Tata Steel Chess: The usual suspects

by Antonio Pereira
1/21/2019 – Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand defeated Richard Rapport and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov respectively to share the lead on 5½/8 at the Tata Steel Masters. Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Vladimir Fedoseev also won in Sunday's eighth round and received a boost of confidence before the second rest day. In the Challengers, Maksim Chigaev got his third straight win and is the sole leader. GM ADHIBAN BASKARAN sent expert analysis. | Photos: Alina l'Ami / Official site

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The kings of Wijk aan Zee

It has already been over five years since Magnus Carlsen became the sixteenth undisputed World Champion in Chennai. His predecessor — and the challenger that faced him in Sochi just a year later — is none other than Viswanathan Anand. In fact, the Indian held the crown for six years. Despite a 21-year age difference, Vishy remains one of Carlsen's closest rivals in big tournaments today. And he is currently number six on the live ratings list.

Magnus and Vishy have also accumulated the most trophies in Wijk aan Zee, with Carlsen overtaking Anand with his 2018 triumph. The 16th World Champion has six titles against Anand's five. After winning their round eight games, both are the co-leaders in this year's edition.

The 15th undisputed World Champion | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Richard Rapport was Carlsen's victim. The Hungarian had defeated the Norwegian two years ago, exactly in round eight. When reminded about this, Magnus did not hide the fact that he arrived in the game with that in mind and said, "It was nice to get revenge". Rapport played inaccurately during the opening phase and a pawn push highlighted White's positional advantage:


The central break 25.e5 clarified the situation in favour of White. Although Magnus declared that he was not sure whether this move was good or not, it was impossible for his opponent to defend against the threats created after the break. Carlsen used his positional edge to get a strong kingside attack and closed the deal with a blow:


It is the final move before the time control but it was not hard for White to find 40.Rxh7+, and Black quickly resigned.

When Carlsen was interviewed after his victory, Anand had not yet finished his game, despite the fact that he only needed 29 moves to force Mamedyarov's resignation. According to Vishy, things went downhill for the Azeri right from the start:


Shak had played a Caro-Kann against Anand's 1.e4, but already spent over ten minutes on move eight. On the position above, he went 12...Bd7 and soon afterwards found his light-squared bishop completely stuck behind its own pawn structure — Vishy suggested 12...a5 as a good alternative.

White was dominating positionally and even got to 'sacrifice' a rook twice on d5. First, on move 21:


21.Rxd5 and Black cannot capture for obvious reasons. Then, seven moves later...


This time, Black captured the rook but resigned shortly afterwards: 28.Rxd5 exd5 29.Qxd5 1-0. The rook is coming to d1, the knight is about to jump to g5 and the e-pawn is a huge asset...there were more than enough reasons for Shak to stop the clocks. 

Two more wins for White

A few days ago it seemed like only the players that had the black pieces were capable of winning in Wijk aan Zee. Nonetheless, precisely Vishy Anand warned us about the fleeting nature of these trends:

There are only two colours in chess, and there will be a trend this way and there will be a trend that way. I think this is essentially meaningless, these trends.

Funnily, the opposite trend seems to be gaining strength, as all four decisive games on Sunday favoured White. First, Jan-Krzysztof Duda inflicted Vladimir Kramnik's fourth loss of the tournament, and he did it from an Italian Opening. The Polish grandmaster is back on 50%, while Kramnik is alone at the bottom of the standings with 2/8.

The other 'white win' was seen in the last game to finish, as Vladimir Fedoseev had to work extra to convince Sam Shankland that his position was resignable. It was the Russian's first win this year, despite having achieved great positions against Van Foreest and Carlsen in previous rounds. Black was doomed when the time control was reached:


42.f6 opened up the bishop's diagonal against Black's rook and increased the pressure against the king. Shankland kept on fighting and had to accept going into an endgame three pawns down. As expected, however, he finally resigned on move 52.

Yet another strong Russian grandmaster, Vladimir Fedoseev | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Monday will be a rest day, which will be followed by only two rounds before another day off. This might have something to do with the fact that the players in the Masters section will travel to Leiden on Wednesday, where, incidentally, the Carlsen-Anand clash will take place.

Standings after Round 8 - Masters


Round 8 round-up

GM Yannick Pelletier analysed the action of round eight

All Roundup shows

All games - Masters


Three in a row for Chigaev

After round six, the Challengers section had a sole leader in Vladislav Kovalev after the Byelorussian had accumulated three straight wins; two rounds later, Maksim Chigaev is in the same position, as he won three in a row to command the standings on 6 out of 8. His Sunday victory came against Stefan Kuipers, who is not having a good time so far in Wijk aan Zee.

Curiously, only two games finished drawn on the eighth round, but one of these two draws was a sharp fight between the two highest rated players in the field, Anton Korobov and Vladislav Kovalev — GM Adhiban analysed the game deeply: 


Standings after Round 8 - 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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