Reports Jan 18, 2015 | 1:56 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 2015 R7: Carlsen catches Ivanchuk

Magnus Carlsen won his fourth game in a row to join Vassily Ivanchuk in the lead at the Tata Steel Masters after the tough schedule seemed to catch up with the players. Carlsen admitted his win over Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan wasn’t his “best of days”, but it was perhaps the only win that was a logical outcome of most of the preceding play. Van Wely, Wojtaszek, Ivanchuk, Giri, So and Caruana could all claim to have let big advantages slip, while Ivan Saric took 7 minutes to find a helpmate solution against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

It's not every day two reigning World Champions sit down at the chessboard | photo: Tata Steel Chess Facebook 

Tata Steel Chess Round 7 results


Let’s start with the game that got all the focus before the day began: Magnus Carlsen – Hou Yifan. Given the quirk that Hou Yifan had lost the women’s title to Anna Ushenina when she played Viswanathan Anand in Wijk aan Zee in January 2013, this was a rare encounter between the reigning women’s and men’s champions:

It also, of course, had the added spice of whether Magnus Carlsen could stretch his winning streak to four games – something it later turned out he hadn’t done since 2009 (the guy should play more opens! ). Jan Gustafsson has again given the game the serious attention it deserves:

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Afterwards Magnus gave a short interview where he criticised his play but also wasn’t convinced by his opponent’s approach:

I think she played too passively, but then at some point she dug in and started to defend. It might have been enough if she had found her chances at the end.

That echoed the thoughts of English more-or-less retired Grandmaster Matthew Sadler, who was firmly of the opinion that the passive approach wasn’t the right way to tackle Carlsen – “at some point he’s going to get you!”

Sadler joined the live show with Yasser Seirawan, providing a great insight into how grandmasters think:

If you like the way Sadler analyses you’ll like some of his video series for chess24, including Secrets of top-level chess, where Sadler tries to give his thoughts while watching games without computer assistance, rather than jumping to the “objective” verdict.

On the live show Sadler also talked about some of the things, like defending bleak rook endings, that meant he doesn’t regret quitting chess – the agony many of the players went through on Saturday seemed to emphasise his point!

Blunder of the day

There was a lot of competition, but nothing as clean-cut and out-of-the-blue as Ivan Saric-Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. After a great battle Ivan had one, and only one, move to draw against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: 31.Qc1. Instead, after some thought and in no time pressure, he whipped out 31.Rd2??


White has everything covered? Not exactly... 31…axb2+ 32.Kb1 Qa2+!! Saric resigned rather than choose a mate – for instance: 33.Kxa2 b1Q+ 34.Ka3 Qb3# Afterwards, though, Maxime explained that it had taken him quite some time to spot the winning move himself - he also went through the rest of the game and commentated on the action on the other boards:

Dramatic turnarounds

Just one of those days for the Polish no. 1 | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

You can debate who suffered more in Round 7, Radek Wojtaszek or Loek van Wely.

Radek has perhaps been the man of the tournament so far, especially since beating Carlsen and Caruana in the same event is something not even Carlsen or Caruana can do  On Saturday, though, he came up against his old nemesis, Baadur Jobava. Wojtaszek was knocked out of the 2011 World Cup by Jobava, lost an 8-game training match to him 5:3 in 2012 and lost a painful miniature to Jobava in the B Group of last year’s Tata Steel Tournament (Rustam Kasimdzhanov helped his former fellow Vishy Anand second out by annotating the game!). Would it make a difference that, in stark contrast to last year, Jobava was on 0.5/6 this time around? The answer was a resounding no.

Jobava’s formula in all those previous games against Wojtaszek was to get him into wild tactical positions at all costs. He certainly managed that today, even if, as usual, it may have come at the cost of playing objectively inferior lines. 

Here he put the cat among the pigeons with 21…Nfg4!?:


Jobava wasn’t just playing moves, though, he was also playing the man, bashing out his replies in seconds regardless of the chaos on the board. Despite falling almost an hour behind on the clock Wojtaszek very nearly managed to walk the tightrope to the end, but he stumbled at the last:


If he took the black queen with the rook, reinforcing the e4-knight, it’s likely he’d have been playing for two results. Instead after 28.Bxd4? he was hit by 28…Nxh2!, of course played instantly. The position was still very far from lost, but Wojtaszek failed to readjust and the inaccuracies began to flow until he found himself two pawns down and with no better option than to resign on move 37.

