World no. 2 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has opened up a 12-point rating gap over Fabiano Caruana after making beating the world no. 3 look easy in Round 5 of the 2018 Tata Steel Masters. That took him into the joint lead with Vishy Anand and Anish Giri, while Wesley So beat Adhiban to join Carlsen and Kramnik half a point behind. Vladimir got to torture Magnus but couldn’t win their rook ending. In the other decisive game Peter Svidler defeated Hou Yifan despite missing a simple win. Anton Korobov leads the Challengers alone on 4.5/5.
Round 5 of the Tata Steel Masters took place in the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum, and while all the players commented on how it knocked them out of their usual rhythm, in return we got some unforgettable images as, for reasons perhaps not immediately apparent, the Sesame Street characters turned up!
For the fourth day in five rounds, there were three decisive games in the Masters:
Let’s take the draws first, with three of them offering little to write home about. Masters debutant Gawain Jones has so far been playing the King’s Indian Defence with Black but going for the safest lines with White, aiming either to draw or to frustrate his opponents into serious concessions. Anish Giri came prepared for that strategy and sprung a local surprise with the Caro-Kann, but Gawain showed he knew what he was doing and headed for exchange variations that led to a totally uneventful 25-move draw. The English GM is on 50% after five rounds, while Anish can’t complain too much either as he continues to lead on a +2 score of 3.5/5.
Giri’s most memorable contribution of the day was to explain to Tex de Wit why he wasn’t planning on engaging in any rest-day football:
Magnus likes this running after a ball with a bunch of cameras after him… It’s ridiculous! What’s the fun in that? You’re trying to get the ball and everybody’s filming you and you look stupid most of the time. I quit that a long time ago. I used to play football as a kid, but back then we didn’t have cameras after us. It was all fun. Now it’s become torture. There’s also the danger that someone will injure you, either by accident or on purpose, which is more likely in my case, because I have a lot of people disliking me!
Giri said he’d probably go for a walk instead, though it seems you would venture outdoors at your peril!
was a 16-move draw but, to be fair to the players, it involved deep thought
from both sides, with Maxim only accepting Sergey’s draw offer after he’d
spoiled what Karjakin admitted had struck him as a dangerous advantage.
Anand-Wei Yi was the first game of the day to finish, with Wei Yi thinking no longer than 2 minutes 19 seconds over any move as he was able to blitz out a prepared line of the Petrov Defence.
Seeing this for the first time you might be worried as Black, given the d6-pawn is attacked and d5 followed by taking on a7 is also threatened, but Wei Yi demonstrated 17…Qa5! 18.Qxd6 Rxe1+ 19.Rxe1 Rd8! and the game fizzled out into a 29-move draw. Anand told Tex de Wit:
I'm as embarrassed as the next guy, but this happens sometimes nowadays. You fall into the computer's line and all you can do is sit there in awe!
He elaborated in a separate interview:
The thing is we’d found this at the last minute – this 15…Qh5 and this long forced line – and to cut a long story short, we had to take a decision in the car as to what I was going to do, because I couldn’t completely shift lines, and my second told me, well, Black’s moves – there are some difficult ones to find, so maybe it’s a half try, but from the time he took you can see that in fact he had just seen everything at his board this morning. It’s a little bit ridiculous and I’m sorry about that, but once you’re halfway there was no way back as well, so this was a bluff that backfired disastrously, let’s put it that way.
The final draw between Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik was another enthralling encounter between these two great players, with Magnus first failing to get anything from the opening against the former World Champion:
My white games have been fairly disastrous to be fair. My black games have been very good, but so far with White it’s been nothing and today I was even suffering.
Magnus identified the critical moment of the first part of the game as coming on move 19:
The key test here is 19.b5, when after e.g. 19…Bxe3 20.bxc6! White is doing very well, but what Magnus was less keen on was the exchange sac 19…Rxe3!, when Black has a lot of weaknesses to work with. He summed up, “The game would have been complicated, but I didn’t really like my position there”.
Magnus admitted his choice 19.Bxa7 was drawish, but he couldn't stop himself nevertheless trying to play for a win with what he called the “impulsive” 28.b5?! (28.Rc1!) and admitted “somehow I blundered a pawn” about his 28…Ne5 29.Rc1?
29…Nxg4 led to a rook ending where Black was a pawn up, with Peter Svidler commenting from the sidelines:
In fact this was Carlsen’s time to shine, since it turned
out his evaluation of the ensuing position was spot on. Vladimir felt he’d got
his man and couldn’t hide his disappointment afterwards:
Of course it’s nice to be pressing against Magnus, and I can be satisfied with the game. It’s just that this kind of feeling when I was playing 42…Kf3, I thought I’m already winning, and then all of a sudden I started to realise that there is no way to get my king to h3. If I just get my king to h3 I’m winning and I was sure that there was a way, but there was none.
You can see that, for instance, after 50...Kg4:
If White passes here with e.g. 51.Ra3? then after 52.Kh3! Black is winning, but Magnus played 51.Rb5 and if Black responded 51…Kh3 simply 51…Rh5+ saves the day (in fact here 51.Kg2 also prevents the king getting to h3).
