Reports Jan 25, 2015 | 10:57 PMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel R13: Carlsen triumphs as youth rises

World Champion Magnus Carlsen survived a last-round scare to draw against Ivan Saric and win the first supertournament of 2015 by half a point. That kept him just ahead of a pack of hungry young wolves – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (who beat Fabiano Caruana), Anish Giri (who drew with Radek Wojtaszek), Wesley So (who beat Loek van Wely) and Ding Liren (who upended Levon Aronian) all finished on 8.5/13 and made it clear Carlsen will face fierce competition in the years to come. Wei Yi also drew to secure the Challengers title and a place in next year’s tournament.

Magnus Carlsen after finishing the clear winner, just as he did the last time he played in Wijk aan Zee in 2013 | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Tata Steel Chess Round 13 results


Let’s take a look at the final games while also giving a brief assessment of each player’s tournament!

Magnus Carlsen 1/2 – 1/2 Ivan Saric (replay the game)

Looking for inspiration | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The game: Magnus himself admitted this was another of his shaky last-round performances. Perhaps at first there was an element of doubt over the result required, since a win for Anish Giri would mean a draw would only be enough for a share of first place. By the time Giri had drawn and a draw would secure clear first Magnus had given up a pawn to open the f-file with 14.f4!?


At first there was compensation, but then the Croatian was on top, just as he’d been in the 2014 Olympiad, when Carlsen was also in a generous mood:

The World Champion was also down on the clock, but when the time control approached his opponent was obviously nervous and disgruntled with his – still excellent – position. When Carlsen was allowed to play 35.e5! followed by 36.d5! the tables had turned, but it’s to the Croatian’s credit that he composed himself and held a draw in 49 moves.

Magnus Carlsen: 9/13, 1st place, 2878 rating performance, +3.2 rating points

It was a strange tournament for Magnus, since he both started and ended slowly, losing to Wojtaszek in Round 3 and failing to win in the last four rounds. It’s only the length of the event, however, that makes it possible to forget his brilliant run of six victories, including beating Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana in consecutive rounds.

You could see Carlsen himself was struggling to convince himself to be as happy as he should be about his triumph:

What we did discover, though, is that the younger generation is ready to take over the chess stage. Perhaps that’s more pronounced in such a long, gruelling event, but it’s unlikely the chasing pack Magnus’ age or younger is going to get any weaker over time.

Magnus gave a press conference after his game:

Ivan Saric: 4.5/13, 12th place, 2642 rating performance, -5 rating points

The Croatian no. 1 ended roughly where he could have expected in this company and must have done his mood no harm with a win and draw (against the World Champion, who he still has a positive score against…) in the final two rounds, but overall the 2014 Challengers winner failed to stake a claim for future supertournament invites, suffering six losses. This wasn’t his event.

Radoslaw Wojtaszek 1/2 – 1/2 Anish Giri (replay the game)

Wojtaszek determined not to lose another game | photo: Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The game: This was a game where Anish knew that a win would give him a great chance of joint or sole victory in the Tata Steel Masters, and he couldn’t be accused of playing it safe, going for the Grünfeld Defence. He felt optimistic, but Wojtaszek played well, liquidating into a position where he was symbolically better with 18.Nxb5:


A quick draw was agreed on move 30.

Anish Giri: 8.5/13, joint 2nd, 2853 rating performance, +12.6 rating points

It’s been said you can tell if a tournament has been a success by whether you go into the final round in contention for first place. In Anish Giri’s case he was the one person with a chance to overtake Carlsen, and though that didn’t work out this was another milestone in the young Dutch player’s career. Despite a slow start that got slower when he lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Giri hit back with a string of four wins, and felt he was making progress (at the closing ceremony Magnus congratulated him on, “having the second longest winning streak of the tournament — ha ha!”) .

As Anish told Yasser Seirawan:

I've been winning nice games against somewhat lower-rated players, but it's always been quite difficult for me to beat really strong players. But in this tournament I managed to win a couple of them — a good game against Wesley and Ding Liren. I'm glad I beat players who are doing well.  

