Round 4 of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, 2016, would mark the end of part 1 for the Masters, as the next day would be rest day #1. One never quite knows what to expect at such times, sometimes the players come out with their sleeves rolled up, and others they just are not up for it. We would just have to wait and see.
In round 3, David Navara played a stonking game against Anish Giri, and was arguably deserving of a full point from it, rather than the half he achieved. In round 4, he was on the other end of agressive chess, when he faced Women’s #1, Yifan Hou. The Caro-Kann Advance Variation backfired on Black rather speedily, and soon, Navara was facing a line of White pawns and had his dark-squared bishop hemmed in on the Kingside. This compelled the Czech to open lines in order to free it, and White, being the more active, held the initiative.
Hou’s rook came to the 6th rank, claiming a pawn, and the Chinese GM then gave it up in return for a wealth of activity. Black’s pieces became mere spectators as White closed on his King. Navara’s position was soon strategically lost, and Hou had the point by the time control. A nice, confident game.
After being gifted a point by Shakh Mamedyarov in round 3, Pavel Eljanov was bound to come out with his tail up in round 4. He was up against the ever resilient Loek van Wely, however, who put up a serious fight in their semi-slav. It was a nice open game, and when White claimed the centre, Black just chose to play around it, Queen and bishop on the Kingside and remaining rook lined up along the c-file. It was a very effective setup and was holding things nicely. Then came the mistake, 31…Rf2? Black really needed to limit White’s threats before embarking on any excursions of his own.
It allowed 32.e4! the pawn hitting the Queen, with an added discovery on Black’s rook to boot. Black knew that he would have 32…Rf1+, but after 33.Bg1 Qf2 34.Rxf1 Qxf1, White can continue strongly with 35.e6. The point is that after 35…fxe6 36.Qxe6+, White is a clear pawn up and once the Queen’s come off (which is unavoidable in this position) it should be decisive. Van Wely tried to maintain his Queen, but this only accelerated the defeat and Eljanov had the point on his 38th.
Karjakin-Tomashevsky saw a Guioco Piano, with White varying from previous games with his 12.Ng3. According to my database, there had been 3 previous outings, 12.d3-d4 being played. Positional jostling resulted in a tension in the position, which favoured White. Karjakin was able to obtain a strategically won position, and immense pressure, and most likely would have converted. However, it was the flag which ended Black’s game.
After his blunder horribilis against Pavel Eljanov in the previous round, Shakhryar Mamedyarov needed a good, solid game against Magnus Carlsen in this one. On paper, the World Champion, and arguably best player to ever push a piece, is not really the choice opponent after a bogey game, but if Shakh could hold then he would have a free day on Wednesday to re-group and prepare for his next opponent, which would be with the white pieces. It was also interesting to see how Carlsen, one of the most aggresssive and attacking players, would handle Mamedyarov’s obvious vulnerability. Would he go for the jugular?
The answer is ‘no’ to be honest. He went for a sideline in the King’s Indian, 5.Qa4, which invites (begs?) Black to thrust his Queenside pawns forward. Play then revolves around the Queenside and open c-file. The situation did not really present any chances for either player, however, and liquidation began with Black’s 25…Bxe5. A ceasefire was inevitable.
Anish Giri also had an awkward time of it in round 3, with David Navara nearly claiming his scalp with a piece sacrifice. In round 4, the Dutch Grandmaster would have the White pieces against Fabiano Caruana and it is fair to say, I think, that this was highly anticipated by the chess public. The Open Ruy Lopez seemed to indicate that the players were not intending to disappoint.
The game was fairly even, Giri lined up along the open b-file, but Black had adequate presence, and good active pieces. Then, on his move 25, it was Caruana’s turn to upset the equilibrium, with …Nd6. This gives White the option of achieving an advanced passed pawn, with 26.exd6 at the cost of a rook. This is the route that Giri took, and it didn’t really work out for him. After 26…Bxb3 27.Qb2 Be6 28.Rd1 perhaps Black could have tried for more with 28…Qc7, rather than seeking to get the Queens off with 28…Qb5. Of course, Giri was not going to exchange down after just giving up the exchange — he’d be worse.
