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    Thursday
    Jan222015

    Round 10 Games are Up

    The update was already made to the previous post, so you can go there or just click this direct link to my annotations for the round 10 games from Wijk aan Zee.

    Wednesday
    Jan212015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 10 Recap: Draws At The Top (Updated, with Annotated Games)

    Magnus Carlsen's winning streak came to an end today, though the result wasn't such a bad one: an easy draw with Black against Vassily Ivanchuk. That's an acceptable result for anyone - or at least any human being - and as his closest competitors (Wesley So and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave) didn't gain any ground, so much the better.

    The Ivanchuk-Carlsen game was strange - "nonsense", as the latter noted afterwards (see the link in the previous post). Ivanchuk followed known theory and grabbed the draw. It might be understandable for most of us to do something like that against the world champion, but Ivanchuk is a great player in his own right, one who has beaten many world champions, including Carlsen himself.

    Vachier-Lagrave was more ambitious, and had some advantage with White in an English against Radoslaw Wojtaszek. It seems that his pawn sac on move 14 wasn't completely sound though, and he had to work for the draw, which he eventually achieved.

    So, on the other hand, had the black pieces, and while his preparation was outstanding (the entire game was part of his homework) it only netted him a quick draw by repetition against Ding Liren.

    Before turning to the day's decisive results, let's wrap up the draws by mentioning the battle between Teimour Radjabov and Levon Aronian. Unlike the other draws, this went well past the first time control. Radjabov was better for a good chunk of the first time control, and Aronian had to defend well and patiently to hold the game, which was played all the way to king vs. king.

    Turning to the decisive games, two were won by youngsters, who thereby pulled within half a point of So and Vachier-Lagrave. Anish Giri defeated Ivan Saric with Black, which "began" when he improved on his game against Radjabov from round six. The position was sharp but approximately level until Saric went gung ho starting with 26.g4; this quickly backfired against him, and after 30...Rxc3 31.Qxc3 Nxe4 32.Qd3 Nc3+ White was busted. Giri finished things up more expeditiously than he did against Ding yesterday, and with the win moved to +2 in the standings.

    The other winning youngster was Fabiano Caruana, whose path to victory was less smooth. He too won with Black, against the unfortunate Baadur Jobava, and he stood much better most of the way. Near the end, however, Jobava's very resourceful play gave him a chance to save half a point. Had he played 51.Kf2 - and he plenty of time to do so - a draw might have been his after 51...Qd4+ 52.Ke2 Qxd8 53.Be6! Instead, he played 51.Kg3?? and had to resign a few moves later, faced with the choice of losing his queen or getting mated.

    Finally - though he was the first of the winners to finish his game - Loek van Wely crushed Hou Yifan. Hou paid insufficient attention to her kingside, so van Wely and his pieces gave Black's king all the attention it could handle and then some, resulting in a miniature.

    The tournament site is here, the games (without annotations for now; I'll get it to it in the morning) are here, and the pairings for round 11 - on Friday (Thursday is a rest day) - are as follows:

     

    • Giri (6) - van Wely (3.5)
    • So (6.5) - Saric (3)
    • Wojtaszek (5) - Ding Liren (6)
    • Carlsen (7.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (6.5)
    • Aronian (4.5) - Ivanchuk (6)
    • Caruana (6) - Radjabov (5)
    • Hou Yifan (3) - Jobava (1.5)

     

    In the Challengers' group the top two inverted their results from the previous round. This time it was Navara who drew his game while Wei Yi won (vs. l'Ami), and so they are again tied for first; both players have 8/10. Van Kampen won against Michiels to move into solo third place, while the day's other winner was Salem Saleh, who defeated Timman.

    UPDATE: The games, with my notes, are here. It took a bit longer to get to than I had hoped, but they're up now.

