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    Entries in Wijk aan Zee 2014 (11)

    Monday
    Jan272014

    Wijk aan Zee Concludes: Aronian Wins The Top Group; Saric The Challengers

    Some traveling and busyness made it hard to keep up this weekend, and this won't be much of a report either - at least not yet. I'll take a page out of other sites' practices and say "more later". What can and should be said now is that despite spoiling the tournament a bit by blundering and losing what had been a better position against the bottom seed Levon Aronian still won this year's main event (generally) in Wijk aan Zee with a very impressive 8-3 score. He had gained more than 20 rating points too - prior to the last round - and looks like he's in very good form heading into March's Candidates' tournament.*

    Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin tied for second a point and a half behind, while third seed Fabiano Caruana could only muster a tie for 4th-6th places. Even more surprising is second seed Hikaru Nakamura's -1 score, not to mention Boris Gelfand's -2.

    In the Challengers' group Ivan Saric won with a dominating 10-3 score. Surprisingly and impressively, Jan Timman tied for second with Baadur Jobava with 8.5 points, and had he managed to put Jobava away in the antepenultimate round he would have taken clear second and perhaps threatened for first. Regardless of the counterfactuals, it was an excellent tournament for the 62-year-old Dutch legend.

    * Please, no comments listing previous Candidates' events where the top seed had won the last big tournament heading into the Candidates but failed to win it. I'm not claiming that Aronian is somehow guaranteed to win on account of this result, so "correction" is neither needed nor desired.

    Thursday
    Jan232014

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 9: Aronian Close to Clinching

    (I guess I shouldn't call the tournament "Wijk aan Zee" now that they've turned it into a travelling circus, but that is the tournament's traditional location, it gives the event a continuity that outlasts its various sponsors, and the present sponsor's name induces titters for those familiar with English slang. So "Wijk aan Zee" it is. On with the report!)

    Round 9 has just about put an end to the drama that was the race for first. Levon Aronian entered the round with a slim half-point lead over Sergey Karjakin, and they were paired in this round. As they are also playing in the Candidates tournament in March, this was a psychologically important duel as well. It worked out swimmingly for Aronian. He had the white pieces, which surely helped, and was able to obtain sustained pressure against his younger opponent. The critical moment came after Aronian's 30.Rbc1. Karjakin finally had the chance to equalize, but doing so required the counterintuitive sequence 30...Rfe8 31.Qh4 g5. Black instead gave up a pawn to break White's bind, but a few exchanges later the result was a winning pawn-up ending for Aronian, and he converted his advantage into a win.

    The loss left Karjakin a point and a half behind Aronian with two rounds to go, and no one is any closer to the leader. Three other players are tied with Karjakin with 5.5 points: Anish Giri (who drew on the black side of an interesting London System against Richard Rapport), Fabiano Caruana (who also drew with Black, against Hikaru Nakamura), and Leinier Dominguez (drew with Black against Boris Gelfand).

    Two other players are another half a point behind, and they both won their games. Penteala Harikrishna blew Arkadij Naiditsch and his Veresov/London System/Barry hybrid off the board in just 19 moves, while Wesley So put a stop to Loek van Wely's rally with a win on the white side of a Classical King's Indian. (At one time van Wely had a veritable grudge match going against Teimour Radjabov trying to prove that the King's Indian was unsound; it appears he has come over to the "dark side".)

    The players have a final rest day tomorrow, and then they'll finish up the tournament over the weekend. (The B-Group - a.k.a. the Challengers - had its final rest day today.) When they resume on Saturday, it will be with these pairings (player scores are given in parentheses):

    • Giri (5.5) - Karjakin (5.5)
    • Dominguez (5.5) - Aronian (7)
    • van Wely (4) - Gelfand (2.5)
    • Harikrishna (5) - So (5)
    • Caruana (5.5) - Naiditsch (1.5)
    • Rapport (3.5) - Nakamura (3.5)

    The tournament site is here, and the games (mostly unannotated, but with some remarks to the Aronian-Karjakin and Naiditsch-Harikrishna games) are here.

    Wednesday
    Jan222014

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 8

    Tuesday's round(s) at Wijk aan Zee were remarkable. Combining the two tournaments, there were 13 games in total, three of which ended in a draw, while the other 10 games were all won by White.

    In the Masters Group (Group A, in the old parlance) the only draw was in the game Anish Giri - Levon Aronian. Giri had the leader under some pressure, but Aronian's play in the rook ending was a model of active defense, and he made the draw look easy.

