage a draw.
21. Qxd3 Qxd6 22. Qxd6+! Simple and strong. With some forcing moves, White trades down to an ending with two extra pawns.
22... Bxd6 23. Rad1 Kc7 24. Rxd6! Kxd6 25. Bf4+ Ke6 26. Bxb8 Bd7 27. Ba7 Wei converted his advantage in the ending without any major problems.
27... Rc8 28. Rc1 Rc4 29. f3 Ra4 30. Ra1 Rc4 31. c3 b5 32. a3 a5 33. Bb6 Ra4 34. Bd4 g6 35. Kf2 g5 36. Ke3 Bc6 37. Kd2 h5 38. Kc2 b4 39. cxb4 axb4 40. axb4 Rxb4 41. Kc3 Ra4 42. Rxa4 Bxa4 43. g3 h4 44. f4 gxf4 45. gxf4 h3 46. Kd2 Kd6 47. Ke3 Bc2 48. f5 Kc6 49. Kf4 Bd3 50. Bb2 Bc2 51. e5 Kd5 52. Kg5 Bd3 53. e6

One of the biggest missed opportunitites belonged to Carlsen. He had been in excellent form, winning effortlessly in both games in which he had White and drawing effortlessly in the games in which he had Black. It looked like he was about to pick up a third win, this time against Anish Giri of the Netherlands, until disaster struck:

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Giri, Anish
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 7 | 21 Jan 2017 | 1/2-1/2
e3 Carlsen had played a fine game so far and now had a winning position. He just needed to make a few more accurate moves. Instead, he faltered.
51. Rh7+! This move is a good start.
51... Ke8
51... Kf6 52. Rh6+! Ke7 53. Rxe6+ Kxe6 54. Rd3 And White wins the pawn, after which he should be able to win the game rather easily.  )
52. Rxc7 e2 The pawn is very menacing on e2, but White has more than one way to win.
53. Bf3!
53. Rg5!? Even this move was good enough, but was more what a computer would play.
53... Kd8 54. Rb7! e1=Q 55. Bxc6! Re2+ 56. Kh3 Qf1+ 57. Kg4 Black is out of checks and cannot stop Rg8.  )
53... e1=Q 54. Bh5+ Kf8 55. Rf5+ Kg8 56. Bf7+? A step in the wrong direction. White is still winning but now he has to be absurdly precise.
56. Rc8+ This would likely have led to immediate resignation. For example:
56... Kg7 57. Rf7+ Kh6 58. Rh8#  )
56... Kh8 57. Rh5+ Kg7 58. Bxe6+ Kf6 59. Rh6+? The last mistake, though at this point it was very hard to win the game.
59. Bc4! This was probably still enough to win. Black would only have one check, and the White rooks would be very dangerous.
59... Ne5 60. Rh6+! Kf5 61. Bd3+! Carlsen may have overlooked this move.
61... Kg4 62. Rg7+ Kf3 63. Rf6+ Ke3 64. Bf1 Nf3+ 65. Rxf3+! Kxf3 66. Bg2+! And Black will lose the queen to a skewer.  )
59... Ke5 60. Bh3 Qd2+! 61. Bg2 Qxh6 62. Rxc6 This is a almost certainly draw, though I think it would be winning if White had the dark-squared bishop instead so that Black could not sacrifice the queen for the rook and g-pawn, as indeed happened. Still, White was able to push for a long time. I recall a similar thing happening in a funny blitz game between Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and Peter Leko of Hungary. I saw the game on YouTube and I recommend watching it.
62... Qh7 63. Rc4 Kf6 64. Rg4 Qd7 65. Rg5 Qc7 66. Rb5 Qc2 67. Rb6+ Kg7 68. Re6 Qa2 69. Re7+ Kf6 70. Re4 Kg7 71. Kh3 Qf7 72. Re2 Qf5+ 73. Kh2 Qf6 74. Be4 Qf1 75. Rc2 Qe1 76. Bf3 Qf1 77. Bg2 Qe1 78. Rc7+ Kh8 79. Rc4 Qe2 80. Re4 Qd2 81. Re6 Qa2 82. Re8+ Kg7 83. Re7+ Kh8 84. Re3 Qd2 85. Rf3 Qd7 86. Rb3 And the game ended in a draw at move 123.

The tournament almost had a new leader, but Eljanov missed a good chance against So, allowing him to escape.