You can watch his full post-mortem here:

Giri also came within a whisker of 2800 and has moved up to 2796.6 and 6th place on the live rating list, though in fact he’ll be rounded up to 2797 and surpass Anand on the February rating list due to a higher number of games played. Anish is on the rise and, at 20, still only a “junior”.

Radoslaw Wojtaszek: 5.5/13, joint 9th, 2689 rating performance, -9.7 rating points

It wasn't all plain sailing for the Polish no. 1... | photo: Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Radek will leave Wijk with mixed feelings. On paper, his performance may have been a disappointment, but whatever a World Champion like Carlsen can say about only the overall result mattering, beating the World nos. 1 and 2 in model games in the space of three rounds is the kind of thing you don’t forget in a hurry. Wojtaszek can also reflect on how things could easily have gone better, since he was a move or two away from avoiding defeat (and perhaps getting more) against Jobava, Ding Liren and Saric. The final consolation is that he finished in the same place as he did in the Challengers in 2014, when he was the top seed for that event!

Fabiano Caruana 0-1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (replay the game)

A very un-Sinquefield Cup-like performance for the world no. 2 Caruana | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The game: This was perhaps the game of the day, with the French no. 1 getting in the …d5 break in the Sicilian despite the fact it lost a pawn for compensation that wasn’t immediately obvious. He then followed up with a move that caught the eye of English grandmaster Matthew Sadler — 17…Qd6:


MVL did indeed follow up with pushing his f, h and e-pawns, and it became hugely difficult for Caruana to play:

Fabiano tried to bail out by sacrificing a piece for two of the pawns, but he crumbled in time trouble, until we got the kind of mate-next-move position you don’t get to see often in top-level chess:


Fabiano Caruana: 7/13, 7th place, 2769 rating performance, -9.1 rating points

The final game was symptomatic of Fabiano’s tournament, with time trouble an issue even when he was winning games. He started with 2/2 but it was mainly downhill from there, with consecutive losses to Wojtaszek and then his great rival Carlsen taking the wind out of his sails. Typically Fabiano still managed to post a plus result (+1), and he hung on to the world no. 2 spot by the smallest of margins, but this will be a tournament to forget in a hurry as he heads to Baden-Baden and then Zurich. He can also reflect that last year he also finished with a disappointing +1 after three losses in Wijk aan Zee, but the rest of the year didn’t go so badly...

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: 8.5/13, joint 2nd place, 2855 rating performance, +18 rating points

This was a triumph for the French no. 1, who recovered from a mediocre end to 2014 to get his rating back up where it belongs – even if 2775 wasn’t quite enough to return him to the world top 10! (Nakamura has 2776) If Carlsen had lost his final game Maxime would formally have taken 1st place on the tiebreaker of head-to-head results, since he beat high-flying rivals Ding Liren and Anish Giri. And if Maxime hadn’t come up against a truly inspired Vassily Ivanchuk at the start of the tournament… but it was a good enough performance not to need “if onlys”.

Levon Aronian 0-1 Ding Liren (replay the game)

Who could have guessed before the tournament that Ding Liren would outscore Levon Aronian by a full three points? | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The game: In Grandmaster Jan Gustafsson's last video recap of the Tata Steel Masters he looks at how the Chinese no. 1 beat the Armenian no. 1:

You can find far more videos on our free YouTube channel. Be among the first to see new content by subscribing — simply click the button below:

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Levon Aronian: 5.5/13, joint 9th place, 2685 rating performance, -20 rating points

What can you say about Levon’s performance, except that it was truly awful? His single win came against Baadur Jobava, while he lost to three of the rising (or risen) stars, So, Carlsen and Ding Liren. Aronian has been quoted in the past as saying Wijk aan Zee is his favourite tournament, and he won last year with six wins and only one defeat that came after he’d already clinched victory. As if that wasn’t bad enough, something has been wrong with Levon from as long ago as last year’s Candidates Tournament, and has seen him sink down to no. 9 on the rating list. Aronian himself has said he’s not sure what the issue is, but let’s hope he can recover, since seeing Aronian in top form taking on the younger generation should be a thrilling spectacle.