    In the meantime, the chase pack made up some ground. Sergey Karjakin defeated Boris Gelfand in a 6.h3 Najdorf, outplaying him a bit at a time. Karjakin's technique in the rook ending reminds one of an old joke: How does one make a small fortune in the restaurant business? Answer: Start with a large fortune and get out before you lose it all. Karjakin started with an advantage a weak club player should manage to convert and finally won by a single tempo.

    Giri remains a point behind Aronian, and he's joined there by Leinier Dominguez and Fabiano Caruana. Dominguez slaughtered Wesley So in a 5.Nc3 Petroff, while Caruana took advantage of yet another somewhat eccentric opening by Richard Rapport. Rapport's opening experiments have contributed to the entertainment value of the tournament and he has had some successes, but his play in an offbeat French was more of a miss.

    Further down the tournament table, Penteala Harikrishna knocked out Hikaru Nakamura in a Moscow Sicilian that turned into a Breyer Ruy Lopez (without h2-h3). White had an extra but backward pawn on the queenside, but when he turned his attention to the kingside Nakamura either lost all sense of danger or else missed a tactic. The result was that two moves after initiating the attack, Harikrishna was completely won, and Nakamura resigned three moves later. Finally, Loek van Wely won his second straight game and made it back to 50%. His victim was tailender Arkadij Naiditsch, who completely lost the thread of the game after a somewhat questionable exchange sacrifice by the Dutchman.

    Here are the pairings for round 9, with player scores in parentheses:

    • Rapport (3) - Giri (5)
    • Nakamura (3) - Caruana (5)
    • Naiditsch (1.5) - Harikrishna (4)
    • So (4) - van Wely (4)
    • Gelfand (2) - Dominguez (5)
    • Aronian (6) - Karjakin (5.5)

    Tournament site here; the games, with my notes, are here.

    In the Challengers tournament, Baadur Jobava finally lost a game, to Sabino Brunello, which allowed Ivan Saric to leapfrog him into first place with a win over the slumping Radoslaw Wojtaszek. Weirdly, Anna Muzychuk, who was in a very competitive third place, wasted a white game by playing the same line against the Zaitsev Ruy Lopez used by Viswanathan Anand against Mickey Adams in San Luis 2005. It's one thing for you or me to play a move from 8-9 years ago against someone at the club, but this was a super-famous and very important game in the Zaitsev, something any decent professional would remember (and Muzychuk was playing Zhao Xue, who is a GM and an excellent theoretician). Also of note in the round: Jan Timman beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda to catch Muzychuk in a tie for third, while the young Dutch player Benjamin Bok achieved his final GM norm.

    After 9 rounds (of 13) Saric led with 7 points, half a point ahead of Jobava and a point ahead of Muzychuk and Timman.

    In round 10, played while the top group rested, Muzychuk-Saric was drawn, Jobava beat Bok (after a dubious sacrifice was declined by the new GM-elect), and Timman defeated tailender Etienne Goudriaan. The current standings at the top now look like this:

    • 1-2. Saric, Jobava 7.5/10
    • 3. Timman 7
    • 4. Muzychuk 6.5

    Tuesday
    Jan212014

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 7

    Levon Aronian's winning streak has stopped for the moment, but he continues to enjoy a full-point lead after a comfortable draw with Boris Gelfand in round 7. His closest pursuers, Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin, both had the black pieces in their games as well, and neither came close to gaining the full point. Karjakin drew used an interesting (though perhaps unnecessary exchange sac) against Wesley So to obtain a kind of positional fortress, and So couldn't find anything better than to eventually return the material and coast in with a draw. Giri was even in some trouble against Fabiano Caruana, but Caruana couldn't figure out how to break through and had lost his advantage by the end of the first time control. Caruana has been playing some very long games, and may not have had the energy he needed for another successful push. (Here are the move totals for his games so far: 30, 58, 71, 108, 73 and 132 moves before the 43 move "brevity" in round 7. He may only be 21 years old, but playing games of that length will take something out of you no matter who you are.)

    Three more players started the round a further half a point behind, and that's where they finished the round too. Caruana's and So's games were already mentioned, while Leinier Dominguez pressed Arkadij Naiditsch for 91 moves before splitting the point.