    Wednesday
    Jan212015

    A Meaty Carlsen Post-Game Interview

    Magnus Carlsen's game today against Vassily Ivanchuk was a short one and all theory, so with time to kill and energy to burn Carlsen stayed in the commentary room for a long time answering a wide range of questions from host and New in Chess editor Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam. Have a look here - Chess24 has the video and significant written highlights too.

    Tuesday
    Jan202015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 9 Recap: Carlsen Wins 6th Consecutive Game, Leads by a Point

    Six game streaks used to be rare, but nowadays they're a dime a dozen - or should we say a nickel a half-dozen? Bobby Fischer made six-game streaks cool when he strung a couple of them together in consecutive Candidates match victories over Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen in 1971, and those victories were parts of an even larger overall winning streak of 20 games. Since then there haven't been too many streaks of that sort - Anatoly Karpov had a couple of them, most famously in Linares 1994, while seven-game streaks like Garry Kasparov's in Wijk aan Zee 1999 were even rarer. That seems to be changing lately.

    Fabiano Caruana went on a widely celebrated seven-game streak in last year's Sinquefield Cup, and shortly thereafter Alexander Grischuk, Anish Giri and Vladimir Kramnik all went on six-game streaks. Now it's Magnus Carlsen's turn, and who knows how far his streak will continue. Right now it's up to six games, thanks to his victory today over Teimour Radjabov. Radjabov played the Berlin, Carlsen (rightly) replied with 4.d3, and slowly but surely built up a kingside attack that won the game. This was helped along by Black's almost absurdly ineffectual bishop on b6, which was only a spectator to the game once Black entombed it with 19...c5. Carlsen now has 7 out of 9, and for the moment seems unstoppable. Ultimately, everyone is stopped, but it's an impressive streak for the moment.

    Another impressive streak - maybe an even more impressive one - belongs to one of the players tied for second, Wesley So. He made life slightly difficult for himself against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but when the game finished in a draw his string of games without a defeat reached 53! He and Vachier-Lagrave are tied for second, a point behind Carlsen.

    Ding Liren started the round tied with So and Vachier-Lagrave, half a point behind Carlsen, but now he's a point and a half behind. His 21...Bxd2 was a mistake, and Anish Giri's accurate rejoinder gave him a winning position. His technique wasn't exactly Carlsen-like, but he found the moves he had to and eventually pulled out the win.

    The other winner today was Levon Aronian, who got his first full point of the tournament by bludgeoning Baadur Jobava. Jobava's plan with 9...a5, 10...Na6 and 11...Nb4 was questionable on several levels, and in the end Black's lack of concern for his king resulted in a speedy mating attack for the Armenian super-grandmaster.

    Turning to the most important draw of the round with respect to the leaders, Vassily Ivanchuk could have moved into a tie for second by defeating Radoslaw Wojtaszek, but with Black he never really came close to a win. He did come somewhat close to a loss though, thanks in part to his provocative 27...gxf6, but Wojtaszek was possibly still smarting after back-to-back losses and was happy just to stop the bleeding.

    Fabiano Caruana won in the previous round, but against Hou Yifan today he did not look like he was really "back". He thought for a huge amount of time on his 15th move, and that hurt him near the end of the first time control, when he alternated between getting in real trouble and possibly missing a good winning chance. Overall, I'd say he was more fortunate to get a draw than he was unfortunate not to win.

    Finally, the game between Ivan Saric and Loek van Wely was something of a tragicomedy. Saric played a great first part of the game to achieve a winning position, and certainly one that looked impossible to lose. As we all know only too well, almost no position cannot be lost with just a little bit of carelessness, and Saric's 38.g4(?/??) took the position from just about winning for White to equal - with White needing to maintain the equality - in a single shot. From there it was time for part two of the tragicomedy. Van Wely played a fantastic ending and finally induced a losing error out of Saric on move 78. After working so hard to first save the game and then to achieve a winning position, van Wely's 90th move let the win slip. Hopefully both players can overcome this game, psychologically, by remembering that they were both clearly lost at different points.

