“Coulda woulda shoulda” commented Wesley So on the fact that he could have lost to Wei Yi in Round 6 of the Tata Steel Masters. Instead he turned things around to grab a second win in a row and climb to no. 3 on the live rating list. That wasn’t quite enough to take the lead in Wijk, though, since Shakhriyar Mamedyarov also won a bad position to beat Adhiban and hit a new peak rating of 2813.3. Elsewhere Vladimir Kramnik missed a good chance against Gawain Jones, but the highlight was a spectacular draw in Svidler-Carlsen, which Jan Gustafsson analyses for us. Anton Korobov extended his lead in the Challengers.
Those two wins against the odds were the only decisive results in Round 6 of the Tata Steel Masters. Play through the action using the selector below – click a result to open that game with computer analysis, or hover over a player’s name to see all his or her results and pairings:
After two games to forget Peter Svidler spent the rest day in Amsterdam at the Hearthstone World Championship (check out the full Twitter thread):
He didn’t live to regret that unusual preparation for a game against the World Champion, later commenting:
I think this game demonstrates exactly why it was the correct choice, because even if I prepared for a day and a half 1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 Bb4 would not have made the list. There’s no way I would have guessed this would happen, so I’m very happy I chose what I chose. It was a very nice day yesterday.
The opening wasn’t quite as offbeat as all that, since Anish Giri had beaten Vladimir Kramnik with it in Round 2, though Vlad chose 3…Ba5 to prevent 3…c5 4.Nb5 as happened in Svidler-Carlsen. Svidler would go on to criticise his “incredibly stupid” opening play, but couldn’t be too upset since it led to “a very exciting game with lots of possibilities for both sides”. Svidler, like Kramnik before him, felt he was on the verge of beating Magnus by force, but the World Champion found a brilliant defence.
Peter summed up:
You can’t be ecstatic about a draw against anybody. It’s a good result obviously against Magnus, but it’s not going to change my life. It was a fun game to play… I like playing games I enjoy from the aesthetic point of view. So that’s a happy day.
The post-mortem was streamed live, though the version below starts just after Magnus has called his 12…h5 (the computer’s top move) “an absolute brain fart”:
Jan Gustafsson takes us through a highly entertaining game:
Meanwhile it looks like Magnus finally got that basketball session the wind prevented on the rest day:
This game perhaps surpassed even Svidler-Carlsen as the most exciting of the day, with Wei Yi starting the conflagration when he pushed his g-pawn up the board in a position where neither player had yet castled. Wesley admitted to underestimating the strength of that idea, and then decided to pour more fuel on the fire by launching an all-out assault of his own on the white king. The position became incredibly sharp, as illustrated by the fact that 25.bxa6! was absolutely an only move (25.Qd6 Rc1+!), since White needed to have Qb5+ to defend f1. Wei Yi was once again let down by time trouble, though, and failed to find the right antidote to the venomous 25…Qh8!?
Black is suddenly threatening mate with Qa1+ and a capture on f1, and the question is how to respond. 26.d4 immediately, or 26.Qb5+ and d4 next move, would be good options, though in the forced lines that follow Black gets a dangerous passed h-pawn. 26.Qd4 may have been the simplest and safest choice, but instead Wei Yi went for 26.Rd4?, and, just like that, the advantage had gone.
It was soon to get worse, though, since Wei Yi met 26...Bxf1 with the move that was required in almost all the previous lines, 27.Qb5+?!, while here 27.Bxf1! and 27.Rxd8+ were stronger and should have led to a draw. Instead play continued 27…Nc6 28.Bxf1 Rxf1+ 29.Kxf1 Qh1+ 30.Ke2 Qh5+!
Wesley forces an ending and the unfortunate rook on d4 will be captured with a "zwischenschach" before both queens leave the board. An exchange up, Wesley went on to win in 41 moves, and after an indifferent start and some shaky games the defending champion had suddenly climbed to +2 and the joint lead (with Mamedyarov’s game still in play).
When it was put to him that he could easily have lost, Wesley responded:
Well, that’s what sport is about! Coulda woulda shoulda – many things could have happened. Could have forced a draw, he could have played 1.e4, I could have lost, obviously, but the most important thing is the result… In the game it was very complicated and the Lord blessed me with this win, and I’d like to thank him for that.
At the time Wesley won it looked as though it was just a question of how many players he’d share the lead with, but then Shakhriyar Mamedyarov pulled off the same trick to win a difficult position with Black. Shak had previously joked about his new style of “old man chess”, but against a struggling Adhiban he abandoned that approach:
Two days ago I was right. I need to play very solid, when a draw is a draw. Today we see it was a drawn position, and I want to play, and I got a losing position.
