It's a small event, with only four players involved, but a very prestigious one. The Bilbao Final Masters is a double-round robin featuring Viswanathan, Anish Giri, Ding Liren and Wesley So. Play starts at 4 p.m. local time (= 11 a.m. ET) each day, with a rest day on Thursday in between the first and second cycle. The first round pairings are So vs. Ding and Anand vs. Giri.
Entries in Ding Liren (6)
Boris Gelfand and Ding Liren are playing a 4-game match in Wenzhou, China. Game one finished in a draw earlier today; Gelfand had the white pieces in a Bayonet KID and seemed to have some initiative early on. Some minor slips let Black escape and even enjoy the better half of an ending with rooks and opposite-colored bishops. Ding really pushed Gelfand hard and came closer to winning than I thought he would in such an ending. After a long defense Gelfand finally saved the draw. Game 2 is tomorrow.
Incidentally, I didn't find the Chinese website above particularly easy to navigate, even after using Google's translator, so you might just make your life easier (unless you read Chinese, of course!) and go here or here.
It wasn't quite the London Candidates in 2013, but the last round of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee had more drama than one might have expected. Entering the round Magnus Carlsen led Anish Giri by half a point, with three other players - Wesley So, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ding Liren - another half a point behind. There was the potential for a five-way tie for first, but that couldn't happen, could it? It almost did.
One of the first games to finish was Radoslaw Wojtaszek vs. Giri, and there was never any question of Giri's winning that battle. Wojtaszek had a slight edge against Giri's Gruenfeld, and if anything he could have made his opponent sweat more than he did.
In the meantime, his three pursuers all won their games and caught up with him. Wesley So demolished Loek van Wely, but it seems to me that was more van Wely's doing than So's. The latter's plan from moves 16 to 18 surrendered his trumps while practically begging So to go on the attack. So did, and it was very effective.
Vachier-Lagrave had a bigger fish to fry, the (now barely) world's #2 player Fabiano Caruana. MVL played a Najdorf and found a nice pawn sac against the 6.h3 e5 7.Nde2 system, and it worked like a charm. A couple of years ago Caruana lost something like five games in a row to the Najdorf, and it would seem from this game that he hasn't quite gotten it figured out just yet.
The third member of the triumvirate, Ding Liren, also won, also with Black against the previous (pre-Caruana) world's #2 player, Levon Aronian. Aronian used the trendy Makagonov against the King's Indian, but this time the Makagonov had gone off the rails. White was losing before move 20, and while Aronian played it out for a long time he never came close to saving it.
So that left only the world champion. With a draw (or of course, a win) against Ivan Saric he would win the tournament, and with the white pieces against a rival rated 200 points below him how hard could this be? As it turned out, surprisingly hard. Saric was comfortably better well into the game and had some advantage even past move 30, but figuring out to make a serious dent in Carlsen's defense proved too difficult. Eventually Carlsen reached safety and briefly had an advantage of his own. Both players were a little inaccurate near the end of the time control, and a couple of moves later the draw was obvious. It was an excellent tournament for Carlsen: he won, he gained rating points, and had a six-game winning streak that included victories over Caruana and Aronian. But with four players just half a point behind - and three of the four younger than him (MVL is a month older) - there's reason to hope that there will be a fight for the #1 spot in the world in the not-too-distant future.
In the other games, Hou Yifan and Vasil Ivanchuk drew uneventfully, while the game that I thought would be an uneventful draw turned out to be anything but. Baadur Jobava outfought and finally defeated Teimour Radjabov on the white side of a King's Indian that turned into a sort of Benko Gambit. Early on Radjabov stood better and may have been winning at one moment, but once Black allowed White's a-pawn to start moving it was Jobava who enjoyed the better chances. I'm impressed that Jobava had the gumption to fight his way to victory - not many players would have a lot of heart after losing nine games out of 12.
The games, with my comments, are here, and these are the final standings:
- 1. Carlsen 9 (out of 13)
- 2-5. Vachier-Lagrave, Giri, So, Ding Liren 8.5
- 6. Ivanchuk 7.5
- 7. Caruana 7
- 8. Radjabov 6
- 9-10. Wojtaszek, Aronian 5.5
- 11. Hou Yifan 5
- 12. Saric 4.5
- 13. van Wely 4
- 14. Jobava 3
In the Challengers' group Wei Yi entered the last round a point ahead of David Navara, but with the black pieces against fellow GM Salem Saleh, who was riding a three-game winning streak, he was by no means assured of tournament victory. Indeed, Navara won quickly against David Klein, while Saleh had an edge against the tournament leader. Like Carlsen against Saric, Wei Yi defended well and didn't allow things to get out of control, and eventually he managed to hold a draw and claim clear first. That means he will be invited to the top group next year, and given his current rate of improvement who knows how strong he'll be by then!
By defeating Anne Haast Sam Shankland took clear third in the tournament with 9/13, a point behind Navara and a point and a half behind Wei Yi. For Carlsen, nine points was enough to win the top section; here, incredibly, it made Shankland almost an afterthought, despite his outstanding performance. Robin van Kampen defeated Valentina Gunina to take fourth with 8.5, Sam Sevian beat Jan Timman (who again played some bizarre chess) to tie with Saleh for fifth-sixth with 7.5, and the day's other winner was Erwin l'Ami (against Ari Dale).
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.
He hasn't broken into the 2700 club yet, but Ding Liren is showing himself to be a force in Chinese chess. His impressive 8-3 score left him a point ahead of Yu Yangyi, a point and a half ahead of Ni Hua and two full points above Wang Yue in the 2012 Chinese Championship. Hou Yifan also participated, but finished with a disappointing 5-6 score. (TWIC coverage here.)
When Ding Liren won the Chinese championship in 2009, at the age of 16, it was something of a shock. Now, having pulled off the feat for the second time, it certainly looks as if he will be a force to be reckoned with in world chess. In fact, this year, he clinched clear first with a round to go, and his 9/11 final score put him two points ahead of his closest pursuers. He entered the tournament with a 2637 rating, and a 2868 TPR over 11 games is going to give that number a considerable boost. Hopefully he'll get to play in some nice international events soon.
More info here.