    The tournament website is here, the games (with my comments) are here, and tomorrow's round 10 pairings are as follows:

    • van Wely (2.5) - Hou Yifan (3)
    • Jobava (1.5) - Caruana (5)
    • Radjabov (4.5) - Aronian (4)
    • Ivanchuk (5.5) - Carlsen (7)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (6) - Wojtaszek (4.5)
    • Ding Liren (5.5) - So (6)
    • Saric (3) - Giri (5)

    In the Challengers' Group the round was relatively quiet for a change. The red-hot David Navara defeated Salem Saleh to win his fourth consecutive game. His score of 7.5/9 puts him half-point ahead of Chinese prodigy Wei Yi, who only managed a draw against Robin van Kampen (who is tied for third with 5.5). The day's other winner was Sam Sevian, who crushed Anne Haast with a nice attack. The other American, Sam Shankland, was crushing Valentina Gunina but let her escape. (She even had a one-move opportunity to win the game.) He's tied with van Kampen for third, half a point in front of Sevian, Erwin l'Ami and Vladimir Potkin.

    Monday
    Jan192015

    Informant 122: Another Strong Issue

    While the Informant used to be the most predictable publication in chess, the good folks in Serbia have been experimenting with its format over the past few years, and notwithstanding the occasional misstep the trend has been a favorable one. The heart of the publication, as always, is a big chunk of recent games annotated without words but with lots of symbols, and the traditional sections with combinations and endgames are there as well. There is also a section on endgame studies - this has been around for quite some time - and likewise the tradition of re-presenting the best game and the best theoretical novelty from the previous issue has continued as well.

    All of that is more or less in the original languageless format of the publication, but for some time now a huge chunk of the issue comes with English language commentary in addition to moves and symbols. Here's what we have this time around:

    1. A review of the Carlsen-Anand match by Ernesto Inarkiev. He examines, in whole or in part, games 1-4, 6, 9 and 11.

    2. An article by Alexander Morozevich on the Old Indian line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 e5, entitled "Avoiding the Saemisch by a less travelled road". I'm a big fan of his articles he has done so far, and while I liked Garry Kasparov's columns for the Informant I think that Morozevich's columns are a big improvement.

    3. Next comes an article by Ivan Sokolov, "Topalov's Comeback", in which he takes a look at six games and game fragments from Topalov's recent praxis on his way back to membership in the 2800 club.

    4. Mihail Marin's "Old Wine in New Bottles" column has been a staple of the Informant for some time now, and deservedly so. This time around he takes a look at the double bishop sacrifice, not only showing the old classics Lasker-Bauer from Amsterdam 1889 and Nimzowitsch-Tarrasch from Saint Petersburg 1914, but a slew of new examples as well.

    5. Wesley So has another column, "Back to the Midnight Sun 1", wherein he has a look at some theoretically important games from the Tromso Olympics.

    6. Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant's "Back to the Midnight Sun 2" also spotlights the Olympiad; in particular, the women's section.

    7. Most of the remaining sections deal with opening theory, starting with an article by Sarunas Sulskis on 1.b3, looking mostly at 1...e5 with some examination of 1...d5.

    8. Emanuel Berg has a new column, "Mirroring", in which he will first take a look at a variation as an advocate of one color, and then as the advocate for the other side. This time around he's first advocates White's cause in the Berlin ending before switching to Black's side.

    9. A short break from openings: Karsten Mueller's "Endgame Strategy" column focuses on a (rightly) well-known idea, the principle of two weaknesses.

    10. Back to theory. First up, Eduardas Rozentalis takes a close look at the Moscow Variation line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.0-0 a6 5.Bd3. It looks like he thinks that Black can equalize in one of the sidelines, but in his main line and in almost every alternative along the way he seems to believe more strongly in White's chances.

    11. In the next theoretical survey Robert Markus advocates for Black in the Fianchetto King's Indian line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 d6 6.0-0 Nbd7 7.Nc3 e5 8.e4 c6, looking at both 9.Be3 and 9.Rb1.