    The next two score groups had a mini-match. The two players with 3/6, Hikaru Nakamura and Pentala Harikrishna, took on the two 2-pointers Loek van Wely and Richard Rapport, respectively. The 2-pointers both won: van Wely in a Classical Sicilian where Nakamura played a pseudo-Keres Attack with 6.g4, and Rapport won with yet another peculiar line - 5.Qf3 in a Classical Caro-Kann. All four players are now tied with -1 scores.

    Monday was a rest day, and here are the round 8 pairings, with the players' scores in parentheses:

    • Giri (4.5) - Aronian (5.5)
    • Karjakin (4.5) - Gelfand (2)
    • Dominguez (4) - So (4)
    • van Wely (3) - Naiditsch (1.5)
    • Harikrishna (3) - Nakamura (3)
    • Caruana (4) - Rapport (3)

    In the Challengers Group Baadur Jobava won again, winning very impressively against Yu Yangyi with his signature Nimzo-Larsen Opening. He has 6.5/8, giving him a half-point edge over Ivan Saric, who only drew his game. They have five games to go, unlike the Masters Group which is four rounds from the end.

    Tournament site here, games (with my brief comments) here.

    Sunday
    Jan192014

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 6

    Levon Aronian keeps on rolling. He has won three games in a row and has scored 5/6, good for a full point lead over Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin. His victim today was Wesley So, and unlike many of today's games wherein the logical result and the actual result often diverged, Aronian played very well and was by all reasonable interpretations the deserved winner. His TPR is over 3000, and his IPR is probably very high as well.

    There was only one other decisive game in the Masters' Group, but it wasn't quite as smooth. Still, it would be inappropriate to call Karjakin's win over Arkadij Naiditsch undeserved. Naiditsch could have held the draw with best play, but Karjakin pressed for so long that it's not surprising that his opponent finally went fatally wrong.

    The other four games were drawn, but in three cases the result could have easily been otherwise. Leinier Dominguez was beating Hikaru Nakamura, Loek van Wely was beating Richard Rapport, and Giri was beating Boris Gelfand. (On the other hand, Gelfand was doing fine there for a long time, only going seriously astray in the second time control before the young Dutch GM let him off the hook.) The other game, between Pentala Harikrishna and Fabiano Caruana, was a very long one, going 132 moves, and doesn't seem to have afforded either player the sort of opportunity that existed in all the aforementoined games.

    The tournament site is here, and you can replay the games with my (brief) comments here.

    Standings After Round 6:

    1. Aronian 5
    2-3. Giri, Karjakin 4
    4-6. Dominguez, Caruana, So 3.5
    7-8. Harikrishna, Nakamura 3
    9-10. van Wely, Rapport 2
    11. Gelfand 1.5
    12. Naiditsch 1

    Round 7 Pairings:

    • Caruana - Giri
    • Rapport - Harikrishna
    • Nakamura - van Wely
    • Naiditsch - Dominguez
    • So - Karjakin
    • Gelfand - Aronian

    In the Challengers Group the status quo was maintained. The leaders, Baadur Jobava and Ivan Saric drew with each, and continue to co-lead, now with 5.5/7. Anna Muzychuk could have caught them with a win, but she drew as well and has 5. In a surprise 4th place, with 4.5 points, is the old  veteran Jan Timman.

    (Incidentally, the blog's coverage last night and today were light, as I had to wake up early this morning for a small, local chess tournament, which, happily, I managed to win.)

    Friday
    Jan172014

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 5

    It will be an early and long day for me tomorrow, so I'm afraid the pattern will continue, and there won't be annotated games this time, just a quick summary of round five of the Masters' tournament at Wijk aan Zee.

    Levon Aronian continues to enjoy the solo lead, reaching the very impressive score of 4/5 after his win with Black against Arkadij Naiditsch. Naiditsch played a sideline against Aronian's Berlin that lead to an exceedingly dull and drawish looking position, but Aronian took a page out of the Carlsen playbook and ground away. Naiditsch was fine through the first time control, but finally started to lose his way in the second time control and got ground down. If you've ever felt bad about your play for losing from a very even position, have a look at the position they reached after move 20 and realize that a super-GM managed to lose it. Chess is tough! Not only does Aronian lead, he has gained 10 points since the tournament began and is probably putting some fear into his opponents for the coming Candidates event.

    Youngsters Wesley So and Anish Giri (b. 1993 and 1994, respectively) are both just half a point behind, and they too won today. (In fact, only one game in six was drawn in this round.) So easily dispatched Boris Gelfand, who is already at -3 and having a horrible tournament. Giri's opponent, Pentala Harikrishna, played better than Gelfand, but not better enough. Giri played energetically to obtain a winning rook ending with the Black pieces, and then he promptly squandered almost all of his advantage. Fortunately, there was just enough left to convert the full point.

    The other youngster, Fabiano Caruana (b. 1992 - come back!!), continued his tournament-long trend of having every game won by White. As he had the white pieces this time he surely had no objection to this. Loek van Wely played a Sveshnikov Sicilian and hung on for a long time on the inferior side of an opposite-colored bishop ending, but Caruana kept on working and made it a win.

    Richard Rapport continues to find crazy opening ideas. This time, against Leinier Dominguez, he punted 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 g6 3.g4, and followed with some further crazy-looking moves soon afterwards. Nothing disastrous happened at first, but when he kept playing without a sense of danger he wound up getting clobbered after 19...Bxe2! (He had already had one reprieve when Dominguez avoided 17...dxc4 18.Nxc4 Nd5, with a nearly winning position.)

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura and Sergey Karjakin played a very exciting draw - the only draw of the round - in a 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian. (All the games, without notes, can be replayed here.)

    Standings After Round 5:

    1. Aronian 4
    2-3. Giri, So 3.5
    4-6. Dominguez, Caruana, Karjakin 3
    7-8. Harikrishna, Nakamura 2.5
    9-10. van Wely, Rapport 1.5
    11-12. Naiditsch, Gelfand 1

    Round 6 Pairings:

     

    • Giri - Gelfand
    • Aronian - So
    • Karjakin - Naiditsch
    • Dominguez - Nakamura
    • van Wely - Rapport
    • Harikrishna - Caruana

     

    In the Challengers Group, Baadur Jobava entered the round with a half-point lead over Anna Muzychuk and Ivan Saric. He drew with Muzychuk, maintaining his half-point lead over her, but Saric beat tailender Etienne Goudriaan (who unfortunately has 0 points in 6 games) to catch Jobava in first.

    Friday
    Jan172014

    Wijk aan Zee, B-Group Update

    The headliners had the day off to help them recover from traveling (the venue changed, and will change again later in the event), but the Challengers' Group was in action for round 5 of their tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Their event has been exceedingly hard-fought with heaps of decisive games; in fact, there was only one draw there in round 3 and no draws at all in round 4.

    After five rounds, Baadur Jobava leads with 4.5/5, half a point ahead of Ivan Saric and Anna Muzychuk. In round 5 Jobava beat his co-rating favorite, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, and did so with the Budapest line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 g5. The Budapest Gambit is a rare bird in grandmaster play, but in this event it has been used twice, resulting in a pair of wins for Black. Jobava's win was a convincing one, too, so perhaps it's time for another look at the opening.

    I've analyzed three other games from the round for your viewing pleasure, and you can find them here. First up is the remarkable ending between Bok and Timman. The old veteran played brilliantly to obtain a winning position from the single rook ending, only to give it away at the final hurdle by stumbling into a threefold repetition. The next game is a brilliant attacking win by Sabino Brunello, complete with sacrifices, and then the final game is the theoretically interesting draw between Yu Yangyi and Kayden Troff in the Byrne Attack of the Najdorf.

    Back to the top dogs tomorrow.

    Thursday
    Jan162014

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 4

    Unfortunately, the lateness of the hour and the busyness of my day prevent me from offering a real report, so I'll just give the results, standings and pairings for round 5, with apologies.

    Giri - So: Drawn.

    Gelfand - Naiditsch: Drawn.

    Aronian - Nakamura: Won by Aronian, after some strange endgame play by both players. Aronian would have made his life easier with 34.Nxb7, while Nakamura's handling of the kingside pawns and then especially 40...Kd7(?? - 40...Kf7 with the idea of ...Kg6 is far more resilient, and if White plays h4 at some point to prevent Black's king from penetrating Black puts the bishop on e1 and may even have ...Bxh4 if White's king comes back from the queenside) gave White a trivial win.

    Karjakin - Rapport: Won by Karjakin.

    Dominguez - Caruana: Won by Dominguez in 108 moves. At one point Dominguez had three sets of doubled pawns, but it turned out that having an extra pawn proved more important.

    van Wely - Harikrishna: Drawn.

    Standings After Round 4:

    1. Aronian 3
    2-5. Harikrishna, Karjakin, So, Giri 2.5
    6-8. Dominguez, Caruana, Nakamura 2
    9-10. van Wely, Rapport 1.5
    11-12. Naiditsch, Gelfand 1

    Round 5 Pairings:

     

    • Harikrishna - Giri
    • Caruana - van Wely
    • Rapport - Dominguez
    • Nakamura - Karjakin
    • Naiditsch - Aronian
    • So - Gelfand

     

    Tournament website here, games (without notes) here.

    Tuesday
    Jan142014

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 3

    There were only two decisive games today, but there could easily have been two more. One of the winners was Fabiano Caruana, who bounced back from yesterday's loss with an impressive win over Sergey Karjakin from the white side of an Open Catalan. Karjakin never managed to achieve the liberating ...c5 advance, and was gradually ground down. The other win was Penteala Harikrishna's long victory over Leinier Dominguez. Dominguez could have liquidated to an easy draw with 26...Rxb1 27.Bxb1 b5 or 29...b5. Instead, 27...b6, 29...Rb8 and 32...a5 created a static structure that gave White (Harikrishna) the chance to play with some hope and no risk for as long as he wanted. Eventually Dominguez made further errors, and Harikrishna earned a full point.

    Naiditsch-So was an easy draw for Black in the Berlin ending, and Aronian didn't have much trouble drawing on the black side of a Trompowsky against Rapport. The other two draws were more interesting. Loek van Wely tried to blow Anish Giri off the board - also in a Trompowsky - and he was succeeding. 23.Bxe6 fxe6 24.f7+ Kh8 25.Ng5 would have proved that White's position was winning. Missing his chance, Giri was able to promote his b-pawn, forcing van Wely to go for perpetual check. Finally, Boris Gelfand bounced back from losses in the first two rounds to achieve a winning position with Black against Hikaru Nakamura. Unfortunately for the Israeli GM, he missed a nice win starting with 43...Bxf3+, and this game too was decided by perpetual check (or at least the threat thereof).

    Six players are tied for first with 2/3: Aronian, So, Harikrishna, Caruana, Nakamura and Giri; Karjakin and Rapport are half a point behind. Tuesday is a rest day for the Masters Group but not the Challengers, and the reverse will be true on Wednesday.

    Here are the round 4 pairings (on Wednesday) for the Masters Group:

    • Giri - So
    • Gelfand - Naiditsch
    • Aronian - Nakamura
    • Karjakin - Rapport
    • Dominguez - Caruana
    • van Wely - Harikrishna

    Tournament site here; games (with my annotations) here.

    Monday
    Jan132014

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 2

    The game of the round was Levon Aronian's win over Fabiano Caruana. Aronian obtained an advantage with White in a Symmetrical English of sorts (maybe it's better classified as a sort of Gruenfeld), and Caruana gave up a pawn to release the bind. It started out as an extra d-pawn, but turned into an extra a-pawn at the end of the first time control. In due course that pawn made it to a7, and with Black's counterplay at an end and White about to win big material Caruana gave up.

    That was Aronian's first win of the tournament, and indeed there are no players who have won their first two games. There are, however, two players who have lost both games: Boris Gelfand and Arkadij Naiditsch. Richard Rapport was unsuccessful in round 1 with 1.b3, but against Gelfand in round 2 he trotted out the Budapest Gambit. Surprisingly, he beat him pretty convincingly - or at least played very convincingly in the first time control. Having achieved a winning position he wasn't as efficient as he could have been, but he converted the advantage all the same. Arkadij Naiditisch also lost his second game, getting crushed by Anish Giri on the black side of a Bogo-Indian.

    Three games were drawn: So - Nakamura, Dominguez - van Wely, and Karjakin - Harikrishna. (No present for Karjakin on his 24th birthday.) One other game especially worth mentioning was played in the B-Group (the Challengers Group). Benjamin Bok won spectacularly against Yu Yangyi and won the prize for the game of the round. You can find that game, along with all the A-group (Masters' Group) games here (albeit without annotations today). (Tournament site here.)

    Standings After Round 2:

    1-5. So, Aronian, Karjakin, Nakamura, Giri 1.5
    6-9. Harikrishna, Dominguez, Rapport, Caruana 1
    10. van Wely .5
    11-12. Gelfand, Naiditsch 0

    Round 3 Pairings:

    • van Wely - Giri
    • Harikrishna - Dominguez
    • Caruana - Karjakin
    • Rapport - Aronian
    • Nakamura - Gelfand
    • Naiditsch - So