Tata Steel Chess: Magnus keeps on drawing

by Antonio Pereira
1/15/2019 – The drawing streak of Magnus Carlsen continues as the World Champion tied his fourth round match-up against Vladimir Kramnik at the Tata Steel Masters. Meanwhile, Anish Giri and Vidit won their games to join Vishy Anand and Ding Liren in the chasing pack half a point behind sole leader Ian Nepomniachtchi. In the Challengers, Vladislav Kovalev beat Lucas van Foreest to seize his spot in the leading group. The action of the day was analysed by GM DANNY KING. | Photos: Alina l'Ami / Official site

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Twenty-one draws

Usually a long streak of draws has something to do with a player showing a conservative and pragmatic style in order to maintain a stable performance against strong opposition. Magnus Carlsen — who has drawn his last twenty-one classical games — is known for choosing positions that lead to clear setups that allow him to prove his technical prowess. However, he is also praised for his seemingly indestructible fighting spirit. Such a long streak of half points is certainly not something we would expect of the Norwegian.

Certainly the most hotly anticipated match-up of the day | Photo: Alina l'Ami

In his last game, he faced an under-the-weather (chess-wise) Vladimir Kramnik — the Russian, who used to be a difficult rival for Magnus, came from having a lousy start in the tournament. Vlad showed he was up for the task, though, and kept the balance throughout the game despite having the black pieces. Shortly before the time control, Kramnik even gave up a pawn to go into a balanced endgame:

 

Black could have continued 36...Ne5 37.c4 Nd3 in order to keep the material balance, but Kramnik considered that after 36...Nb6 37.Bxc6 Nxc6 38.Nxc6 Nc4 he had enough compensation for the pawn — and he was right. The game continued until move 56, when the draw was finally signed.

Vladimir gave his first interview in this year's edition and mentioned how he is well aware of the fact that he is perhaps taking too many risks:

I'm an old man, I just want to enjoy chess. [...] I know that I'm risking too much, but that is the way I want to play, and in such a strong tournament it's something that maybe doesn't pay, but at least I have interesting games.

Magnus, on the other hand, is still slowly losing rating points with these draws — Caruana is now exactly three points below him in the live ratings list. Nonetheless, he will play Jorden van Foreest in the next round, a player that has not drawn once in Wijk aan Zee this year.

Big Vlad is never afraid | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Two friends join the chasing pack

In last year's Olympiad, we saw how Vidit Gujrathi has established very good relations with the Dutch team. The same can be said about Twitter, where he and Anish Giri have gone back and forth joking around more than once in the past. Coincidentally, both players won their games on Tuesday and now share second place with Anand and Ding Liren.

Giri lost in round one against Nepomniachtchi, but has bounced back to contention with two victories. His latest win, against Richard Rapport, was achieved with the black pieces, after the Hungarian used an opening system that showed little ambition. When asked about how he prepared to face someone as unpredictable as Richard, Giri explained that it was useful to look at the games of other eccentric players:

I recall looking at the system once when I played Baadur [Jobava], and Richard and Baadur…I don't know if they work together, but certainly they look at each other's games.

Rapport's critical mistake came on move 21, in a position that Giri considered to be completely equal:

 

The Hungarian played the small combination 21.Nxb6 Qxb6 22.a4, getting back the piece but allowing Black to get an outside passed pawn on the queenside. From this moment on — and especially after the weakening 23.g4 — Giri had the upper hand on both sides of the board. The Dutchman showed good technique and got the point by move 40.

The number one player in the Netherlands | Photo: Alina l'Ami

For Vidit, on the other hand, the win was not as straightforward. The Indian confessed that he felt he was playing against a computer in the opening, as Jorden van Foreest spent less than three minutes on each of his first 31 moves! Clearly, the youngster was expecting to get the opposite-coloured bishop endgame that presented itself on the board, but then he was not able to assess it was necessary to calculate a bit to secure the draw:

 

The procedure needed to draw the game required Black to keep his bishop on d1, in order to force White's king to stay close defending the e2-pawn or go to the kingside at the expense of his small material advantage. Jorden's 36...Ba4, therefore, was the critical mistake, as Vidit activated his monarch on the kingside and went on to win the game after 51 moves.

Vidit did not think he would win this game | Photo: Alina l'Ami

The rest of the games were drawn, with Teimour Radjabov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sam Shankland — besides Magnus — adding a fourth half point to their tallies. For Shankland, it has been a good run, given the strength of his opponents, but he certainly could have gotten at least a win, especially when he obtained a favourable position against Rapport. The current U.S. champion talked about his performance so far:


Daily round-up show

GM Daniel King analysed the games from round four


Standings after Round 4 - Masters

 

All games - Masters

 

Kovalev wins in the Challengers

Six out of seven games finished drawn in the Challengers, although it could have easily been a round with no decisive games. Like his older brother in the Masters, Lucas van Foreest was not able to keep the balance in a theoretically drawn endgame against Vladislav Kovalev. Lucas needed to give up a pawn to get enough counterplay in a tricky rook ending:

 

Van Foreest defended his b5-pawn with 68...Kc6?, when 68...h4 was a necessary pawn sacrifice according to the computers. The problem for Black is that White's f-pawn is now too fast, and there is no way for the black king to get the b4-pawn after the black rook sacrifices itself on f8. Kovalev got the point after 79 moves.

13-year-old against 14-year-old — Pragg versus Keymer | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Standings after Round 4 - Challengers

 

All games - Challengers 

 

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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chessbibliophile chessbibliophile 1/16/2019 03:40
Vidit Gujrathi is from Nashik, close to Mumbai, Western India.
guest1227491 guest1227491 1/16/2019 04:34
@susiep, you are right. The official website also has the same mistake.

I guess the confusion is because most of the well-known Indian players, like Viswanathan Anand, Pentala Harikrishna, Baskaran Adhiban, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa etc. write their first (given) name after the last name. That is because they are from south India. Vidit Santosh Gujrathi is from north India, so he writes his first name, middle name, last name in that order, just like Western names.

I don't know if Vidit himself has chosen to be listed in chess tournaments as "Vidit, G" (following the example of Anand, V), or if it is the the organizers who have made a mistake.
susiep susiep 1/16/2019 03:28
Vidit is his first (given) name, not his last (family) name.
agm agm 1/16/2019 03:08
P.S. I now realize my comment below may not have been necessary. The Round 2 report, as initially filed on 01/14, stated that, "Probably the most expected match-up of round two was Magnus Carlsen versus Ian Nepomniachtchi." (See here https://web.archive.org/web/20190114021315/https://en.chessbase.com/post/tata-steel-chess-2019-round-2 .) I see that today it reads "anticipated". So I expect/anticipate that someone was going to make that correction in this report as well!
agm agm 1/16/2019 02:56
Nice report, as always!

A minor point of English:

The caption for the picture of Kramnik and Carlsen reads, "Certainly the most expected match-up of the day".

All games of the day were equally expected. This one was the most *anticipated*.
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