The tenth round of the Masters’ leg of Tata Steel Chess had been much anticipated, especially in the light of the leaderboard standings since round seven. Having scored back to back wins in rounds seven and eight, Indian ace, Viswanathan Anand, had made his way atop the leaderboard alongside his longtime rival, Grandmaster (GM) Magnus Carlsen and Round 10 was that point in the tournament when the paths of two leaders were to collide in the 14 player round robin.
Anand had a little surprise of sorts for the reigning world champion in the opening as he went for the the main line of the Spanish, instead of the Berlin Defence setups that he has preferred against Carlsen in the past. Soon, a delayed exchange variation of the opening was on the board.
In congruence with the traits of the opening, Carlsen got a mobile kingside pawn structure which gave him a slight edge in the endgame. However, Anand defended flawlessly for the most part and, in the opinion of the computers, Carlsen’s edge did not look convertible.
Carlsen had won a pawn by the 48th move but given that all of the pawns in the position were on the same side of the board, reaching anything concrete looked unlikely. But Carlsen, as he is known to do, kept probing in an attempt to trick his opponent. On his 70th turn, Anand made a critical error that threw away the game. He had to resign just six moves later.
“It was a huge win today. I never, at any moment, thought it was likely. I was always better but it was a very, very tough day,” Carlsen said after the game.
The tenth round also saw GM Vidit Gujrathi shine against former world champion Vladimir Kramnik. As International Master Sagar Shah pointed out after the game, Vidit is only the second Indian after Anand to have defeated Kramnik in a classical game.
The two discussed a Nimzo-Indian Defence. Kramnik, as black, repeated a line Carlsen had deployed against Anand in the eighth game of their world championship match, with ambitions of getting play on the queenside. As it turned out, Vidit was very well prepared in the game and reacted in the most optimal manner. Giving up a pawn, Vidit reached a very strong position out of the opening and his attack on the enemy king went like clockwork. On his 29th turn, Vidit whipped out a brilliant queen sacrifice to finish the game in style.
“He was the only player whom I hadn’t played against before this tournament. Of course, I have studied his games and it was a great pleasure to play him – and upon that, to win,” Vidit said about the game.
Talking about his opening and the pawn sacrifice in particular, Vidit said: “Actually, this was the idea of my coach and one of my friends. They had worked it out. And they’d just told me (about it) this morning while we were walking to the bus. So, I didn’t know the concrete details; I just knew it is good.
Kramnik told me after the game that he had mixed up some preparation. And after that, the position just plays by itself. At least, I didn’t see a defence for him. After the opening, it just felt like white’s attack should be very strong.”
Meanwhile, Ian Nepomniachtchi, who was the third co-leader of the group, shockingly lost his game to GM Jorden van Foreest, the bottommost seed of the tournament. With both of his co-leaders suffering losses, Carlsen is now the sole leader, with just three rounds to go. But despite his win, Carlsen is still closely followed. Anish Giri, after a resounding win over Vladimir Fedoseev, moved up to the sole second place, half-a-point behind Carlsen. The two are slated to play each other in the final round.
Also, Anand, Ding Liren and Nepomniachtchi share the third place being one point behind. So, any mistake can turn out to be fatal for Carlsen.
“I am not afraid of him,” Carlsen said when he was asked about his thoughts on playing Giri after his tenth game.
Updated Date: Jan 24, 2019 16:42:01 IST