Magnus Carlsen pounced on an endgame mistake by world no. 3 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov to win a 2nd game in a row and catch Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi in the 2019 Tata Steel Masters lead. He was joined by Anish Giri, who won a third game in a row with the black pieces after spotting a winning trick on move 14 against Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Jorden van Foreest played the move of the day to beat Vladimir Fedoseev, though both that game and the drawn Rapport-Kramnik saw wild swings in evaluation.
At one point during Round 6 it looked as though we were heading for three black wins, but in the end it was finally a good day for White!
You can rewatch the 6.5 hours of commentary from Jan and Peter:
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Wins were like London buses for World Champion Magnus Carlsen – you wait forever for one to come along, and then suddenly two arrive at once. This game was also special, though not so much for the chess content. As Magnus said himself:
I think today wasn’t a brilliant game, but I managed to outlast him. It was one of the days when you’re a little better and your opponent eventually makes a mistake and loses.
In Mamedyarov, however, he’d beaten the world no. 3 and one of only two players to inflict a defeat on him in 2018. His first win over Mamedyarov since 2015 essentially boiled down to one mistake at the end:
Magnus had taken a 30-minute think after the time control but admitted he couldn’t see any way to avoid a “more or less forced draw” after 44…e3. Instead 44…h5? was a fatal delay, and after 45.Bxb5! there was no stopping White’s queenside passed pawns. Jan Gustafsson takes us through the whole game:
And here’s Magnus afterwards:
When you face a player who knows theory as well as Anish Giri the temptation to go for an offbeat opening that might get him out of his preparation is strong. Ian Nepomniachtchi seemed to demonstrate how that might succeed in Round 1, when he played the Pirc Defence and scored an amazingly fast win. Since then Giri has been a man transformed, however, and in Round 6 Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s decision to begin 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3!? backfired badly.
That pet line of Vadim Zvjaginsev’s did make Anish stop to think almost six minutes before responding 3…Nf6, and White’s time advantage grew from there, but eventually the crunch came after 14.Nd5?:
14…f4! A winning move that Peter Svidler had been suggesting for a couple of moves already. Giri’s timing was perfect, though, since after 15.gxf4 he now had the devastating follow-up 15…Ncd4!! and, objectively speaking, White could even resign. The move you want to play, 16.Nxd4, sees the e3-bishop trapped after 16…exd4. Duda here thought for almost 43 minutes before playing 16.Bxd4, when after 16…exd4 the f4-pawn – and hence the white king position – are critically weak. To Duda’s credit he managed to put up stiff resistance in the remaining 30 or so moves, but Giri never spoiled his advantage.
Afterwards Anish continued with some gentle trolling that had started the day before...
At the time Giri was speaking there was a good chance he’d end the day half a point ahead of Magnus:
When Vladimir Fedoseev met 1.e4 with 1…d6 it was a signal that he was targetting a win against an opponent who came into the encounter on the back of three losses in a row. That ambition was again in evidence when he decided to follow Giri's example:
13…f4!? undermined White’s centre – 14.Rxf4 Rxf4 15.Bxf4 Nxd4 – but at the cost of a pawn: 16.Bxg6! hxg6 17.Qxd4. That didn’t last long, though, since Jorden soon gave up his pawn on g5, and by move 28 had slipped into a lost position. That wasn’t the end though, as the Dutch youngster recounts:
I thought I was much worse and getting outplayed and then somehow he started playing very quickly and also making some mistakes, and after the time control was over I found myself in a much better if not winning position.
The key moment came just before the time control, when with just a minute left on his clock Jorden found 39.Rd1!!, deeply impressing our commentary team:
The rook can’t be taken since 39…Qxd1 40.Qc4+! will lead to mate. After that Jorden won easily, though the feeling remains that if Fedoseev had taken more time he could still have posed serious problems. Perhaps, however, Fed’s thoughts were already on Round 7, when he faces Magnus.
Here’s Jorden talking about his win:
Sam Shankland recovered from an opening failure the day before to take less than a minute on each of his 18 moves as he held Vidit to a draw in a g3-Grünfeld. Anand-Nepomniachtchi lasted only 4 moves longer, but featured a tense struggle after Nepo managed to surprise Vishy early on in a 6.Bg5 Najdorf. Ding Liren-Radjabov saw the Chinese no. 1 press for 75 moves to try and claim the sole lead, but he fell just short.
That leaves Rapport-Kramnik, which was a predictably wild encounter between two players who never shy away from a fight. Rapport’s 20.Ngf5 may have been too ambitious, with Black suddenly on top after Kramnik’s restrained reply 20…Nd7:
Kramnik then seemed to give up a chunk of that advantage when he exchanged queens, while it was hard to know who was tricking who after 28…Re6!?:
Defending the c-pawn? Not exactly! 29.Bxc6! followed, and if Black captures on c6 then Ne7+ is winning, but Kramnik responded 29…g6 and the dance went on: 30.Nxh6+ Kg7 31.Bxd5 Ree8! 32.Bxf7 Re2?! 33.Bc4 Rxb2 34.Nf7 White emerged on top from the complications, and the advantage soon grew until the move before the time control:
Rapport may have feared getting trapped in a mating net, but 39.f5! was the best chance of winning the game. Instead after 39.fxg5 he had tripled g-pawns and eventually had to suffer to make a draw, with Kramnik not stopping when the game came down to rook vs. knight. The 94-move game ended with bare kings.
So as we're about to cross the halfway point of the tournament we now have four leaders on 4/6 (+2), with the Indian duo of Anand and Vidit half a point behind:
It was a different story in the Challengers, where we now have just one leader, on 4.5/6, after Vladislav Kovalev squeezed out a win against Dinara Saduakassova while Anton Korobov was held to a draw by Evgeny Bareev:On Saturday in the Masters Fedoseev-Carlsen looks like a decent chance for the World Champion to make it three wins in a row, we have the classic Kramnik-Anand and two leaders meet in Giri-Ding Liren. You can also expect the players with White to gun for a win in Shankland-Van Foreest, Nepo-Duda and Mamedyarov-Rapport. In short, you won't want to miss it!
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