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    Entries in Magnus Carlsen (153)

    Monday
    Feb092015

    Grenke Chess Classic, Round 7: Carlsen Wins In An Armageddon Victory over Naiditsch

    The final day of the Grenke Chess Classic was exciting and very, very strange. Entering the final round, Magnus Carlsen and Arkadij Naiditsch were tied for first, with Fabiano Caruana half a point behind. Carlsen had White against Etienne Bacrot, Naiditsch had White against Levon Aronian, and Fabiano Caruana had Black against David Baramidze. On paper Naiditsch had the fewest winning chances, Carlsen the next move and Caruana the best opportunity to come out with a victory; after all, Baramidze was the lowest-rated player in the tournament, and was firmly ensconced in last place while on a four-game losing streak.

    As it turned out, all three games were drawn, but only after many adventures. Bacrot achieved a lost position in two stages. First, he would have been absolutely fine after the obvious 22...Ne4, but misassessed something and played 22...Nd5, allowing 23.e4. That got him in trouble, but if he had taken the somewhat lucky chance that 27...Nhf4 afforded him he would have been fine. After 27...Re2 he began to slide, and Carlsen was soon winning. He had his choice of wins, and he saw some of them too. Unfortunately, the way he chose allowed Bacrot some serious counterplay against White's king, and Carlsen had to allow a repetition to avoid losing.

    Naiditsch was also better against Aronian, significantly and persistently better, too. Aronian defended well, however, and it doesn't appear that Naiditsch ever enjoyed a decisive advantage.

    Caruana tried for a very long time against Baramidze, and after around six and a half hours, on move 71, he got his one and only chance to win the game. Unfortunately, 71...Kd4 was not an easy move to play, and Baramidze finally escaped with a draw after 85 moves.

    Before turning to the playoff, let's make mention of the one remaining game. Michael Adams initially had nothing against Viswanathan Anand when they reached a single rook ending after White's (Adams's) 30th move. Had Anand played 30...Ra4 it would have been almost dead even, but Anand's 30...Rd7 gave Adams a nibble. From there, nothing much happened until move 55, when Anand chose to play 55...Rd5. As Adams hadn't made any progress with the previous sort of position, this concessive approach seemed wholly unnecessary, even if the position was still drawn after the pawn sac. From there, absolutely nothing happened until move 84, when Anand played 84...Ke5?? and essentially lost the game in one move. Any move that maintained the status quo would have drawn, but Anand's move allowed White to push his pawn to h7 rather than just h6, which in turn allows White's king to achieve a decisive penetration into Black's camp.

    On to the playoff. Carlsen and Naiditisch were to play a couple of 10-minute games. If they remained tied after that, then a couple of five-minute games, and if that didn't settle the issue it would be time for an Armageddon game (White gets six minutes for the whole game; Black gets five minutes plus draw odds.) Carlsen won the first 10-minute game with the white pieces and was in excellent shape in the second game until he goofed with 25...h4 26.g4 Nxf4+ 27.Kh2 Rg5. White was winning after 28.Nxf4, and while Carlsen had the occasional chance in the players' mutual time trouble the trend was almost always in White's favor, and Naiditsch finally won.

    Carlsen began the five-minute games with the white pieces, but this time Naiditsch held the first game comfortably. In the second game, Naiditsch outplayed Carlsen in the early going and enjoyed a pleasant edge. The big upset didn't materialize though. Carlsen held and then took over, and Naiditsch ultimately did very well to save the game.

    So it came down to an Armageddon game, and Carlsen had White this time too. The game got interesting in a hurry after Naiditsch's 13...Be6. It seemed to drop a pawn, but after 14.Qxa6 Qc7 it looked like Carlsen had dropped an exchange. Maybe, but he had compensation for it just as Naiditsch did for the pawn. Ultimately, White had the same micro-edge he had before Naiditsch's pawn sac. Soon the game was trending in Carlsen's favor, and Naiditsch had one last chance to stop the train. Had he played 22...g6 it would have been anybody's game. Instead, he played 22...Qb4, which was a mistake, and followed this up with an outright blunder on move 23. After that there was no saving the game, and under other circumstances Naiditsch would have resigned earlier than he did, on move 32.

    It was a great tournament for Naiditsch, and hopefully he will get another top class invitation or two thanks to this performance from an event outside of Germany. For Carlsen, this was his 23rd super-tournament victory, which puts him in a tie with Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand. Good company, and he achieved this a lot more quickly than they did.

    Games here, sans notes.