Ding Liren: 8.5/13, joint 2nd, 2857 rating performance, +22.6 rating points

This was a potentially career-defining performance for Ding Liren, who most impressed by his ability to shrug off setbacks and keep on posting regular wins — in fact, he managed seven, more than Magnus, who called his rival’s feat “amazing”. Ding picked up the most rating points of any player and had the most decisive games of anyone bar Jobava, starting with an incredible eight decisive games in nine before finishing with two draws and two wins. That was important, given his drawing all seven games at the TASHIR Petrosian Memorial in November had been a potentially bad sign. Was he falling into the supertournament novice’s trap of playing too solidly just to avoid painful losses, and would his draws put off future tournament organisers? It seems it’s a resounding no to both questions!

Wesley So 1-0 Loek Van Wely (replay the game)

The start of a new unbeaten streak for Wesley So? | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The game: Wesley had a long, tough game the day before, which culminated in the psychological blow of ending a 54-game unbeaten run, so taking things easy in the final round would have been understandable. Instead Loek’s loose play was punished in utterly brutal fashion by the Filipino and now US no. 1. 27.Bb3! was a particularly nice blow:


27…Qxb3 runs into 28.Rxg7! Kxg7 29.Qg5+! when White wins all the material back and keeps a lethal attack. Loek chose 27…Be6 but conceded defeat four moves later.

Wesley So: 8.5/13, joint 2nd place, 2854 rating performance, +16.8 rating points

This was an almost frighteningly mature performance from the 21-year-old, who played sharply prepared lines to draw with Black (unless his opponents went astray like Ivanchuk or haywire like Jobava) but was always dangerous with White. With two rounds to go he appeared to be Carlsen’s biggest rival, but Anish Giri stopped him posting an even better performance. So ended the tournament as the world no. 7 and the American no. 1, and looks poised to become at home among the elite in 2015.

Loek van Wely: 4/13, 13th place, 2611 rating performance, -10.1 rating points

One fine victory against Hou Yifan is not much to show for the former Dutch no. 1’s tournament, but it was roughly the kind of performance he could expect in such tough company at this stage of his career. He might easily have notched a couple more wins, with the games against Ding Liren and Ivan Saric in particular tragicomedies, but Loek himself admitted that his time-trouble mistakes in winning positions weren’t coincidental but due to the fact he’s no longer a full-time chess professional.

Hou Yifan 1/2 – 1/2 Vassily Ivanchuk (replay the game)

Ivanchuk's first name may have changed for this tournament, but his poses during games are unaltered for decades | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The game: This was a quiet game where it seemed an Ivanchuk in his prime might outplay his opponent, but instead the Women’s World Champion kept things tight enough to provoke a draw offer. One nice moment was after 27.Nxe4:


Why didn't Ivanchuk play 27…Nxf5, destroying White’s overextended structure? That would run into 28.c6!, giving White great play on the queenside.

Hou Yifan: 5/13, 11th place, 2664 rating performance, -1.1 rating points

Hou Yifan finished in exactly the same place she did in 2013, with half a point and two wins less plus a lower rating performance this time round. So it was by no means a breakthrough performance for the Women’s World Champion, but she once again proved she can live with male company at this level. In fact, she could easily have scored more points, with her sequence of games against Carlsen, Aronian and Caruana particularly impressive. Half a point more in each of those games would truly have transformed her event.

Vassily Ivanchuk: 7.5/13, 6th place, 2805 rating performance, +15.9 rating points    

Such a long event plays tricks on your perception. It’s easy to think that Vassily had a bad tournament, but when you look at his numbers that’s obviously not the case, with his only loss coming due to his unawareness of a well-known opening trick that Wesley So only played as a drawing weapon. The problem, though, is that Ivanchuk started in a blaze of glory, with three wins out of four, and then ceded the limelight to the youngsters as he drew eight of his remaining nine games. A lack of ambition, or simply sensible energy management (compare the other fast starters Wojtaszek and Caruana)? In any case, Ivanchuk improved his rating, reminded the chess world of his existence after he’d been starved of top class events, and finished above everyone else aged over 24 — not to mention a certain Fabiano Caruana.