Loek van Wely also had a game to forget. It happens to us all, though. Levon Aronian once noted his most upsetting loss had been against Loek in Wijk aan Zee 2006, adding, "I only managed to get to sleep at six in the morning after comfort-watching The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman" 

Loek van Wely, meanwhile, at least got to enjoy some of his game… he outplayed his Chinese opponent Ding Liren, got not one but two dangerous passed b-pawns and had chances to finish the contest off:


38…Nxd3! would have been a killer blow, since 39.exd3 Rxc3! 40.Bxc3 Rxd3 is absolutely crushing. As you’ll notice from the move numbers, though, this was in the run-up to the time control, and Loek simply played 38…Nc6 so he wouldn’t lose both b-pawns if White took on b3. He remained on top, and it was a position he surely couldn’t lose… Alas, everything is possible in chess. The final mistake was, at least, subtle - 53…Ke6?


The e-file was a no-go zone, since now after 54.Bxb4! Loek had to take back with the bishop and give up the b-pawn, the linchpin of his position. If the king had gone, for instance, to f6, then Black can play 54...Rxb4, since 55.Kd3 can be met by 55…Be1. Black would of course queen the b-pawn if the bishop was taken. With the king on e6, though, 56.Rxe1+ is check and game over.

Three erratic draws

The other three games were drawn, but the closest we got to a calm encounter was So – Radjabov. Queens were exchanged by move 11 and it seemed unlikely So would be able to make much of his control of the d-file. Approaching the time control, though, Radjabov may have become too creative, and it’s not clear what he could have done in this position…


…if So had played 35.Ra7 instead of 35.Bxe6. 35…axb3 allows 36.Rdd7! when bad things happen on the 7th rank, so it seems the Filipino player could simply have picked up the a-pawn. Instead all life had drained out of the position by move 40 and the players called it a day.

The former and current favourites to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship title aren't looking in top form in Wijk aan Zee | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

We didn’t have things so easy elsewhere. Aronian – Caruana would usually be the game of the day, but given both players’ struggles – at least after Caruana’s perfect 2/2 start – it was overshadowed for most of the round. What did seem clear at a glance, though, was that as in St. Louis Caruana was demonstrating an uncanny knack of seizing the initiative with Black. He emerged from a complex passage of play with an extra pawn, but as in all his games in Wijk – in sharp contrast to St. Louis – Fabiano found himself very low on time. Aronian began to weave his magic, won the back the pawn and was even able to start pressing with the famously dangerous combination of queen + knight... though normal Caruana service was resumed after the time control.

And this was only Ivanchuk at the start... | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

So that “just” leaves Giri – Ivanchuk, a 102-move rollercoaster. After the game Giri admitted his opening had gone wrong and he couldn’t see what he could do after 22…Qc6! in the following position:


Instead, leaving himself a couple of minutes for 18 moves, Ivanchuk played 22…Rac8, which was a good move except for the drawback of not winning a pawn! He blitzed his way to the time control and, if he’d been Caruana, would probably have refocused and held the queen ending with ease. Instead the Ukrainian star let things get out of hand, until Giri had real winning chances. In fact, he was mathematically won, as tablebases will tell you, though even a run-of-the-mill computer gets excited. The scoresheet around 89…Qb1 made interesting reading, with 90.Qd6+ apparently a promising move:



90.Qd4 dropped 84.42 pawns… although even then it was still winning:

The point, though, is both that queen + pawn endings are treacherously tough and that Giri didn’t believe in his chances himself:

The draw was a normal human result and means Ivanchuk is now level with Magnus Carlsen at the head of the field.

1Ivanchuk, Vassily271552881
2Carlsen, Magnus286252907
3So, Wesley27622867
4Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime27572804
5Ding, Liren27322829
6Wojtaszek, Radoslaw274442808
7Giri, Anish278442811
8Caruana, Fabiano28202763
9Radjabov, Teimour27342726
10Aronian, Levon27972655
11Saric, Ivan26662644
12Hou, Yifan267322600
13Van Wely, Loek266722605
14Jobava, Baadur27272507

Giri, meanwhile, could look on the bright side:

A dark day for the Dutch saw Jan Timman follow his crushing loss to David Navara by a no less crushing loss to Challengers co-leader Wei Yi. His final positions aren’t getting any better!


Navara remained tied for the lead by defeating young Dutchman Robin van Kampen, while Erwin l’Ami did the gentlemanly thing and allowed Valentina Gunina a win after four losses in a row. Fellow Russian Vladimir Potkin also won, of course against a Dutch player, Anne Haast.

Navara has scored 5.5/7 to lead the Challengers along with Wei Yi - he's also moved up to world no. 17 on the live rating lists | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

In Sunday's Round 8 Carlsen will have a chance to make it five wins in a row when he takes on Jobava. We can be fairly sure they’ll both be going for it!

The games start at 13:30 CET and can be followed live here on chess24! You can also watch every game in the Masters and Challengers using our free mobile apps:

         

See also:


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