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    Entries in Wijk aan Zee 2012 (14)

    Sunday
    Jan292012

    Levon Aronian Wins Wijk aan Zee A-Group; Harikrishna, Turov Win B- and C-Groups, Respectively

    There were so many quick draws during the last round of A group event in Wijk aan Zee someone might think it was a gunslinger convention or a workshop for budding sketch artists. (Thank you, thank you.) With a win over Levon Aronian, Teimour Radjabov would have tied for first place, but with Black he was satisfied with a draw by repetition in just 12 moves, allowing Aronian to clinch clear first. Gashimov-Nakamura was even shorter, drawn in 11 moves, and Ivanchuk-Karjakin was only slightly more inspiring, drawn after 22 moves. Next was the draw between tail-enders Giri and Navara (29 moves); after this, the remaining three games had some fight.

    Magnus Carlsen hoped to take clear second, but with the white pieces Loek van Wely was able to stop the bleeding and draw right after the first time control in a dead drawn opposite-colored bishop ending.

    His performance was a quiet one, but with his victory over the slumping Boris Gelfand the Italian GM Fabiano Caruana made it a three-way tie for second. Gelfand was fine out of the opening, but was ground down in a heavy piece ending.

    Finally, Gata Kamsky beat his two-time Candidates' rival Veselin Topalov in a minor piece ending to reach a +1 score; Topalov sank back to a -3 score, missing the tie for last place by half a point.

    (For those curious about the pecking order at the top of the world, the essentially up-to-the minute live ratings can be seen here.)

    Final Standings (A Group):

    1. Aronian 9
    2-4. Carlsen, Radjabov, Caruana 8
    5-6. Ivanchuk, Nakamura 7.5
    7. Kamsky 7
    8. Karjakin 6.5
    9. van Wely 5.5
    10-12. Gelfand, Topalov, Gashimov 5
    13-14. Navara, Giri 4.5

    In the B-group, a draw was enough for Pentala Harikrishan to win the tournament and secure advancement to next year's Group A event. Alexander Motylev and Erwin L'Ami could have tied for first with wins, but Motylev could only manage a draw with Jan Timman, while L'Ami lost to European Champion Vladimir Potkin. By defeating Sipke Ernst (and very quickly), Lazaro Bruzon caught Motylev in second.

    Finally, the see-saw race in the C-group between Maxim Turov and Hans Tikkanen ending in the former's favor. He defeated Etienne Goudriaan in a long game while Tikkanen couldn't defeat Tania Sachdev (the game ended in a draw). Thus Turov wins the group and qualification to next year's B-event. As for top seed Matthew Sadler, his last game was - you guessed it - a draw (though never for want of trying - on average his games were more than 50 moves long). The fight was there but the results (+2 -1 =10) weren't. Hopefully this will stoke his competitive fire to play more and improve rather than encourage him to re-retire.

    Sunday
    Jan292012

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 12: Aronian Clinches a Tie for First

    The penultimate round in Wijk aan Zee was rather odd, and in a way a return to normalcy. In the previous round Levon Aronian suddenly made the tournament interesting by losing his previous game with White, allowing Magnus Carlsen and Teimour Radjabov to suddenly close to within half a point. So what now? His rivals drew their games while Aronian eventually outfoxed Boris Gelfand to win, boost his lead back to a full point, and clinch at least a tie for first.

    The Gelfand-Aronian battle was pitched, with both players trying for a long time to earn a win. White had lots of holes and penetration points on the queenside, while Aronian was soon committed to kingside counterplay or a painful loss. Only after the time control were matters settled when Gelfand blundered the game away with 46.Kxg2??; with 46.Nxg2 he should have held a draw.

    Carlsen had White against Gata Kamsky, but didn't get much with his 9.d4 Anti-Marshall. The game grew complex, but after Kamsky's 17...Kh8! those complications were in Black's favor. Fortunately for the young Norwegian, he was worse but never losing, and with his characteristic resilience he eventually saved the game.

    Radjabov also had White, in his case against a psychologically reeling Vassily Ivanchuk. Radjabov declined the Benko Gambit with 5.b6, and may have enjoyed some edge after 19.exd6. His 19.exf6 probably wasn't as good thanks to the accurate 19...Bxf6!, but there wasn't any objective reason to call it a day just one move later; it seems that White has at least a little something with 21.f5.

