Tata Steel Chess: A three horse race

by Macauley Peterson
1/22/2018 – A tumultuous day in Wijk aan Zee as Anish Giri won his head-to-head with Mamedyarov and Magnus Carlsen recovered from a huge blunder, as the three players are now in a dead heat heading into the second rest day. GM Mikhail Golubev annotates the game that stole the show more than any other. | Photo: Alina l'Ami Tata Steel Chess on Facebook © 2018 Tata Steel

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Giri and Carlsen catch 'Shak'

"It's difficult to fight against an opponent who blunders a piece like a beginner and then begins to play like a genius." That's the take from our annotator, Ukrainian GM Mikhail Golubev, on the game that captivated audiences around the world. It was so shocking there were even those who tried to rationalize the mistake as some sort of deliberate gambit / sacrifice, a suggestion all the players on-site ridiculed, including the World Champion himself.


Crowd around Carlsen

Everyone was wondering what the heck just happened to Magnus? | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Carlsen says he didn't expect the Sicilian Dragon, despite Jones having authored a book on the opening. After the blunder, Magnus had some compensation and soon was able to complicate the position such that Jones' advantage was slim and he was burning time on the clock. After 23.g5! Jones thought for over 50 minutes on his next three moves.

"It's a little embarrasing obviously." But he kept up the pressure until Jones' finally cracked. 

Now in a joint tie for first place with Giri and Mamedyarov, Carlsen says, "It's looking better than it ever did."

Tata Steel Chess YouTube 

Magnus Carlsen 1-0 Gawain Jones (annotated by GM Mikhail Golubev)

Gawain magnanimously visited the commentary booth after the defeat to go over the game.

Jones: "I'm not sure I'm going to get much better chances to beat Magnus than this one" | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Carlsen owes Anish Giri a beer, after his game with tournament leader Mamedyarov ended in a resounding victory for Giri, which throws the standings to a three-way tie.

"Magnus Carlsen has been playing in our tournament since he was 13... What's his advice for young players?"

Perhaps his advice should be, "never resign", keep fighting and posing problems for your opponent and good things will happen.

Standings after eight rounds


Fabiano Caruana seems to have written off his tournament already with healthy amusement. After beating Hou Yifan in what he viewed as a pretty bad game, he then revisted yesterday's opening blunder and described it as the low point of the tournament.

Caruana got a lucky break in this game as Hou Yifan missed a chance to increase her already clear initiative on move 33:


Play your moves right on the live diagram!

Hou played 33.Qd2 but 33.Rf3 was the move Caruana missed an subsequently feared. The point is that it's highly dangerous to take the knight: 33...Kxh6 due to 34.Rxf7 Qe8 35.Qd2+ g5 36.Rf6+ Kg7 37.Qxg5 Kh8 38.Rxd6 with a strong attack. 

Caruana: "I'm just happy to win a game, and I don't really have high ambitions" | Tata Steel Chess YouTube


Mamedyarov, suffering before finally admitting defeat. | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Anish Giri got an edge right out of the opening and smoothly increased his advantage until Mamedyarov's position was on the brink of collapse. It was an interesting illustration of a position in which the bishop pair conferred no advantage. In the final position, it's not immediately obvious just how dire Black's position is:


Play a few moves, however, and the situation quickly becomes clear. The game might have continued 32...Kh6 33.Kh2 Ba6 34.Bd2+ Kh7 35.Rxh5 Kg8 36.Rg1 and the pin along the g-file is devastating.

Giri: "Every victory for me is massive" | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Wesley So felt he was fine out of the opening, despite being surprised by Vladimir Kramnik's choice. He turned down Kramnik's efforts to sacrifice his knight, and kept the game close to equality, before liquidating to an endgame with opposite coloured bishops and shaking hands on move 28.


The knight sat en prise for six more moves until the truce was signed. 

Wesley So: "Vladimir plays very risky chess these days" | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Yannick Pelletier's round-up of Round 8:

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

Round 8 impressions


We'll take a closer look at how things are going in the Challenger's section tomorrow, the second rest day in Wijk aan Zee.

Standings after eight rounds


All games




Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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