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    « Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 9: Man Bites Dog (Giri Wins and Everyone Else Draws) | Main | Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 7: Mamedyarov Wins Again, Leads by a Full Point »
    Sunday
    Jan212018

    Wijk aan Zee 2018, Round 8: Giri Beats Mamedyarov, Carlsen Blunders a Piece and Wins Anyway; All Three Lead

    Did we jinx Shakhriyar Mamedyarov? Did he, like Icarus, fly too close to the sun? If it was too soon yesterday to crown him the heir apparent, it's likewise too soon today to say that he's getting dragged back to the chase pack behind Magnus Carlsen. What we can say is that his one point lead over the rest of the field at Wijk aan Zee is gone after a terrible game against Anish Giri. Giri started off 2-0, and after a series of mostly very short draws, apparently thought it might be fun to try to win again once again - and he succeeded. He's now tied for first with Mamedyarov, and...

    Magnus Carlsen. Just about everything about his win over Gawain Jones was absurd. First, he said he was surprised by Jones's Dragon. That would make sense if one changed one word in the last sentence: Jones (or rather, Jones's). Jones wrote two major books on the Dragon a couple of years ago, and has played more than 100 games with it that have reached the databases. It's not that Jones can't play any other opening - he does - but for the Dragon to come as a surprise to any of his opponents is crazy. Even crazier is that Carlsen just blundered a piece, full stop, on move 17. It wasn't some sort of Alpha Zero-deep idea; it was what an old friend of mine would call a stick-an-ice cream cone-on-your-forehead moment. But the biggest absurdity of them all is it hardly mattered. Jones was winning, but six moves later the position was unclear, and another six moves later Carlsen was completely winning. Jones may be the lowest-rated player in the field, but he's still a great chess player in the mid-2600s. He had an even score in the tournament coming into this game, but no matter: Carlsen can blunder a piece against a 2640-50 player in good form and still win going away. (It's reminiscent of the New England Patriots in the NFL, whose combination of excellent play and seeming deal-with-the-devil quality and quantity of good luck over the past 17 years or so is mind-boggling.)

    In other games, featuring (comparatively) normal human beings, most of the other games were drawn, and most of them were quick draws. Only one other game had a winner, and that was Fabiano Caruana coming back from a lost position against Hou Yifan to gain the full point. Caruana has had a horrible tournament, which included the first part of his game in this round, but fortunately for him Hou is having an even worse tournament. She still has just one point, and lost 19 rating points in the tournament so far.

    Here are the games, and here are the pairings for round 9, on Tuesday: 

    • Jones (3.5) - Hou Yifan (1)
    • Anand (4.5) - Carlsen (5.5)
    • So (5) - Svidler (4)
    • Mamedyarov (5.5) - Kramnik (5)
    • Matlakov (4) - Giri (5.5)
    • Karjakin (4.5) - Wei Yi (3)
    • Caruana (3) - Adhiban (2) 

    Some comments on the round 9 games, going from top to bottom.

    Jones-Hou Yifan: It's a nice opportunity for Jones to get back on track against a player who is really suffering. If he can get back to 50% it would be a terrific achievement.

    Anand-Carlsen: Anand has done pretty well against Carlsen lately, so this could well add some intrigue to the tournament.

    So-Svidler: So has been lurking close to the leaders. Svidler is not an easy pairing for anyone, but if he can win it could put him into a tie for first.

    Mamedyarov-Kramnik: Or not: Mamedyarov has a very good score against Kramnik - the ex-champ is pretty close to becoming an official "customer". As long as he's able to play his normal chess without being too discouraged from the Giri loss, he'll have excellent chances to gain a full point. (How good is his score? From 2013, including all time controls, Mamedyarov's score is +8-1=6, and four of those draws were in 2013. And just counting classical games, Mamedyarov has scored 3.5 points in the last four games.)

    Matlakov-Giri: Giri hasn't shown any ambition with Black in this tournament, so unless Matlakov self-destructs quickly a draw can be expected.

    Karjakin-Wei Yi: If Karjakin hopes to compete for first he has to start winning, and Wei Yi hasn't played particularly well so far. We'll see if Karjakin has any ambition left for the tournament, or if he's already looking ahead to the Candidates.

    Caruana-Adhiban: I'm sure Caruana will play for the full point, to boost his confidence and his rating going into the Candidates. The first half of the tournament (after his round 1 draw with Carlsen) was awful, but if he can salvage it with a strong finish he can feel good about his chess heading into the second biggest event of the year.

    A note about the Challengers' tournament. Anton Korobov had been a convincing leader, with his only real rival Vidit Gujrathi a full point behind. No longer: Korobov lost with White (from a winning position) against Bassem Amin, and now he and Vidit share first with 6/8. The winner gets promoted to the Masters' tournament next year, so there's a lot at stake for them in the last five rounds.

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    Reader Comments (4)

    It is worth noting that Gawain Jones blundered a Queen in the British championship and still beat GM Steven Adams.

    https://en.chessbase.com/post/gawain-jones-wins-the-99th-british-championship

    [DM: I remember that game, and might have mentioned it on the blog. I believe you mean Stephen Gordon, and it was mitigated by being a rapid game (it was in a playoff).]

    January 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Karen

    I think I said Gawain Jones beat GM Steven Adams down a Queen but I meant GM Stephen Gordon.

    January 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Karen

    I think Carlsen was just a little surprised that Jones would play his Dragon while paired up against the World Champion rather than some suitably boring line like every other super-Gm these days.

    I have to say that Carlsen's win has a Trumpian flair to it - winning bigly despite the absurdity! (Must not normalize...)

    English lesson interlude: Jones' or Jones's (the possessive). Are both acceptable/correct? Is one preferred and the other merely acceptable? (think: judgment/judgement).

    [DM: Jones isn't going to hang with Carlsen in a technical game, so forcing play makes sense for him as an underdog. And it's not as if Carlsen thinks the Dragon is junk, as he occasionally plays it himself.

    Trump...let's keep him and non-chess-related politics off the blog, please. If it involves chess players, that's one thing, but this is gratuitous.

    English lesson: both are acceptable.]

    January 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Steele

    Hou Yifan-Caruana: What Dennis calls "a very strange sequence of moves by the women's #1" (moves 31-33) is, but for the last one, the first choice of the chess24 live engine. Engines (initially) suggest 33.Rf3!? - Caruana commented after the game that he would then "just be mated". But after 33.Rf3 Qh4! 34.Rxf7+ Kh8! (don't take the Nh6) 35.Qc1 Rf8! 36.Qe3 (not the only move) 36.-Bxh3! engines settle on 0.00 (37.gxh3? Nd7 and the white queen can't defend both knights, with the f-pawn pinned the one on f2 is also under attack).

    0.00 would be less than what Hou Yifan had before, but more than what she got in the game. 33.Ng4+= seems better than 33.Rf3, so Dennis' analysis is after all correct. For a while I had wondered whether he hadn't used engines at all - neither to assist his analysis nor to double-check independent findings.

    [DM: That engine is a lot better than nothing, but you shouldn't use it for serious analysis; it horizons out far too quickly. If it's praising White's 31st and 32nd moves, it's because it initially believes that 33.Rf3 is winning. It's not; as you correctly say White has no more than a draw after 33...Qh4! 34.Rxf7+ Kh8!

    Perhaps Hou herself fell prey to a sort of horizon effect as well. That would make sense of her 31st and 32nd moves: maybe she thought she had a forced win, and realized only that she had squandered a clear advantage.]

    January 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

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