    The draw left Ivanchuk half a point behind Radjabov and Carlsen in fourth, where he was tied with Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. Caruana was fortunate to draw, as he was two pawns down without much compensation against David Navara. Unfortunately for Navara, who has had a very poor tournament, 38.Qf1?? blundered the exchange, after which Caruana even had the better half of the draw. Nakamura, by contrast, entered the tie by giving Loek van Wely his second straight loss. White (Nakamura) gained no edge in an 11.c4 Sveshnikov, but as time trouble approached the young American gained some ground. 35.Ng5 was a provocation best ignored (e.g. 35...a4=; 35...f6!? 36.Bh3!? is unclear). Van Wely's decision to capture was mistaken, and after 35...Bxg5?! 36.hxg5 Qxg5 37.Bh3 Rc7 38.Rxd6 Kg7?! 39.f4 exf4 40.gxf4 Qe7 41.e5 White was in charge, all the more so after 41...a4?! 42.e6! White crashed through in the center and won convincingly.

    Finally, Veselin Topalov won his first game of the tournament, at the expense of Anish Giri's acquisition of olympic rings (five consecutive losses); while Sergey Karjakin drew a short game with Vugar Gashimov.

    Standings After Round 12 (of 13):

    1. Aronian 8.5
    2-3. Carlsen, Radjabov 7.5
    4-6. Ivanchuk, Caruana, Nakamura 7
    7-8. Kamsky, Karjakin 6
    9-11. van Wely, Gelfand, Topalov 5
    12. Gashimov 4.5
    13-14. Navara, Giri 4

    Final Round Pairings:

    • Aronian - Radjabov
    • van Wely - Carlsen
    • Ivanchuk - Karjakin
    • Caruana - Gelfand
    • Gashimov - Nakamura
    • Kamsky - Topalov
    • Giri - Navara

    In the B group, Pentala Harikrishna maintains a narrow half-point lead (with 8.5 points) over Alexander Motylev and Erwin L'Ami. Motylev had White against Harikrishna in a Berlin endgame they drew, while L'Ami was lost against Timman but held a draw when the latter blundered.

    In Group C, the thrilling two-man show continues, as both Maxim Turov and Hans Tikkanen continued their winning ways. Both won with Black to reach 9.5 points, with Turov defeating Indiana GM Baskaran Adhiban and Tikkanen handing Matthew Schlechter Sadler his first defeat.

    Friday
    Jan272012

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 11: An Insane Round

    Today's round at Wijk aan Zee was simply remarkable! Starting from the top: Tournament leader Levon Aronian came into the round not just doing well on the scoreboard but playing very good chess. His round 11 opponent was David Navara, who was having an absolutely terrible event. Better still, Aronian had White. Did it matter? Not a bit. Aronian was outplayed by Navara, and though he put up heroic resistance he still went down to defeat in the second time control.

    Okay, so that meant that the coast was clear for Vassily Ivanchuk to catch Aronian in first, or at least give it a good run. He had White against Boris Gelfand, and Gelfand too has had a pretty bad event. So, of course...Ivanchuk lost. He tried to get blood from a stone, and the usual result is that it's the person's blood that ends up on the stone. His 26.a4 was doubtlessly intended as a temporary pawn sac; it turned out to be a gift that Gelfand used to win the game.

    Next up: Magnus Carlsen. He had White against his regular customer, Veselin Topalov. Surely he'll win, right? He didn't get anything out of the opening either, and then he went bonkers a la Tal, throwing all his pieces at Topalov's king and sacrificing anything that slowed him down. Topalov was winning, but happily for Carlsen and for fans of berzerk chess, he (Topalov) chose the panicky 25...Qxf7. 25...Bd3 would have maintained a winning edge; instead, the position became very unclear. Carlsen had more time and the initiative, and managed after all to score a full point.

    Three of the other four games finished with a winner as well. Sergey Karjakin broke both his streak and Loek van Wely's by defeating him. That brought one-draw Karjakin back to 50% while sending van Wely to -1 after the latter's first non-draw. In the battle of Azeris, Teimour Radjabov beat Vugar Gashimov, and in the battle of teenagers Fabiano Caruana beat Anish Giri. The one draw was in the battle for American bragging rights. Hikaru Nakamura grabbed a pawn early on, but Gata Kamsky's dogged defense helped him save the game. (I haven't looked closely, but my impression was that Nakamura really should have pulled out the victory.)

