Reports Jan 24, 2018 | 9:17 AMby Colin McGourty

Tata Steel 2018, 9: No more Mr. Draw Guy!

Anish Giri was the only player to win in Round 9 of the Tata Steel Masters, with victory over Maxim Matlakov giving him the sole lead on +4 with four rounds to go. His co-leaders at the start of the day drew, with Magnus Carlsen saying he was happy to consolidate against Vishy Anand after his crazy win the round before. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov may have felt the same, as he recovered from his loss to Giri with a draw against Vladimir Kramnik. The decisive action was in the Challengers, where Bassem Amin and Jorden van Foreest narrowed the gap on leaders Vidit and Anton Korobov.

Anish Giri is back as the sole leader of his home supertournament | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Round 9 was the first round of the 2018 Tata Steel Masters to produce only one decisive result, but what a sweet one for “draw king” Anish Giri!

A truly classic encounter | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

The most anticipated clash of the day was Anand-Carlsen, the 60th classical meeting between the former and current World Champions. It was a walk down memory lane, with Magnus commenting:

Today was actually kind of a throwback game. I used to have all these kinds of Breyers with Vishy, like 6/7 years ago, or maybe even 7/8 years ago, and I was always kind of suffering a bit, like today also, but it’s still very solid. He couldn’t really find the way to make any progress there, so we called it a day.

Indeed, up until move 12 the players were following four games they’d played in 2010, with three ending in draws and the other a win for Vishy Anand in the London Chess Classic.


That game featured in Anand’s 27-video "Tips from a World Champion" series here at chess24:

The Tata Steel game diverged here, though, with 13.Nf1 rather than 13.a4, and in fact a couple of moves later the game was following Anand’s fine attacking win over Carlsen from the 2015 Norway Chess tournament. Magnus deviated with 15…Nb6 and eventually the game fizzled out into a draw, leaving the lifetime balance at Carlsen 10:8 Anand, with 42 draws. 

It's important to stay refreshed... | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Magnus commented afterwards:

It’s very hard, obviously, to beat Vishy, and for me sort of consolidating today is alright. Hopefully the others will consolidate as well!

Co-leader Shakhriyar Mamedyarov obliged, getting nothing after playing the Italian against Vladimir Kramnik – in fact it was a throwback to the days when Kramnik specialised in making mathematically precise draws with the black pieces.

Kramnik is now a point behind the leader but can be guaranteed to try and change that situation in the remaining rounds | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Anish Giri spoiled the World Champion’s day, though, and in fact had tried his best to spoil Carlsen’s rest day the night before. The Twitter wars continued:

In preparation for 2017 Giri had tweeted (oh, the irony):

That never really worked out, but it seems “tweet more, win more” is working so far in 2018! The game against Maxim Matlakov was far from a classic, with Giri admitting to having failed to look at 9.b3 (a move that featured in Eljanov-So from Shamkir 2017) in his preparation. Giri felt Matlakov went astray with 14.Rfc1?!, but then 18.Nd2!, which he'd overlooked, persuaded him it was time to try and force a draw by repetition:

So I thought let’s repeat moves, and I saw that he can play on, but I thought that it’s a bit risky for him, so he’s not going to do it, but he did it, and then I didn’t want to calculate, to be honest, not to find something bad for myself, so I just went with a line that looked very natural, but I saw now with the computer that there were some flaws in my calculations.

Time for Giri to take a look at the chess24 evaluation | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Giri was asked if it hadn’t been clever to make life difficult for Matlakov in an equal position:

That’s what we can say now. Had I lost this game, we wouldn’t have said that. I mean, I’m not a fan of saying things like Shakhriyar Mamedyarov said: “I took risks, so it’s normal”. I didn’t take risks, I played badly, but I was very fortunate that he made a mistake afterwards, and then I think I played the final phase of the game very well, so that’s something I can be quite happy with.

Maxim was probably objectively right to play on, but it backfired badly | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

25.Nd6?! was the move that gave away White’s advantage:


29…Ba3! led to simplifications that left White with awkwardly placed pieces, and his position became trickier still when Giri pinned the white bishop on the c-file. For the second time in the game, Matlakov blundered by putting his rook on c1, but this time 35.Rc1? was game over:


Now for the 3rd time in the game (this kind of pendulum motion is easy to miss!) Giri put his bishop on a3 with 35…Ba3!, and there was no holding the white position together. 36.Rc2 runs into 36…Nd5!, when e.g. 37.Ke2 Kd6 38.e4 Rxc6 39.Rxc6+ Kxc6 40.exd5 Kxd5 is a hopeless ending. In the game 36.Rc3 Bb4! 37.Nxb4 axb4 38.Rc5 b3! was also fatal:


White can’t stop the b-pawn and hold onto the c6-bishop, and Maxim resigned after 39.a5 Nd7!. Afterwards Giri was asked if he felt pressure as he’s close to what would be the first universally acknowledged supertournament victory of his career (it’s of course a bit unfair that finishing ahead of Morozevich, Nakamura, Caruana, Ivanchuk and Vitiugov in Reggio Emilia 2011/12 isn’t universally acknowledged!):

No, the pressure is on Magnus Carlsen, because of my obsessions, but I don’t think I have much pressure.