    12. Finally, there's part 4 of Vassily Kotronias' very long and detailed repertoire for Black against the 2.c3 Sicilian.

    My advice is that the Informant is a wise purchase for serious tournament players rated 2000 and up, for most correspondence players and for ambitious young players rated at least 1800. Product info here.

    Monday
    Jan192015

    Can We Sic the Alinskyites on DGT?

    The Alinskyite approach to politics is one I find reprehensible, but as the DGT people absolutely refuse to change their stupid system for recording results, no matter how many erroneous game scores get published, maybe it's time for a campaign of sustained attention and ridicule in the hopes of getting them to make a change.

    I haven't ranted on this for a while, so this might be new for some of you. Here's the deal: on the DGT sensory boards, results are recorded by putting the kings on two of the four central squares (d4, e4, d5 and e5). If White wins, the kings go on white squares. If Black wins, then the kings goes on the black squares and if it's a draw, one of each. It sounds simple and elegant, but problems arise when one or both kings was adjacent to a central square prior to the game's final move. The game that provoked this latest rant was the round 8 game from Wijk aan Zee between Baadur Jobava and Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen's last move was 50...Kf6-f5. Jobava resigned, and the arbiter put Carlsen's king on e5 and Jobava's on d4. That takes care of the result, but it creates a problem: Black's last move now shows up as 50...Kf6-e5. This sort of error has happened hundreds if not thousands of times in the approximately two decades during which DGT boards have been in use.

    Is there a solution? Sure. If I understand the way the boards function, the arbiter could have put White's king on d4 first and only then put Carlsen's king on e5, and that would have taken care of it. This would require arbiters to pay attention, but good luck with that. They've been making this sort of mistake for 20 years, so it would require a naively optimistic theory of human nature to suppose that things are going to change. Moreover, there are other ways things can go wrong. Suppose Jobava's king had been on d3 in the final position. Then if the arbiter had first put Jobava's king on d4 and then Carlsen's on e5, the game score would still have been corrupted, this time by reading 50...Kf5 51.Kd4 and White resigns. Either way would fail. Again, there is a solution: all that matters in this case is that the kings are on dark squares; it doesn't matter which king is on which dark square. So the right way would be to put White's king on e5 and Black's king on d4 - in either order - and the problem would be solved. Again, that requires an attentive and properly trained arbiter (and in blitz tournaments, attentive and properly trained players).

    That is simply bad engineering. If someone designs a system that users consistently goof up - for year after year! - a wise designer acknowledges the problem and tries to make the misused feature more user-friendly. Alas, rather than trying to foolproof the mechanism DGT has set things up in such a way that an error is not only possible but even pretty likely. It's clear that they don't care about such things, but we as chess fans ought to care - it's the history of our game that is being corrupted. In a minor way, yes, but why should it be corrupted at all, especially when a fix is so easy? There are probably many easy fixes, but how about a simple three-position switch on the side of the board, along with a button to confirm the result?

    So let's all drop them an email (info@dgtprojects.com) letting them know how much we appreciate their fine work in distorting game scores everywhere. Are there any rich readers out there able to buy the company and fire the people that refuse to fix the problem? Incidentally, it's not just a matter of calming the annoyed purists out there. It creates havoc with unsuspecting chess fans watching corrupted online transmissions, and wastes a lot of man-hours when people like Mark Crowther of TWIC and others have to find and fix these errors in the databases. (In TWIC 1054, released earlier today, the Carlsen game was wrong. Let's say he changes this and puts out a revised edition of TWIC 1054. There are hundreds if not thousands of people who download the weekly issues and collect them into a big database. Those who downloaded the original edition will have to delete the previous edition from the bigger database, which takes a while, then download the new version and move that into the bigger database. Something similar goes for ChessBase and other database makers and the users that download them.) In short, the only people who "win" are the lazy and unconcerned people at DGT who just want chess players' money and don't give a damn about the game itself. It's a pity they don't have any competitors, but maybe if enough people complain and waste their time they'll do something other than blame the arbiters. (Who do deserve some blame as well.)

