Wijk aan Zee Rd12: Aronian beats Gelfand and secures tie for first

by ChessBase
1/28/2012 – It was a game full of high emotions, as Levon Aronian described his game with Boris Gelfand in which both desperately wanted the win, the Armenian had the last word and secured a tie for first. With no tiebreak, he can theoretically still end up sharing first place with Radjabov and Carlsen, but only if he loses. Groups B and C are also undecided. Illustrated report.

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The 74th Tata Steel Chess Tournament will take place from January 13 to 29, 2012 in the sports hall Moriaan in Wijk aan Zee. There are three grandmaster tournaments with fourteen players each playing thirteen rounds at 100 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for 20 moves and finally 15 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30 seconds/move increment starting with the first move of the game. Rest days are on January 18, 23, and 26.

Tata Steel Tournament 2012

Round twelve

Group A: Round 12 - Sat. Jan. 28th
Veselin Topalov - Anish Giri
David Navara - Fabiano Caruana
Boris Gelfand - Levon Aronian
Teimour Radjabov - Vassily Ivanchuk
Sergey Karjakin - Vugar Gashimov
Hikaru Nakamura - Loek van Wely
Magnus Carlsen - Gata Kamsky

With the end of the tournament in sight, and the top places still being shuffled around every couple of rounds, it was a round full of high drama and strong emotions.

David Navara came oh-so close to beating Fabiano Caruana, but had to settle for a draw

David Navara and Fabiano Caruana’s game typified this if any. Caruana’s game went south very early in the game, and Navara’s advantage was soon winning. It seemed as if the Czech would be notching his second win of the tournament until a blunder before the time control threw this away after which it was equal.

Topalov tries to figure out what happened in Carlsen's game against Kamsky

This was nothing compared to Carlsen’s brush with disaster against Kamsky after blundering on move sixteen. He entered an endgame down an exchange that was so promising that most of the strong players were prognosticating a loss. Magnus’s indisputable fighting spirit kicked into overdrive at this point, and he managed to create such activity and counterplay that his frustrated opponent finally drew.

Carlsen summarizes the game in words we cannot transcribe (courtesy of the Tata Steel Facebook page)  

Hikaru Nakamura’s win over Loek Van Wely was a little cleaner and though he had nothing tangible for 35 moves, just before the time control, he played a Ng5 that threw a spanner into the Dutch player's machinery. This changed the balance of power and he was soon winning and took home the point.

It was a win that took its time coming, but Topalov finally drew blood in round twelve

Veselin Topalov also managed to score his redemption win, by beating Anish Giri, but it seemed a bittersweet one to him. Naturally he was happy to win, but was visibly rattled in his post-game interview about his overall performance in Wijk aan Zee. “It’s not possible to have seven better positions and not win even one”, he explained.

Van Wely watches the game between Gelfand and Aronian

Levon Aronian’s game against Boris Gelfand was the tensest. Aronian explained that entering the game he was not averse to a draw with black against the Israeli, but once he saw his opponent’s opening choice, he felt it showed “his intentions to play for a win”. Reassessing the situation he opted to “get a little bit of a passive position but with lots of play, and not fall into his preparation.” The game was fairly balanced in spite of a number of sharp decisions, but the turning point was shortly after the time control when Gelfand buckled and his position capsized before he could reach the shores of safety.

Levon Aronian analyzes his game against Boris Gelfand (courtesy of the Tata Steel Facebook page)  

Despite entering the final round with 8.5/12, a full point ahead of Carlsen and Radjabov, and a guaranteed share of first, the tournament is not over, not even for him. As there are no tiebreaks, both his rivals can still tie with him should he lose, and as fate would have it, he plays Radjabov in the last round. Radjabov will actually be playing that much more for the win since should he draw and Carlsen win, he would be in third, and the Norwegian’s opponent is Van Wely, the lowest Elo of the tournament.

The official video report of round twelve (courtesy of the Tata Steel Facebook page)

Group A standings after twelve rounds

Group B: Round 12 - Sat. Jan. 28th
Alexander Motylev - Pentala Harikrishna
Dimitri Reinderman - Sipke Ernst
Lazaro Bruzon - Daniele Vocatura
Kateryna Lahno - Ilya Nyzhnik
Harika Dronavalli - Sergey Tiviakov
Viktorija Cmilyte - Vladimir Potkin
Erwin L'Ami - Jan Timman

The B group remains similarly undecided with Pentala Harikrishna in first, followed by Alexander Motylev and Erwin L'Ami a half point behind. Even Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon has a chance to tie for first should he win his game against Sipke and the Indian lose.

Will Pentala Harikrishna be able to crown his single-handed
leadership throughout the tournament with a sole first?

Group B standings after twelve rounds

Group C: Round 12 - Sat. Jan. 28th
Pieter Hopman - Sahaj Grover
Matthew Sadler - Hans Tikkanen
Tania Sachdev - Lars Ootes
Elizabeth Paehtz - Anne Haast
Daan Brandenburg - Lisa Schut
Baskaran Adhiban - Maxim Turov
Etienne Goudriaan - Elina Danielian

The C group on the other hand has narrowed down the winners to two candidates, Maxim Turov and Hans Tikkanen, both of whom have 9.5/12, and a two point lead over the rest. The only question that remains is whether the two will share the prize, or will there only be one?

Group C standings after twelve rounds

Photos © Frits Agterdenbos of ChessVista


There will be full broadcast of all games on the official site and on the Playchess server, which will provide live audio commentary of the most interesting games (free for Premium members) starting at 15:00h for each round, 14:00h for the final round.

Date Round Day Commentator
29.01.2012 Round 13 Sunday King

Commentary begins at approx. 3 PM and lasts 2-2.5 hours with breaks in between. A round up show is provided at 8 PM server time.


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client and get immediate access. Or you can get our latest Fritz 13 program, which includes six months free premium membership to Playchess.

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