After two years in fabulous Las Vegas, the 2016 edition of the Millionaire Open is headed to Atlantic City. Although Atlantic City isn't most people's idea of a glamorous location, it makes sense to locate the tournament on the east coast - there are more chess players there and it makes life easier for European players as well.
Thanks to the six million of you who have let me know about this. The best moment comes at the 4:08 mark. Enjoy!
N.B. 1: There's one PG-13 moment, so parents be warned.
N.B. 2: I'm a little disappointed that I wasn't asked about what happens at 4:08 beforehand, and that I/this blog isn't included in the "Special Thanks" at the end. Caltech people, please fix that if you can. Nevertheless, it's very cool to have been included! My nerd points have gone through the roof.
Who? Right, David Anton Guijarro. He's a strong young Spanish GM, but it's still semi-shocking that the 24th seed, rated 2639, is leading a field with 10 players rated 2700 and up, including Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Viswanathan Anand. Anton has 6 out of 7, good for a half point lead over 15 players with 5.5, including 2700+ players Vachier-Lagrave, Pentala Harikrishna, Yu Yangyi, and Radoslaw Wojtaszek. Nakamura is another half a point back, while Anand has just four points, having given up two draws and two losses - including one of each to IMs. Thus far his tournament has been a disaster; hopefully it won't bruise his confidence too much before the Candidates' tournament in March.
Round 9 pairings here.
The first supertournament of 2016 is now history, and it's little surprise that the winner is the world champion and world #1 Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen is just 25 years old, and yet this is already the fifth time he has won the main event in Wijk aan Zee. His score of 9/13 was not a record, but his 2881 TPR was good enough for him to pick up 6.6 rating points - 7 points once it's rounded it on the new list, 50 points ahead of world #2 Vladimir Kramnik.
The last round looked ripe for drama coming in, with Carlsen only half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana and a point ahead of his last round opponent, Ding Liren. The drama never materialized: Carlsen was always comfortable with white against Ding, who managed a draw after hours of suffering. Caruana was in a must-win situation, but winning to order with the black pieces against a solid, strong grandmaster like Evgeny Tomashevsky is a tall order. He didn't come close, and whether he was simply outplayed or because he took strategic risks in the hopes of getting a position where he could fight for more than a draw, Caruana was much worse straight out of the opening. It wasn't always clear whether Tomashevsky would win - he did - but it was clear that Caruana wouldn't win and wouldn't catch Carlsen.
It was still a good tournament for the American #1; he gained rating points, tied for second with Ding (and finished ahead of him on tiebreaks, not that that mattered), and is for now safe in his position as the #1 player in the U.S. It was a fine result for Ding Liren as well, currently rated #9 in the world.
Two other events are worth a quick mention. First, the other victor on the day was Pavel Eljanov, who defeated David Navara. Second, Hou Yifan nearly finished the tournament on a very high note, as she was clearly winning with black against Anish Giri. Unfortunately for her fans, she let the win slip, but one can be very impressed by Giri's tenacity in holding the rook ending.
- 1. Carlsen 9/13
- 2-3. Caruana, Ding Liren 8
- 4-6. So, Giri, Eljanov 7
- 7-8. Wei Yi, Mamedyarov 6.5
- 9. Karjakin 6
- 10-11. Navara, Tomashevsky 5.5
- 12-14. Hou Yifan, Adams, van Wely 5
In the Challengers' Group the three-man race between Baskaran Adhiban, Eltaj Safarli, and Alexey Dreev ended in a photo finish: all three wound up with 9/13. The former had the best tiebreak score, so he will play in the main event next year.
Inspired by the parallel games in round 9 of the Tata Steel Tournament between Wei Yi and David Navara and between Fabiano Caruana and Sergey Karjakin, this week's column looks at and reflects upon the phenomenon of chess "copycats".
There's one round to go in the 2016 edition of the Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, and it's not too surprising to learn that the world's #1 player, world champion Magnus Carlsen, is in first place, and the tournament's second seed - Fabiano Caruana - is in second. The players have been alternating wins the past few rounds: Carlsen won in round 9, Caruana in round 10, Carlsen again in round 11, and Caruana again in round 12. The margin of difference so far is Caruana's loss to David Navara; had that game finished in a draw the mighty Cars would both have 8.5/12.
Going back to round 10: Carlsen entered the round with a full point lead, and with black a draw with Anish Giri was a satisfactory result, achieved without much fuss. Caruana took the opportunity to close the gap to half a point when he bludgeoned Wei Yi, who had been having an excellent tournament to that point. (Another game from that round I'll mention was the curious battle between Sergey Karjakin and Michael Adams. Karjakin played the London System and lost without a whimper. All Adams had to do was follow standard ideas - ideas Karjakin himself had employed in earlier games! - and he reached a superior position and won in crushing style.)
