Reports Jan 28, 2017 | 10:48 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 2017, 11: Wei Yi and Xiong star

17-year-old Wei Yi was the only player to win in Round 11 of the Tata Steel Masters. His 31-move victory over Sergey Karjakin took the Chinese prodigy into clear second place, only half a point behind Wesley So, who he now plays in Round 12. Elsewhere we witnessed an amazing collection of missed wins, with Adhiban in particular a move away from shocking Magnus Carlsen. In the Challengers, 16-year-old Jeffery Xiong beat his co-leader Ilia Smirin to become the favourite to qualify for the 2018 Tata Steel Masters.

Whatever happens in the last two rounds in Wijk aan Zee, both Wei Yi and Xiong look like top 5 players of the future | photos: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess 

A crazy day eventually produced only a single win:

Wei Yi hot on the heels of So… and Carlsen

No-one doubts Wei Yi’s talent, but that also means the Chinese youngster will be compared only with the very best. He crossed 2600 and 2700 at an earlier age than Magnus, but to keep up that pace will require an incredible next few months and years. Carlsen briefly hit world no. 1 on the live rating list as a 17-year-old, in the same year he won the Tata Steel Masters for the first time after tying with Levon Aronian.

Karjakin may not have been happy with his haircut...

Although Wei Yi is up 21.5 points in Wijk aan Zee to 2727.5 and 26th place on the live rating list, it’s asking too much to expect him to jump another 100 points in a year. What is possible, though, is to win in Wijk aan Zee, since his victory over Sergey Karjakin put him only half a point behind Wesley So with two rounds to go.

Lawrence Trent takes us through a remarkably easy win over the famously difficult to beat Sergey Karjakin:

Karjakin could only lament his performance:

Anatoly Karpov claimed the arrival of Sergey's wife towards the end of the World Championship match was a mistake, arguing any change was likely to upset a player's rhythm. Perhaps he'll repeat that argument when he arrives in Wijk aan Zee for the final round on Sunday, though Sergey can afford to take things easier in the aftermath of the World Championship:

There were plenty of players with regrets on a day when it seemed the long tournament was beginning to take its toll on the Tata Steel Masters participants.

Missed wins

It's been a somewhat frustrating tournament for Magnus so far | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess

Adhiban had a typically refreshing explanation for his choice of the Scandinavian (1.e4 d5!?) against Magnus Carlsen:

For the past two rounds I played some normal lines so I thought ok, it was time to play something stupid again!

Once again it worked, since a pawn grab by Magnus on moves 14-15 enabled Black to gain excellent compensation. The World Champion was again caught in the dilemma of whether to acquiesce to a draw or push for a win, and the result was a goal-mouth opportunity for his opponent after 34.Bd2? left the white rook unprotected.

34…Qg4! 35.Re1 (35.Rf1 Ne3!!) 35…Re3!! turns out to be winning for Adhiban, and the curious thing is that he said afterwards he’d seen it!

He didn’t quite believe it, though, and after 34…Qc6 the game fizzled out into a draw.

A game that was never likely to do much fizzling was Rapport-Van Wely, in which Rapport opened 1.b3 and later followed a 1973 Ljubojevic game by meeting f5 with h4:

Loek seemed to have things under control until he lashed out with 21…g5!?

That again had Jan Gustafsson in our commentary contemplating what a player Loek could have been if he’d been born with a sense of danger. Rapport responded in kind with 22.hxg5 hxg5 23.g4!?, offering a piece sacrifice, that was immediately accepted, rather than playing 23.Ne6, when White can still attack on the kingside without the same investment.

The culminating moment was one that might have gone unnoticed in a world without computers and chess engines. A rook sacrifice on g7 by Rapport left him objectively lost in the following position:

After 34…Kg8 35.Bc2 Bf5 36.Qxb8+ White went on to force a draw by perpetual check. Instead after 34…Bd7! 35.Qxd7+ Kg8 36.Bc2 Qg2! checks don’t help White and the f-pawn is too strong.

Harikrishna was rechristened Resourcefulowich by our commentary team as he once more escaped from an opening that went badly wrong | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess 

Both players had reason to lament the game Giri-Harikrishna, which kept them rooted on 50% after 11 rounds. It’s not every day Anish Giri sacrifices a piece on move 12:

The novelty sent Hari into a deep think, with 12…b4! costing him 28 minutes. The problem for Anish, was, as he put it:

Unfortunately I didn’t look at it deeply enough, because the line is just very bad, so I don’t really look at lines that are bad too deeply, unfortunately.

13.Qd4 Rc7!? already left the Dutchman on his own, since he said he only remembered the lines after 13…Qe7. Nevertheless, everything went in his favour until he spurned a chance to exchange queens on move 25 and then went astray in a messy position with 28.Nb6? Bb7 29.Nd5:

Giri said afterwards he’d underestimated Hari’s move 29…Rge6 here, but 29…Rgd6! was even better. In fact, it turns out that the threat of Ne5 and three black pieces targeting the f3-square is simply impossible to parry, with the queen unfortunately placed on c4.

Giri felt the game “got out of hand”, but after 30.Qc5 Rxe1 31.Rxe1 Rxe1 he could still have won in beautiful style with some zwischenzugs:

Giri took the rook immediately, but could have played 32.Qd6!, threatening mate-in-1 with Nc7+, and only after tying down Black’s pieces with 32…Ne7 33.Qb8+ Bc8 take the rook on e1. The game itself had a fitting ending, since Hari was a pawn up and, after a careless move from Giri, could have tortured his opponent for a while. Alas, he hadn’t made the time control and chose instead to take a draw and end the madness.

Watch the players trying to make sense of it all:

Little to write home about

The remaining draws were less spectacular. Having reached the heights of +4 Wesley So saw no reason to fight against the drawing tendencies of the infamous 5.Re1 variation of the Berlin Defence. His game against Dmitry Andreikin was over almost before there was time to take his portrait:

Pavel Eljanov won a pawn against Ian Nepomniachtchi’s Trompowsky but had to accept a draw on move 53, while in the longest game of the day Radek Wojtaszek couldn’t punish Levon Aronian for playing very fast into what looked to be an uncomfortable ending.

Wojtaszek hasn't quite found his game in Wijk aan Zee this year, though his stare is working well | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess

The only change in the standings, therefore, is that Wei Yi has moved into sole second place, while Sergey Karjakin has dropped out of the group of players now in third place:

Xiong in pole position

At the age of 16, Xiong has now moved within 20 points of 2700 | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess

Jeffery Xiong is now favourite to earn a chance to play next year’s Masters as a 17-year-old after the youngest player in the Challengers beat the oldest, Ilia Smirin, in Round 11. He took the most stylish path to victory:

45.Rxg6+ when either capture leads to the c8-rook falling with check, and the only alternative is to get mated in a couple of moves.

49-year-old Smirin has had better days | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess

Xiong talked about his tournament so far, which has included winning all five of his games with the white pieces:

Markus Ragger is now in second place half a point behind after spending 130 moves failing to squeeze out victory over Nils Grandelius in a game that ended with Rook + Knight vs. Rook. 

Nils Grandelius survived 130 moves of probing from top seed Markus Ragger | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess

Gawain Jones joined him in second by beating Eric Hansen in a queen ending.

The road ahead for Xiong looks good, since he faces 9th and 10th placed Aryan Tari and Benjamin Bok, though it has to be noted that Jones and Ragger also face players from the bottom half of the tournament table.

In the Masters, meanwhile, the key clash will be So-Wei Yi. It’s one of those games where you would assume Wesley would be happy to score an easy draw, but as we’ve seen, if he gets the chance to apply pressure at no risk he certainly will, while Wei Yi may also feel his time has come to take a gamble. Among the other games Eljanov-Carlsen stands out – even with the black pieces Magnus needs a win to fight for first place, and his record in classical games vs. Pavel current reads: 4 wins, 0 draws, 0 losses.

You can replay our Round 11 live commentary below:

Don't miss live commentary with Lawrence Trent and Jan Gustafsson from 13:30 on Saturday. You can also follow the games in our mobile apps:


See also:

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