Tata Steel Chess: Reversals of fortune

by Alex Yermolinsky
1/20/2018 – The rest day after round five obviously did not hurt the fighting spirit at the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Round 6 brought dramatic games, two wins and a new leader: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. He won with some luck against Adhiban Baskaran and is now the sole front runner with 4½ out of 6. Peter Svidler and Magnus Carlsen had an entertaining exchange and Wesley So pulled a rabbit out of a hat to beat Wei Yi from a losing position. In the Challengers Anton Korobov leads with 5½ out of 6. | Photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess on Facebook © 2018 Tata Steel

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Mamedyarov takes the lead

Hello, my dear readers! I'm happy to join the star-studded team of commentators for the first premier tournament of the year, Tata Steel Chess in Wijk aan Zee. I cherish my memories of participating in this grand event in 1997 and 1999, no matter the results. It's a great honor for any player to be part of it.

Morning in Wijk aan Zee

Nice weather for a change | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

This year celebrates the 80th anniversary of Wijk aan Zee tournaments and fittingly it features many of the world elite players. One look at the crosstable shows that the status quo remains in place, as all the high-rated players, with a notable exception of Fabiano Caruana find themselves in top places almost halfway through the distance.

Standings after six rounds


Round six impressions Tata Steel Chess on YouTube

Wijk aan Zee tournaments have always given us fighting chess, possibly due to a mixed field of participants, or maybe it's the weather that helps to keep the players in the tournament hall? Whatever it is, every round has exciting games, and today's round six was no exception.

Peter Svidler and Magnus Carlsen at the start of the game | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

We all accustomed to World Champion Magnus Carlsen's setting the pace in Wijk. He won this tournament five times, the feat only equaled by Anand. However, this year, Magnus has been struggling a bit. Standing at only +1 at the first intermission, Carlsen was looking to make a push today, but he met his match in veteran Peter Svidler. The result was a frontrunner for the Best Draw of 2018 award.


Carlsen and Svidler's post-mortem discussion was streamed live Tata Steel Chess on YouTube

Carlsen is yet to hit on all cylinders, and it gives an opening for his competition to pull ahead. One guy who made it happen is Wesley So, although today he needed a bit of luck.

Wei Yi — too little time for a sharp game | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel


A terrible disappointment for the young Chinese, and Wei Yi need to discipline himself for poor time management. 

Wesley So on his turning the tables | Tata Steel Chess on YouTube

Time trouble must have been a big factor in the following encounter as well. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has the ability to make things difficult for his opponent no matter the position, and he often takes huge risks along the way. Pardon me, I'm not quite buying Shak's theory of his playing "old man's chess" now. To me, regardless of Mamedyarov's current number two position in world rankings, he will always remain the same player we love to watch and root for.


Mamedyarov: "I don't know why I play these moves over the board" Tata Steel Chess on YouTube

It is fun to watch Vladimir Kramnik, particularly with the white pieces. These days Vladimir plays a variety of off-beat lines, aiming to set up new problems for his opponents. It almost worked today, but Gawain Jones put up a massive resistance and was able to salvage a draw.


Endgame Fireworks

On this DVD Alexei Shirov shows that also in the endgame, it is possible to keep struggling for the full point to the very last - if you are creative and ambitious. Because even in objectively quite balanced positions, you can frequently find ways to sharpen up or complicate the fight. For the tournament player, often all that matters is to be able to pose practical problems which his or her opponent might finally fail to solve.

Of other games, I'd point out a solid positional effort from Caruana, who made Matlakov find a series of only moves to maintain the balance. Giri-Anand and Hou-Karjakin were significantly less entertaining.

Caruana vs Matlakov attracted some heavy hitting spectators

Caruana vs Matlakov attracted some heavy hitting spectators | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Results of round six

Br. Title Name FED Elo Res. Title Name FED Elo
1 GM Fabiano Caruana
2794 ½ - ½ GM Maxim Matlakov
2 GM Vladimir Kramnik
2794 ½ - ½ GM Gawain Jones
3 GM Peter Svidler
2760 ½ - ½ GM Magnus Carlsen
4 GM Anish Giri
2762 ½ - ½ GM Viswanathan Anand
5 GM Wei Yi
2740 0 - 1 GM Wesley So
6 GM Hou Yifan
2678 ½ - ½ GM Sergey Karjakin
7 GM Baskaran Adhiban
2671 0 - 1 GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

All games round 1 to 6



The Challengers Group shapes up as a race between Korobov and Vidit. Today Anton was able to open up a full point lead by running his score to 5½/6. Korobov is known for his incredible skills, and often it's his motivation that is questioned, but here with an invitation to the big show next year at stake, he has so far been exceptional.

Korobov: "To tell the truth I am too fat and too old to be in great shape...still I am very cold blooded." Tata Steel Chess on YouTube

Results of round six

Br. Title Name FED Elo Res. Title Name FED Elo
1 GM Anton Korobov
2652 1 - 0 GM Aryan Tari
2 GM Matthias Bluebaum
2643 ½ - ½ GM Bassem Amin
3 GM Jeffery Xiong
2629 ½ - ½ GM Michal Krasenkow
4 GM Dmitry Gordievsky
2605 ½ - ½ GM Dronavalli Harika
5 GM Benjamin Bok
2611 ½ - ½ GM Santosh Gujrathi Vidit
6 WGM Olga Girya
2505 ½ - ½ GM Jorden Van Foreest
7 IM Lucas Van Foreest
2489 ½ - ½ GM Erwin L'Ami

All games round 1 to 6


Standings after six rounds



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.


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