    Sunday
    Jan182015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 8 Recap: Carlsen Wins 5th in a Row and Leads by Half a Point (Updated)

    There is no pending draw death taking place before our eyes in Wijk aan Zee. Going into the round almost 50% of the games (24 out of 49) finished with a winner, and in round 8 today only one game in seven finished in a draw - and it took 55 moves. There has been lots of fire and blood on board, which is just what we the fans like to see.

    The tournament leader is Magnus Carlsen, who won his fifth game in a row to reach unshared first with five rounds remaining. His victim today was Baadur Jobava, who has been many players' victim in this event, despite winning in the previous round. Jobava trotted out 1.b3, which is one of his signature openings, only to find himself slightly worse in the opening. With resourceful play Jobava managed to equalize and probably would have drawn if the time control had come a move sooner. In the last moves prior to the control Jobava played rather passively, culminating in 40.Qc1. Maybe Jobava could have drawn with 45.Qf2, but it wouldn't have been easy. Instead he swapped down to a queen ending, and that couldn't be saved as White's king was too weak.

    Vasil Ivanchuk shared first coming into the round, but lost a very mysterious game to Wesley So. Ivanchuk had White and followed the Viswanathan Anand - Levon Aronian game from round 1 of the 2014 Candidates; a good idea if all you know is the result of that game, but a terrible idea if you know that a humongous opening improvement was found for Aronian that very day. It was published all around the web and in print, and there have even been a couple of games in the database showing the improvement. (Those games featured very decent players, like Jan Gustafsson.) Somehow Ivanchuk missed all the possible sources showing and even detailing the move, and walked right into it. So was ready, played well, and crushed him. Ivanchuk thus fell a full point behind Carlsen, while So moved into (a tie for) second, half a point behind Carlsen. (He also moved up to #6 on the Live Rating List.)

    Another player in (the tie for) second is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who crushed Anish Giri in a 4.d3 (Anti-) Berlin. Giri's decision to head for a position where MVL would have an isolated d-pawn doesn't seem to have been a good one, as the enemy bishops received too much scope. From there Vachier-Lagrave turned his attention to Black's kingside, and while Giri managed to hold off the attack it came at the price of a lost rook ending.

    Ding Liren also won his game and thereby joined the tie for second. His victim was Ivan Saric, whose decision to play 22...Qxc6 was probably based on a miscalculation. My guess is that he missed the nice tactical trick 27.Nxd5, which netted not only an important pawn but the exchange as well.

    Radoslaw Wojtaszek had been tied for first going into the previous round, but with a second straight defeat he's almost surely out of the running. He lost with Black in a 6.h3 Najdorf to Teimour Radjabov after sacrificing a pawn but failing to get enough counterplay in return.

    Fabiano Caruana started the tournament with two wins but had gone -2 since then. He badly needed a win, and he got one at Loek van Wely's expense. A win over van Wely turned Carlsen's tournament around; who knows, maybe the same will be true for Caruana. Van Wely started coughing up pawns with White in a sort of Hedgehog, and eventually Caruana managed to convert his material advantage into a win.

    Finally, Hou Yifan drew with Levon Aronian in an old-fashioned line of the Giuoco Piano. Aronian tried a little too hard to win, and if White had played 42.Rd6+ she might have had good chances for a win. After Hou's 42.Rxd4 her advantage was too small to win, and Aronian held pretty easily after that.

