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    « Wijk aan Zee Concludes: Aronian Wins The Top Group; Saric The Challengers | Main | Wijk aan Zee, Round 8 »
    Thursday
    Jan232014

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 9: Aronian Close to Clinching

    (I guess I shouldn't call the tournament "Wijk aan Zee" now that they've turned it into a travelling circus, but that is the tournament's traditional location, it gives the event a continuity that outlasts its various sponsors, and the present sponsor's name induces titters for those familiar with English slang. So "Wijk aan Zee" it is. On with the report!)

    Round 9 has just about put an end to the drama that was the race for first. Levon Aronian entered the round with a slim half-point lead over Sergey Karjakin, and they were paired in this round. As they are also playing in the Candidates tournament in March, this was a psychologically important duel as well. It worked out swimmingly for Aronian. He had the white pieces, which surely helped, and was able to obtain sustained pressure against his younger opponent. The critical moment came after Aronian's 30.Rbc1. Karjakin finally had the chance to equalize, but doing so required the counterintuitive sequence 30...Rfe8 31.Qh4 g5. Black instead gave up a pawn to break White's bind, but a few exchanges later the result was a winning pawn-up ending for Aronian, and he converted his advantage into a win.

    The loss left Karjakin a point and a half behind Aronian with two rounds to go, and no one is any closer to the leader. Three other players are tied with Karjakin with 5.5 points: Anish Giri (who drew on the black side of an interesting London System against Richard Rapport), Fabiano Caruana (who also drew with Black, against Hikaru Nakamura), and Leinier Dominguez (drew with Black against Boris Gelfand).

    Two other players are another half a point behind, and they both won their games. Penteala Harikrishna blew Arkadij Naiditsch and his Veresov/London System/Barry hybrid off the board in just 19 moves, while Wesley So put a stop to Loek van Wely's rally with a win on the white side of a Classical King's Indian. (At one time van Wely had a veritable grudge match going against Teimour Radjabov trying to prove that the King's Indian was unsound; it appears he has come over to the "dark side".)

    The players have a final rest day tomorrow, and then they'll finish up the tournament over the weekend. (The B-Group - a.k.a. the Challengers - had its final rest day today.) When they resume on Saturday, it will be with these pairings (player scores are given in parentheses):

    • Giri (5.5) - Karjakin (5.5)
    • Dominguez (5.5) - Aronian (7)
    • van Wely (4) - Gelfand (2.5)
    • Harikrishna (5) - So (5)
    • Caruana (5.5) - Naiditsch (1.5)
    • Rapport (3.5) - Nakamura (3.5)

    The tournament site is here, and the games (mostly unannotated, but with some remarks to the Aronian-Karjakin and Naiditsch-Harikrishna games) are here.

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    Reader Comments (7)

    Great performance by Aronian! Though he didn't assessed his position is clearly winning, even after the Q exchange. In the interview he stated, that Ivanchuc drew him easily in a simular position. (actually slightly worse for black with a more advanced b pawn)
    Karjakin took it with humor, twittering:
    "Assessing today's game, I can quote Levon Aronian: Martians stole my brain"

    January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

    It isn't a story of "various sponsors", but the same sponsor changing names due to mergers with other companies. As to travelling circus, maybe the event can now be referred to as Netherlands Chess, like the past and forthcoming Norway Chess event, but Wijk aan Zee is still the main venue. At Eindhoven University, the chess players were 'decoration' for a Tata Steel recruitment day - something I heard from IM Ligterink in Wijk aan Zee last Sunday, and now he also mentioned it (rather critically) in 'de Volkskrant', a major Dutch newspaper. Fair enough though IMHO if the sponsor comes up with such ideas?

    van Wely always also played the black side of the KID, also against world-top players - to name his previous Corus/Tata Steel opponents since 2010: Kramnik, Topalov, Carlsen, Aronian (King Loek got two draws and two losses from these games). The grudge match against Radjabov was about one specific line (Bayonet Attack) - interestingly, none of his Wijk aan Zee opponents tried this line against van Wely (also not Kramnik who played it at other occasions).

    [DM: You are correct, though referring to post-2010 games is a little artificial since the duel with Radjabov came before that. Of course he played it before 2010 as well, though it looks like he took 4-5 years off from it at around the turn of the century. He has also played the white side of the KID twice as often overall, but I was mistaken in thinking that the KID wasn't a regular part of his black repertoire.]