    After 11 of 13 rounds, here are the standings:

    1. Aronian 7.5
    2-3. Carlsen, Radjabov 7
    4-5. Caruana, Ivanchuk 6.5
    6. Nakamura 6
    7-8. Kamsky, Karjakin 5.5
    9-10. Gelfand, van Wely 5
    11-13. Topalov, Gashimov, Giri 4
    14. Navara 3.5

    Round 12 Pairings:

    • Topalov - Giri
    • Navara - Caruana
    • Gelfand - Aronian
    • Radjabov - Ivanchuk
    • Karjakin - Gashimov
    • Nakamura - van Wely
    • Carlsen - Kamsky

    In Group B, there was more of the same. Pentala Harikrishna had been (and still is) leading, and had been dominant, but in this round he was beaten relatively convincingly by Sipke Ernst. Harikrishna still leads with 8/11, but Alexander Motylev and Erwin L'Ami are just half a point behind.

    In Group C, Maxim Turov was also in trouble, but managed to draw. Hans Tikkanen won, and they share the lead with 8.5/11. Top seed Matthew Sadler tried heroically, but he went back to his drawing ways and remains two points back with two rounds to go.

    Wednesday
    Jan252012

    Wijk aan Zee, Rounds 9 & 10: It's Aronian's Tournament to Lose

    In the last two rounds of the A-group tournament in Wijk aan Zee, the neck-and-neck battle between the world's top players, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, has turned into a breakaway for the Armenian GM. In round 9 he defeated Fabiano Caruana with some very deep preparation, beating the anti-English line Alexander Grischuk used to torture all his opponents in last year's Candidates' matches. By his own admission Aronian got a bit sloppy late in the game, but with a very difficult position and almost no time on his clock Caruana was unable to save the game.

    Meanwhile, Carlsen was doing his usual thing, getting little from the opening but pressing as hard as possible. This strategy has paid Carlsen huge dividends the past couple of years, but over the last few rounds as often as not it has gotten him into trouble. This time he went too far, and Sergey Karjakin defeated him in convincing fashion. For Karjakin, it was his first ever win over Carlsen at a classical time control, and also continued his pattern of losing two and then winning two. (Granted, there was the interruption in round 8 when he drew with Hikaru Nakamura. On the other hand, he promptly continued the pattern by losing to Gata Kamsky in round 10!)

    Round 10 saw Aronian extend his lead with a complicated win over Anish Giri, punctuated by an attractive, sacrificial mating combination at the end. Carlsen drew comfortably with Black against Nakamura, but that leaves him a point and a half behind with three rounds to play.

    That cleared the way for the volatile Vassily Ivanchuk to leap into second. He has come to life, defeating Giri in round 9 and David Navara in round 10. In the first game, Ivanchuk's tricky 34.Ne6 gave him some advantage in a rook ending that Giri was unable to hold. In the second game, Ivanchuk played the Modern Benoni, and when Navara completely abandoned his kingside Black was able to break through on that flank, winning material and the game.

    The other round 9 games were drawn, but in today's round 10 Caruana won with Black in a Paulsen against Veselin Topalov, whose score is a most uncharacteristic -2 =8, with no wins. Only two other players are winless so far - Navara, who is having an awful tournament and in dead last, and Loek van Wely, who is having a very good tournament, ratings-wise. Van Wely is the lowest seed in the event at 2692, but he has drawn all ten games!

    Standings After Round 10 (of 13):

    1. Aronian 7.5
    2. Ivanchuk 6.5
    3-4. Carlsen, Radjabov 6
    5-6. Caruana, Nakamura 5.5
    7-8. van Wely, Kamsky 5
    9. Karjakin 4.5
    10-13. Topalov, Giri, Gelfand, Gashimov (the 3G network?) 4
    14. Navara 2.5

    Round 11 Pairings (on Friday; Thursday is a rest day):

    • Carlsen - Topalov (Carlsen has generally done extremely well against Topalov, so it's a good chance to get back in the race.)
    • Kamsky - Nakamura (The battle for American bragging rights.)
    • van Wely - Karjakin (All draws vs. only one draw.)
    • Gashimov - Radjabov
    • Ivanchuk - Gelfand (A good chance for Ivanchuk to challenge for the lead, given Gelfand's poor form.)
    • Aronian - Navara (A great chance for Aronian to almost put the tournament on ice.)
    • Caruana - Giri

    In the B-group, Pentala Harikrishna is looking unstoppable. In round 9 he defeated Ilya Nyzhnyk, and today he outplayed Daniele Vocaturo in the tactics to win again. He has 8/10, good for a one point lead over Alexander Motylev (and Erwin L'Ami, in case he wins his game).

    In Group C, then co-leaders Maxim Turov and Hans Tikkanen both won their games to remain tied, but in round 10 Tikkanen lost to the low-rated Pieter Hopman (a great name for a basketball player!), so Turov's draw with Elisabeth Paehtz gives him a half-point lead over Tikkanen with 8/10. And good news for Matthew Sadler fans: after eight consecutive draws, he finally won again in round 10. He's tied for 4th-6th with 6 points.

    Tuesday
    Jan242012

    Wijk aan Zee 2012, Round 8: Carlsen and Aronian Still Lead

    There were many draws in the A-group during round 8 of Wijk aan Zee, but it doesn't mean that the games were either dull or bloodless.

    Teimour Radjabov entered the round half a point behind Magnus Carlsen - his opponent - and Levon Aronian. It would have been great for him to win, obviously, but despite having the black pieces Carlsen obtained an enduring, nearly serious pull in a minor piece ending. It was enough to be better and to push, but not enough to win. Like Carlsen, Aronian too had Black, but against Veselin Topalov it was enough to equalize and quickly draw a Queen's Gambit Declined.

    Much more spectacular was the draw between Fabiano Caruana and Vassily Ivanchuk. There Caruana went for some sacrifices, but they were only enough in the end to force a perpetual. Another game that was spectacular for a while was the Najdorf battle between Anish Giri and Vugar Gashimov, but Giri always seemed to have the worst of it and lost the day's only decisive game.

    Boris Gelfand was very close to joining Giri in the losers' circle, but was bailed out when Gata Kamsky missed a couple of non-trivial winning lines during the time trouble phase of a major piece ending. Finally, Karjakin-Nakamura and Navara-van Wely were drawn as well, giving rise to these standings going into the tournament's second rest day:

    Standings After Round 8 (of 13):

    1-2. Carlsen, Aronian 5.5
    3. Radjabov 5
    4-6. Ivanchuk, Caruana, Nakamura 4.5
    7-8. Giri, van Wely 4
    9-11. Topalov, Karjakin, Kamsky 3.5
    12-13. Gashimov, Gelfand 3
    14. Navara 2

    Round 9 Pairings (on Tuesday):

    Carlsen - Karjakin
    Aronian - Caruana
    Kamsky - Radjabov
    Ivanchuk - Giri
    Nakamura - Topalov
    van Wely - Gelfand
    Gashimov - Navara

    In the B-group, Harikrishna drew and maintained his lead over Motylev, but it was cut to half a point after the latter won. Harikrishna has 6/8.

    In the C-group, Turov drew with Schlechter Sadler, and was caught by Tikkanen in first as both players have 6.5 points.

    Friday
    Jan202012

    Wijk aan Zee 2012, Round 6: Aronian Alone At The Top

    Levon Aronian is simply on fire, and maybe by year's end he too will threaten or surpass Garry Kasparov's all-time rating record of 2851. (Of course it's pretty likely that Magnus Carlsen will pass it first, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Aronian follow suit.) Except for his round 3 loss to Carlsen, he is just about rolling the field and leads the A-group at Wijk aan Zee with a fine score of 4.5/6.

    Aronian took the lead by defeating Vugar Gashimov on the white side of a Modern Benoni. Gashimov's queenside pawns got overextended, and when he lost the c-pawn White's extra pawn and bishop pair helped him to grind out the point.

    Carlsen started the round tied with Aronian for the lead, and while he didn't win today it wasn't for want of effort. Carlsen equalized with Black against David Navara early on, and the game could very reasonably have been drawn after about 25 moves. Carlsen played and played (and played), but the only result was that he almost got into trouble later on in the game, and had to be a little accurate to save it. Finally, after 81 moves, the players split the point.