    The games, with my comments, are here. Tomorrow is a rest day, and on Tuesday we'll see these pairings for round 9:

     

    • Saric (2.5) - van Wely (2)
    • Giri (4) - Ding Liren (5.5)
    • So (5.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (5.5)
    • Wojtaszek (4) - Ivanchuk (5)
    • Carlsen (6) - Radjabov (4.5)
    • Aronian (3) - Jobava (1.5)
    • Caruana (4.5) - Hou Yifan (2.5)

     

    In the Challengers' group, it was a bloodbath as usual, though there were "only" five decisive games there today as compared to six in the A-group. Haast beat Gunina (in a surprise), Saleh beat Dale, Navara beat Michiels, Wei Yi beat Klein and van Kampen beat Timman. Navara and 15-year-old Wei Yi are running away with the event, sharing first with 6.5/8; Shankland and van Kampen are next with 5 points apiece.

    Update: The game score of the Jobava-Carlsen game was corrupted by an arbiter's error at the end; I've updated and uploaded the correct version in the revised link above.

    Saturday
    Jan172015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 7 Recap: Carlsen Catches Ivanchuk

    Magnus Carlsen is on a roll, and the question now is simply this: can anyone stop him? Today Hou Yifan gave it a good shot, but Carlsen ground out the full point - admittedly, with some serious inaccuracies near the end. Still, between the high general quality of his moves and the persistence of his pressure, the women's world champion eventually buckled. This gave Carlsen his fourth win in a row, and enabled him to finally catch Vassily Vasil Ivanchuk in the leader's circle.

    Carlsen nearly took that spot all for himself, as Ivanchuk had to struggle for a long time to save a queen ending against Anish Giri. The position was objectively drawn most of the way, but Giri was always better and at one moment could have won thanks to some unobvious play on move 90.

    Radoslaw Wojtaszek could have made it a triumvirate, and with the white pieces against tailender Baadur Jobava his chances looked good. Indeed, he was clearly better in a complicated middlegame, but Jobava did a better job of navigating the tactics and eventually even won the game.

    Wesley So also had the chance to reach the first-place tie, and had some winning chances against Teimour Radjabov before letting the latter escape in the run-up to the time control. He is thus half a point behind the leaders, as are Ding Liren and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

    Ding Liren shouldn't have been within half a point of the leaders, as he was much worse against Loek van Wely - losing, even, at least two or three times in the game. Most of van Wely's advantage had disappeared by the end of the first time control, but it still seemed as if he'd have the better half of a draw. Somehow, it just didn't pan out, and he even went on to lose the game.

    Vachier-Lagrave's win was also a gift, awarded in a single moment. An exciting Najdorf with Ivan Saric had been balanced throughout, and a perpetual check would have resulted after 31.Qc1. Instead, Saric played 31.Rd2??, missing a nice but simple tactic a couple of moves later, which ended the game on the spot.

    It's incredible that the only game involving two players who came into the round more than a point behind the leader was between Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana. Caruana played the first part of the game well and enjoyed a serious edge. Unfortunately, he has been getting into time trouble throughout the event, and did so once again. This gave Aronian the chance to not only escape but to press, but once Caruana had some more time to think in the second time control he managed to survive.

    The tournament site is here, the games (with my comments) are here, and tomorrow's pairings for round 8 are as follows:

    • van Wely (2) - Caruana (3.5)
    • Hou Yifan (2) - Aronian (2.5)
    • Jobava (1.5) - Carlsen (5)
    • Radjabov (3.5) - Wojtaszek (4)
    • Ivanchuk (5) - So (4.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (4.5) - Giri (4)
    • Ding Liren (4.5) - Saric (2.5)

    In the Challengers' Group, there were six decisive games and the seventh should have been decisive too. Wei Yi beat Jan Timman and David Navara defeated Robin van Kampen; those two winners are tied for first with 5.5/7. Sam Shankland is in clear third with 4.5 points, but he could have 5, as he had a decisive advantage at one point against Salem Saleh. Valentina Gunina upset Erwin l'Ami, Vladimir Potkin bested Anne Haast, Bart Michiels beat Ari Dale and Sam Sevian won against David Klein.

    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.

