But three players, including Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion, trail by half a point.
The masters section of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament is poised for a very interesting finish. Wesley So of the United States still leads, as he has throughout most of the competition, but there are three players — Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the World Champion, Levon Aronian of Armenia and Wei Yi of China — within half a point heading into the last round.
So actually faced Wei in Round 12 but couldn’t put much pressure on him. That allowed Carlsen and Aronian to close the gap after both won.
Tata Steel Chess 2017
Magnus Carlsen, left, and Pavel Eljanov before the start of Round 12.
Carlsen had to really work hard to win with Black against Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine. Throughout much of the game, Carlsen had a rather passive position while Eljanov seemed to be the one exerting pressure. But as he has done so many times, Carlsen kept everything in control and then seized the crucial moment to start turning things around:
Eljanov, Pavel vs. Carlsen, Magnus
79th Tata Steel GpA |Wijk aan Zee NED |Round 12.1 |28 Jan 2017 |ECO: A90 |0-1
1. d4e62. c4f53. g3Nf64. Bg2d55. Nf3Bd66. Nc3c67. Bf4Bxf48. gxf4O-O9. e3Bd710. Qb3Qc711. O-OBe812. Rfc1Qe713. Qa3Qxa314. bxa3Nbd715. Rab1Rb816. a4a517. Rb2Ne418. Nxe4dxe419. Ng5Rf620. f3h621. Nh3exf322. Bxf3Rf723. Nf2c524. Nd3cxd425. exd4Nf626. Nc5Ne427. Nxe6Bxa428. d5Bd729. Bxe4fxe430. Nc5Bg4!It was natural to expect the bishop to go to f5, so this must have come for a surprise for White. 31. Re1Rc8!
( 31... Rxf432. Rxe4Rbf833. Rxf4Rxf434. Ne6Would have quickly led to a drawn endgame. )
( 32. Nxb7Rb833. Reb1Rxf4Would be a very double-edged position. The
central pawns look dangerous, but Black has threats as well: 34. c5Bh3!Black has mating threats! 35. c6Rbf8And Rf1 can't be prevented. )
32... Rxf433. Nd6
( 33. Nd2 )
33... Rcf834. Rb3R8f635. Ne4It might look like White can win both the queenside pawns with
( 35. Nxb7but Black can use kingside threats to save the a5 pawn: 35... a4!36. Rc3Rg637. Rg3Rxc4Keeping the pressure on. )
35... Rg636. Rg3b637. d6An inaccuracy. Perhaps Eljanov became ambitious, or maybe he just didn't sense any danger. He clearly didn't expect Black's reply.
( 37. h3!Bf538. Rxg6Bxg639. Nd6With one of the rooks off the board, White's defensive job would be much simpler and White should have been able to draw without too much difficulty. )
37... Kh7!The rook on g6 is defended, so White doesn't have options like h3. It is no longer easy for White to find good moves. Perhaps White could have played a waiting move like Ree3, but that would have been difficult to make that shift psychologically. So Eljanov tries a more extreme approach: 38. Nf2
( 38. c5bxc539. Nxc5Rxd6 )
38... Rxc439. Nxg4Rgxg440. Rxg4Rxg4+41. Kf2The conventional wisdom is that rook pawn endgames are often drawish even if material is not equal, so Eljanov's decision makes sense. 41... Rd442. Re6Kg843. Ke3Rd144. d7Rxd745. Rxb6Without the a-pawns, this would be a draw. But in this position, it isn't so clear. 45... Rd546. Rb2The passive setup does not seem to work. Perhaps it was better to sacrifice the h2-pawn for the a-pawn, but I am not sure how that would have fared either. It is very hard to assess these endgames. 46... Kh747. Ke4
( 47. a4!?Would have been an interesting defensive setup. It is very hard to evaluate after 47... Rh548. Rb5Rxh249. Rxa5 )
47... Rh5!48. Kf4Rh4+49. Kg3g5Getting the rook to the a-file, which would keep the White rook very passive. 50. Rb7+Kg651. Rb6+Kh552. h3An interesting defensive idea: White sacrifices the a-pawn and hopes this
is a fortress. It almost is!
( 52. Rb2Ra453. Kg2Ra3White continues to suffer, but there is no easy way to win for Black. 54. Rc2Kh455. Rb2g456. Rc2h557. Rd2a458. Rc2Rd359. Re2a360. Rc2Rd1!The Black rook gets to the second rank and after that it's game over. )
( 52. Rb3Ra453. a3Might have been the best defensive attempt, but I think eventually Black would probably. Having the rook on the third rank is a better defense for White, but it is not quite enough once Black manages to transfer his rook there and starts threatening to enter on the kingside. )
52... Ra453. Rc6Ra3+54. Kg2Rxa2+55. Kg3The idea is that while the White rook is on the sixth rank, the Black king can't move. 55... a456. Ra6a357. Kf3How will Black improve? The key is that after the White rook is forced to leave the sixth rank, the Black king can go Kh4 and collect the h-pawn. 57... Rb258. Kg3a259. Kf3a1=Q!60. Rxa1Kh4And the h- pawn will fall.