    Final standings:

    • 1-2. Carlsen, Naiditsch 4.5 (out of 7)
    • 3-4. Caruana, Adams 4
    • 5-6. Bacrot, Aronian 3.5
    • 7. Anand 2.5
    • 8. Baramidze 1.5

    Sunday
    Feb082015

    Grenke Chess Classic, Round 6: Naiditsch & Carlsen Still Lead With One Round to Go

    Arkadij Naiditsch and Magnus Carlsen started round 6 of the Grenke Chess Classic with a half point lead over Fabiano Caruana, and that's how they finished the round as well. Three of the four games were drawn today, with Viswanathan Anand beating the only player who has had a worse tournament than he has; namely, David Baramidze. Baramidze is by far the lowest-rated player and had already lost three games in a row, so this wasn't much of a surprise.

    As for the leaders, Carlsen drew comfortably and quickly against Caruana on the black side of a Berlin, while Naiditsch also drew with black, though Etienne Bacrot made him work a bit longer and harder to get his half a point. Finally, Michael Adams had very good winning chances against Levon Aronian on the black side of an English, but couldn't figure out how to put him away. (The games, with brief notes, are here.)

    The final round pairings are:

    • Adams (3) - Anand (2.5)
    • Naiditsch (4) - Aronian (3)
    • Carlsen (4) - Bacrot (3)
    • Baramidze (1) - Caruana (3.5)

    If Carlsen ties for first on points, then he wins on tiebreaks as he will have won more games than either Naiditsch or Caruana. If Caruana wins tomorrow while Carlsen & Naiditsch draw their games, he (Caruana) will take second because he'll have won one more game with the black pieces than Naiditsch did. I'm not a huge fan of rewarding the ability to win more games than to avoid losses, but I can live with it as *a* tiebreaker. But I've always thought that head-to-head should be the first tiebreaker, and find it irritating that Naiditsch could beat his main rival and come in second (or even third) in spite of that. Unfortunately (from my perspective, but not from any anti-Carlsen animus), head-to-head is their third tiebreaker.

    Saturday
    Feb072015

    Grenke Chess Classic, Round 5: Carlsen Catches Naiditsch

    As usual, Magnus Carlsen has bounced back from a loss in style and with a vengeance, and after his second straight win in the Grenke Chess Classic he has caught up to Arkadij Naiditsch. Both players have 3.5 points out of five, and lead their closest pursuer by half a point with two rounds to play.

    Carlsen was playing the tournament tailender and bottom seed, David Baramidze - with the white pieces, to boot, so his win isn't exactly shocking. Still, it was a nice, typical Carlsen win: he chose a variation (within a mainline opening, it's true) that was slightly off the beaten path, offering a position with plenty of play and no easy way for Black to simplify the position. He maneuvered, increased the tension and created imbalances, and in due course Baramdize erred. 28...Re6 wound up a waste of time, and a further error on move 38 took away all hope.

    Naiditsch had White against Fabiano Caruana, and to his credit he did what few super-GMs are willing to do: allow the Marshall Gambit. For once someone seemed better prepared than Caruana in the opening, and although Naiditsch returned the extra pawn his bishop pair looked very strong, and he surely had good winning chances. Caruana defended well, and although he had to suffer for a long time he never broke, and he remains in the hunt for first - especially given his pairing for the next round.

    The day's other winner was Levon Aronian, who improved his lot in life by adding to Viswanathan Anand's recent miseries. Anand had outplayed Aronian on the black side of a Ragozin, and was building a promising kingside attack before playing 23...Nh6? I suspect he missed something like 24.e4 Qxf3 (Anand played 24...Bxc5) 25.Qxg5+ Kh7 26.e5+ Bf5 27.Bxf5+ Nxf5 28.Rc3! Aronian wasn't immediately winning, but Anand didn't adapt well to the sudden change, and he was losing just a few moves later and then resigned somewhat prematurely.

    Finally, Etienne Bacrot was the only player to make a good case for the black pieces in any of the games, and enjoyed a winning advantage against Mickey Adams. Adams defended well, and like Caruana, saved half a point after a lot of suffering.

    The games are here (I've analyzed the two decisive results), and the pairings for the penultimate round are:

    • Anand (1.5) - Baramidze (1)
    • Caruana (3) - Carlsen (3.5)
    • Bacrot (2.5) - Naiditsch (3.5)
    • Aronian (2.5) - Adams (2.5)

    Friday
    Feb062015

    Grenke Chess Classic, Round 4: Naiditsch Wins Again, Still Leads; Carlsen Beats Anand

    Round four of the Grenke Chess Classic was an exciting one, featuring two games that were settled by blunders. In both games the player with Black won and the player trying to conduct a kingside attack lost.

