Levon Aronian has so far been in a class of his own at the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. After seven rounds the world no. 2 leads the Masters by a full point. The Challengers, meanwhile, has turned into a two-horse race.
Levon Aronian has taken full advantage of the absence of World Champion Magnus Carlsen to demonstrate his own exceptional skills in the Tata Steel Masters. After a draw in Round 7 against Boris Gelfand the 31-year-old Armenian leads on 5.5 points, with a full point advantage over Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin.
In Round 6 Aronian had to face Wesley So. The 20-year-old player from the Philippines had impressed in the first five rounds with two wins and three draws, making this a top-of-the-table clash. On this occasion, however, it turned into a one-sided affair. Aronian was well-prepared and used his superior piece play to take his young opponent down a notch:
1. c4 ♘f6 2. ♘f3 g6 3. ♘c3 d5 4. cxd5 ♘xd5 5. e4 ♘xc3 6. bxc3 ♗g7 7. ♗e2 c5 8. 0-0 ♘c6 9. ♕a4 ♗d7 10. ♕a3 ♕a5 11. ♖d1 In the game Akopian (2681) - Mamedyarov (2733), Porto Carras 2011, Black prevented the d4 pawn advance and fared better, but we have to assume that Levon would have improved on his compatriot's play:
18. gxf3 ♗d2 19. ♖d1 ♗c3 20. ♔g2 bxc5 21. ♗xc5 ♗b4 22. ♗e3 ♗d6 23. ♖bc1 By this point White has the situation under total control. His pieces dominate the centre and the queenside and are terrorising the black pieces all over the board.
Anish Giri misses a win
Anish Giri has been in excellent form so far. The 19-year-old Dutch player is only a point behind Aronian after seven rounds, though he could have been closer – against Boris Gelfand he let an “elementary” win slip in a minor-piece endgame:
59. d5! Decisively opening the diagonal for the bishop. Giri had seen this resource in advance, but as he refrained from playing it he must have miscalculated something in the following variations. 59... exd5 (59... ♘xd5 60. ♗g7+− ) 60. ♔b4 ♘c4 (60... ♘d7 61. ♗d4 ♔e6 62. ♗g7+− ) 61. d7! ♔e7 62. ♗g7 ♘d2 63. ♗xh6 ♘xf3 64. ♗g7 ♘h4 65. h6 ♔xd7 66. h7 ♘g6 and White must have misevaluated the position somewhere around here. 67. ♔c3 The king is in the square of the f-pawn. 67... ♔e6 68. ♔d4 ♔f7 69. h8Q ♘xh8 70. ♗xh8+− White has a winning advantage.
60. d5 might still have been worth a try, but Black seems to be able to maintain the balance. 60... e5! The diagonal has to be closed. 61. ♗b2 ♘d7 62. ♔c4 ♔d8 63. ♗a3⁉ With the idea of transfering the king to e4 without Nc5+ getting in the way. (63. ♔b5? e4! ; 63. ♔d3 ♘c5+ 64. ♔e2 ♘d7 ) 63... e4! Ensuring Black sufficient counterplay. 64. fxe4 ♘f6 65. e5 f3! 66. ♔d3 ♘xg4 67. ♗c5 f2 68. ♔e2 ♘xe5 69. ♗xf2=
60... ♘d7! Black now has a fortress.
Hikaru Nakamura has struggled at this year’s Tata Steel Tournament. After seven rounds the world no. 3 is on only 3 points and lies in a disappointing 10th place. Things went drastically wrong against Loek van Wely:
Instead of playing solidly Nakamura decides to throw oil on the fire with
23. c3 This is the resource the US player had in mind, but things are far from clear. In return for the exchange Black gets very active piece play.
Tata Steel Masters - Standings after Round 7
The Tata Steel Challengers has become a title duel between Baadur Jobava and Ivan Saric. After eight rounds the Georgian leads by half a point thanks to some bravura defence in their encounter in Round 7:
White has an extra pawn on the kingside and soon sets out to create a queen. Black's counterchances are based solely on his ability to trouble the white king - but doesn't he need too long for his counterplay? Let's see what happens!
39. ♕e5 , to hinder the coming counterplay, may have been more precise, but at this point you can only guess at the difference. 39... ♕g7 40. ♖g5! , with the idea of 41. Nh5, keeps Black under heavy pressure, but it's unclear whether it would be sufficient to win.
41. g7! promised better winning chances, but the variations are complicated. 41... ♗e4! 42. ♘f6 (42. g8Q ♗xc2+! 43. ♔xc2 ♕d3+ 44. ♔b2 ♖xg8 45. ♕xg8 ♕d2+ etc. leads to perpetual check, as you can easily see.) 42... ♗xc2+! 43. ♔xc2 ♕f2+ is, on the other hand, more complicated, but Black also seems to have enough counterplay here. 44. ♔c1 ♖d2‼ A real hammer blow. 45. ♕xd2 ♕xg1+ 46. ♔c2 ♕xg7 and a draw is the most likely result.
41... a5! Amazing. This looks too slow, but it leads to a draw.
47. ♖g3 There simply isn't anything better.
Tata Steel Challengers - Standings after Round 8
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