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    « Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 7 Recap: Carlsen Catches Ivanchuk | Main | Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 5 Recap: Carlsen Wins, Caruana Loses, and Ivanchuk Continues to Lead »
    Friday
    Jan162015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 6: Carlsen Defeats Caruana; Ivanchuk Still Leads

    For now. With Magnus Carlsen winning his third game in a row, and his second straight over a key rival, I don't think the odds are looking good for the rest of the field when it comes to the battle for first. Carlsen is fit, playing well and confident, so it's going to take something special to stop him from rolling the field.

    Fabiano Caruana had White and good memories of having the last win in their series, and in addition he probably felt like he had the better position as well. Carlsen played risky chess in a Rossolimo Sicilian, counting on his counterplay to compensate for a compromised structure. Maybe he was never in grave danger, but 21.Rfe1, creating a cubbyhole for White's king on e2, might have given Carlsen some difficult problems to solve. After 21.Nh2? Caruana reached an endgame, but not an easy one. He hoped to buy his way out of his problems with 29.Bxf4?, but after 29...exf4 30.Kxg2 f3+ 31.Kf1? Rf4! his king was in a mating net. Carlsen won a few moves later, though he did miss a beautiful way to win more quickly and convincingly.

    The win clearly re-established the pecking order in the world rankings. After three rounds Caruana was closing in on the champion, within about 26 points, but now the gap is up to almost 49 points, and Caruana is in danger of falling to third place on the rating list. Levon Aronian, meanwhile, until recently the world's consistent #2 player, has fallen all the way to 8th and is more than 50 points lower-rated than he was a year ago. The biggest winner so far in the rating realm is Wesley So, who continues to fly up the rating list and has passed Hikaru Nakamura to take over the mantle as the highest-rated U.S. player.

    Back to the tournament. Vassily Ivanchuk (who is now going by "Vasil" rather than "Vassily" - I didn't hear the explanation of this, so if someone understands this please drop us a line in the comments) continues to lead after his draw with Ivan Saric, but maybe he could have had more if he had played 28.d5.

    Ding Liren entered the round tied for second place with Radoslaw Wojtaszek, but lost today to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Ding had prepared very deeply in a razor-sharp line of the Caro-Kann, and had he played 25...Rh5 he might have had decent chances for a win. Instead, it was the first of a series of inaccuracies, and by move 32 all he had left was a bad endgame a pawn down, and Vachier-Lagrave converted his advantage smoothly.

    As for Wojtaszek, he remains half a point behind the leader after a comfortable draw with Black against Hou Yifan. Hou tried a rare sideline against the Dragon that had worked well for Vladimir Onischuk, but Wojtaszek was well-prepared and put the line out of business.

    Wojtaszek and Carlsen are tied for second, and So joined them with a win over the suffering Baadur Jobava. Jobava found another interesting opening novelty - 7.Bd5 in the Giuoco Piano - and it looks like a good surprise idea for blitz or rapid. Classical chess is another story, and after a 15-minute think So found a way to neutralize it, and soon he stood better. Thanks to his bishop pair and pressure against f2 Black was always doing well, and with the exception of an understandable error on move 25 it was a convincing victory for the younger player.

    With a win Anish Giri could have made it a four-way tie for second, but if I've analyzed 15.Nf3 correctly he was fortunate to get a draw against Teimour Radjabov. Radjabov went for an entertaining rook sacrifice instead with 15.fxe6 dxe6 16.Rxf7, and the result was an entertaining flurry resulting in a perpetual check.

    Finally, in the only game where neither player could at least reach a tie for second with a win, Loek van Wely and Levon Aronian drew by repetition after 30 moves. The game had its interesting moments, though, and may have some theoretical significance as well, so it would be wrong to write it off as a "grandmaster draw" in the bad old sense.

    The tournament site is here, the games (with my comments) are here, and these are tomorrow's pairings for round 7:

    • Ding Liren (3.5) - van Wely (2)
    • Saric (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
    • Giri (3.5) - Ivanchuk (4.5)
    • So (4) - Radjabov (3)
    • Wojtaszek (4) - Jobava (.5)
    • Carlsen (4) - Hou Yifan (2)
    • Aronian (2) - Caruana (3)

    In the Challengers' group there were five wins, and four of them were quick and brutal: van Kampen's win vs. Dale, Navara's over Timman, Wei Yi's against Sevian and Shankland's vs. Michiels. Klein also won, vs. Gunina, in a long ending, while Haast-Saleh and l'Ami-Potkin were drawn. Navara and Wei Yi lead with 4.5/6 half a point ahead of Shankland, l'Ami and van Kampen.

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    Reader Comments (7)

    You might as well have reused the title from your Round 5 recap.

    [DM: The facts were the same, but knowing that Carlsen beat Caruana adds something to the earlier title. But if Ivanchuk and Carlsen win next round and Caruana loses again, maybe I will recycle the title.]

    January 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterspatri

    The games so far have been very entertaining. I'm not sure I would call the 7.Bd5 by Jobava an "interesting opening novelty" as it's generally recommended to keep the light square bishop and bring it back to b3 and play it like the Ruy Lopez. At least that's what GM's King, Davies, and Tiviakov recommend on their Fritz trainers. Then again, "interesting" doesn't necessarily mean good. Jobava plays very interesting chess but at this point in the tournament his rating has almost dropped below 2700. I hope he gets things straightened out as I enjoy his games.

    [DM: Obviously Jobava knows all of this; it's not likely that he skipped the day in 1100 school when they discussed that.]

    Carlsen has dispatched his main rivals and is on a roll. I would be every surprised to see Hou Yifan stand up to the pressure. If she does, I'll be impressed.

    It certainly didn't take Wesley So long to become the US #1. Maybe that will help Nakamura to raise his game. With So, Nakamura, and the Kamsky of just a few years ago, the US would be a formidable team in the Olympiad.

    The tournament is only reaching the halfway mark so we should have some more great chess. Ivanchuk is unpredictable (and I had no idea he was changing his name) but I doubt he will hold onto first place for much longer.

    January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNeal

    In Caruana-Carlsen the move order on moves 8-9 might be significant, since 8...e5 before castling allows White the option of 9.Nxe5, with the idea 9...Nxe4 10.Qf3. I don't presume to fully understand the resulting position, but at least according to computer evaluations Carlsen may have dodged a bullet there. At any rate, Caruana probably considered this possibility, since he spent nearly 13 minutes on the apparently obvious 9.0-0 (time which could have come in very handy in later stages of the game).

    [DM: I think you're right. 9.Nxe5 was played once, but pretty much everyone else played 9.Qd2 and it was business as usual. A strange conspiracy is afoot or there's a bad case of mutual blindness, because White really does seem better after 9.Nxe5. A can sort of see how Caruana could talk himself out of it, but it's odd to think that Carlsen prepared this move (8...e5), which looks like a lemon.]

    January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEyal

    Vassily is a Russian name, so maybe it is a protest of an Ukrainian patriot. But then Vasil is a Bulgarian first name (also sometimes used in Belarus and Albania), so to me it does not make much sense unless Ukrainians use Vasil too - I have never heard that.

    January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSimple Pole etc.

    Vasil is the Ukranian version of the Russian name Vassily, so this change has to be related to the ongoing events between Ukraine and Russia.

    January 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndrey

    Dear Dennis,

    thank you very much for every update you are presenting for us here in your blog. I very much enjoy passing by here regularly and catching up on the new developments in Wijk aan Zee, as a news report and with lightly commented games (they are spot on and just nice to follow).
    So thanks for all that! But please allow one little word of criticism: you should have played on against Kramnik when you had a won position. Normal players like do not get a chance like that too often, and so I guess we should go for it and try to win (though it comes at a risk, of course). So, when your next dream is up, then fingers crossed and all the best!

    January 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTiger-Oli

    This Ivanchuck name change...maybe it's better not to no y.

    [DM: Very good!]

    January 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLousy Puns, Inc.

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