Tata Steel Chess: Carlsen gets it going

by Macauley Peterson
1/21/2018 – 'Shak' Mamedyarov won again — his third straight and took a full point lead through the half-way mark of the Masters. Vladimir Kramnik put a big dent in Anand's tournament by winning with black against his successor to the World Champion title. Sergey Karjakin got his first win of the week, breaking his drawing streak and dealing Fabiano Caruana his third loss. And Magnus Carlsen handed Hou Yifan her fifth loss, as the World Champ moves up into a four-way tie for second place. GM Mikhail Golubev annotates all the decisive games of the round. Meanwhile, the Anton Korobov train keeps chugging along in the Challengers, as he drew with Black against Mikhail Krasenkow, keeping his full point lead over Vidit. | Photo: Alina l'Ami Tata Steel Chess on Facebook © 2018 Tata Steel

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Magnus on the move

It was a dark day for the Chinese players, as both Hou and Wei lost their games to Carlsen and Mamedyarov respectively. In all, we the most number of decisive games in the Masters in a single round, with Kramnik and Karjakin both notching wins as well. Saturday represents the mid-way point in this very long struggle, so there is still plenty of time left for four players a point behind Mamedyarov on 4½ points.

Round 7 impressions

Standings after seven rounds


Magnus Carlsen was relieved to get his second win, coming at the end of an endgame which he says Hou Yifan could have held. Indeed in a strange coincidence, the fatal blunder 50...h5? somewhat mirrored one Yifan made agains the World Champion here in Wijk aan Zee in 2016:


In both cases, the position went from equal to completely winning for White.

Hou Yifan and Magnus Carlsen

Happier times at the start of the game for Hou | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Magnus Carlsen 1-0 Hou Yifan (annotated by GM Mikhail Golubev)

Carlsen: "Hopefully I can get it going now" | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Anand vs Kramnik

Kramnik takes a moment to analyse blindfold | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Anand went for an Italian game against Kramnik, which followed their 2017 blitz encounter in Zurich until Anand deviated with 7.Bg5 (last year he first castled, allowing 7...h6). Kramnik beat Anand twice with black last year in Norway Chess, but both in a Ruy Lopez which Anand has preferred lately against his age-old rival.

Viswananthan Anand 0-1 Vladimir Kramnik (annotated by GM Mikhail Golubev)

Kramnik is in excellent position in the tournament and has yet to play Mamedyarov | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Mamedyarov vs Wei

Mamedyarov won despite a "very bad move" | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Mamedyarov is in Wijk aan Zee with his wife, but without a second, though he shared after the game that he of course has someone helping him prepare remotely. His choice of the Catalan today was unusual, as he said he has rarely played this line in the past.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 1-0 Wei Yi (annotated by GM Mikhail Golubev)

This was his third classical win against Wei Yi, however, having previously beaten him in 2016 in the Chinese league. Mamedyarov also elminated Wei from the 2013 World Cup in Tromso in a tiebreak, when Wei was still quite new on the international scene.

Mamedyarov has yet to play Carlsen — they are paired in the eighth round — but he has a fairly appaling record lifetime agains the world number one. He hasn't won a classical game against Magnus since 2008.

Mamedyarov: Third consecutive win and on a roll | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Sergey Karjakin was clearly pleased to get his first win of the tournament, benefitting from a blunder from Caruana in a position, however, which Karjakin felt was already better for him.

Sergey Karjakin 1-0 Fabiano Caruana (annotated by GM Mikhail Golubev)

After the game, Karjakin noted that this was a bit of revenge for his recent lost to Caruana in the London Chess Classic. He also shared some thoughts on the stellar performance of his friend Shakhriyar.

Karjakin: It's always nice to win against such a great player | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Wesley So and Anish Giri drew and both remain tied for second. Giri plays Mamedyarov on Sunday with White, so that will be his big chance to make a play for first place. He said that he "got a bit creative" in the opening, deciding to "improve" over theory at the board, but ending up with a worse position.

Giri describes the difficulty in assessing the kind of position he received with a computer | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Daniel King's round-up of Round 7:

All round-up shows are available in ChessBase Videos, for Premium account holders

All games


Full commentary

Commentary by GM Robin van Kampen and GM Eric Hansen| Tata Steel Chess YouTube


No changes at the top of the leader board as both Korobov and Vidit drew their games, so the Ukrainian maintains a one point lead. Both decisive games went against the women in the tournament. Matthias Bluebaum got his second win, dealing Harika her second loss, and Aryan Tari pulled back to an equal score, beating Olga Girya.

Anton Korobov

Korobov has been solid at the top | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Standings after seven rounds


All games




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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kyi kyi 1/22/2018 04:22
Not only academic studies but also if she gets married and raises a family, it will interrupt her ambition to become a world champion. She might follow the same fate as Judith Polgar who was at one time a very strong GM in her heydays but fell short to become a world champion beating all the elite male chess players. I still believe that one day a woman can become world champion.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 1/21/2018 01:23
@ e-mars : To develop a little more this point, about Hou Yifan, I think that, on the one hand, Hou Yifan would want to be "one of the best", in chess, and, on the other hand, she doesn't want to be considered as a "woman player". So, the only solution, for her, would be to become, more or less, a 2750+ player. But, as, obviously, it isn't even easy for her to break the 2700 barrier, it is quite uncertain that she can succeed to attain a 2750+ level.

And I am under the impression that this tend to make her choose to favor academic studies rather than chess...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 1/21/2018 01:09
@ e-mars : The problem is, I think, that Hou Yifan - and this is quite understandable, in my opinion... - doesn't want to be restricted to the statute of "woman player", the result being that she must see herself much more as the number 64 player in the world, more than 150 Elo points below the World n° 1, Carlsen, than as the "Women World n° 1 player". And this is probably quite insufficient for her.

And it would not be easy for her to become a 2750+ player, as she isn't really a young player anymore (she is from 1994, like Giri of Yu Yangyi, but she has, more or less, a 75 points deficit, compared to them - it wouldn't be easy to gain those 75 missing points).

So I think she is rather inclined to choose to favor academic studies, hoping to obtain fully satisfying results in this field.
e-mars e-mars 1/21/2018 12:35
Hou Yifan is performing 200+ under her rating: she's got to come up with a tough decision, between life (school, job, ...) and chess. Both seems not to work out very well so far.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 1/21/2018 12:19
Rather typical Hou Yifan : I think that passive defending in long endgames is THE thing that she has the most problems with... And, as, obviously, Carlsen is THE specialist of this type of play, he is something of her nightmare opponent : she counts four losses against Carlsen (all in Wijk aan Zee, by the way !), for only one draw, out of five games - really a terribly lopsided score... And it is not that Hou Yifan can't play at all against 2800+ players : we musn't forget that she won a game against Caruana : not a small feat indeed !
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 1/21/2018 11:53
"Mamedyarov has yet to play Carlsen — they are paired in the eighth round — but he has a fairly appaling record lifetime against the world number one. He hasn't won a classical game against Magnus since 2008."

I think we must be cautious : Carlsen never played a single classical game against Mamedyarov's "2800+ version", and I don't think it is impossible that this would change significantly the balance of power between them. And, furthermore, when a player enters the "2800+ club", he knows that the ultimate challenge has for a name Magnus Carlsen, so I think that, logically, Mamedyarov will necessarily, at one moment or another, work specifically on his play against Carlsen ; this could also have an effect on the balance of power between them.

More generally, I don't think that Mamedyarov, as a 2800+ GM, can simply have very bad results against one player, be it Carlsen or another, and simply sit and do nothing about it... Obviously, what he will try can work... or not, but, one more time, as the "2800+ Mamedyarov" never played Carlsen for the moment, we don't know the result for now. (And, also, it can still change in the future, obviously...)

As an aside, an example of this is Nakamura : he had terrible results against Carlsen, but, obviously, he must have seriously worked on this - and with success, seeing the results, because, if I don't miss anything, Carlsen didn't won a single classical game against Nakamura since 2015 : for Carlsen, this means two full years (2016 and 2017) without a victory against Nakamura ; it obviously means that the balance of power between them has changed significantly.