Anish Giri continues to lead the 2018 Tata Steel Masters with Vishy Anand after claiming a late-night eureka moment meant he was ready for Magnus Carlsen playing the French Defence in a classical game for the first time in six years. The decisive action was elsewhere, as Peter Svidler blundered and lost to Vladimir Kramnik in 24 moves, while there were first wins for Wei Yi, who bamboozled Gawain Jones, and Maxim Matlakov, who got there in the end against Hou Yifan. Fabiano Caruana missed a chance to beat Wesley So in a crazy game.
Three games were decisive in Round 4 of the 2018 Tata Steel Masters, though it could easily have been more:
The only game we can pass over in silence is Karjakin-Mamedyarov, where Sergey Karjakin never looked like beating his second Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a quiet symmetrical position, though even there it was a surprise how long the game went on.
Anish Giri in particular had been building up this clash in Round 4 since the tournament began, and afterwards he gave an explanation for why:
I think it’s nice to build it up a little bit because he doesn’t like pressure, and it also grabs some attention, which is good. In a way the first time I played him I was a clear underdog and that gave me a good feeling, and I’m trying to get back into the position of an underdog. First of all, I lost a lot of rating, which helps (laughs), and also a lot of ridiculous banter helps me getting in the position of an underdog. You see already he is getting some weird ideas in the opening like today, so in a way I was closer than it looks today, I think. Obviously he’s a good player and ok, the banter is nice.
The “weird idea” was Magnus responding to 1.e4 not with the expected 1…e5, but the French Defence, 1…e6 – something he hadn’t tried outside of blitz or rapid games for many years:
When the game headed for the super-sharp Winnawer Variation
it looked like Magnus had managed to catch his opponent in an opening where the
element of surprise really mattered, but afterwards Giri revealed he’d had a
moment of inspiration the night before:
Actually of course I was only really preparing for 1.e4 e5, because any other option would have come as a surprise, but yesterday night just when I was about to fall asleep I suddenly thought of one line that he could play that would make some sense against me, and that would be the Winnawer, so I sort of figured him out, but not this particular branch…
So I first thought, let me just fall asleep, but then I thought sometimes I get some good ideas, maybe let’s keep that in mind and look at it tomorrow. So today I checked it… and when he played 1…e6 I was ecstatic because I was thinking now I’m going to bang out 30 moves, because I had something very nice there, very forced, but then he allowed me to take on g7, which surprised me.
We’ve skipped a few of the details there in the transcript, since GM Jan Gustafsson explains exactly what Giri had guessed might happen in his video analysis of the game:
When the game ended the trashtalking wasn’t over. Magnus Carlsen flashed a smile when he was asked whether he was surprised with Giri’s play so far in the tournament:
No, not particularly. I think he did very well from the first couple of rounds, to win one drawish position (vs. Hou Yifan) and to also win a very dubious position from the opening… (vs. Kramnik)
He stopped himself in time to add, “but that’s both credit to him”, and when asked if beating Giri in the Netherlands would be special went on:
I’ve rarely beaten him at all, so it would of course have been special, but Anish is a very strong player. For all the banter, for all the nonsense, he’s still very strong and the draw today is fine.
As you might have seen, the action then moved to Twitter:
Carlsen hit back to claim he was willing to play an opening
too dubious to play in blitz in a classical game against Giri:
For decisive action on the board, though, we had to look elsewhere.
Peter Svidler had said the day before that after checking back on his history in Wijk aan Zee he realised he hadn’t done so well there with Black against Vladimir Kramnik, losing in 2004 and 2005. That might have been 13 years ago, but nothing had changed on Tuesday, when Kramnik’s victory took his classical score with the white pieces against his compatriot to 9:1.
I played the 9.Nc3 move, which is kind of new, and I think I got a certain advantage. It’s quite an unpleasant position for Black, this endgame which appeared, and Peter wanted to solve the problems in a tactical way, and then I think he miscalculated something.
Kramnik went on to reveal exactly what Svidler had told him he overlooked when playing 18…Rc7?
Peter had seen 19.Rxa7!, but had planned 19…Rxa7 20.Rd8 Kf8 21.Bxa7 Bxe5, which would have solved his problems, if not for the sting in the tail: 22.Bb8! Rc5 23.b4!, with some echoes of the rook-trapping tactic Kramnik himself had missed against Giri.
In the game Svidler instead switched to 19…Rb8, but a pawn down and with dominated pieces he resigned just five moves later.
After the game Kramnik reflected on what had gone wrong against Giri (“it was difficult to lose this position”) and his hopes that the win over Svidler would be a turning point in his tournament.