The endgame was particularly instructive. It didn’t seem to be an easy win to me, but Carlsen’s technique was flawless, and I now think that it is very hard to defend that type of endgame.
Aronian also deserved all praise for a pretty victory against Loek Van Wely of the Netherlands — although it wasn’t as hard or impressive as his Round 10 win against Richard Rapport of Hungary. Everything from the following position worked like clockwork:
Aronian, Levon vs. Van Wely, Loek
79th Tata Steel GpA |Wijk aan Zee NED |Round 12.4 |28 Jan 2017 |ECO: E81 |1-0
Rb7It seems like a typical Benoni position. It would appear that Black doesn't have anything particularly to worry about. But Aronian starts weaving his magic: 24. Qf4!After Qh4, it will be impossible for Black to get rid of this pin. Black tries some desperate measures: 24... Qe725. Qh4Qe526. Rd2!Taking away the d4 square from the queen.
( 26. f4Qd4!The queen would be perfectly placed on d4. )
( 26... Nd7!?27. f4Qg7Made some sense, if Black wanted to avoid sacrifices. White could now have followed with the thematic sacrifice: 28. e5!dxe529. f5With Ne4 to follow. The Black pieces are very passive and poorly placed. )
27. f4!Qxe4!?An interesting sacrifice.
( 27... Qe728. bxc4 )
28. Nxe4Nxe429. Re1!This required some very precise calculation by Aronian. 29... Bc3
( 29... Bb5!Was a much better defensive move, but White would still have had a kingside initiative. At least the two minor pieces would have provided Black with decent compensation. 30. f5!gxf531. g4f432. Bxf4 )
30. f5!Bxd231. Bxd2Bxd532. Rxe4!Aronian had to have foreseen this when he played Re1! 32... Bxe4
( 32... Rxe433. Qd8+Kg734. f6# )
33. Qf6!Bxg2+34. Kg1After Bh6, Black's king will be in a mating net.
I was most impressed by the game between Radoslaw Wojtaszek Poland and Dmitry Andreikin of Russia. Neither player has done particularly well in the event, but they do continue to play interesting games. Their game in Round 12 started somewhat slowly, but then Andreikin avoided a drawish line to sacrifice an exchange. The computers disagreed with Andreikin’s plan, but his idea had an aesthetic appeal, which was justified as he walked his king across the board. It was equally impressive to see how Wojtaszek dealt with his problems and found a precise defense at the very end:
Wojtaszek, Radoslaw vs. Andreikin, Dmitry
79th Tata Steel GpA |Wijk aan Zee NED |Round 12.3 |28 Jan 2017 |ECO: D15 |1/2-1/2
31. Nd4Ba6!?32. Bc6+Rxc633. Nxc6Rc834. Nd4b4It is difficult to evaluate the chances in this position. During the game, I felt these two pawns were very dangerous and I think that Wojtaszek must have been very worried. 35. Rab1c336. Nxf5Bc5White has a lot of pawns, but they aren't dangerous. Meanwhile, all of Black's pieces are very harmoniously coordinated around his pawns. 37. Nd4Bxd4!The computers don't like this move and it is not immediately clear why it is good. But if Black did not play this, White could have easily set up a blockade on the
queenside by playing Nb3 and it would have been impossible to break. It doesn't look like Black has a way to do so even after Bxd4, but Andreikin had a long-term plan up his sleeve.
( 37... Bd338. Nb3!Bxb139. Rxb1 )
38. exd4Rc439. f3Kd7!The king is coming! It is a very deep idea. 40. Kf2Kc641. Ke3Kb5The king is headed to c4. Black's plan looks slow, but he is almost there. If the king gets to c4, then the White rooks will be useless. 42. g4Rc8!?The pawn on g4 can be ignored, of course. 43. Kd3!
( 43. gxh5Kc4!44. h6Re8+45. Kf2b3 )
43... Kxa5+44. Kc2The White king is awkwardly placed, but it does the job of keeping the Black pawns in check. 44... Bc445. Ra1+Kb546. Ra7!White is in time to find some counterplay of his own.
