Tata Steel Chess: Yermolinsky on Round 7

by Alex Yermolinsky
1/20/2019 – The youngsters in both the Masters and Challengers scored wins in Round 7, but GM ALEX YERMOLINSKY also focuses on the first victory of Wijk aan Zee veteran Teimour Radjabov. "The traditional Tata Steel tournaments are in full swing, and I'm grateful for an opportunity to share my impressions." | Pictured: Andrey Esipenko and Jorden van Foreest | Photos: Alina l'Ami

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The veterans' clash

The big news was Anand's win over Kramnik, which enabled the Indian to join the leaders at 4½/7. Vishy and Vlad must have played each other nearly a hundred times [nearly 200 in total! -Ed.], but it's hard to recall a stranger game than the one they had today. First, it was Kramnik totally getting off the rails with 14.g4? and 16.h4? played in a position that allowed for a quieter treatment, then it was Anand inexplicably trading down to an endgame when he had all the chances to hunt down the white king. The last part of the game saw Kramnik throwing the game away due to some strange, if not outright bad, play. Here I'm quoting Mark Crowther, who was actually referring to Vlad's exploits throughout the entire tournament.

The contrast between the two former Champs has never been as visible as it was today. On one side we have Kramnik, a tormented soul who claims he's there just to play interesting games as if he doesn't care about the result (we know it's not true). Across the board is the ever-tranquil Anand, who has long accepted his limitations (due to age) and actually, does look like he's having fun playing chess against the young generation (and does well at).

The game itself seemed so disjointed that I decided to take a pass on annotating it. [You can see the highlights in our Round 7 report. -Ed.]

Giri watching Carlsen

Giri looks mildly perplexed by the World Champion's choice | Photo: Alina l'Ami

The leaders

The two leaders who faced each other today, Giri and Ding, had a semi-theoretical battle in the Bb4+ Catalan, which never left the bounds of equality. In the end, it seemed both players were relieved to stumble upon a convincing drawing line.

CarlsenHaving broken out of his much-publicized drawing streak, Carlsen was glad to draw today. His opponent, Fedoseev, is not having a good tournament (particularly his loss to Van Foreest could have easily been avoided), but he took the task of playing the World Champion seriously. 'Fedo' snatched a pawn out of a Grunfeld sideline and held onto it like a bulldog. It took some cool-headed defending from Magnus to avoid an upset.

Nepo continues to surprise with his newly found solid approach. Today he went for a symmetrical structure against Duda's Petroff and kept the pressure on until it almost seemed Black was about to crack. Give credit to Jan-Krzysztof for hanging tough. He really earned his draw today.

Nepo can be a bit disappointed by not scoring victories in any of the two Whites he had against Rapport and Duda, but those are good players nobody can take for granted. The way Ian is playing, fast and confident, it's very likely that further wins won't be long in coming.

Richard Rapport once again proved hard to beat today, as he thwarted Mamedyarov's attempts to make any headway in the Bogo-Indian. I liked Shakhriyar's idea of sacking the f2-pawn, but in the end, his king was too vulnerable to perpetual check for this to work out.

The Round 7 winners

It was Mamedyarov's countryman and teammate Teimour Radjabov who made the biggest splash today. His win over Vidit was beautiful from start to finish.

 

See the player's extensive post-mortem analysis in our Round 7 report!

Radjabov

I know Teimour hasn't played a whole lot lately and often has been criticized for taking too many draws, but it's been a long journey back from the disastrous London Candidates in 2013, and one cannot blame Teimour for being cautious. As he said himself, risky play doesn't get rewarded in modern chess (ask Kramnik how it's working out for him), and the only way to get attention from the organisers is to gain rating.

Well, Radjabov is now at a respectable 2757, and that's why he's playing in Wijk aan Zee this year. I can only hope that once Teimour is back in Top Ten he will feel free to play every game like he did today.

Another small, but important step forward was made by Sam Shankland. Sam blew two winning endgames at the start of the tournament, and he really needed a win today to (hopefully) regain his confidence. It came at the expense of the young Jorden Van Foreest, who missed a golden opportunity early in the middlegame.

 

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In the Challengers Group, a big win was scored today by another youngster, a 17-year-old Russian Andrey Esipenko, who downed the top-rated Anton Korobov in an impressive fashion.

 

Korobov

The relative veteran Korobov was given something to think about | Photo: Alina l'Ami

On the strength of this win, Esipenko is now in second place trailing Kovalev, one of the rating favourites, and another Russian — Maksim Chigaev — who wasn't mentioned much in predictions before the start. If Esipenko or Chigaev win this tournament, the organisers shouldn't worry about having a sub-2600 guy in their Masters Group next year. The way these guys are going, by the time 2020 rolls in, both Andrey and Maksim may already be 2700+!


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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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macauley macauley 1/20/2019 01:30
@Lilloso - Yes, but in the Challengers group he's a veteran, not to mention that he almost won last year.
daftarche daftarche 1/20/2019 12:24
Very interesting to see how Kramnik and Anand have almost changed their style of play completely in recent years.
Lilloso Lilloso 1/20/2019 09:48
"The veteran Korobov" ! The term may apply to Anand or Kramnik but Anton Korobov is just 33 !
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