In round 11 Caruana seemed on the verge of catching Carlsen, but instead finished the round a full point behind. Carlsen allowed Hou Yifan to play the Petroff, and to all appearances this was an error. She plays it often and knows it well, and she had no problems in the opening. She also had no problems in the middlegame, and the endgame went smoothly too. Eventually a pawn ending was reached, and had Hou played 45...a5 instead of 45...h5?? the draw she coveted would have been there for the taking. Meanwhile, Caruana enjoyed a clear advantage with the black pieces coming out of the opening against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Mamedyarov defended patiently and successfully, and in the second time control Caruana had to prove the draw, which he did. (For those of you who wonder why it's a draw, the answer is that Black will set up a fortress the moment White stops checking. He'll play ...Rd5, and that's the end, unless he wants to tidy everything up with ...h5 and ...Rf5, when there's nothing to attack the rest of the game.)
Finally, in round 12 Carlsen again secured a comfortable draw with Black, this time against Wesley So, while Caruana collected a full point against Loek van Wely in a sharp Najdorf line that was popular around the turn of the century. Caruana played brilliantly at first, possibly refuting the variation, but shaky play later on gave van Wely some chances to survive. Those chances vaporized after 29...Rc4?, allowing the aesthetically pleasing 30.f6+!, after which Caruana finished in style.
Meanwhile, a third protagonist has entered the picture: Ding Liren. He won with black against Evgeny Tomashevsky in round 11 and as white against Pavel Eljanov in round 12, pulling within a point of Carlsen and half a point of Caruana. Better still, he'll face Carlsen in the final round, albeit with the black pieces, so three players have a chance for first place. (Note: There are no playoffs or tiebreakers used, so if there are two or three players tied for first they are the co-winners of the event.) Here are the final round pairings:
- Mamedyarov (6) - Karjakin (5.5)
- van Wely (4.5) - Wei Yi (6)
- Tomashevsky (4.5) - Caruana (8)
- Eljanov (6) - Navara (5.5)
- Carlsen (8.5) - Ding Liren (7.5)
- Adams (4.5) - So (6.5)
- Giri (6.5) - Hou Yifan (4.5)
As I've already said once or twice, the entire field (and their fans) can blame what is happening in Wijk aan Zee on Loek van Wely for losing a winning position against Magnus Carlsen in round 5. Carlsen won his fourth game in the last five rounds (only giving up a short draw with black in round 8 to Sergey Karjakin), defeating Michael Adams to increase his lead over the field. Early tournament leader Fabiano Caruana is a point behind, and four other players (Wesley So, Ding Liren, Wei Yi, and Anish Giri) are another half a point back.
For most of the game it looked like another trademark Carlsen victory was in process. First, a low-theory Giuoco Piano to get the ball rolling, then slow but steady progress leading to a winning endgame. Adams did drum up some kingside counterplay, but it was clearly too slow. Moreover, this counterplay hit its apogee early in the second time control, so Carlsen had all the time in the world to work it out.
But somehow, Carlsen faltered. His 49.b4 committed him to a sacrifice of a rook for Adams' kingside passers, played in the belief that his pawns would still win the game. His hope was fulfilled, but it seems that this was more due to Adams' errors rather than to a correct assessment of 49.b4.
As for Caruana, he had some chances with White against Karjakin around the first time control, but he allowed Karjakin to save the game with a very concrete approach starting with 45...bxc5. Black forces the play through the end of the game, and holds by a hair.
All the other games were drawn, with one exception. Wei Yi won an exceptional attacking game against David Navara, featuring a promising-looking line against the Berlin. Interestingly, Caruana and Wei Yi played the same line - including the same novelty - through move 10, when the games diverged. Perhaps Karjakin's reply to Caruana is the cure; that may or may not be. What is clear is that Navara's treatment is a dead end, and the result was a spectacular victory for the young Chinese superstar.
With Carlsen ahead by a point with four rounds to play, the field is going to have to hurry up to catch him. Here are the pairings for round 10, and Carlsen's pairing may offer his foes their best reason for optimism, as Carlsen has never defeated Anish Giri in a classical game:
- Karjakin (4.5) - Adams (2.5)
- Giri (5) - Carlsen (6.5)
- Hou Yifan (4) - Eljanov (4.5)
- So (5) - Tomashevsky (3.5)
- Ding Liren (5) - van Wely (3.5)
- Navara (4) - Mamedyarov (4.5)
- Caruana (5.5) - Wei Yi (5)
In the Challengers' tournament Baskaran Adhiban finally lost a game (to Jorden Van Foreest, with white), so he has fallen into a tie with Eltaj Safarli, who drew with Erwin l'Ami. They both have 6.5/9, half a point of Alexey Dreev, who also drew (with Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu).
The Tradewise Gibraltar Masters started today, laden with 2700s including Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Viswanathan Anand. If my eyes don't deceive me no favorite on the top 60 boards lost, but quite a few of the favorites - considerable favorites, at that - were nicked for draws, including Anand (with White against one Szidonia Lazarne Vajda) and Yu Yangyi (with Black against Alexandre Vuilleumier). There's no need for their fans to panic, however: it's a ten-round tournament, and even Magnus Carlsen was nicked for a first round draw in Qatar last month before tying for first (with Yu Yangyi!) and defeating him in a playoff.