“Today was just insane”, commented Vishy Anand after beating Vladimir Kramnik to join the Tata Steel Chess leading pack. He was referring to Vlad’s erratic opening play, which initially went unpunished, while Peter Svidler used the term “absolute insanity” about the complications in Radjabov-Vidit. Eventually Teimour scored his first win in this year’s Masters, and there was also a first win for Sam Shankland, who ground down Jorden van Foreest in a knight ending. Magnus Carlsen was made to suffer by Vladimir Fedoseev, but the World Champion held on.
For the second day in a row we had two wins for White and one for Black in the Tata Steel Masters. You can replay all the games and check out the pairings using the selector below:
And here’s Jan and Peter’s commentary on Round 7 in Wijk aan Zee:
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There are two clear games of the day, but let’s start with the classic encounter between former World Champions Vladimir Kramnik and Vishy Anand. By now they’re approaching 200 official games, and when Kramnik won their clash with Black in last year’s Tata Steel Masters he took an 11 wins to 10 lead in classical games. Vishy has now levelled the score at 11:11 after a bizarre game in this year’s event. Things went relatively normally in a Giuoco Piano until we reached the following position:
White could simply castle, but instead Kramnik lashed out with 14.g4?! Nexd5 15.Kf1?! Qd7 16.h4?!, a sequence of moves that left Vishy bewildered:
I know he’s very optimistic these days, but his opening – what he was doing, g4, allowing Nxd5, and then Kf1 – I was embarrassed that I was not better. I was teasing him afterwards that this was a game where some young player is playing rubbish to take advantage of his old opponent! Somehow we staggered through the game. Our impression was we played it quite badly, that there were just too many mistakes.
If Vishy had seen 16…Rae8 and the point behind it the game might have been over very quickly, but instead he confessed to being “very groggy” and after 16…Bxd4?! all three results were soon possible again. Jan Gustafsson takes us through a game that eventually swung in Anand’s favour:
And here’s Vishy’s take on the encounter:
Teimour Radjabov had drawn all six games coming into this clash, while Vidit had drawn five and beaten Jorden van Foreest, so little suggested the explosion of action that was about to appear on the board. Once again, the madness began in earnest when White went for 13.g4!?, and the addition of 13…e5!? 14.g5!? b5!? left us with a wildly complicated battle:
Any quick summary of what followed is impossible, so we’re lucky to have 47 minutes of analysis from 8-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler!
The players themselves spent over half an hour trying to work it out after the game:
Sam Shankland could have scored more in his Tata Steel Masters debut, with the biggest miss so far coming in a knight and pawn ending against Richard Rapport. He made up for that miss in Round 7, though Jorden van Foreest had only himself to blame for letting it come down to an unpleasant technical ending:
15…f4! was the way to go about punishing White’s decision to play a passive Hedgehog position, but instead after 15…Nxd4?! the game soon transformed into an endgame battle, and when Black blundered a pawn it was always going to be difficult. Sam noted his pawns were mobile rather than fixed, as they’d been against Rapport, so his task was much easier, although it still required precision:
It’s not too late to spoil things, since 50.h6! was the only winning move. And again after 50…Ne8 51.g6! Kd7 White would throw away the win with 52.gxh7 Nf6+ and even lose after 52.g7 Nf6+. Instead after 52.Kg5 it was time for Jorden to resign.
Watch Sam talking about the game:
The remaining four games were drawn, with the clash of the leaders, Giri-Ding, the quietest of the round. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov no doubt harboured hopes of winning his first game and returning to 50% after the loss against Magnus, but Richard Rapport once again wriggled out of a slightly uncomfortable position. Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s position against Ian Nepomniachtchi was somewhat worse than uncomfortable, though Ian couldn’t break down the fortress.
French GM Edouard Romain had a suggestion even at the very end:
That leaves Fedoseev-Carlsen, where the narrative was expected to centre around whether Magnus would continue his winning streak after a slow start. Vladimir Fedoseev had just suffered a second loss of the event, to Jorden van Foreest, and looked there for the taking. When the game started, however, that was soon forgotten, since Fedoseev went for 5.h4 against Carlsen’s Grünfeld, and by the time he played 13.Ne5 he had four minutes more on the clock than he’d started with:
Magnus here went for 13…b5 (not the 13…Nh5 expected by Fedoseev and his coach Alexander Khalifman), and by this point was already 50 minutes behind on the clock. Magnus had chosen to give up a pawn to reach an ending he felt he could draw (14.Qa6 Qc8 15.Qa5 Qd8 16.Qxd8 Rfxd8 17.Nxd7 Nxd7 18.Nxb5 e5), but Vladimir continued to play fast and pose problems, particularly with 35.f3!, a move Magnus had missed:
After 7 minutes the World Champion found the strong response 35…Rb2!, however, and after 36.e4 Rf4 37.e5 Re2 38.Re7 Rf5 39.e6 his 39…Kf8 (“very tricky” – Fedoseev) was another finesse. It still required accurate play, but Magnus went on to hold a 74-move draw without too many more adventures.
Here's Vladimir Fedoseev's take on the game:
And here's Giri's:
That means that we now have as many as five players on the lead with 4.5/7 (+2) and just Teimour Radjabov within half a point on 4/7 (+1). It’s notable that on the rating list Kramnik has now dropped below Radjabov to world no. 14:
There were four wins with White in Round 7 of the Tata Steel Challengers, with two of them crucial to the standings:
16-year-old Andrey Esipenko won his second smooth white victory of the tournament, this time over top seed Anton Korobov, to leave him only half a point off the leaders.
There are now two of those, as Maksim Chigaev’s second win in a row has taken him level with Vladislav Kovalev. Another notable result was a first win for 13-year-old Praggnanandhaa, a 23-move miniature against Stefan Kuipers:
Dinara Saduakassova from Kazakhstan also came close to a first win, though she didn’t realise how close:
Here against Erwin l’Ami she played 58.Ng1 and the game was agreed drawn, since the black h-pawn will cost White a piece. Instead 58.Nd4+! was winning, since the white c-pawn is just too fast. Dinara only discovered that miss in her post-game interview:
In Round 8 Kuipers faces Chigaev, while Korobov has a chance to catch Kovalev, who he plays him with the white pieces. Meanwhile in the Tata Steel Masters Ding Liren-Nepomniachtchi is the only game between leaders, while Carlsen-Rapport is a chance for Magnus to get revenge for losing to Richard in Wijk aan Zee in 2017.
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