Anish Giri is half a point behind Magnus Carlsen going into the final round of the Tata Steel Masters after overcoming Wesley So's 111 moves and well over 7 hours of resistance. Jan Gustafsson analyses that game that ended the Filipino’s 54-game unbeaten streak. Elsewhere there were scares for Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but all games were drawn except for another grim attritional battle which saw Ivan Saric beat Radek Wojtaszek in 71 moves. China’s Wei Yi leads the Challengers by a point after a spectacular mating attack.
Tata Steel Masters Round 12 results
With 13 rounds the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee has become a unique marathon for elite-level chess players, and in the latter stages fatigue can begin to make itself felt. It looked, for much of Round 12, as if we might get all games drawn for the first time in the event, especially since Baadur Jobava and Loek van Wely seemed to decide they’d suffered enough and took a tame 20-move draw by repetition.
Radjabov-Hou Yifan was perhaps the day’s only other absolutely uneventful encounter, with both players having tournaments that correspond roughly to their ratings.
Ivanchuk-Caruana saw Caruana repeat the Grünfeld Defence that had seemed to get him into trouble in the 2014 London Chess Classic against Kramnik until he bailed out with a spectacular drawing combination. Vassily deviated on move 15… but ran into a different spectacular combination. It soon became clear why Ivanchuk spent 45 minutes contemplating the move 18.Bc4!?
18…Nxd4! 19.Bc7! Rd7 20.exd4 Rxd4 21.Nxg6! Re4+! 22.Kf1 Bxa1 23.Bd5! Bf5! 24.Bxe4 Bxe4 25. Nxe7+ Kf8 26.Rxa1 Bd3+! 27.Kg1 Kxe7 and the ending was a clear draw. The scary thing is that both players must have seen more or less all of that in advance. If you find it tougher to follow you might like to play through the game in our broadcast system, where you can try out different moves to see why they (usually) don’t work.
The most spectacular draw was between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian. That also followed a game where Kramnik had been on top in London, Giri-Kramnik from the last round, but Aronian deviated with 10…Bd6 rather than 10…Be4 on move 10. That got Maxime thinking, and a dozen moves later Aronian’s queen and knights were gobbling up the white queenside. Was the Armenian about to win his second game in Wijk aan Zee? Well, it confused Stockfish on the live broadcast, but the answer was no. Maxime had just enough firepower on the kingside to force perpetual check, whatever move order Levon chose.
Here, in the final position, White is a rook down, but the drawing mechanism of Nf6+ and Nxh5+ saves the day.
Maxime admitted it had been a close-run thing:
That brings us to the crucial games. Magnus Carlsen had the black pieces against Ding Liren, who would catch the World Champion with a win.
At first, though, it seemed Magnus was in control when he
unleashed an opening surprise with 8…Ba6!?.
Shortly afterwards, though, onlookers began to express scepticism:
Sure enough, Magnus also later admitted he’d had “a
suspicious position”, with the big moment perhaps coming on move 16:
When analysing the position after 16.f3! Yasser Seirawan commented, “I feel like a local news reporter at the scene of an accident!” The bold 16…g5 seems to fail to 17.fxe4 gxf4 18.e5! while after the game Carlsen showed Ding Liren a move he’d missed: 16…Bxb5 17.Nxb5 a6 18.Nc7 b5 and now 19.Nxe6!
Instead after 16.a3?! Carlsen was able to steer towards safer waters, though he was still the one who had to prove the draw. He gave a brief interview after the game, where he admitted his opponent, “was just playing good moves”:
Ding Liren also talked about his game and tournament, and noted that the success of the Chinese players was partly down to the way they train and live together in Beijing:
Long after all the draws there were still two games going on… and on. The first to finish completed a miserable couple of days for Radek Wojtaszek. Up to move 27 he followed a very odd game played by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave against Teimour Radjabov in the Tashkent Grand Prix. Maxime had offered a queen exchange at that point and fallen into what at least computers felt was a bad position. Radek, meanwhile, followed the computer suggestion, but it only led to an agonising queen + minor piece ending (or middlegame, if you prefer). As late as move 66 the computer claims he could have held:
66…Qd6! was apparently the move, not 66…Qe4+? which just chased the white king where it wanted to go. Saric won on move 71, meaning Wojtaszek has now lost to both Jobava and Saric, just as he did in the 2014 B Group in Wijk aan Zee, and has dropped to -2 after a start that featured wins over Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana.
And so, last but by absolutely no means least, the day’s truly epic struggle: Anish Giri-Wesley So. Jan Gustafsson was delighted he’d chosen to comment on the game…
But it was the one which was crucial for the tournament standings:
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That leaves us with four players capable of matching Magnus Carlsen’s score after tomorrow’s final round:
On paper Carlsen – Saric looks like just what Magnus needs, though Saric knows what it feels like to beat the World Champion after taking apart Carlsen’s opening experiment in last year’s Olympiad. Anish Giri is best-placed to take advantage of another slip-up, even if he does have the black pieces. His opponent, Wojtaszek, has now lost four games in six, and Giri has the added incentive of a win taking him above 2800.
China’s 15-year-old Wei Yi is a win away from becoming the youngest player ever to reach 2700, and his games just keep getting better and better.
Today his opponent may “only” have been 2352-rated Anne Haast, but his mating attack was a thing of beauty:
Yasser Seirawan and Jan Smeets went through the game on the live broadcast:
That took Wei Yi to 10/12, with only David Navara still in touching distance on 9/12. You feel a little sorry for Sam Shankland, whose unbeaten +4 leaves him adrift at 8/12. It’s hard to know what to say about Jan Timman, though, since for the second day in a row he had a baffling end to his game. After an entertaining encounter with Valentina Gunina he appears to have resigned after the Russian Women's Champion played 40…Nxg3:
Curiously, though, he’s not getting mated and, according to the computer, is simply much better. After his decision today, though, he dropped to clear last on 3/12.
In the final round things might not be so straightforward for Wei Yi since he faces Salem Saleh, who has won his last three games.
So it all comes down to Sunday's last round of this year's Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Games start 90 minutes earlier than usual at 12:00 and you can of course follow live commentary on all the action here on chess24! You can also watch every game in the Masters and Challengers using our free mobile apps:
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