The Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2017, headed to Rotterdam for round five and the first of two ‘Chess On Tour’ dates. The venue was ‘de Kuip’, which is the stadium of Dutch football team, Feyenoord. And the change of location would produce a change of leader as it turned out.
Ukrainian Grandmaster, Pavel Eljanov, had been leading after round 4 and must have been feeling rather good going into round 5. If so, this feeling would not last for long, his game against Levon Aronian was not a pleasant one. With Eljanov playing White in the Open Catalan, Aronian set out his stall early with his novelty of 13…Bd5. The following play resulted in Black obtaining good activity with his pair of Knights, but White was doing ok too. Eljanov’s 26.Qf4 and 27.Ne1, were not the best and saw his pieces somewhat disjointed and this allowed Aronian to take the better of things with 27…Nbd4 (…Rd4 may have been even better).
With his nice knight on d4, Black doubled rooks along the d-file and White’s 29.h4-h5 was a little irrelevant to the goings ons and after 29…Nf5, Black was substantially better organised. White tried to liquidate himself out of trouble, but this didn’t really come off and he collapsed under the pressure of a very organised Black force. The final mistake was a rather serious one, 37.Rc1(??) which allowed 37…Nd4, and one of White’s poorly placed rooks was doomed. As can be seen in the diagram, below, the Black knight is hopping to e2 next and White was powerless to stop it. Eljanov resigned the game and with it the lead of the group.
By contrast, Welsey So was having a grand time against Pentala Harikrishna. In the Symmetrical English, Black’s novelty of 14…d5, (14…Ne8 had been played in Kramnik-Nepomniachtchi, Dortmund 2015, 1-0), didn’t really work out for him and White took the best of things early on, letting the c-pawn go in return for activity. What I like about this game, as an English player myself here and there, is the total activity and harmony that So’s pieces took out of the opening. They were just sheer quality compared to Black’s, two nicely placed knights and bishops which just came into their own very quickly.
So’s 21.Rd2 was perhaps a little slow, but still good enough for the advantage. However, he had the possibility of 21.Nc7, which seems more powerful. Play could continue, 21…Nd3 22.exd3 Bxd1 23.Rxd1 Bxd4 24.dxc4 Bxb2 25.Rb1 Bc3 26.Nxa8 Rxa8 27.c5 Bxa5 28.Kg2 Re8 29.Rxb7 with a commanding position for White. As it was, Black was to sacrifice a rook for White’s bishop pair and a pawn, and get himself back in to the game. However, Harikrishna did not play the best from here and soon found himself a piece down. He had an extra pawn, which was passed on the a-file, but this was hardly any compensation. White closed off the board with his well co-ordinated knights, supported by his King and rounded up on the pawn. Black had very little left to do but accept the inevitable and resign.
With this, Wesley So would take over the lead of the group.
White obtained an early lead in the French Defence of Karjakin-Adhiban, but this wasn’t to last long. Infact, Sergey Karjakin was to have quite a horrid time of things. His problems seemed to stem from his refusal to castle long on his 15th move. Instead, he played 15.Bxf6 which just wasn’t good enough and allowed Black a lot of influence on the position, especially along the f-file, where White had a lone pawn. 16.g3 defended it, but then came the super-aggressive …g5 and White was coming under pressure with the f-pawn pinned to his vulnerable Queen on f2.
When White did castle, with 17.0-0-0, it was a little too little too late, infact 17.Bh3 (or perhaps Rg1) may have been wiser. Adhiban claimed the f-pawn for free and then advanced it — Karjakin had problems. And he did not handle these problems at all well, his 19.g4, 20.g5 and 21.g6 was just not good enough. Black claimed a second free pawn and White’s position had deteriorated to critical. Karjakin did his best to try to find some activity and counter play, but Adhiban was completely dominating the position. With White really under pressure, the game ended for tactical reasons, when Karjakin played 31.Rxg6(??) as shown in the diagram, below. There followed the nasty surprise, 31…Bxd3+(!!) and Black is adding a rook to his two pawns material edge. Karjakin’s goose was cooked and he resigned.
The other win of the round came from Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland, who bested Dutch Grandmaster, Loek van Wely. Their King’s Indian transposed to a probably little known game, Schonberger-van Dijk, from the Prinsenstad Open, played in Delft, which is also in the Netherlands. Playing Black, van Wely deviated from this with his 16…Rb8.
Play was largely concentrated on the Queenside and Black was a little too willing to compromise his structure, his 20…c5 resulted in him being saddled with two isolated pawns. What followed was extremely instructive, with White gaining control of the d-file and then penetrating to d6 with his Queen in order to take the game into an ending in which things were favourable for him. Black was already under pressure when there came 30.Rxc5, winning a pawn.
The pawn was temporary, but what was more important was White’s activity and potential on the board. This was aided in no small way by van Wely’s 33…Nc4, which just seems to throw a rook for no compensation. Black was struggling from here to say the least, and when White added a fast advancing passed pawn into the mix it was all over bar the shouting. Van Wely would resign yet another game and is unfortunately last in the standings, with just a half point to show for five games.
Those who turned up in Rotterdam in order to see Magnus Carlsen in action will have only found limited success. The World Champion drew a rather tame English Opening with Ian Nepomniachtchi, who kept his +3 record against him in tact. There is not really much of note to say about the game other than to say that I was not too surprised about the way it went.
Anish Giri chose the Caro Kann against Wei Yi and didn’t do too badly from it. White’s play on the Queenside, especially his a2, b3, c4, d4, e5 pawn chain and air around his King looked all kinds of wrong to me, personally. Perhaps Giri missed a chance by castling instead of playing 22…b6, which takes advantage of the misplaced bishop on c5 and its limited options. It was a bit of a strange game, which saw Black a rook and pawn up in the end, but White having perpetual, thus the game was drawn.
A Two Knights Defence was the order of the day in Andreikin-Rapport. White achieved more than Black from the opening, obtaining a nice bishop pair, but the position just seemed to lack potential. The advantage is not everything in chess, it all comes down to being able to do something with it and how White was to do that (if indeed he could) was not clear. When the endgame arrived, White tried to mobilise his pawns, but Black had a very influential bishop and knight which just kept everything contained. Draw in 55.
All of this leaves Wesley So in the lead of the Masters Group. Play returns to Wijk aan Zee for round six on Friday.
Masters Group Standings after Round 5.
- So — 4.0
- Carlsen, Eljanov — 3.5
- Aronian — 3.0
- Giri, Harikrishna, Wei, Andreikin, Karjakin, Wojtaszek — 2.5
- Nepomniachtchi, Adhiban — 2.0
- Rapport — 1.5
- Van Wely — 0.5
Masters Group Round 6, Friday 20th January, 13:30 local time.
Aronian – Carlsen
Giri – Nepomniachtchi
Rapport – Wei
Van Wely – Andreikin
Harikrishna – Wojtaszek
Adhiban – So
Eljanov – Karjakin.
Round five of the challengers group, was played in Wijk aan Zee and saw 4 decisive games. Still leading is Markus Ragger, who drew with Shanglei Lu in this round. Just behind him is Ilia Smirin, who drew with Nils Grandelius. British Grandmaster Gawain Jones is continuing to recover well from his round three defeat to Smirin. He took his second win on the spin and is now in shared third place at this stage, with Jeffrey Xiong who beat Lei Tingjie.
Challengers Group Standings after Round 5.
- Ragger — 4.5
- Smirin — 4.0
- Xiong, Jones — 3.5
- Lu — 3.0
- Grandelius, l’Ami, Hansen — 2.5
- Dobrov, van Foreest, Tari — 2.0
- Bok — 1.5
- Lei — 1.0
- Guramishvili — 0.5
Challengers Group Round 6, Friday 20th January, 13:30 local time.
Grandelius – Tingjie
Hansen – Xiong
Dobrov – l’Ami
Lu – van Foreest
Jones – Ragger
Guramishvili – Bok
Smirin – Tari.