The games remaining for him are against Karjakin, Caruana, Adhiban and Wei Yi, none of whom are setting the tournament alight. When asked about that Anish responded:

Yeah, I’ve already played all my Twitter enemies, so I think I’m quite fine, but as you know the danger can come from wherever, even Loek van Wely could have caused me some damage here.

What on earth could he do to you now?

He’s standing quite near, so I decided that let’s plug him a little bit, but anybody of course in this tournament is dangerous, especially to people who are overexcited like myself!

As always, don’t miss the video interview with Giri:

Elsewhere it was a quiet day, with Karjakin-Wei Yi perhaps only notable for the fact that Wei Yi burned up well over an hour in an opening that Karjakin had played himself as Black - twice. Although Sergey ultimately ended up with a somewhat better position he could see nothing to do there and drew by repetition in 36 moves. He has eight draws and one win, though his thoughts are partly elsewhere!

So-Svidler was an even more curious opening, with 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nbd2 already a sideline, while 3…d5 4.e3 Nc6!? had never been tried before at the top level. It was testament to the inexhaustibility of chess, though the game “petered out”, as the commentators couldn’t resist saying.

The closest we came to blood being spilled was in the games featuring the players who had been struggling so far. Hou Yifan’s tournament looked on course to go from bad to worse, as she took a puzzling decision in the following position:


11…Qc8?! didn’t connect the rooks, didn’t defend c6 and didn’t prevent the move Gawain Jones played, 12.Ba3!, when Black had no choice but to give up the exchange and prepare for a grim defence. Gawain chose the correct moment to give back the exchange for an advantage, but had perhaps not fully recovered from the Carlsen game yet, since he then contrived to give up a pawn and leave himself fighting for a draw.

Caruana was unable to minimise the minus in Round 9 | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Gawain still has more points than Fabiano Caruana, who couldn’t build on his first win by beating Adhiban. Playing with the white pieces he seemed close, but his Indian opponent correctly judged he could pick up the c3-pawn and allow a dangerous pin:


43…Rh1! was the escape plan, since of course Fabi can’t take the knight without allowing checkmate. Adhiban was just in time to stop the white a-pawn as well.

So the standings with four rounds to go look as follows, with Anish Giri putting the pressure on his rivals:


Amin and Jorden van Foreest close the gap

Anton Korobov remains the photogenic tournament co-leader, though he needed a great escape in his Round 9 game | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

Bassem Amin and Jorden van Foreest both won their second games in a row, against Olga Girya and Michal Krasenkow respectively, to close the gap to the Challengers leaders to 1.5 points. The round could almost have decided the tournament, though, since Vidit had some chances to beat Matthias Bluebaum, while his co-leader Anton Korobov was inches away from losing to Harika Dronavalli:


Harika played 54.Rh2+ Rh5 55.Rxh5+ gxh5 56.Qc2+, but after 56…Kg7 Anton was more or less hanging on and eventually managed to force a draw by perpetual check. Instead it would have made all the difference to force the black queen to d8 first with 54.Re2!, preventing later checks on e3 and e1. The subtleties involved were hard to criticise anyone for missing in time trouble, though.

There was plenty more action, including Erwin l’Ami, of all people, playing a speculative piece sac on move 17 against Jeffery Xiong and getting cut down by a counterattack, and Dmitry Gordievsky spoiling Lucas van Foreest’s GM norm.

Aryan Tari and Benjamin Bok also drew, and conducted a modern post-mortem afterwards…

While the Challengers continues in Wijk aan Zee, Round 10 of the Masters will be take place in Groningen, at the half-hour later time of 14:00 CET.

Will we see any Muppets this time, though?

Carlsen-So may be make or break for both players, Kramnik will no doubt be hoping to make the white pieces count against his compatriot Matlakov, while Giri-Karjakin and Svidler-Mamedyarov are tricky encounters for the other tournament leaders. Don't miss live commentary from 14:00 CET: Masters | Challengers 

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