As things stood, White re-gained his rook, evening up material again, but Black was able to obtain a Queenside passed pawn that more than competed with White’s on d6. Gradually, the Black bit crept down the c-file, and Giri’s flawed 36.Ne4? (36.fxg4!) allowed 36…c3! and White was in some bother. Perhaps Caruana will kick himself, slightly, that he didn’t convert the advantage in to a point, but Giri showed great grit and determination to save, and the game was drawn in 63.
Yi Wei handled the English opening of Michael Adams well in their game. It seemed to me that White just gave Black too much to work with, open lines and good squares. Black managed White’s play very well, and turned things around to take the initiative. However, the ever-solid Adams battened down the hatches and Black could make no progress. Draw in 52.
So-Ding saw a rather tetchy game in a Slav Defence, which didn’t yeild any chances for either player. There was a flurry of exchanges, which left White with an extra pawn, but Black had all bases covered and they repeated.
That is it until Thursday, then, when the players come back for round 5. Please note that this is held away from the main venue in Wijk aan Zee, and takes place at the Science Centre NEMO, in Amsterdam. Play also begins at the later time of 14:00.
Standings after Round 4:
Caruana — 3pts
So, Hou, Karjakin, Ding, Eljanov — 2.5pts
Carlsen, Wei, –2pts
Giri, van Wely, Mamedyarov, Tomashevsky, Navara — 1.5pts
Adams — 1pt
Round 5, Thursday 21st January 2016 14:00 local time:
Anne Haast was punished for taking her eye off the ball a bit in her game as White against Erwin l’Ami. Things were going well in their Scotch Four Knights, until White played the flawed 27.Re5?, which hung a pawn due to the pin on White’s knight on d5. From here, Haast was in difficulties, but she showed admirable grit and determination in effort to try and save the game. However, l’Ami pressed his advantage and claimed the point.
Samuel Sevian had a tough day at the office, going down to Jorden van Foreest in a closed Sicilian. Black’s weakness came with the opening of his King’s position, and with White steadily building, Black’s Queen became such a liability that the American sacrificed her for rook and knight. It didn’t help, and Black soon worked his way in to a mating net.
The rest of the games went to Black, though. The first, Bok-Safarli, which saw Black’s Bogo-Indian Grunfeld not totally going according to plan. White actually had the better of things, but appeared unclear as to how to proceed. The problem was Black’s light-squared bishop, which secured itself on c2, supported by Black’s b-pawn. They were such a spanner in the works, that White felt compelled to sacrifice rook for them and this was misguided and never really gave adequate compensation. Later in the game, this rook was severely missed, and Black had the point.
The Caro-Kann of Antipov-Dreev saw an unbalanced game which saw Black surrendering rook for knight and pawn. It worked for him, not least because of his super-nice knight on e4, eyeing White’s bits, but his light-squared bishop on h7 fully equalled White’s dark-squared one on a3. Black’s Ne4 was such a pain in the neck, that White was giving back the rook to get rid of it. However, this changed nothing and merely left Black with the superior position. Soom Dreev’s pawns were marching on the Queenside, and White was powerless.
White was punished for a few pawn moves too many in Ju-Baskaran. We are told as beginners to remember that they can not move backwards, and this is meant to make us mindful to not move them willy-nilly. We all do it, though, and it is somewhat comforting to see that the top players do it here and there, too. Ju’s line of Kingside pawns looked all well and good, but there was some air in the White position, and once Black had penetrated with a rook, it created all kinds of havoc. The White King ended up exposed and this is more often than not, very costly. As in this game, when a simple check from a pawn would claim a rook — ouch.
Nijat Abasov went for an exchange sacrifice in his game against Nino Batsiashvili, giving rook for his opponent’s c6-knight. It did him no favours in all honesty. White fought, but his position steadily deteriorated and the point went to Black.
Admiraal-Nisipeanu was a 67-move draw in which neither side really looked like getting up to any mischief.
Alexey Dreev leads then, on 100% so far.
Standings after Round 4:
Dreev — 4pts
Baskaran — 3.5pts
Safarli — 3pts
Nisipeanu, l’Ami — 2.5pts
Antipov, Batsiashvili, van Foreest — 2pts
Bok, Ju, Sevian — 1.5pts
Abasov, Admiraal — 1.0pts
Haast — 0.5pts
Round 5, Wednesday 20th January 2016 13:30 local time: