Tata Steel Challengers: Vidit has the edge

by Macauley Peterson
1/27/2018 – Korobov and Vidit have been the cream of the crop in the Tata Steel Chess Challengers tournament, and they have scarcely given their peers a chance to challenge the lead. We take a closer look at these two contenders with games annotated by GMs Mikhail Golobev and Daniel Fernandez. | Photos: Alina l'Ami TataSteelChess.com

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Tata Steel Chess is a marathon, not a sprint, and it's a bit unusual to have the lead change hands so seldom. This year two players have maintained their grip on the top spots since round three: Vidit Gujrathi and Anton Korobov.

The pair both had very strong starts, with 3½ from their first four games, and have essentially remained neck and neck ever since. Vidit is undefeated, and Korobov just dropped a single point to Bassem Amin (annotated below), but his four game winning streak from rounds three to six made up for it.

However, in Saturday's round twelve, Vidit won with black while Korobov drew with white, so the latter will be looking for a win in the final round, since Vidit will have white with a half point lead.

Standings after twelve rounds

 

Let's take a closer look at the two dominant players.

Vidit Gujrathi

Twenty-three years old, Vidit was born in Nashik, India in the western region of Maharashtra. Ten years ago he became the first Indian player to win the World Under-14 Championship in Vietnam. He earned the Grandmaster title in 2013, and became the fourth Indian player to cross the 2700 Elo mark in September, 2017. He told ChessBase India that he was "relieved" after being in the high 2600s all year.

In Wijk aan Zee, Vidit is making his first appearance, but he came in as the top seed, with high expectations. 

Vidit Gujrathi

Poised for a win | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Anton Korobov

Korobov is a former 2700 player (peak rating of 2723 in 2014), and two-time Ukrainian Champion. He has won the prestigious Aeroflot Open (2012), and twice the Poikovsky Karpov round-robin tournament (2015 and 2016). His big splash on the international stage came in the 2013 World Cup in Tromso, Norway, where he advanced all the way to the fifth round, beating Hikaru Nakamura, and only losing to the eventual winner, Vladimir Kramnik.

"I'm quite an experienced chess player. Maybe I can be called a veteran."

Korobov shows his sense of humor in round six, when he said that he can't be considered in shape because he is "too fat and too old." His performance rating in the Challengers after six rounds was a staggering 3001, before slowing down the second half.

"I am bery cold blooded. I can wait."

But his momentum was stopped in round eight, when he lost to another Wijk debutant, Bassem Amin.

Anton Korobov 0-1 Bassem Amin (annoted by GM Mikhail Golubev)
 

Head-to-head

The two leaders met each other in a highly anticipated round eleven. They played a full game, but ultimately split the point, in a Sicilian with 3.Bb5+ that never strayed far from the flatline.

Vidit Gujrathi ½-½ Anton Korobov (annotated by GM Daniel Fernadez)
 

Anton Korobov

Korobov, dominant in the first half | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Vidit the favourite to win

The tournament's top seed showed his mettle in today's round twelve, busting out a sharp Leningrad Dutch, to ensure an unbalanced game against tail-ender Olga Girya. He could well expect that Korobov, with white against a much lower rated IM Lucas van Foreest would manage to win, but as luck would have it, Korobov never got a foothold in his game, which liquidated to a drawn endgame.

Olga Girya 0-1 Vidit Gujrathi (annotated by GM Daniel Fernandez)
 

Anish Giri watching Girya-Vidit

Giri watching Girya vs Vidit, seems to feel her pain | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

After this clutch win from Vidit, the pressure is on Korobov to go for broke with black in the final round, to have any chance at the coveted spot in next year's Masters. It's unlikely that Vidit will lose with white given how well he is playing, but should they end up tied, the winner will be decided on the player's Sonneborn-Berger score — the second tiebreak criteria, since their direct encounter was drawn.


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The Caro Kann is a very tricky opening. Black’s play is based on controlling and fighting for key light squares. It is a line which was very fashionable in late 90s and early 2000s due to the successes of greats like Karpov, Anand, Dreev etc. Recently due to strong engines lot of key developments have been made and some new lines have been introduced, while others have been refuted altogether. I have analyzed the new trends carefully and found some new ideas for Black.

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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Time to retire Time to retire 1/28/2018 05:33
In this year's event, only Jones, Adhiban and Hou have lower rating than Vidit. Jones was the winner of 2017 challenger section. Adhiban was the winner of 2016 challenger section and he came in 3rd in 2017 A group. Hou was in the event because she is the best female player.... I think Hou should prove herself first in the challenger section because she is the whipping dog in the A group. She cant play with the big boys. She kept getting gangbanged by the big boys.
Bostonian Bostonian 1/27/2018 07:59
And why is Vidit not playing in the Top league with Carlsen and company despite having a 2700 plus rating ? Espacially when a few players there have a lower rating than his ?
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