Magnus Carlsen beat Fabiano Caruana with Black in Round 6 of Tata Steel Chess, reasserting his dominance of the chess world after his rival’s remarkable 2014. That third win in a row took Carlsen into second place, where he was joined by Wesley So, who piled yet more misery on Baadur Jobava (0.5/6). Maxime Vachier-Lagrave beat Ding Liren in a spectacular game, but Vassily Ivanchuk still leads alone on 4.5/6 after a solid draw against Ivan Saric.
Tata Steel Chess Round 6 results
The last time Carlsen and Caruana met at the chessboard was in St. Louis, where the gods were all on Fabiano’s side. Back then he was a whisker away from beating Magnus twice in the one event, but had to settle for 1.5/2 and a mere 7-game winning streak in nominally the strongest tournament of all time. Fast forward to Wijk, though, and things have started to go Magnus’ way. He came into their Round 6 game on the back of wins over Loek van Wely and Levon Aronian, while Caruana had just suffered his first defeat of 2015 at the hands of Radek Wojtaszek.
Nonchalant swagger? Or...
GM Jan Gustafsson takes an in-depth look at what turned out to be a cracker of a game:
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Afterwards Magnus was in a rush to get to Amsterdam to watch Ajax play (they won 2:0), but he found the time for an “en passant” interview, in which he continued the football theme when talking about his improved fortunes after a slow start:
It's like a striker in football, you just see the ball go through the net once and then it's all fine.
That moved Magnus to within half a point of leader Vassily Ivanchuk, who gained a slight endgame edge against Ivan Saric – a bishop vs. a knight with pawns on both sides of the board – but was held to a draw in 49 moves.
There were three more draws, of varying levels of excitement. Hou Yifan played the Keres Variation against Radek Wojtaszek’s Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Ne2) and then surprised him with the rare 9.e5, a move not without venom, since Vladimir Onischuk had used it to beat two strong grandmasters in 2014, including Magnus Carlsen's second Peter Heine-Nielsen:
Doubts about the depth of Hou Yifan’s opening preparation may be misplaced, but in any case Wojtaszek safely navigated towards a 4-rook ending that was never likely to finish in anything other than a draw.
The other two draws saw White do what we all aimed to do
when we first played chess as children – take on f7! In Teimour
Radjabov’s case it was a spectacular offer of a rook for a mere pawn:
Sadly, though, it was all downhill from there. The players blitzed out the remaining moves: 16…Kxf7 17.b3 (distracting the queen from defending e6) 17...Ba3+! (the king needs f8 for its escape) 18.Kb1 Qxc3 19.Qxe6+ Kf8 20.Rf1+ Nf6 21.Rxf6+ and since White is down two rooks, threatened with mate-in-1 and unable to give mate himself he had to take a draw by perpetual check.
Loek van Wely played the Trompowsky (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5) against Levon Aronian, perhaps provoking bad memories for Levon of the penultimate game of the 2014 Candidates Tournament. Although Loek apparently didn’t go for the best line…
(Lawrence is referring to his video series: Tricky
…he still got to crash through on f7 with his queen! He later commented:
I thought he was almost toast... but although he's in bad shape he's still very tricky. Maybe I could have won by a computer way of play but obviously I missed it and I didn't dare to take that risky winning attempt.
The position in question arose after 24…Rhf8:
Loek went for 25.Qxh7, allowing Aronian to force a draw by constantly attacking the queen with his rooks. Instead the computer suggests 25.Qg7, when after 25…Rg8 it can escape from “checks” on h6. It all looks very murky, though, since black can take on c3 with Qxb4 to follow, and all of a sudden Black has the safer king.
Don’t miss the following press conference, where Loek is as entertaining as ever. For instance, this was what he thought about who might win the tournament:
Well, things start to look better now for Magnus. Basically he beat Aronian, Fabiano... and me! What else do you want?
It wasn’t all Magnus and draws, though, as two rising stars improved their tournament standings. Wesley So continued his confident start in Wijk aan Zee by taking everything that was offered to him by Baadur Jobava. The Georgian is a brilliant and original player at his best, but like Hikaru Nakamura and Vassily Ivanchuk he has a tendency to go on tilt when things are going badly.
First he burnt his bridges by ruining his structure on move 14 for attacking chances that never materialised. Then he took a poisoned pawn on c7 and wouldn’t back down even when Wesley declared an amnesty with 25…Bb5?
25…Bf5! seemed to be winning, since the queen is attacked and Bxe4
will leave f2 undefended. Instead in this position Jobava had a chance to
survive by retreating with 26.Qc3, when there’s no obvious knockout blow. Instead he
pressed on with 26.Qxd6?, but after 26…Bxd3 27.g3 Qh5 28.Rc7 Re8! the
e4-knight is helplessly pinned. He fought on until move 39, but his cause was
Afterwards Wesley So delighted fans, and made some new ones...
...with a long
That leaves “only” Vachier-Lagrave-Ding Liren, which was a weird and wonderful game. Ding Liren initiated the mayhem with the novelty 11…f6, which Maxime described as “a very clever and gutsy try” in the following short interview:
Ding Liren continued playing instantly while the computer evaluation climbed above +2 in his opponent’s favour. The position was also beautiful - for instance, after 15.Ng5+!
As Maxime mentioned, he stabilised, then lost control (24.Bf4?), then regained control two moves later after Ding Liren went astray with 25…Qxc4?. There was still time for some more fine moves such as 30.Re5!
Ding Liren acknowledged defeat on move 45 to drop out of second position, but with five decisive games in six he’s certainly kept us entertained!
Ivanchuk’s pursuers are beginning to take on a more familiar look:
In Round 7 Carlsen will no doubt fancy his chances of increasing his winning streak to four when the overall World Champion takes on the Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan. Elsewhere Giri has white against Ivanchuk while Jobava has history on his side when he takes on Wojtaszek. He has a +2 score against the Polish player, who he once defeated in a match.
The Challengers saw only two draws and Dutch legend Jan Timman last only 19 moves against Czech no. 1 David Navara:
He was joined in the lead by 15-year-old Wei Yi, who beat his rival prodigy 14-year-old Sam Sevian. Wei Yi lashed out with an early g4 and was then clinical in the final stages:
29.Bf3! took over a crucial diagonal, since 29...Qxf3 30.Qe8+! Kg7 31.Qxe5+ wins the rook on b2.
There was better news for another American Sam – Shankland – who scored his second win in a row to move within half a point of the lead, while Valentina Gunina’s misadventures in Wijk aan Zee continued with a loss to David Klein that left her on 1.5/6.
Round 7 starts at the same time on Saturday 17 January and can of course be followed live here on chess24! You can also watch every game in the Masters and Challengers using our free mobile apps:
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