The previous two World Chess columns covered the then-ongoing Challengers Group at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament (mostly in Wijk aan Zee), and last Friday's column - the current column - covered the finish. He won on tiebreaks over Markus Ragger, thanks to his win over him in their individual game, which is covered therein. Jones also won a clutch game in the penultimate round over Vladimir Dobrov; that game is also presented in the column.
Entries in Gawain Jones (2)
With Black in the last round and three players only half a point behind, chances looked pretty good that Wesley So would be caught by at least one player and the winner of the Masters Group in the Tata Steel Chess Tournament would be decided by a rapid playoff. Would we experience a thrilling, nail-biting finish?
Not even close, as it turned out. Ian Nepomniachtchi played an insane opening against So and was lost - really lost! - after just nine moves (remember, this is with White!), and could have resigned in around 14 moves rather than 28. His attempt to battle on was in vain: So was playing too well in the tournament, and his position was so good that he didn't even need to be especially precise (though by and large he was).
Worse, for those hoping for a close finish, the chase pack of Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, and Wei Yi managed a grand total of half a point between them. Carlsen had some troubles with Sergey Karjakin but drew, Aronian played terribly in the opening against Dmitry Andreikin and was outplayed pretty much from start to finish (though Andreikin made a couple of significant inaccuracies along the way), while Wei Yi did enjoy excellent winning chances against Radoslaw Wojtaszek before giving them away and then even losing in a long game.
So thereby finished in clear first with 9/13. This was his third consecutive super-tournament victory, and that doesn't count his exceptional performance in last year's Olympiad. He has gone 56 games without a defeat, gained a pile of rating points, and when Fabiano Caruana lost a few hours later in Gibraltar So could include #2 in the world rankings to his ever-growing resume. Pretty amazing.
So finished a point ahead of Carlsen and a point and a half ahead of Aronian, Wei Yi, and tournament surprise Baskaran Adhiban, who defeated Richard Rapport in the last round. Karjakin and Pavel Eljanov were a further half a point back to round out the players with plus scores in the tournament. Eljanov must have been extremely disappointed with his result, as he drew and even lost three or four games where he was winning or nearly so. As for Karjakin, it wasn't a great result, but he probably didn't feel too disappointed - he pleaded exhaustion afterwards from the match with Carlsen.
Today's annotated games are here; the final standings follow.
- 1. So 9
- 2. Carlsen 8
- 3-5. Adhiban, Aronian, Wei Yi 7.5
- 6-7. Karjakin, Eljanov 7
- 8. Giri 6.5
- 9-11. Harikrishna, Andreikin, Wojtaszek 6
- 12. Nepomniachtchi 5
- 13. Rapport 4.5
- 14. van Wely 3.5
In the Challengers Group the most important games ended peacefully, leaving Gawain Jones and Markus Ragger tied for first with 9 points apiece, half a point ahead of Jeffery Xiong. Jones had the better tiebreak score, so he has qualified for next year's Masters Group. Congratulations to him and especially to So!