So, Wesley vs. Eljanov, Pavel
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 7 | 21 Jan 2017 | 1/2-1/2
29. Kg2 White was fairly careless in this game as he brought his rooks to the queenside, abandoning his king. Eljanov now missed his best chance.
29... Qf7?
29... Rbf8! 30. Nxe4 Nf3! 31. Qh3 c5!! The point. White's pieces are pushed back.
32. dxc6 Qxc6 White can do nothing to prevent Black from playing d5.  )
30. Nxe4! Qxd5 31. Rd4 Nf3 32. Nf6+! Well calculated.
32... Rxf6 33. Rxd5 Nxh4+ 34. gxh4 White is now fine.
34... Rbf8 35. Rd2 Rg6+ 36. Kh1 Rf3 37. Re1 Re6 38. Rd4

In an incredible turnaround, Baskaran Adhiban of India choked in a complex position against Radoslaw Wojtaszek and seemed certain to lose. But then Wojtaszek returned the favor, going from winning to losing in a few moves!

Wojtaszek, Radoslaw vs. Adhiban, Baskaran
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 7 | 21 Jan 2017 | 0-1
36. Qb4 Bxb5? This move should have led to Black's demise. White now has a clear edge.
37. Nd1! Black cannot stop the twin threats of Nc3 and Qxd6.
37... Kh7 Black responds to the bigger threat, but...
38. Qxd6 White's edge should now be decisive.
38. Nc3? Qc4 The point of Kh7
39. Qxc4 Black is not being checked, so he has time for:
39... Rxb2+  )
38... Be2 39. Qxe5 Ra5 40. Qd6 Ra2 41. Qb4? As soon as White makes the first time control and receives more time, he starts to err! Go figure.
41. Qd7 Would have been virtually decisive.  )
41... b5 42. Nf2 Ne6 43. Ra1? Another error.
43. Qc3! White would still be clearly winning after this move.  )
43... Rxa1! 44. Bxa1 Qa7! White is now in trouble as Black threatens Qa1 and Qe3.
45. Qd2 Qe3 46. Qxe3 fxe3 Black now has good counterplay.
47. Be5 b4 48. c7? I guess Wojtaszek missed that b4 clears the square a6 for the bishop?
48. Nh3  )
48... exf2! 49. Kxf2 Ba6! Black is up a piece and went on to win.
50. Ke3 g6 51. Kd2 Kg8 52. Kc2 Bc8 53. Kb3 Nc5+ 54. Kc4 Na6 55. Bd6 Be6+ 56. Kd4 Kf7 57. f4 b3 58. Kc3 Ke8 59. c8=Q+ Bxc8 60. Kxb3 Kd7 61. Ba3 Bb7 62. f5 Bxe4 63. f6 Bd5+ 64. Kc3 Nc7 65. Kd3 Ke6 66. Bc1 Nb5

Sergey Karjakin of Russia beat Levon Aronian of Armenia, but he did it the hard way as he missed an easy sequence that would have netted him a piece early on:

Karjakin, Sergey vs. Aronian, Levon
Tata Steel Masters | Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands | Round 7 | 21 Jan 2017 | 1-0
10. Bb3 f6? A surprising oversight from a player of Aronian's caliber.
11. d4? Mutual blindness! White could have drastically shortened the game by playing:
11. c4! This anti-positional move simply wins a piece! After the knight moves
11... Ndb4 12. c5 And there is nothing that Black can do to avoid the loss of a piece.  )
11... Bf7 Now the position is about equal once again, though White eventually won.
12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. Bxd5 Bxd5 14. Nxe5 fxe5 15. Be3 Bc6 16. Nd2 Qf6 17. Qe2 Qg6 18. f3 Rad8 19. Bxb6 axb6 20. Ne4 Rf4 21. Rad1 Rdf8 22. Qc4+ Kh8 23. Kh2 h6 24. Rd2 Kh7 25. Qd3 Kh8 26. Rde2 Qe6 27. b3 R4f7 28. Qe3 Re7 29. Qf2 Qd5 30. Re3 Qa5 31. Qb2 Rfe8 32. c4 Bd7 33. Nc3 c6 34. Ne4 Re6 35. Rd1 Bc8 36. b4 Qa8 37. Nd6 R8e7 38. Red3 Rd7 39. Qc2 Ree7 40. Qf2 Qb8 41. Qxb6 e4 42. fxe4 Rxe4 43. Qf2 Kg8 44. Qg3 Ree7 45. c5 Qc7 46. Nf5 Qxg3+ 47. Rxg3 Rf7 48. Nxh6+ Kh7 49. Nxf7 Rxd1 50. Re3 Bf5 51. Nd6 Bb1 52. a4 Bc2 53. a5 Rb1 54. Rc3 Bb3 55. Nxb7 Bd5 56. a6 Rxb4 57. Ra3 Rb2 58. h4

All-in-all, it was an extraordinary day of oversights, but I don’t believe there will so many missed opportunities in Round 8.


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.