Shak had no explanation for why he awkwardly put his rooks on d7 and e7 and said he played very badly in time trouble, so that by move 40 he was all but lost against White’s powerful passed pawns. 44…Rd3!, however, ended up turning the game in his favour:
The surprising threat is h5, and the white queen is trapped. The correct response was 45.Re3!, but Adhiban played the more natural 45.Be3?, keeping two rooks on the back rank and opening up a path for the b-pawn. That allowed 45…Ra3, though, as played, or even the more spectacular 45…Qxe1+! 46.Rxe1 Rxe3!, and suddenly it was anyone’s game to win. Objectively a draw was probably the “correct” outcome, but Mamedyarov is on a roll and went on to pick up the full point:
He talked to Fiona Steil-Antoni afterwards:
At the start of the tournament Caruana was rated no. 2, Mamedyarov no. 3 and So no. 6, but that’s all changed, with Shak hitting another personal best and moving within 20 points of Magnus:
The other games were all drawn, with only Kramnik-Jones seriously threatening to end decisively after some brilliance from Vladimir Kramnik:
18.Be3!! Bd3 19.Bxd4 Bxf1 20.Bxf1 and White had given up his queen for a bishop and rook.
Gawain Jones admitted he was waiting for the axe to fall, but it seems Kramnik went astray in pushing his b-pawn too soon and the English grandmaster was able to eliminate it:
28…Rxb6! 29.Bxb6 Nxb6 30.Nxe7+ Kf8 31.Nd5 Bxe5 (a move Kramnik had missed) 32.Nxb6 Bxb2 and it was even Kramnik who was running a slight risk in the play that followed before a draw was agreed on move 41.
Sergey Karjakin played the Caro-Kann defence for the first time in his life, against Hou Yifan, but felt he ended up in a position that was “a bit tricky”. The 32-move draw doubled Hou Yifan’s score for the tournament, while when asked if he was impressed by anyone Sergey picked Anish Giri: “Now he’s the king of solid chess!”
Anish Giri drew co-leader Vishy Anand, who played an early pawn sacrifice he’d discovered after wondering what might have happened if Carlsen had played differently in their encounter in the 2017 London Chess Classic. Since he barely thought at all, it was clear Anish knew exactly what was coming, with another sac, 15…d3!, bringing the game to a swift conclusion:
Without this move captures on c5 would lose to Rc1, but now they come with check, and after 16.exd3 Qxc5+ 17.Qxc5 Bxc5+ 18.Kg2 Bd4 19.Nc3 Kd7 20.Rae1 a draw was agreed.
Vishy’s commentary afterwards was perhaps most memorable for his account of some “wind-propelled jogging” on the rest day!
The remaining game, Caruana-Matlakov, was very sharp and involved some deep thought, though Maxim explained afterwards that he was simply trying to remember his preparation, which he assumed covered everything that happened in the game:
A key moment arose after 27.Bf1:
It looks like White is winning with the b3-pawn about to drop, but if the black knight could get to e3 things would be very different. Eric Hansen, commentating live on the game, paused to consider how he could do that, and then had the eureka moment that Black should play 27…Nd7! 28.Rxb3 Nb6! and if White tries to defend the a-pawn Nc4-Ne3 will follow. Fabiano sank into a 45-minute think before giving up the a-pawn with 29.Kf2, and soon the game fizzled out into a draw.
The standings are therefore as follows as we’re about to cross the halfway mark of the tournament:
In the Challengers, meanwhile, Anton Korobov had already taken the sole lead after five rounds and increased his advantage to a full point by scoring the only win of Round 6.
Aryan Tari was his victim, with the World Junior Champion getting hit by the novelty 10.Nh3:
Today I had a novelty, 10.Nh3, just to scare my opponent. Actually that was prepared a long time ago, but only today there was an opportunity to play here and I was very, very glad. The problem is that Black has to enter very sharp stuff without any preparation, so my opponent opted for 10…Bxh3, and then White is better, I think.
The most memorable exchange, however, went:
You seem to be in a great shape, Anton?
To tell the truth, I’m too fat and too old to be in a good shape here. Maybe that is the last success before the cemetery. Who knows?
Alas, when the interviewer started to ask about smoking Anton decided to bring the interview to an abrupt end, but here’s hoping we see a lot more of Korobov in the future!
With relatively little happening in the other Challengers games it’s worth returning to the fine win by Bassem Amin that we covered for Round 5. Robin van Kampen told a funny story of how at breakfast the next day he congratulated Bassem on finding such a nice idea against the 2…Nf6 Sicilian. Then Amin said “no, thank you”, since he’d got the novelty from Robin’s own chess24 video series!
We always knew Robin’s series were full of great ideas!
In Saturday’s Round 7 Carlsen will try to pile the misery on Hou Yifan, So-Giri will give Wesley a chance to test out Giri’s solidity, there’s the heavyweight clash Anand-Kramnik and Mamedyarov has the white pieces against Wei Yi. In fact Mamedyarov now has White four times in his remaining seven games, with Wei Yi followed by Kramnik, Carlsen and Anand!