( 46. gxh5Be6Followed by Kc4. White still has problems. )
46... Bd547. Kd3!Controlling the c4 square, and setting up the net to put the Black king in a perpetual check. 47... b348. Rca1!b249. R1a5+Kb650. R5a6+A pretty neat defensive save at the end! 50... Kb551. Ra5+Kb6
The remaining games, which were all drawn, weren’t as interesting, but there were some moments worth noting in most of them. The game between So and Wei was slightly anti-climatic. Wei chose a slightly unusual and passive variation that has served him well in the past. For some reason, So did not seem to be prepared for that. Essentially, they followed a game Wei had played three years ago, until So deviated with a worse move and let Wei off easy:
So, Wesley vs. Wei Yi
79th Tata Steel GpA |Wijk aan Zee NED |Round 12.5 |28 Jan 2017 |ECO: D41 |1/2-1/2
1. Nf3d52. d4Nf63. c4e64. Nc3c55. cxd5The more commonly played moves are Nxd5 or exd5. But Wei chose: 5... cxd4This is usually considered to lead to slightly worse, or passive endgame for Black. But Wei has successfully drawn in this position as Black in previous games. 6. Qxd4exd57. e4Nc68. Bb5dxe49. Qxd8+Kxd810. Ng5Be6All the previous moves have been played before and are well known theory. 11. Bxc6bxc612. Nxe6+fxe613. Ke2Bb414. Na4Kc715. Bf4+A novelty. Instead of 15. Be3, which was played in Ding Liren vs. Wei Yi in 2014, White is able to force the Black bishop to a poorer position. I think that So had not prepared this move before the game but found it over the board. 15... Bd616. Be3Nd517. Rac1Rhf8Black seems to have no problems. Everything soon simplified to a very drawish endgame: 18. Nc5Bxc519. Rxc5Nf4+20. Bxf4+Rxf4And the players drew soon afterward.
Baskaran Adhiban of India continued his trend of playing slightly off beat lines. In Round 12, he caught Anish Giri of the Netherlands slightly off guard — it seemed that Giri’s position was possibly worse — but Giri had everything under control and used some tactics to save it all:
Adhiban, Baskaran vs. Giri, Anish
79th Tata Steel GpA |Wijk aan Zee NED |Round 12.2 |28 Jan 2017 |ECO: C24 |1/2-1/2
14. d4O-O-O!The move dxe5 is clearly not possible, but Black had to correctly calculate 15. Qa4a6!Now dxe5 is still not possible. 16. Qb3
( 16. dxe5Bc5+17. Kh1fxe5And Black's position will be very comfortable after he takes the White knight. )
16... Qxb317. axb3Ng6With a fairly equal position.
After 18. Nxg6hxg619. Bf4Bxf420. Rxf4Rde8Only Black could be better, but Giri put less pressure on Adhiban than he could have in the rest of the game and it ended in a draw.
Pentala Harikrishna of India got confused in the opening against Richard Rapport of Hungary and ended up in a worse endgame. Fortunately for him, it was not too hard to defend and he managed to draw.
Harikrishna, Pentala vs. Rapport, Richard
79th Tata Steel GpA |Wijk aan Zee NED |Round 12.7 |28 Jan 2017 |ECO: B12 |1/2-1/2
h5The Caro-kann lines are confusing because there are so many precise move orders. In this position, Harikrishna became a bit careless: 9. Nd2?Forgetting about a well-known tactic: 9... Ndxe5!10. dxe5d4And Black wins the piece back. Harikrishna finds a good way to minimize the damage by sacrificing a pawn and going into a drawish endgame: 11. Nc4dxe312. Nxe3!?The move fxe3 would have kept material equal and White may even have been fine. But White's pawn structure would clearly leave much to be desired. So Harikrishna chooses to defend a worse endgame instead: 12... Nxe513. Nxf5exf514. Nd3It is hard for Black to avoid the exchanges. 14... Bd615. Nxe5Bxe516. Qxd8+Kxd817. c3The position isn't ideal for White, but it is not too difficult for White to hold it. Rapport tried hard for a long time, but he never came too close to a win.
The other game, between Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachchi, both of Russia, was not too interesting. Nepomniachtchi, who had Black, seemed to be better prepared and equalized without making much efforts.
Tata Steel Chess 2017
The playing hall in Wijk aan Zee.
So finishes up with Black against Nepomniachtchi. This game could be interesting as Nepomniachtchi is capable of playing explosively. Carlsen has White against Karjakin, his opponent during last year’s World Championship match in New York. Karjakin edged Carlsen out of the World Blitz Championship last month and he no doubt wants to spoil another event for Carlsen, while Carlsen wouldn’t mind getting a little revenge.
Aronian has Black against Andreikin and Wei has White against Wojtaszek, so there are plenty of interesting games to watch.
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.
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