Magnus was comfortable, since he said he’d calculated the ending before the time control and concluded that as long as he kept some things in mind, “it’s just a pretty trivial draw”. As Anish Giri put it when chess fans were resorting to the evaluation of a powerful (silicon) Norwegian computer:
Watch Magnus and Vlad give their verdicts on the game:
Now let’s move to the decisive action:
Going into this game Peter Svidler had lost badly to Vladimir Kramnik and Hou Yifan had half a point out of four games, which might help explain why it became something of a comedy of errors. Things went well for White in the opening and when Hou Yifan played 20…Bd7? it looked like the game would be over very quickly. Svidler started correctly with 21.Nxd6! Bxa4 but then it all went wrong:
22.Nc8! Re6 is winning, but though Peter had seen it he managed to miss the follow-up 23.Ng5!, when White picks up the full point with either 23…Rc6 24.Ne7+ or 23…Re8 24.Nb6, forking the unfortunate a4-bishop and the rook. Svidler commented:
This is just completely ridiculous. It’s a calculation which a ten-year-old child should make blindfolded.
For more self-laceration check out:
In the game it went from bad to worse, since White still had a significant edge after 22.Rb1?!, but after 22…b5 23.Ne5? Nd7! it had all but gone. The only silver lining for Svidler was the timing of when he realised he’d missed a simple win:
Luckily for me after the game, because I think if I spotted it during the game I would be completely unable to continue, to be honest. How do you continue after this?
As it was the players got into mutual time trouble and 38.Rc7! was the perfect move at the perfect moment to unsettle Hou Yifan (she probably expected simply 38.Bxe6):
The computer spits out 38…Nxh3+! and a 0.00 evaluation, having no qualms about sacrificing a piece for some pawns, but instead Hou Yifan put her faith in the d-pawn: 38…d3? 39.Rxf7+ Kh6 40.Rxf4 d2 41.Rd4. Alas, the d-pawn can queen but it seems in the time scramble the women’s no. 1 had overlooked that her rook on e6 remains en prise at the end of the line, so there was nothing to do but resign.
Defending Champion Wesley So got off to a slow start with four draws in Wijk aan Zee, including an encounter with Fabiano Caruana he could easily have lost, but now he’s just half a point off the lead. The game with Adhiban was full of twists and turns, with the exchange of queens on move 7 by no means leading to a dull game. On move 15 Wesley offered a sacrifice with 15.Ndb5!?
It looks as though there was no reason not to accept, since although White picks up two pawns, at this particular moment it seems he gets no more. Adhiban is a player happier to be sacrificing material himself, though, and he went for 15…fxg3 16.hxg3 e3. Wesley played 17.f4!, when it remained to be seen if the pawn on e3 would be a thorn in White’s side or simply a target.
Remarkably, the pawn only disappeared on move 47, as part of a liquidation into a rook and pawn endgame where White had an extra pawn. It seems it should still have been a draw, but on move 71 Adhiban cracked and let his last chance slip:
71…Kd6! and the fight goes on (72.Ra7 is met by 72...Rh4+!), but after 71…Kd8? 72.Ra7 Black was powerless to stop a game-winning advance of the e-pawn.
There’s no stopping Shakhriyar Mamedyarov at the moment, and this was his biggest win yet. He’d already taken over the world no. 2 spot from Fabiano Caruana and now made it a 12.3 point gap, with a game that looked almost effortless.
Pepe Cuenca shows us how it was done:
In an interview afterwards Mamedyarov pointed out it was an important win over a Candidates Tournament rival, and then went on to explain what was behind his surge in results over the last year or two:
My style is every time tactical positions, very risky games, but in the last years I started to play a little bit in a strategical way, a positional way. I changed a little bit my style – sometimes a draw is a draw, a draw is a good result also. Five years ago, four years ago I would think only to play to win, and if no win then to lose is ok, only no draw, but now I a little bit change. I play some old man chess! It’s not young chess, but it’s ok and my style is changed. Now I play for results also. I see how play Kramnik, Anand, even if they have 35, 40. I want to play also like it.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how far that style can take him! For now, the standings are as follows:
Oops, we mean:
After the rest day Giri and Anand will meet on Friday, meaning Mamedyarov may well have a chance to snatch the sole lead if he can inflict a fourth loss on Adhiban. Other games to watch out for include Kramnik-Jones and Svidler-Carlsen.
Anton Korobov again looked in a different class as he outplayed Jorden van Foreest to move to 4.5/5 in the Tata Steel Challengers, with Vidit failing to keep up the pace as he took a quick draw against his fellow Anish Giri second Erwin l’Ami.
Aryan Tari won the battle of the current and former World Junior Champions by beating Jeffery Xiong, while Bassem Amin’s bravery was finally rewarded.
The Egyptian grandmaster had lost his last two games, but was still unafraid to jettison two pawns on his way to building up an overwhelming attack on Dmitry Gordievsky’s king.
There’s nothing Black can do to defend f7 anymore, so it’s more about praying to somehow survive the assault. It wasn’t to be, though, and the a2-pawn was the end of the feast for Black:
26.Rb7+! Rxb7 27.Qxb7+ and Black resigned rather than allow: 27…Ka5 28.Rxb5+ axb5 29.Qxb5#Don't miss live commentary in English and Spanish on Friday: Masters | Challengers You can also follow the games in our free apps: