If Wei Yi wants to become World Champion he’s going to have to learn to defend passive positions. That was Magnus Carlsen’s message as he outplayed his 17-year-old rival in Round 4 of the Tata Steel Masters. Wesley So eased to victory against Loek van Wely, meaning the top two seeds are ominously poised on 3/4, though Pavel Eljanov squeezed out a win against Adhiban to retain the sole lead. Anish Giri has a familiar four draws in four after letting a gilt-edged opportunity slip against Dmitry Andreikin. All games were decisive in the Challengers, where Markus Ragger reigns on 4/4.
Tata Steel Masters 2017, Round 4
There was a very familiar storyline to the most anticipated match-up of Round 4. Wei Yi emerged with a healthy position out of the opening against Magnus Carlsen before the World Champion pounced on strategic errors that began with 18…exd4?!, a move Magnus described as “an absolute gift”.
7-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler takes us through the game:
Afterwards Magnus made it very clear where he thinks his opponent is currently lacking:
It’s difficult for him, with the style he has, to dig in and defend.
Watch Magnus’ interview with Anna Rudolf after the game:
As you can see, it’s also bad news for the rest of the field that Magnus says he hasn’t been feeling so well, though he may play the rest-day football: “I might give it a shot, just to beat Loek!”
After surviving by the skin of his teeth against Richard Rapport, Wesley So capitalised to follow up with a routine win – with the black pieces – against Loek van Wely. It’s perhaps not for nothing that Loek says the tournament moment he’s looking forward to is “a dive in the North Sea, just to celebrate it’s over!”
In the game Loek pulled off the feat of achieving a worse ending by move 10, and although the evaluation was hovering around zero, Wesley So exploited each of his opponent's inaccuracies.
The final moments saw a neat exchange of exchange sacrifices in the centre of the board:42.Rxe5+ Kxe5 43.Bd4+ Rxd4 and Loek resigned, since the king is headed to b2 to force the queening of the a-pawn.
Magnus Carlsen’s win had taken him to 2845.2 on the live rating list, almost restoring a 20-point lead over Fabiano Caruana. Wesley So, meanwhile, is setting new records by the day. His 2815 rating makes him not only the current world no. 3 but puts him in 10th place on the highest ever rating list:
As you can see, Kramnik, Nakamura, MVL and Anand are well within striking distance if Wesley can continue to do well in Wijk aan Zee.
Pavel Eljanov isn’t letting the monsters breathing down his neck worry him, though, and has continued his run of fine form to stay out in front on 3.5/4.
This time there was an element of sorcery about it – or perhaps he took a leaf from the Carlsen vs. Wei Yi playbook – since he won a position it seemed he had no right to win vs. Adhiban:
30…c3! 31.bxc3 Qxa3 gave Pavel a passed a-pawn which he ultimately converted into victory. Note the attempt to keep the structure intact with 31.Qe1? loses on the spot to 31…c2!
Of all the games in the Masters on Tuesday only one was a complete non-event, with a Giuoco Piano that for once was as quiet as the name suggests:
Harikrishna summed up:
While Karjakin sampled the local cuisine:
The most dramatic opening of the day was in Aronian-Nepomniachtchi, where the players raced to a wild position:
Curiously Nepomniachtchi spent 11 minutes on 17…axb5 here, while Aronian then turned down the chance to take again on b5. The game petered out to a draw by repetition in 28 moves, with the players afterwards sharing some familiar laments about the difficulty of remembering extremely sharp opening preparation:
That’s seldom a problem Anish Giri has, but what he has suffered from in the last year is a failure to convert promising positions into wins. Against Dmitry Andreikin he was let down by his time handling (or perhaps Dmitry was rewarded for his), since he was down to under two minutes at the critical moment:
37.e5! was a winning move that could easily have been played on instinct, with the white queen and rook simply too strong when the e-file is opened up as well. If he’d played it Anish would undoubtedly have found the path to victory after the time control. Instead he went for 37.Rd2?! and only played e5 two moves later, when it led to nothing more than an immediate draw.
The right move at the wrong moment was also the problem in Rapport-Wojtaszek:
38…b4! is strong, not fearing 39.f3 when either 39...bxa3 or 39...bxc3 look winning for Black. Instead 38…Reb7 39.Qe3 followed before Wojtaszek played 39…b4 40.cxb4 axb4 41.a4, and it turned out Black's plan of b3 and Qc2 had lost its force, since White can put his rook on c1.
In practical terms, as our commentators pointed out, simply making waiting moves until the time control would have been the best solution. As it was, the tables turned and it was Rapport who was able to exert some pressure, but not enough to win.
That means that going into the rest day the standings look as follows:
The Tata Steel Challengers has always been a place to look for decisive games, but all seven games ending in wins is still something of a rarity!
A notable curiosity is that Jeffery Xiong, Lei Tingjie and now Eric Hansen have all lost to Markus Ragger and then gone on to beat Jorden van Foreest the very next round. Markus himself has continued his perfect performance by scoring a fourth win in four, this time over Vladimir Dobrov. Afterwards he talked to Anna Rudolf:
Ilia Smirin remains in second on 3.5/4 after scoring his third win in a row while condemning Sopiko Guramishvili to a third defeat, while Jeffery Xiong has shrugged off his first round defeat to move into 3rd place with a win over Nils Grandelius. Xiong played the Scandinavian Defence and was in trouble until Nils decided to sacrifice an exchange and rely on his kingside attack rather than simply holding things together. Jeffery defended accurately and then managed to take over and finish in style:
26…Rxd5! Fearing no ghosts. After 27.Bxd5+ Rxd5 White had to resign, since the threat is both mate on d1 and taking the knight on g5.
The players now have a rest day, though many of them will spend it playing a somewhat chilly game of football.
For chess fans why not play or watch Peter Svidler in his latest Banter Blitz session:
You can also rewatch the Round 4 commentary (if it's not available that means it's currently being processed by YouTube - please check back later!):
After the rest day on Thursday the highlight of Round 5 again looks likely to feature World Champion Magnus Carlsen. He has Black against Nepomniachtchi, who has one of the most surprising records in world chess – 3 wins, 2 draws and 0 losses at classical chess vs. Magnus. Admittedly two of those wins took place in U12 and U14 events, while the last came in Tata Steel 2011, but it means Nepo is one player with no reason for an inferiority complex against the world no. 1.
Don't miss all the action with Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson from 13:30 CET on Tuesday. You can also follow the games in our mobile apps: