Round five of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2018, took place on Wednesday 17th January. The Masters Group would play away from Wijk aan Zee. As part of the ‘chess on tour’ feature of the tournament, the round would be held in Hilversum. Specifically, it would be held at the media park, which is where a lot of Dutch television and radio is based.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the round in person, I had to be content with watching from home. It was quite an eventful one, too, producing the following results:
Svidler, Peter 1-0 Hou, Yifan
Carlsen, Magnus ½-½ Kramnik, Vladimir
Jones, Gawain ½-½ Giri, Anish
Anand, Viswanathan ½-½ Wei, Yi
So, Wesley 1-0 Adhiban, B.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 1-0 Caruana, Fabiano
Matlakov, Maxim ½-½ Karjakin, Sergey
Gremlins Continue for Peter Svidler and Hou Yifan
In my previous report, I voiced some concern regarding Hou Yifan and her game in this round has done nothing but deepen that concern. Today she faced Peter Svidler and this was an important game for both players, Svidler having lost his previous game to Kramnik and Hou having a far from pleasant time of things so far. It was to get no better for her and she would surrender yet another point. In saying this, Peter did not have a game that he will be proud of either. Infact, he was critical of his play afterwards, especially in the last two rounds. His honesty and brutal frankness, especially when it comes to himself, is extremely refreshing and I always enjoy talking with him. In his post-game interview, he voiced his dissatisfaction at how much he is missing over-the-board at the moment — “something has to be done,” he concluded.
And what did they miss? Well, this can be seen in the diagram, above. Hou has just played 21…Bxa4 and here White has the devastating 22.Nc8(!!). In one fell swoop, Black’s misplaced rooks and bishop on a4 are highlighted and White is to win material by force. It is likely that Hou would have resigned instantly as there is absolutely nothing that she can do to avoid losing at least the a4-bishop. Nb6 is waiting, for example — upon …Re6 then Ng5! Svidler, (who played 22.Rb1 instead), said that a ten-year-old would find 22.Nc8 blindfolded and was disgusted that he had missed it. I can only agree with him — even I saw it.
Luckily for him, his error did not stop him from picking up the point, but he had to put in a lot of time and energy to do so. The position had settled down and was about equal when Hou blundered a piece for the second time. On this occasion, Peter took advantage and a good job too otherwise it would have taken a lot of getting over. As it was, Hou soon resigned and Svidler had the point.
Of missing 22.Nc8, Svidler had not realised his error over-the-board and was quite glad about it — “otherwise I would probably not have been able to continue … how do you carry on having missed something like that?”. This seems like a very rash statement, but it can not be under-estimated how much this will hurt and embarrass a player of Peter’s calibre. I remember a friend telling me that the late Tony Miles had told him that, “…missing a trick and losing a piece is a very bad blunder; missing a trick to win one is unforgivable,”. Hopefully Peter can reset and come out after the rest day much more like himself at the board.
Where Hou Yifan is concerned, there is serious stock-taking to do, in my humble opinion. She has recently been awarded a scholarship at Oxford University to continue her academic studies. As great an achievement as this is and as proud as she should be, one has to wonder if this is having a detrimental affect on her chess. At this level, to blunder a pawn is bad, to blunder a piece is shockingly bad — to do it twice in one game … well, there are no words. I remember being present when she made her debut in Wijk aan Zee in 2008 and I feel that she did herself far more credit in each game in that tournament than she has so far in the five of this tournament put together. She certainly had much more sparkle, sitting at the board with her then trademark hair clips. She seemed more hungry — and sensationally, she would beat Nigel Short in round three. There is no doubt in my mind that Hou is a great chess player and I hope that this is just a temporary glitch and that she can come out after the rest day anew. There are still plenty of games left in this tournament still.
Mamedyarov and So Also Score Points
The other wins of the round went to Wesley So, who added to Baskaran Adhiban’s poor tournament so far, and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who beat Fabiano Caruana. It should be said at this point that there will be a few concerns in the Caruana camp at the moment, the American having three draws and two losses from his first five rounds is quite surprising. It is certainly not what will have been expected by his own standards.
In his game against Mamedyarov, Caruana played Black in a Queen’s Gambit Declined. Things started well enough for him, but his structure became somewhat ugly and his dark-squared bishop a bystander. This was contrasted by Mamedyarov’s structure and active knight. White was no doubt better, but it was the mistaken 32…b3(?) which really damaged Black. It gave his opponent a passed pawn on the a-file and this proved decisive.
This result would move Mamedyarov to the top of the standings along with Anand and Giri.
Up to this point, Wesley So had not got a full point, but in this round it was to change at the cost of Baskaran Adhiban. In saying this, So may not be happy when he looks at the game later on. It was an English Opening and Black had no problems in equalising. Perhaps So felt that he had to do something, but his 15.Ndb5(!? see following diagram) does not seem to be the way to have gone about it. Black seems to be able to play 15…cxb5 without detriment, but Adhiban trusted his opponent and opted for 15…fxg3 instead. After 16.hxg3, White was better and accepting the piece on b5 no longer an option.
In explaining this, we have to compare the two variations and we see that the f-pawn is very important. The point behind So’s idea, (as far as I can tell), is that after 15…cxb5 16.cxb5 Nc5 17.Nd5 then 17…Nxd5 is Black’s only respectable continuation. (The bishop on c7 is en prise as is the knight on c5.) Coupled with this, f6 is vulnerable — 18…Bb6(?) 19.Bxf6(!) gxf6 20.Nxf6+ wins.
After 17…Nxd5, it was probably Wesley’s intention to continue 18.Rxc5 with the knight and bishop en prise again. Suppose that Baskaran would defend with 18…Be6, then firstly the e4-pawn is undefended but White also has the interesting Rdxd5 to consider. Either should give an edge. However, it seems that Black has 18…f3(!) and I would be interested to know what Wesley had planned in this instance and whether/how he evaluated it. If we now go through the same sequence after 15…fxg3 16.hxg3, Black has in essence surrendered his resource and has more vulnerabilities than can be dealt with — White would simply be better.
As it was, Black didn’t do too badly out of …fxg3, though any edge was certainly White’s. The game became very positional and White would get the better of it, finding the better coordination and activity. So worked exchanges to his favour and picked up a pawn. Converting the advantage was by no means straight forward and the game lasted for 80-moves, but Wesley played a fine endgame and fully deserved his point.
Giri, Anand, Mamedyarov Lead at Rest Day
The other games were drawn, but Magnus Carlsen can perhaps count himself a tad fortunate to have survived against Vladimir Kramnik. The World Champion’s Giuoco Piano did not go all to plan for him as White. Queens came off early, and it already began to seem like it might be an early finish — White certainly looked unable to generate very much, especially against a solid player such as Kramnik.
All credit to them both for making a game of it, however, but sometimes trying to make something out of nothing can land one in trouble in chess. Perhaps this is what happened in Carlsen’s case. At move-28, he opted for b4-b5 rather than Rc1 and this led to a swing in the evaluation that was in Kramnik’s favour. Both structures were busted but White’s a little more so. This allowed Black to go pawn-picking. However, evaluations are not everything in chess and it is no use having extra material if unable to use it. Ultimately, Kramnik was two pawns to nil up in the endgame, but they were doubled on the g-file. Carlsen knew that as long as he could keep his King on the kingside and keep his rook active to prevent Kramnik from using his own King in support of his pawns, a half point was his. Kramnik did his best, but this was how it worked out.
Jones-Giri was an uneventful Caro-Kann. I think that Jones just wanted a solid game today after his loss in the previous round, which will have stung a little. A point off the lead and a score of 50% at the rest day is by no means a bad thing and Gawain will have felt quite satisfied. Likewise where Giri is concerned, this comfy game with Black keeps him in joint lead of the tournament. And, together with Mamedyarov, this is shared with Vishy Anand, who walked into Wei Yi’s Petrov and could do absolutely nothing. Wei Yi practically blitzed out the moves and secured his half point.
Matlakov-Karjakin shook hands at move 16.
Masters Standings after Round 5:
Giri, Anand, Mamedyarov — 3.5
Kramnik, Carlsen, So — 3.0
Karjakin, Wei Yi, Matlakov, Jones, Svidler — 2.5
Caruana — 1.5
Adhiban — 1.0
Hou Yifan — 0.5
Masters Round 6 – Friday 19th January
Thursday is a rest day — well, I say ‘rest’ day but some of the players will be playing basketball. Play continues on Friday with a few games of interest, for me anyway. Hou Yifan plays Sergey Karjakin and with neither player having a great time so far, both must surely want to do something.
Elsewhere, Anish Giri and Vishy Anand face off and this game could sizzle or fizzle — let’s hope they have their sleeves rolled up and fancy a chance at sole lead of the tournament! Shakhriyar Mamedyarov could have the same aspirations, he faces Baskaran Adhiban. And, how will the fired up Peter Svidler do as White against Magnus Carlsen?
We wait to find out!
Hou, Yifan – Karjakin, Sergey
Caruana, Fabiano – Matlakov, Maxim
Adhiban, B. – Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar
Wei, Yi – So, Wesley
Giri, Anish – Anand, Viswanathan
Kramnik, Vladimir – Jones, Gawain
Svidler, Peter – Carlsen, Magnus
Korobov Seizes Hold of Challengers Group
Leading the Challengers group is Anoton Korobov of Ukraine. Having only dropped a half point so far, he continued his winning ways by defeating Jorden Van Foreest to go 4.5/5 and is threatening to pull away.
However, the game of this round has to go to Bassem Amin, who has not had a great start to this tournament to put it mildly. In this round he pulled of a rout against Dmitry Gordievsky. In saying that, it must be said that Gordievsky’s troubles were largely self-inflicted. He went pawn grabbing, took to moving his Queen around, neglecting development — you know, the kind of thing that we are told as beginners not to do. For this he was seriously punished as Bassem’s pieces mounted pressure upon his King in dramatic fashion. If you haven’t seen the game, I would advise you to take a look!
Girya, Olga ½-½ Bok, Benjamin
Van Foreest, Jorden 0-1 Korobov, Anton
Tari, Aryan 1-0 Xiong, Jeffery
Krasenkow, Michal ½-½ Bluebaum, Matthias
Amin, Bassem 1-0 Gordievsky, Dmitry
Harika, Dronavalli ½-½ Van Foreest, Lucas
L’Ami, Erwin ½-½ Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi
Challengers Standings after 5 Rounds:
Korobov — 4.5
Vidit — 4.0
L. Van Foreest — 3.5
Tari, L’Ami, Gordievsky — 2.5
J. Van Foreest, Xiong, Krasenkow, Dronavalli, Amin, Bok, Bluebaum, Girya — 2.0
Challengers Round 6 – Friday 19th January
Bok, Benjamin – Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi
Van Foreest, Lucas – L’Ami, Erwin
Gordievsky, Dmitry – Harika, Dronavalli
Bluebaum, Matthias – Amin, Bassem
Xiong, Jeffery – Krasenkow, Michal
Korobov, Anton – Tari, Aryan
Girya, Olga – Van Foreest, Jorden
With Thanks To:
Tata Steel and the organisers of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament.
Official Website: www.tatasteelchess.com