    Teimour Radjabov caught up to Carlsen, half a point behind Aronian, by defeating Sergey Karjakin. Radjabov was pushing for a long time, but it was only when Karjakin fell into a neat trick near the end that White finally won. After 60.b6! Rxa4 61.b7 Rb4 62.Rc4+! it was time to resign, as 62...Bxc4 63.Nc2+ is followed by 64.Nxb4 and 65.b8Q. It was a nice tactic, but nothing an in-form Karjakin would have missed. His tournament has been quite odd thus far: two losses, two wins, and now two more losses.

    Anish Giri beat Gata Kamsky in a long game, but it could have been much shorter had he played 24.Nxg4. Instead, he had to work hard in a superior but probably drawn ending, waiting for a mistake. Eventually that mistake came and the youngster won in 86 moves.

    Another case of young guy beats older guy was the game Boris Gelfand-Hikaru Nakamura. Gelfand was fine in the opening, a Leningrad Dutch, but when he tried too hard - and took too long on the clock - looking for an advantage, he was ripe for the picking. Nakamura sharpened the game, and won when Gelfand blundered in time pressure.

    Caruana-van Wely and Topalov-Ivanchuk were both drawn, though in both cases White had excellent winning chances.

    Standings After Round 6 (of 13):

    1. Aronian 4.5
    2-3. Carlsen, Radjabov 4
    4-7. Caruana, Giri, Ivanchuk, Nakamura 3.5
    8-9. van Wely, Topalov 3
    10. Gelfand 2.5
    11-12. Kamsky, Karjakin 2.5
    13-14. Navara, Gashimov 1.5

    Round 7 Pairings:

    • Karjakin - Topalov
    • Nakamura - Radjabov
    • Carlsen - Gelfand
    • Kamsky - Navara
    • van Wely - Giri
    • Gashimov - Caruana
    • Ivanchuk - Aronian

    In Group B, Pentala Harikrishna reasserted himself after a couple of draws, defeating the previously resurgent Jan Timman. Harikrishna has 5/6, good for a one-point lead over Alexander Motylev.

    In the C-group Maxim Turov was finally held to a draw (admittedly, it's only his second game so far against a titled opponent). Swedish GM Hans Tikkanen did the job, and they remain a point apart atop the leaderboard: Turov has 5.5/6, Tikkanen 4.5. Matthew Sadler remained stuck in his drawing rut, failing today to beat even the 2279-rated FM Etienne Goudriaan, and with the white pieces. (Admittedly, FMs sometimes have their days!) It was a really spectacular game though, and I wholeheartedly recommend my readers find it and even spend some time analyzing it. Sadler is tied for 4th-6th with 3.5 points.

    Friday
    Jan202012

    Wijk aan Zee 2012, Rounds 4 & 5: Carlsen, Aronian Lead

    Round 4 of Wijk aan Zee was on Tuesday, and by defeating Gata Kamsky in an impressive technical display Levon Aronian bounced back into a shared first place in the A Group with Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen drew with Fabiano Caruana in a Berlin, and not easily, either. As no less a kibitzer (and Berlin expert!) than Vladimir Kramnik noted, 30.f5, not fearing a rook incursion, would have given Black some serious worries.

    The day's other winner was Sergey Karjakin, who continued bouncing back from his 0-2 start with a second straight win. This too was a Berlin, and this time around Black was fine. Karjakin was happy to repeat from moves 22-25, but on move 26 David Navara felt obliged to try for more with White. His fighting spirit was not rewarded, at least not on this occasion, and he went on to lose the ending. Fans of king and pawn endings will want to check out the play from move 50 on, as Karjakin had everything calculated perfectly. In the final position, Navara resigned not because he'll lose a long queen ending, but because the queens will come off and Black will have a two pawns-to-nothing advantage. After 61.Kxa1 f1Q+ 62.Kb2 Qe2+ 63.Ka3 Qd3+ 64.Kb2 Qb3+ followed by 65...Qc3+ swaps the ladies. Or 63.Kc1 Qe3+ 64.Kc2 Qd3+ 65.Kb2 (else 65...Qc3+ trades queens) 65...Qb3+ and again 66...Qc3+ is the winning sequel.