    January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Referring to the Tata Steel event as a "travelling circus" seems a bit misleading, since the entire event takes place at only one venue. Perhaps you're thinking of AVRO 1938, which took place at 3-4 different Dutch cities/towns, and this shuttling around indeed took a toll on the older players, such as Capablanca and Alekhine.

    [DM: Incorrect. Most of the event was played in one venue, but if you look at the tournament website (http://www.tatasteelchess.com/) you'll see it right there, bright as day near the top of the right sidebar. "NEW: CHESS ON TOUR The 76th edition of Tata Steel Chess will be played at 3 locations in the Netherlands!" Just above that it lists the three locations.]

    Let's give Wijk aan Zee its due---at least it's taken place year after year with no interruption for at least 25 years or so, correct ? Wasn't there once a super-strong chess tournament that used to take place in Linares in the 80's and 90's, for example. Due to sponsorship issues, they ended up for 1-2 years having to stage one half in Linares and the other in.......Mexico (across the ocean, no less !). And now that tournament seems to have disappeared from the radar altogether.

    January 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHoward S Sample

    In response to Howard S. Sample: Wijk aan Zee exists since 1938, and was cancelled only once in 1945 - maybe it is the second-oldest ongoing event after Hastings, which is however no longer a supertournament. Now it seems safe from one year to the next one, 2015 will take place, 2016 onwards is "unclear" at the moment.

    Overheard in the press room: Aeroflot won't take place this year, maybe again next year (changes in the management might become beneficial for chess); the answer of a Russian journalist (forgot his name) to my question "is Tal Memorial safe?" was "I hope so!".

    And there was a press conference with Spanish journalist Leontxo Garcia, ECU President Silvio Danailov and a representative of Bilbao tourism announcing that the European Club Cup and half of the Grand Slam Masters Final will take place in Bilbao. The Masters Final co-organizer will be presented in a few weeks, currently they are negotiating with venues in America and Asia. Confirmed players are Carlsen, Anand, Aronian and Caruana - two more to be determined after Zurich and the candidates event. Kramnik would be welcome (I think Garcia, not Danailov said so) but doesn't like intercontinental tournaments at all.

    January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Wijk aan Zee was also the subject of one of the best tournament books ever written. The 1975 event, strong for the day but not exactly a super tournament, had a book written by "the players", but was primarily written by Lubosh Kavalek. I still go back and read that book about once a year. (In fact, I think I'll get it off the shelf after I post this.) He gives a summary not just of every round, but almost of every game. The stories are really quite good, especially the ones about Walter Browne. It gave a really nice feel to how a tournament worked for a professional at that time. PLus there were a few great games, Portish-Kavalek being the most spectacular. (And great notes for that one, from a number of sources.) I recommend the book to anyone, if you can find it.

    But I do believe the tournament was held for a while in the nearby town of Beverwijk. Maybe someone else remembers more clearly, or wants to use search engine on the problem.

    January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIcepick

    Here it is, from the tournament book I mentioned.

    From the section entitled "History of the Hoogoven Chess Tournament" by Piet Zwart:

    The growth of the tournament (the number of participants in the groups of ten and four were increasing every year), forced the organization to leave the Kennemer Theatre in Beverwijk wherethe tournament had taken place practically from the beginning. With the start of the 30th tournament [in 1968, won by Korchnoy], officially opened by Prince Claus, the husband of Crown Princess Beatrix, the tournament site was moved to Wijk aan Zee, a lovely seaside resort belonging to the municipality of Beverwijk.

    So 30 years in Beverwijk, and 46 or so in Wijk aan Zee. Looking at a map they're about three miles apart.

    It was initially organized by the "Hoogovens" Chess Club, composed of workers of the blast furnace and steel works and Ijmuiden, and started out as a weekend tournament in 1938. As mentioned previously, the only year they missed was 1945, due to the privations of war, which led to the pea soup tradition, but I don't know if that still exists.

    [DM: The pea soup tradition? Yes, it's still alive and well.]

    January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIcepick

    Anyone interested in the history of the event (when it changed names, when it moved from Beverwijk to Wijk aan Zee, who played over the years) can simply consult the tournament homepage which has a lot of information.

    The pea soup tradition still exists, but the traditional pea soup dinner (by invitation) also suffered from budget cuts. It used to be in the commentary tent temporarily put up on a green space in the middle of the village, with room for about 1,000 people [amateurs playing in the groups of ten could join if they wanted to]. This year, there was no commentary tent, and the pea soup dinner was held in the players' hotel with space for about 150 people.

    January 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

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