Tata Steel Chess: Anand wins derby and joins the lead

by Antonio Pereira
1/20/2019 – On a day filled with remarkably fighting chess in Wijk aan Zee, Vishy Anand defeated his old rival and friend Vladimir Kramnik to join the leading pack on 4½/7 — the Indian now shares first place with Carlsen, Giri, Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren. Meanwhile, Teimour Radjabov and Sam Shankland grabbed their first wins this year. In the Challengers, Maksim Chigaev won and caught up with Vladislav Kovalev on 5/7. | Photos: Alina l'Ami / Official site

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Closing on two hundred

Only six players over 40 years old are current members of the ‘2700 club’ — with Topalov almost inactive — and two of them are still battling with the very best. Viswanathan Anand, the highest rated player in this group, will actually turn 50 this year and, with his victory over 43-year-old Vladimir Kramnik, he proved that he is still capable of fighting for first place at any elite event in the world.

After beating Vladimir, he was quizzed on his knowledge about their personal record and accurately estimated the number of games they played in all formats — Vishy answered "edging two hundred", when the exact amount of times they faced each other throughout their brilliant careers is 198. Anand also remembered that their face-to-face in classical chess is now tied at eleven, and added a curious detail: the score was tied at ten until Kramnik beat him last year in Wijk aan Zee, exactly in round seven!  

How does he still do it at 49? | Photo: Alina l'Ami

In the game, an Italian Opening was developing rather normally until Big Vlad remained loyal to his principle of enjoying chess as much as possible and played a move that would later provoke Vishy to declare, "Today it was just insane..."


Castling short seems almost mandatory, but not for Kramnik, who chose 14.g4?! instead. According to the computers, the Russian was immediately in trouble, but Vishy was not able to find the right way to punish his opponent's dubious advance, and even found himself double-guessing the evaluation of the position. The Indian later explained:

I was also very groggy today. Maybe I didn't expect such a position, because I was preparing for some other kind of struggle. I was also not able to find my feet, but I'm just happy in the end it worked well.

After the time control, Anand was a pawn up but had a pair of knights against Kramnik's pair of bishops. However, when the Indian put his knights on key squares and activated his rooks, he went on to collect the point after 57 moves. The final summary, according to Vishy:

Our impression was that we played it quite badly, that there [were] just too many mistakes.

A man of principles, Vladimir Kramnik | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Co-leaders draw

The quickest game to finish on Saturday was Giri versus Ding Liren — they played 29 moves before signing the draw. Therefore, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen received a chance to overtake their rivals in the standings with a win. 'Nepo' was a pawn up against Jan-Krzysztof Duda but could never find a way to break through in an endgame with a completely closed pawn structure. Meanwhile, Carlsen was actually in trouble against Vladimir Fedoseev.


After showing great preparation in the opening — he knew that Carlsen's 13...b5 was a bad move — Fedoseev thought that his best chance was to go into a rook endgame with two versus one on the kingside, as he remembered that "some good players are losing this position quite easily". Nonetheless, Magnus showed his usual tenacity and held the ending after taking advantage of some inaccuracies by his opponent. 

What's going on here? | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Wins for Radjabov and Shankland   

Round seven saw two players grab their first victories of the tournament. First, Teimour Radjabov advanced his pawns on the kingside to get a brilliant win over Vidit Gujrathi — after the opening phase was over, Radjabov thought during almost eighteen minutes before advancing 13.g4, thus creating an exciting position on the board. Vidit did not react correctly and could not stop Teimour's attack on the g-file:


Black is a piece up but White's attack is already hard to hold back. However, the computer shows that here 19...Nh5 was better than Vidit's 19...Ne8?! — the idea is that after 20.Bxg7, Black can play 20...Bg3 and White cannot take back the material with 20.fxg3? as it closes off the all-important g-file. After the game continuation, though, Radjabov went on to convert his advantage in 36 moves. 

The media team of the Tata Steel Masters creates great material every year, and after round seven they recorded a masterful 35-minute post-mortem session from the players themselves:

Sam Shankland had a bad experience on the first "chess on tour" round, as he suffered a painful loss against Ding Liren at the Theatre De Vest in Alkmaar. Two days later, though, he bounced back to 50% with a 52-move win over Jorden van Foreest. The young Dutchman is not holding back against elite opposition — he has not drawn a single game so far! 

Van Foreest looks understandably worried | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Standings after Round 7 - Masters


Round 7 round-up

GM Daniel King covers the Round 7 highlights

All Roundup shows

All games - Masters


Chigaev and Kovalev lead the Challengers race

While +2 is enough to share the lead in the Masters, two players are now tied atop the standings of the Challengers on +3. Vladislav Kovalev signed a quick draw against Evgeny Bareev and finished his three-game winning streak, while Maksim Chigaev caught up with him by beating Elisabeth Paehtz from a 'good knight' versus 'bad bishop' endgame.

After both sections started with the black players collecting most of the wins, round seven in the Challengers saw the four decisive games favouring White. 16-year-old Andrey Esipenko defeated first seed Anton Korobov; Benjamin Gledura got the best of Vincent Keymer; and young Praggnanandhaa got his first win of the event against tail-ender Stefan Kuipers.

Chigaev has great moral support in Wijk aan Zee | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Standings after Round 7 - Challengers


All games - Challengers



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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