Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2017 RD 11: Wei Scores Against Karjakin.

Carlsen escapes defeat against Adhiban, So maintains lead; Jeffery Xiong takes over in Challengers group

view of the full playing hall at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament | image © www.tatasteelchess.com
image © www.tatasteelchess.com

Round eleven of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2017, was played on January 27th. It saw American Grandmaster, Wesley So, maintain his lead following a draw with Russian Grandmaster Dmitry Andreikin. It was a very comfortable game for both players and was mostly theory in a Berlin Defence. Basically, Andreikin, who was White, just didn’t want to get into anything and So will have had no complaints at this. This meant that So’s 7.5 points was enough to keep him in the lead, with just two rounds left to be played in Wijk aan Zee. Yi Wei is hot on his heels, however, just a half point behind, thanks to a win over Sergey Karjakin.

Wei took the only point of the round and Karjakin will be very disappointed with the game as he gave his opponent a real gift, getting his preparation and over-the-board analysis all kinds of wrong. In a Closed Berlin, Karjakin’s error was probably not playing …Bb7 on move eleven. Instead he went for 11…cxd4 and this led to Wei obtaining super activity for his knights and dark-squared bishop. The diagram shows the situation after White’s 11.Nd2.

Diagram of Wei-Karjakin after 11.Nd2
Wei vs Karjakin, after 11.Nd2. Black continued wrongly with 11…cxd4, rather than the more correct 11…Bb7.

Here, as already stated, 11…Bb7 would have been fine for Karjakin, but he unfortunately opted for 11…cxd4. There followed: 12.Nxe4 {the only way to play, anything else was at least fine for Black} 12…dxc3 13.Qf3 Bb7 {this move is a little too late, now, it does not interfere with White at all} 14.Bxf6 Bxe4 15.Qxe4 Qxf6{? …gxf6 was the better choice, though not by much} and then came the screaming 16.Nd7{!}, forking rook and Queen. The exchange down, Black was really up against it and never recovered. A very surprising failure by Sergey Karjakin indeed, who just seemed to spontaneously combust in this game.

The other games were drawn and that included a rather scrappy game between Magnus Carlsen and Baskaran Adhiban. With the Norwegian playing White, Adhiban had the bare-faced cheek to play the Scandanavian Defence (1…d5) to his 1.e4 and then, after 2.exd5, to follow it with the provocative 2…Nf6. Not many will be surprised that Carlsen took the better of the opening and he will perhaps feel that he should have done better in the game. However, he was on the verge of doing much worse! We can see this in the diagram, below.

Diagram of Carlsen-Adhiban after 34.Bd2?
Carlsen vs Adhiban, after 34.Bd2(??) Black continued 34…Qc6 and the game was drawn. However, after 34…Qg4(!!) with 35…Re3 to follow, White would have been in big trouble.

Here, Carlsen had just retreated his bishop from f4 to c2. As it turns out, this was a huge blunder (Qf3 was an option instead, but even so, Black is slightly better) and had Adhiban found 34…Qg4(!), we could have been seeing the World Champion’s second defeat in this tournament. Why? White can simply play Re1, right? I think this may have also been Adhiban’s thought process (I don’t believe a Grandmaster of his standard would miss …Qg4) and this is probably why he opted to not play it, thus maintaining the tension and not seeking exchanges. However, if 35.Re1, it is actually Black’s follow-up move that really does the damage — 35…Re3(!!)

I think this move would have stunned most people who were not watching with the benefit of a chess engine, it is a sensational move after which White is completely lost. It highlights White’s weaknesses completely, the dark squares around his King. In truth, it is only the f2-pawn that is holding White’s position together and should White capture on e3, then Black responds …dxe3 and the f2-pawn is not maintainable. White is then at Black’s mercy. Not capturing on e3 is even worse as it turns out, when after 36.Qf1, for example, Black plays 36…Rf3 and 37…Ne3 is looming and White is on the verge of collapse. This all ended up a moot point, however as unfortunately for Adhiban, he went for 34…Qc6 instead and the game fizzled to a draw. A very lucky escape for Carlsen indeed.

When it comes to Carlsen, a record sixth title in Wijk aan Zee is looking less and less likely in these closing stages. Even if he were to win his final two games, (which is by no means a good bet with his current form — and let’s not forget that one of them will be against his nemesis, Sergey Karjakin), his finishing score would be 8.5 and this is probably not going to be enough. Certainly things are no longer only in his own hands — his game against Adhiban was one that he really needed to be winning to keep his hopes alive.

If there will be a spoiler to So’s campaign, it is looking likely that it will be Wei at this stage. Very excitingly, they meet in round twelve and it could be very exciting — that’s if Wei (who will be Black) has ambitions and feels like giving his beloved Petroff a miss.

Masters Group Standings after Round 11.

  • So — 7.5
  • Wei — 7.0
  • Aronian, Carlsen, Eljanov — 6.5
  • Adhiban, Karjakin — 6.0
  • Harikrishna, Giri — 5.5
  • Wojtaszek, Nepomniachtchi, Andreikin — 4.5
  • Rapport — 4.0
  • van Wely — 2.5

Masters Group Round 12, Saturday 28th January, 13:30 local time.

Aronian – Van Wely
Harikrishna – Rapport
Adhiban – Giri
Eljanov – Carlsen
Karjakin – Nepomniachtchi
So – Wei
Wojtaszek – Andreikin.

The Challengers Group saw some drama, as leader, Markus Ragger, was held to a draw by Nils Grandelius. Elsewhere, Jeffery Xiong was beating Ilia Smirin to leapfrog Ragger and go into the lead! Xiong seems an extremely focussed competitor, very often seen with his head in his hands, psyching himself up before the games start. This seems to be working for him! With two rounds to go, there seems to be a three-horse-race between Xiong, Ragger and England’s Gawain Jones, who beat Eric Hansen with the black pieces — a much needed win if he wanted to be in with a shout in the last round.

Challengers Group Standings after Round 11.

  • Xiong — 8.0
  • Ragger, Jones — 7.5
  • Smirin — 7.0
  • Hansen, Grandelius, Lu — 6.5
  • l’Ami — 6.0
  • Tari — 5.5
  • Bok — 4.5
  • Dobrov, van Foreest, Lei — 3.5
  • Guramishvili — 1.0

Challengers Group Round 12, Saturday 28th January, 13:30 local time.

Grandelius – Lu
Jones – Dobrov
Guramishvili – Hansen
Smirin – Tingjie
Tari – Xiong
Bok – l’Ami
Ragger – van Foreest

About John Lee Shaw 163 Articles
I love all things chess! I only play for fun these days, but I love following and writing about the game. I don't pretend to be an expert, I'm more a knowledgeable enthusiast. Not a big fan of engines and I don't use them much in my analysis -- I prefer to approach the game from the human angle. The battle of minds, power and pitfalls of the ego and the psychology of competition never fails to fascinate and thrill me! :-) I am also a contributor at www.chessimprover.com.

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