Baadur Jobava 1-0 Teimour Radjabov (replay the game)

The game: Sometimes even Jobava can’t lose a game on demand, although he set everything up perfectly for his opponent:


20…Nxf3+!  was crushing, and perhaps the kind of move you can play simply on intuition even if you can’t calculate every line to its conclusion. Afterwards Teimour couldn’t explain why he instead exchanged queens on c2:

That wasn’t the end of Radjabov’s suffering, though, as he misjudged a tricky pawns vs. knight ending and had to resign on move 60.

Baadur Jobava: 3/13, 14th place, 2536 rating performance, -31.4 rating points

This is one performance a winning finish can do nothing to hide! Nine losses in 13 games was the body count (Seirawan’s vocabulary is catchy) after the Georgian no. 1’s calamitous tournament. Perhaps the fault was losing in one misjudged rook move against Ivanchuk in the very first game, or the way he lost a close to winning position against Saric in Round 4, but at some point it seemed the brilliant but erratic Georgian just couldn’t help himself. Perhaps he simply doesn’t have the damage limitation mode most players rely on when things are getting out of hand. Jobava’s challenge for the rest of the year will now be to restore his rating back above 2700 and convince tournament organisers once again that he’s not only entertaining but formidable. The best chance to do that will be in the remaining Grand Prix events. 

Teimour Radjabov: 6/13, 8th place, 2718 rating performance, -2.7 rating performance

An underwhelming event for Teimour Radjabov, but there are worse fates, as his opponent demonstrated | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Radjabov had a solid but uninspired tournament where he hovered around 50%. When he lost to Ding Liren in Round 4 he got back to level pegging by beating Saric in the next round. When he beat Wojtaszek in his best game in Round 8 he immediately suffered his most painful defeat to Magnus Carlsen in Round 9. Sadly there was no 14th round to recover from today’s defeat!

So the final standings were as follows:

1.Carlsen, Magnus286292877
2.Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime27572854
3.Giri, Anish27842852
4.So, Wesley27622854
5.Ding, Liren27322856
6.Ivanchuk, Vassily27152805
7.Caruana, Fabiano282072769
8.Radjabov, Teimour273462717
9.Wojtaszek, Radoslaw27442688
10.Aronian, Levon27972684
11.Hou, Yifan267352664
12.Saric, Ivan26662641
13.Van Wely, Loek266742610
14.Jobava, Baadur272732536

Wei Yi earns his shot in 2016

That just leaves the Challengers, where one player, Sam Shankland, matched Magnus’ 9/13, another, David Navara, blew it out of the water with 10/13 to move to world no. 19, while Wei Yi did what we all hoped and expected — qualified to play in the Tata Steel Masters next year with a supreme 10.5/13, featuring no less than eight wins. The Chinese prodigy drew his final game against Saleh Salem to fall just short of 2700 (his live rating is now 2695.4), but anyone hitting such rating heights at 15 obviously means business.

Wei Yi has a lot to smile about! | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

At the closing ceremony he spoke through a translator, saying he was happy to be back next year and would be satisfied with 6.5 in the Masters. That would have put him in 8th place this year.

23-year-old Sam Shankland finished with three wins in a row for 9/13 | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

14-year-old Sam Sevian is also making waves, and ended by inflicting the 8th defeat on Jan Timman, as if to emphasise the theme of this year’s Tata Steel Chess – the young generation really beginning to squeeze out the old. Will that theme be continued in the rest of 2015? Or will the old guard like Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik show they have some tricks left up their sleeves in events like Baden-Baden and Zurich? There’s not long to wait — see our 2015 Chess Calendar for details of the upcoming events.

So that's all for now from this year's Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. We hope you enjoyed it as much as the players and commentators are probably enjoying the after-party 

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