    Wednesday was a rest day (for all three groups), and then round 5 occurred on Thursday. Both leaders drew, and while no one else caught them the immediate chase pack grew a bit larger. Fabiano Caruana and Teimour Rajdabov stayed half a point behind, and they were joined by Vassily Ivanchuk at 3/5, behind Carlsen's and Aronian's total of 3.5 points.

    Carlsen drew, but again only with effort. Giri pressed hard with Black, and if anything missed some opportunities to make life harder for the world's top-rated player. Aronian too had an easy life with Black, as van Wely played a well worked-out line of the Queen's Gambit and got nothing.

    There were three wins today. Hikaru Nakamura got back to 50%, as did Boris Gelfand, by defeating Navara and Karjakin, respectively. Navara is in pretty poor form so far (dead last with 1/5), and although Nakamura denied that the game was an easy one he made it look that way. Navara didn't seem to understand very well the particular line of the English Nakamura chose, and he was lost before move 20. As for Gelfand, it was nice to see his old Najdorf-playing self come out for a change. His diligence and bravery were rewarded, as he won the theoretical dispute against Karjakin in a 6.Be3 Ng4 Najdorf. Finally, the third win saw Ivanchuk defeat Vugar Gashimov with Black in an odd Pirc. Gashimov's plan of 12.Ne1 followed by 13.g4 was too ambitious - foolhardy, even - and his attacking hopes never materialized or even came close. Like Nakamura, Ivanchuk was probably winning by move 20.

    In the day's other action, Radjabov's game with Veselin Topalov was a short and bloodless draw while Gata Kamsky had to hang on grimly for a long time against Caruana before he could save his half a point.

    Standings After Round 5 (of 13):

    1-2. Carlsen, Aronian 3.5
    3-5. Caruana, Ivanchuk, Radjabov 3
    6-10. Giri, van Wely, Topalov, Nakamura, Gelfand 2.5
    11-12. Kamsky, Karjakin 2
    13. Gashimov 1.5
    14. Navara 1

    Round 6 Pairings:

    • Topalov - Ivanchuk
    • Aronian - Gashimov
    • Caruana - van Wely
    • Giri - Kamsky
    • Navara - Carlsen
    • Gelfand - Nakamura
    • Radjabov - Karjakin

    In the B Group, Pentala Harikrishna drew his last two games but still enjoys the clear lead with 4/5; Alexander Motylev is in clear second with 3.5 points. Erwin L'Ami and Jan Timman are tied for third-fourth with 3 points apiece.

    In Group C, Maxim Turov is trying his best to run away with the event. After five rounds he has five points, but four of his five opponents have been significantly lower rated while the fifth has been in very bad form so far. Thus it's a bit early to crown him the champion, but so far, so good. His most obvious competition, judging by ratings, is Matthew Sadler, but he is in a drawing rut. After four straight draws he has just three points overall. It's still early, though, and far too soon to write him off from the battle for first.

    Monday
    Jan162012

    Wijk aan Zee 2012, Round 3: Carlsen Beats Aronian and Leads

    Garry Kasparov's all-time rating record is in trouble! Kasparov reached 2851 (twice, if I recall correctly), and with his win over world #2 Levon Aronian the young Norwegian Magnus Carlsen has taken the lead in Wijk aan Zee and reached a live rating of 2842.6. (Egads - he's still just barely 21 years old!)

    Carlsen's win over Aronian started smooth and grew bumpy, but in the end he brought home the point and his score of 2.5/3 bumped Aronian out of first. The latter is still in second with 2 points, tied with Teimour Radjabov, who crushed David Navara, and Fabiano Caruana, who drew with Hikaru Nakamura. The round's other winner was Sergey Karjakin, who lost his first two games but bounced back with a win over Anish Giri.

    In the B-group, there was a lot more blood: five of the seven games finished with a winner. One was Pentala Harikrishna's victory over countrywoman Dronavalli Harika; he leads the group with a 3-0 score. Erwin L'Ami is in clear second with 2.5 points and Sergei Tiviakov is the lone remaining plus score, with two points. Fans of Jan Timman will be pleased to learn that he bounced back to an even score with a win over Ukranian prodigy Ilya Nyzhnyk. It took 97 moves, but he ground the youngster down in a rook ending that became a queen ending. The finale was especially nice, and what one would expect from a great study composer like Timman:

    Timman played the spectacular 97.g7!! and Nyznhyk resigned. It's not the only winning move, but it's the fastest and most elegant. After 97...Qxg7+ 98.Kf5+ Kh7 (98...Kh5 99.Qh2#) 99.Qc7 eliminates the queens, when the b-pawn will promote.