Gawain Jones has been doing everything right in his Tata Steel Masters debut, and for a long time it looked that way again in Round 4. He stuck to his guns by playing the King’s Indian Defence, wasn’t afraid to play boldly (12…f5!) and had built up a significant time advantage over Wei Yi, who got down to around 5 minutes remaining at move 25. Then, however, disaster struck with 25…Bf6? (25…h6! would actually have covered the g5-square):
Wei Yi needed less than a minute to find 26.Rg5! (26.a3 first is arguably even stronger, preventing the knight coming to c2, as happened in the game), and essentially it was game over. If Black captures, the bishop on h5 can’t be defended (26…Bxg5 27.hxg5 Bg6 28.Bxg6 and the h-pawn is pinned), but 26…Bg6 27.Bxg6 hxg6 28.Rxg6, as played in the game, left White both a pawn up and with dominant pieces. Gawain didn’t choose Svidler’s route of resigning on the spot to spare his suffering, but Wei Yi made no mistake in what followed.
Maxim Matlakov also grabbed his first win of the tournament to return to 50%, though it was a bumpy ride. He was gradually outplaying Hou Yifan on the black side of a Ruy Lopez when the women’s no. 1 decided to take drastic measures and sacrifice an exchange to simplify the position. The crunch came on the time control move:
Hou Yifan is threatening mate-in-2 with Rxh7+, and to fork the black king and rook with Ng4+, but it turns out simply 40…g5, giving the king the g6-square, keeps Black completely on top. 41.Ng4+ is only a pseudo-threat, since 41…Kg7 attacks the rook on h8 and White is winning nothing.
Instead, though, Maxim was panicked into giving back the exchange with 40…Rxf6? No bitter regrets followed, though, since in the end he managed to win the rook ending a pawn up, condemning Hou Yifan to a 0.5/4 score.
Vishy Anand remains the co-leader after a draw against his compatriot Adhiban, though it was a less than convincing game. Adhiban said Vishy admitted to missing the 15.Nb4! shot that turned the game in White’s favour, while Adhiban was in turn surprised by 21…Qc8, hitting the g4-knight and forcing White to make a choice:
22.Nxf6+ gxf6 23.Bh6 looks fine for White, but 22.Ne5!?, played after 18 minutes’ thought, let Vishy seize the initiative again with 22…Qe6!, and in the end a complicated game ended in a draw. When Adhiban was asked afterwards about his difficult start compared to his successful tournament last year he responded:
Actually it went exactly as last year! I was on exactly the same points, and when we went for the tour it all started, so I’m really looking forward for the tour to start tomorrow.
By tour he’s referring to the Tata Steel Masters players competing in the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum rather than in Wijk aan Zee in Round 5.
Adhiban ended the interview by being asked about how he saw
his relationship to Indian no. 1 Vishy Anand:
Hopefully one day maybe succeed him, if possible!
The all-USA clash was an absolute thriller between two players who were yet to set the world alight in Wijk aan Zee. Wesley had three draws, while Fabiano had drawn two and then lost to Vishy in the previous round. Their Round 4 encounter soon got out of hand:
Spanish GM Pepe Cuenca helps us make sense of the madness!
So Round 4 didn’t change the leaders, but Kramnik is back on their shoulders and Wei Yi and Matlakov are back to 50%:
Vidit and Anton Korobov increased their lead over the field to a full point after beating the female players to reach 3.5/4. Vidit grabbed an early advantage in a 3.Bb5 Sicilian against his compatriot Harika Dronavalli and went on to win smoothly, while Korobov was made to work hard against Olga Girya before eventually claiming victory in 72 moves.
The only other winner was 16-year-old Lucas van Foreest, who has completely turned his tournament around after his first-round loss to his brother. He first outprepared Bassem Amin in the opening, just about survived a tactical stage that could have gone either way, and then took full advantage of the fact that the Egyptian grandmaster picked the wrong piece with which to capture on g7:
Black could avoid losing the queen to Rd7+ with 43…Qc5+ that didn’t change the assessment of the position, and after
44.Kh1 Re5 45.Rd7+ Kf6 46.Rf7+ Amin
resigned, with mate on the horizon.
The most anticipated clash on Wednesday in Hilversum (starting half an hour later at 14:00 CET) will be another classic, Carlsen-Kramnik, though you can also expect the white players to press for wins in Svidler-Hou Yifan and So-Adhiban, and there are heavyweight battles such as Anand-Wei Yi and Mamedyarov-Caruana to look forward to – that latter one will be all-important for the world no. 2 spot, with Mamedyarov currently just 2.1 live rating points ahead of Caruana.