    Since he is leading the tournament and defeated Magnus Carlsen in round 3, we'll give Arkadij Naiditsch his due and start with his game. Playing his countryman David Baramidze, he came up with a very provocative way of meeting the English. The position was practically begging for Baramidze to attack, and he took up the challenge with gusto. First he sacrificed a pawn, then the exchange and a pawn - which he turned into a full rook sacrifice, and then another piece. The last one was one sac too many, and just five moves later Baramidze realized the attack was out of gas, and resigned. Without the last sacrifice, the game would have remained unclear and anything would have been possible.

    Carlsen had trouble with the black pieces against Viswanathan Anand in their world championship match last year, and today he switched openings again, opting for a Stonewall Dutch. After 19...e5 the board quickly opened up, and Carlsen's brave - and correct - 25...Bb2 raised the stakes. White's attack had better break through, or Black's a-pawn would soon promote. Play continued logically through Black's 31st move, but on move 32 Anand made an amazing blunder, 32.Rd7?? It wasn't difficult to refute, and the oddness was compounded by the fact that Anand only spent 52 seconds on the move. Anand wasn't speaking afterwards, so it's unclear if he overlooked something that happened in the game or if he hadn't found the right move (32.Re6). Anyone can overlook something, but the speed with which he executed the blunder was remarkable, especially given that he wasn't in time trouble.

    The other games were drawn. Fabiano Caruana had chances for more against Michael Adams, with the last opportunity coming on move 32. After Caruana played 32.Bc4 rather than 32.Kf3, Adams was able to limp home with a draw. The opening between Etienne Bacrot and Levon Aronian was unusual and interesting before it resolved into a very equal QGD-like structure.

    The games (with my notes) are here, and these are the pairings for tomorrow's round 5 (of 7):

    • Aronian (1.5) - Anand (1.5)
    • Adams (2) - Bacrot (2)
    • Naiditsch (3) - Caruana (2.5)
    • Carlsen (2.5) - Baramidze (1)

    Tuesday
    Feb032015

    Grenke Chess Classic, Round 2: Carlsen Wins, Leads

    A long day, so a quick summary of the round 2 action at the Grenke Chess Classic: Magnus Carlsen ground down Michael Adams, helped a bit by the latter's time pressure. Oddly enough, this was the only win of the day; in fact, it is so far the only win of the entire tournament.

    It's not that no one else has come close, though. Viswanathan Anand enjoyed a winning double-rook ending against Arkadij Naiditsch, but active play by Naiditsch and hesitant play from the former champ allowed the German #1 to escape.

    The other German entrant, David Baramidze, had an easier time of things on the way to his draw with Levon Aronian. (Having the white pieces certainly didn't hurt.) Aronian was doing fine until he played 20...Be6; after that he was in some trouble until Baramidze played 25.b4. After that the players hoovered up everything and finished the game.

    Finally, Fabiano Caruana was seriously better, off and on, against Etienne Bacrot, but it was never a comfortable and stable plus. The position remained complicated throughout, and at times Bacrot was even a little better. Such unbalanced and volatile positions are just very hard to play. The game marked a milestone of sorts: while it's only on the live list and isn't official, it is the first time in about half a year that someone other than Caruana was world #2, and the first time ever that Alexander Grischuk has held that spot.

    Games with computer analysis on the Chess24 site, here.

    Sunday
    Jan252015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Final Round Recap: Carlsen Finishes First, Four Follow Half a Point Behind

    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).

    Friday
    Jan232015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 11 Recap: So Cuts Carlsen's Lead to Half a Point

    In the famous 1999 edition of the Wijk aan Zee tournament, Garry Kasparov had a seven-game winning streak that included what may be his most famous game ever, his attacking gem against Veselin Topalov. Amazingly, he rated his later win over Peter Svidler even more highly, which shows what great form he was in. His play in the tournament was lauded as one of his best ever results, and it was the first of a long series of super-tournament wins for the then-world champion. One can pile on the praise, but what's generally forgotten about that event is that Viswanathan Anand finished only half a point behind the winner, and he - unlike Kasparov - went undefeated.

