Magnus Carlsen won a positional masterpiece against Richard Rapport to move to +3 in the Tata Steel Masters, but that wasn’t enough for the sole lead, since Vishy Anand followed up his win over Vladimir Kramnik with a sparkling victory over world no. 3 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The other leaders going into the round drew, while Jan-Krzysztof Duda inflicted a fourth loss on Kramnik and Vladimir Fedoseev beat Sam Shankland for his first win of the event. Maksim Chigaev is now the sole leader of the Challengers after a third win in a row.
The days of Black being ok in Wijk aan Zee seem to be over, as Round 8 of the Tata Steel Masters saw four wins for White:
You can rewatch Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler’s live commentary on Sunday’s action:
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Magnus Carlsen lost to Richard Rapport in Round 8 of the 2017 Tata Steel Masters, but he wasn’t going to make the same mistake in the same round this year. He took over right from the start, and was perhaps the only player in the venue or online who didn’t think he’d played at least a minor masterpiece! He told Fiona Steil-Antoni:
I don’t think it was a masterpiece by any stretch. I think I had a very nice position early on and then it kind of played itself. I missed a number of things.
The evidence to the contrary was strong, however, with the World Champion’s choice on move 31 particularly impressing Jan Gustafsson:
Magnus could win back the pawn with 31.Nxf6 (the threat of mate on g8 stops Black capturing twice on f6), but instead he went for the quiet but devastating plan of 31.Ne3! followed by Rd5-h5, when there was no way to defend the black king. The finish was crisp:
due to 40…Qxh7 41.Qxh7+ Kxh7 42.Nxf6+ Rapport resigned.
Jan takes us through the game:
And here’s Magnus afterwards:
Vishy Anand has won the top event in Wijk aan Zee 5 times, bettered only by Carlsen’s 6. The last time he did it was 13 years ago in 2006, but at the age of 49 the 5-time World Champion is on a roll once again. In Round 7 he beat his lifelong rival and world no. 7 Vladimir Kramnik, and now in the very next round he’s taken the scalp of world no. 3 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. It’s not just the result but the manner of the victory that impresses.
In the build-up to the first sacrifice Shak has just played 19…b6 to defend against the potential double attack of Qd2, hitting the a5 and g5-pawns. Vishy spotted it was the perfect time for the break he'd been pinning his hopes on:
20.c4! Rxc4 21.Rxd5! and of course if 21…exd5 22.Qxd5+ the rook falls with check. It was already hard to see Black surviving, but at least his suffering didn’t last long. Five moves later it was time for the final blow:
28.Rxd5! exd5 29.Qxd5+ and Mamedyarov resigned, with Rd1 next move set to win the pinned bishop on d7.
Vishy described it as “a very nice finish”, and was happy to have beaten Mamedyarov, “who’s been incredibly good the last year”:
It’s fortunate that Vishy is showing that age is not an insurmountable barrier in chess, since 43-year-old Vladimir Kramnik is having a nightmare tournament. The former World Champion has now lost four games and won none in this year’s Masters, dropping 20.2 rating points and sliding from world no. 7 to world no. 14. In Round 8, however, it wasn’t really about Kramnik doing anything “insane” as he had the day before. 20-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda commented:
Of course it feels very nice. I think it’s my biggest win in a classical game ever, so far. Of course I’m very happy with it. Vladimir is in poor form here, but I think it was also thanks to a good opening which I chose, because I never played this Italian with Bg5 before, and I’m very happy with it.
Until Kramnik’s 13…h4 the players were following Topalov-So from the 2016 London Chess Classic, while it was only the natural-looking 17…h3? that turns out to be a blunder:
It soon became apparent that the opening of the g-file had weakened the black king much more than its counterpart, but the outcome of the game remained in doubt since both players ended up in time trouble in a fiendishly difficult position. Kramnik eventually blundered last, however, as Peter Svidler shows us in his analysis of the game:
And here’s Duda afterwards:
Vladimir Fedoseev impressed by putting pressure on Carlsen in Round 7, and he built on that platform to grab his first win of the tournament against Sam Shankland in Round 8. In our live commentary Peter Svidler revealed that this was something of a grudge match, since the two had come to verbal blows in the past about who was the better player.
In Wijk it almost looked as though Fedoseev was demonstrating that the opening didn’t matter as he went for a double fianchetto and then gradually gained a grip on the position. Shankland had a weak pawn on c5 and a crippled bishop on h7, and when the white pieces began to enter the black position with 34.Qd6 it was essentially over:
This game was even easier for me than others. I got a positional advantage and then I just forgot about the strongest move and played with an edge and tried to keep it as long as possible, and it forced my opponent to make mistakes and he finally lost.
The game only ended on move 52, but had long since been over as a contest.
The remaining three games were drawn. Vidit-Giri was the longest, stretching to move 36, but the two friends never overstepped the bounds of equality. The leaders Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi ended their clash in just 17 moves, though they spent a combined 35 minutes on that move 17.
That was also the move on which Jorden van Foreest’s game against Teimour Radjabov turned. 17.b6?! was an objectively bad move, but accompanied by the good move of offering a draw, which was accepted.
Jorden explained afterwards that his opening surprise hadn’t worked:
That was Jorden’s first draw after seven decisive games, and a good chance for a 2nd tweet of the tournament!
So the most successful players ever in Wijk aan Zee top the table with five rounds to go, while Vladimir Kramnik is all on his own in last place:
Meanwhile in the Challengers there were no less than five decisive games:
The draw between Anton Korobov and Vladislav Kovalev was good news for the latter, who keeps his one-point lead over the top seed, but it allowed Maksim Chigaev to take the sole lead with a third win in a row, this time over outsider Stefan Kuipers.
The big challenge for Maksim next is Andrey Esipenko in the next round, after the 16-year-old won his 3rd game with White to move into second place. 36.c4! was a star move:
Black’s attack is stopped in its tracks, since 36…bxc3?, as played by Praggnanandhaa, was demonstrated to be a losing move.There’s now a rest day on Monday, then play on Tuesday and Wednesday, then one final rest day on Thursday, and then the last three rounds over the weekend. Tune into live commentary with Jan and Peter from about 13:20 CET on Tuesday for Round 9 in Wijk aan Zee: Tata Steel Masters | Challengers
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