    Thursday
    Jan152015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 5 Recap: Carlsen Wins, Caruana Loses, and Ivanchuk Continues to Lead

    I suspected that when Magnus Carlsen beat Loek van Wely in round 4 that it might awaken the beast, and that seems to be the case. Some players are psychologically consistent, while others play far more strongly when they're feeling confident. Carlsen is in the latter group, along with players like Bobby Fischer and Viswanathan Anand in his best years. When they are unsure of themselves they can be stuck in a dry patch for a while, but just win - even a lucky win - and it's like someone flipped a light switch. They are on, and their future opponents might as well open an umbrella in a monsoon. Today Carlsen outplayed Levon Aronian in great style, winning both the strategic and tactical battles to create a masterpiece of positional play rounded off by a nice attack. Now Carlsen is at +1 and back in the running.

    Fabiano Caruana is also at +1, but he got there from the opposite direction. Seeing Carlsen play and lose with the Dutch against Radoslaw Wojtaszek must have inspired Caruana to do the same, and he did - on both counts. A An inaccuracy or two notwithstanding, Wojtaszek beat him handily, and if he can persuade everyone to try the Dutch against him he might just win the tournament. As it is he's on +2, only half a point out of first.

    He is tied for second with Ding Liren, who drew with tournament leader Vassily Ivanchuk. Ding might have had a moment where he could have pushed a little, but as things went Ivanchuk achieved an easy draw with the black pieces.

    Two other games were drawn - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. Loek van Wely and Wesley So vs. Hou Yifan. They were both good fights, even if no one came too close to winning in either game.

    Anish Giri defeated Baadur Jobava in an exciting and eventful game. It looked like Giri was doing very well on the white side of a Bayonet Attack King's Indian, but the King's Indian being the tricky opening that it is Black always has the chance to land a haymaker on the kingside. Giri thought he had everything under control with 22.Nc3 (I think 22.Nb6 was better), a thought that departed once Jobava played the spectacular 22...Nh4! After much thought Giri found a way to reach a safe position at the cost of a small sacrifice (the exchange for a pawn), and the position was balanced until Jobava's blunder on move 33 brought the game to a speedy conclusion.

    The remaining game was also decisive. Teimour Radjabov defeated Ivan Saric with Black in a 4.d3 Berlin. White was doing well in the opening, but Saric couldn't find an effective plan, allowed his structure to be weakened, and Radjabov ground him down in the ending.

    The tournament site is here, and the games (with my comments) are here. The players return to Wijk aan Zee for the next round (round 5 of the A-group was played in Rotterdam); here are the pairings.

    • van Wely (1.5) - Aronian (1.5)
    • Caruana (3) - Carlsen (3) (The big game! The winner of this game might well win the tournament.)
    • Hou Yifan (1.5) - Wojtaszek (3.5)
    • Jobava (.5) - So (3)
    • Radjabov (2.5) - Giri (3)
    • Ivanchuk (4) - Saric (2)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Ding Liren (3.5)

    The play in the Challengers' group was amazing, but not in a good way. All of us have had the (very) painful experience of losing a won game; today, that happened in four of the seven games. Salem Saleh was beating Erwin l'Ami in an endgame, Robin van Kampen had a monster attack against Sam Shankland and Valentina Gunina had a decisive advantage against Sam Sevian over a period of about 20 moves. All three of them lost. The worst case was the game between Bart Michiels and Anne Haast. Michiels was crushing Haast in the leadup to the first time control, but on moves 39 and 40 he threw it all away, with interest. Haast was winning by a mile, and at one point had a knight and five pawns against a knight and one pawn, and that pawn was not queening. In an odd echo of Michiels' collapse, Haast erred at the end of the second time control. Worse: she made the losing move on the first move of the third time control, and this time there were no further adventures.

    A bonus: David Navara also failed to convert a winning advantage, against Wei Yi, but his penalty was limited to half a point.

    In the other two games Vladimir Potkin and Jan Timman won cleanly against David Klein and Ari Dale, respectively.

    Three lead with 3.5/5: David Navara, Erwin l'Ami and Wei Yi.