    I bring this up because something similar is happening this time around. Magnus Carlsen has been leading the current edition for quite a while now, thanks to a six-game winning streak, and he has elevated his already stratospheric rating even higher. But meanwhile, almost as if in the distant background, Wesley So is just half a point behind. As in the 1999 tournament, the leader has lost one game while the runner-up has gone undefeated, and the leader's title, rating, streak and presence has sucked up most of the attention. But it's a close competition, and as the current tournament has two rounds yet to go it isn't over yet. (And as we saw in the Qatar Masters, having a six-game winning streak doesn't guarantee first place - just ask Anish Giri and Vladimir Kramnik.)

    So was a point back entering the round, but he cut the gap in half by beating Ivan Saric in what was to me a rather strange game. Saric played a sideline of the Zaitsev Ruy with Black, but even though there wasn't too much theory to master (at least relatively speaking) he seemed unprepared for So's 18th move. His initial reaction was correct, but on his 20th move he played a novelty that left him clearly worse and living on the edge, and his 23rd move lost a piece to a short combination.

    Carlsen had White against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and had the pleasure of playing not one but two lines against the latter's Gruenfeld! (It started out as a 7.Be3 Classical line, only to transpose six moves later into the 7.Nf3 + 8.Rb1 variation.) Carlsen got a good position and started to outplay his opponent, but despite winning a pawn he couldn't manage to push him over the edge.

    Anish Giri defeated his countryman Loek van Wely on the white side of a Pirc. Giri found some nice tactical ideas, and even though one of them made his life more difficult than it needed to be, he was in control pretty much throughout the game and was a deserved winner. That put him into a tie for third place with Vachier-Lagrave, half a point behind So.

    Ding Liren is also in that third place tie after an absolute gift from Radoslaw Wojtaszek. Wojtaszek was better throughout (though maybe never quite winning), and pressing for hour after hour. Had he played g4 on move 59 or 60 he would have kept some winning chances, but after that he needed to show a little caution. Unfortunately, he uncorked the blunder 62.Bb7??, forgetting that Black could have ideas too (this is psychologically understandable when all the winning chances have been yours for the past four hours), and after 62...b5 the game was essentially over. Wojtaszek played three more moves, but there was nothing to be done. Chess can be cruel!

    The day's last winner was Hou Yifan. That was her first win of the tournament, and if you've been following the events you can probably guess who her opponent was...Baadur Jobava. He's having the tournament of his life, in a bad way, with just 1.5 points out of 11, and has lost 35.7 rating points and dropped 25 spots on the rating list. Today he was worse but not lost in a queen and bishop ending, but that changed when he blundered the bishop to a simple fork on move 39.

    In the department of draws, Levon Aronian was had an enduring edge against Vasil Ivanchuk but couldn't reel him in, while Fabiano Caruana couldn't make anything out of his small edge against Teimour Radjabov.

    The tournament site is here, the games with my notes are here, and tomorrow's penultimate round pairings are as follows:

    • van Wely (3.5) - Jobava (1.5)
    • Radjabov (5.5) - Hou Yifan (4)
    • Ivanchuk (6.5) - Caruana (6.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (7) - Aronian (5)
    • Ding Liren (7) - Carlsen (8)
    • Saric (3) - Wojtaszek (5)
    • Giri (7) - So (7.5)

    There are two huge games there, and the chase pack really needs to see a win by Ding Liren as Carlsen will have White against Saric in the last round.

    In the Challengers' group it was Wei Yi's turn to pull ahead. The 15-year-old has 9/11 after defeating Bart Michiels, half a point better than David Navara, who could only draw against Valentina Gunina. Sam Shankland won his game with David Klein to take sole possession of third place, half a point ahead of Robin van Kampen (who lost to Salem Saleh) and Vladimir Potkin, who won in bizarre style against Jan Timman.

    Timman had to defend a long time, but finally reached a relatively comfortable position with rook and pawn against rook and bishop. Maybe Potkin would eventually win the pawn and reach rook and bishop vs. rook, but while players do sometimes win that ending Timman is a great endgame expert who was writing articles on that ending before Potkin was even born. But see for yourself what happened, starting from the position after Timman's 73rd move. Everything is healthy, and then he plays 74...Kd6-c7 and 75...Kc7-d8, which is absurd and then some, and then there's the insane 76...Re6?? to cap it all off. Assuming this actually happened and isn't a DGT error on steroids, all I can come up with was that Timman thought that 77.Bxe6 would be stalemate. But really, the whole thing is nuts, and I hope someone who was at the tournament today or has read an eyewitness report can shed some light on this.

    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.

    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.