    In the C-group Maxim Turov continues to roll. The second seed beat Lisa Schut (tied for the second-lowest seed) is at 3-0. Meanwhile, top seed Matthew Sadler only managed a draw with Elizabeth Paehtz, and is in a tie for 3rd-6th at 2-1. In second - for now - is bottom seed Etienne Goudriaan. Along with Turov, he was the only winner in the group, and it propelled him to a 2.5/3 score.

    Group A Pairings for Round 4:

    • Topalov - Gashimov
    • Ivanchuk - van Wely
    • Aronian - Kamsky
    • Caruana - Carlsen
    • Giri - Nakamura
    • Navara - Karjakin
    • Gelfand - Radjabov
    Sunday
    Jan152012

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 2: Aronian Leads with 2/2

    Levon Aronian is again confirming his status as one of the world's top two players. After defeating Hikaru Nakamura in a crazy, imbalanced game, he has taken a clear lead with 2/2 in the A-group at Wijk aan Zee. Round 1 co-leaders Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri drew with Vassily Ivanchuk and Teimour Radjabov, respectively, and are now tied for second half a point behind Aronian. They are joined by the day's other winner, Fabiano Caruana, who defeated Sergey Karjakin. (Poor Karjakin is alone in last at 0/2.)

    In the B-group Pentala Harikrishna is alone at 2-0 after a win over Kateryna Lahno. Lahno should have drawn a sharp double rook ending, but goofed up on the final move of the time control: 40...Rxa7 41.Rxa7 Rxh2 would have drawn easily. L'Ami and the two heroes of last year's C-group, Nyzhnyk and Vocaturo, are half a point behind. Timman's fans had a bad day, as he lost to Tiviakov and fell to a -1 score.

    In Group C, second seed Maxim Turov is the sole leader on 2-0. He's half a point ahead of five players, including top seed Matthew Sadler. Sadler overextended against Tania Sachdev and lost a piece, but managed to hang on by a hair to draw.

    Round 3 Pairings for the A-Group:

    • Gelfand - Topalov
    • Radjabov - Navara
    • Karjakin - Giri
    • Nakamura - Caruana
    • Carlsen - Aronian
    • Kamsky - Ivanchuk
    • van Wely - Gashimov
    Saturday
    Jan142012

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 1: Carlsen, Aronian and Giri Win

    The world's #1 and #2 players increased their rating edge over their closest competitors by starting the tournament with wins. Magnus Carlsen used Ulf Andersson's old anti-Hedgehog line to obtain a slight but persistent edge, and when Vugar Gashimov got mistakenly excited about his own tactical possibilities Carlsen won material and converted the winning opposite-colored bishop ending.

    Levon Aronian defeated Sergey Karjakin with Black in a non-mainline Closed Ruy. The position became surprisingly complex in a hurry, and Aronian negotiated the complications better than his opponent.

    Finally, Anish Giri won with the black pieces against Boris Gelfand in some kind of oddball Slav. Gelfand's pawn sac in the opening looked pretty interesting to me, and in return his bishop pair seemed to offer some chances. As things went, though, Giri was able to absorb the pressure a bit at a time, and finally went on to win a long double rook ending. The champion of Reggio Emilia has continued his winning ways!

    The other four games were drawn, so Carlsen, Aronian and Giri lead the A group after the first round. In the B group, Harikrishna, l'Ami, Nyzhnyk and Lahno were the first-round winners, while I'll note that Timman drew with second seed and current European champion Potkin. Finally, top seeds Turov and Sadler led the pack in the C group, with Adhiban, Tikkanen and Goudriaan also winning.

    There's lots of good coverage on the tournament site, while TWIC's report on the first round is also worth a look.

    Here are the round 2 pairings for the A group:

    • Topalov - van Wely
    • Gashimov - Kamsky
    • Ivanchuk - Carlsen
    • Aronian - Nakamura
    • Caruana - Karjakin
    • Giri - Radjabov
    • Navara - Gelfand