Carlsen-Kramnik was the big clash of the day in the Tata Steel Masters, and although it ended in a draw it didn’t disappoint. Vlad said afterwards, “I’m an old man – I just want to enjoy chess!” and for once he could, as he showed some real touches of class to hold Magnus to what was his 21st draw in a row. Elsewhere Anish Giri moved to +1 after beating Richard Rapport, while Vidit defeated Jorden van Foreest after the Dutch youngster blitzed out one move too many when he had a draw in his grasp. It was a bad day for the Foreest family, as Lucas also lost the only decisive game of the Challengers, to Vladislav Kovalev.
You can replay all the games from Round 4 of the Tata Steel Masters using the selector below:
And here’s the 5.5 hours of commentary from Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson:
All eyes were on Carlsen-Kramnik as Round 4 of the 2019 Tata Steel Chess Masters got underway and sure enough the current and former World Champions put on a show. Vladimir Kramnik had played three shambolic games so far in Wijk aan Zee, but against Magnus he showed he was still a force to be reckoned with when he met 17.Nc4 (played after 19 minutes thought) with 17…b5!
That looks to be giving up a pawn, but the point is that 18.Nxd6 cxd6 19.Bxb5 is met by 19…Nxb4! That might still be the best option for White, but Magnus had clearly decided not to go there and retreated the knight almost immediately with 18.Ne3. For once Kramnik had a healthy position with no problems on the clock. As he commented afterwards:
At some point I got a good position. It was close to equality, I thought I had a nominal plus, very nominal, it was actually pretty equal, but I just want to play every game until the end.
He felt he then went astray (he mentioned 33…Kg6!?) and needed to play accurately to avoid trouble, though what he came up with was study-like:
Vlad has sacrificed a pawn in exchange for the c4-knight blockading the c-pawn and dominating the b2-bishop, while he’s ready to advance his own pawns on the kingside. He felt Magnus also went somewhat astray, but in the end the opposing forces produced a perfect dynamic equilibrium.
The draw meant Magnus is now down to exactly a 3-point lead over Fabiano Caruana, just as he had during the match in London. More remarkably, he's notched up 21 draws in a row, overtaking some notable contemporaries:
A better day at the office meant we got to hear from Kramnik, who articulated his motivation for the wild approach to chess we’ve witnessed from him in the last few years. Has his optimism led him astray in Wijk?
It’s not about being optimistic. I’m an old man – I just want to enjoy chess! Of course I know that I’m overstepping limits, but I do it absolutely consciously. I know that I’m risking too much, but that’s the way I want to play. In such a strong tournament it maybe doesn’t pay, but at least I have interesting games… It’s true that I’m taking risks, but it’s the way that I play for already quite a long time, so everybody knows that playing against me, like Anish said, you just have to sit and wait and something will come, and then you have to take your chance. I know it very well – I know my opponents know it as well!
Anish Giri bounced back from his Round 1 loss by beating Kramnik, and now after defeating Richard Rapport in Round 4 he’s moved onto a plus score and cemented his place as world no. 5. The game was another one in which the ability to “sit and wait” was important, since although Giri could see nothing to do for either player in the middlegame he felt, “probably the side that does something will be punished”. Richard couldn’t resist, but his 21.Nxb6? was flawed and his draw offer more optimistic than Kramnik. Giri said afterwards:
I think the move 23.g4?! combined with a draw offer is a recipe for disaster.
Peter Svidler has analysed the game for us:
And here’s Giri’s take:
It looked as though Jorden van Foreest was going to go into Round 5 against Magnus on the back of an effortless draw achieved by some fine opening preparation. Playing Black he reached the following position against Vidit with the same 1 hour and 40 minutes he’d started with, while his opponent was down to under 20 minutes:
His team had correctly assessed the opposite-coloured bishop ending as drawn, but here Jorden blitzed out one move too many, playing 36…Ba4? after just 46 seconds. Then after 37.c7+ Kd7 38.g4! g6 39.Kf4! he finally plunged into deep thought. 39…f6 might still have been a draw, but it was anything but trivial, and after 39…Bb5 40.Kg5 Ba6 we had the strange situation that Jorden had over 2 hours on his clock… but a totally lost position, as Vidit went on to prove.
Instead 36…Bd1! in the diagram position would have saved all that heartache, since the white king is unable to advance without giving up a pawn. Vidit wasn’t complaining!
The other games were less to write home about, though Sam Shankland’s fourth draw in a row perhaps owed something to Robin van Kampen. In his video series on the Taimanov Sicilian Robin suggests the counter-intuitive 15…Qd6! - “A nice little move to remember”, and not the mainline 15…Rc8:
Sam went for it, surprising Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who spent 16 minutes contemplating his response. The players followed Robin’s line up to where he ended with 19…Ke7, when Black has complete equality and can even dream of playing for more. It seems Duda sensed the danger, as he soon doubled rooks on the 7th rank and forced a draw.
Sam revealed afterwards that in preparing for the tournament he delegated openings to his team and instead, “tried to do as much calculation work as possible”. So far, despite some missed chances, he’s happy with how things are working out:
Elsewhere Ding Liren got to play a classic “minority attack” against Vladimir Fedoseev, but in the end there were too few weaknesses in the black camp to fight for more. Ian Nepomniachtchi tried the King’s Indian Defence against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but it was a quiet manoeuvring battle before a draw was agreed on move 32.
Anand-Radjabov reached exactly 30 moves, the minimum required, before the Re1 Berlin was put out of its misery.
Those results mean that Ian Nepomniachtchi remains in the lead, Giri and Vidit are up into the group half a point behind, and Jorden van Foreest is now keeping Kramnik company in last place:
It looked as though all seven games in the Challengers were going to end in draws, but then Lucas van Foreest suffered a similar fate to his brother:
It all came down to a rook ending where Vladislav Kovalev was pushing with the white pieces:
68…h4! and Black seems to be just in time, but delaying one move with 68…Kc6? proved fatal after 69.Ke6 h4 70.f5 and the f-pawn makes the difference. Lucas resigned on move 79, meaning that while we still have six leaders in the Challengers Lucas has now been replaced by Kovalev. It’s also noteworthy that Stefan Kuipers finally got off the mark, drawing against Elisabeth Paehtz after losing his first three games.
Round 5 is the last before the long-awaited first rest day, and Van Foreest-Carlsen looks like the ideal game for Magnus finally to draw blood again. If he didn’t have enough motivation already there’s the fact that a draw will cost him around 2 rating points and leave his world no. 1 spot hanging by a thread. Of course going all-out for a win with Black against a dangerous youngster isn’t without risks, which is good news for us fans! Among the other games, Kramnik-Mamedyarov is one where action is almost guaranteed.
Be sure to tune into the commentary here on chess24 with Jan and Peter from about 13:50 CET onwards, since the Masters players will be "on tour" in Alkmaar, where the games start half an hour later than usual: Tata Steel Masters | Challengers
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