The Masters event of the Tata Steel moved to the city of Hilversum at ‘Beeld en Geluid’ (The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision) for Round 5. While Anish Giri and Viswanathan Anand maintained their lead with draws against Gawain Jones and Wei Yi respectively, Azerbaijan's Grandmaster (GM) Shakhriyar Mamedyarov got the better of Fabiano Caruana to join the leaders before the rest day.
For Anand, it was a tough day at the office. His 18-year-old opponent caught him in a deeply prepared line of the Petroff Defence. Earlier in the tournament, Anand had beaten Caruana in the same opening but Wei Yi had the entire line memorised.
Anand tried to create chances for himself in the game and the position, too, looked promising optically. The computer, however, evaluated the situation as roughly equal and on every turn, the Chinese GM banged out the top recommendation of the engine within no time. The game barely lasted ninety minutes. In this time, Wei had hardly shed five minutes on his clock when the players agreed to a draw on move 29.
Anand said after the game that due to the change in venue, he had no time to prepare in the morning before the round and he only stumbled upon this line en route to the venue. As he sees it, it was a pity to have wasted a white this way and that he was embarrassed to have drawn the game in such a manner.
“I am as embarrassed as the next guy but this happens sometimes and all you can do is sit there in awe,” he said after the game. Talking about his overall tournament so far Anand said, “You can never complain when about +2. But it's a pity when you waste a white.”
While Anand was caught in preparation and ended up playing a rather tepid draw, Adhiban Baskaran continued playing enterprisingly in the opening. In his game against Wesley So, the 25-year-old from Chennai exchanged queens and went for aggressive pawn thrusts in the centre in an English Opening quite early in the game.
The position was still roughly level when Wesley So struck a bolt from the blue on his 15th move by offering a full knight on the queenside. At the first glance, there seemed no reason why the knight should not be taken but a closer look made the move look plausible given the complications it entailed. The computers however, were not impressed by So’s sacrifice and adjudged the position as simply better for Adhiban. After pondering over his options for a long while, Adhiban chose to believe in his opponent and not take the knight.
But this gave the Filipino-American a clear edge in the position. The pawns Adhiban had flung forward in the opening became juicy targets for So’s pieces. Furthermore, in declining the knight sacrifice, Adhiban also gave So the advantage of the two bishops.
So retained his advantage well into the endgame and also managed to acquire an extra pawn while Adhiban defended valiantly trying to cling on to a draw. In the rook endgame that ensued, Adhiban had good drawing chances despite being down a pawn. But on his 66th turn, Adhiban cracked and allowed Wesley to exchange pawns on the kingside and get his passer rolling. The rest was merely a technical task which so accomplished successfully.
Talking of blunders, the game between Peter Svidler and Hou Yifan featured quite a few curious blunders. On her 20th turn, Yifan blundered and allowed her opponent weave a knight fork that would win an exchange at the very least. But Svidler returned the favour by not going for the most critical line and restoring equality.
However, this too was not the end. Just a move before the first time control, Yifan blundered a full piece yet again and this time, Svidler made no mistake exploiting his opponent’s bad play. Just three moves later, Hou resigned.
After the game, Svidler was quite upset about having missed the tactical shot and explained that he had seen the first move of the combination but missed out on the follow up. “Second day in a row, I am missing a very simple move which attacks a piece. I mean, after we exchanged queens I could go Nc8 and Re6, and this I had seen. And after this, I did see that the rook on e6 can be attacked by Ng5,” Svidler explained.
He further criticized his play saying, “This is just completely ridiculous. It’s a calculation which a ten-year-old child should make blindfolded. And instead, I had to play the game all over again.”
In Challengers Round 5, Vidit Gujrathi was pitted against Erwin L’ami. Both Erwin and Vidit have been working as Anish Giri’s seconds and perhaps know each other’s opening repertoires extremely well. The two essayed the Ragozin Variation of Queen’s Gambit Declined and went straight into a draw out of the opening. After merely 18 moves of play, the two signed peace and shook hands.
With this draw, Gujrathi has slipped down to the joint second spot as Anton Korobov, the co-leader so far, won his game against Jorden van Foreest.
The game between Harika Dronavalli and Lucas van Foreest was longer but equally dull. Van Foreest was able to equalize very easily with the black pieces against Harika’s English Opening. By the 25th move, the players had reached an endgame where Harika had a queen and a bishop against Van Foreest’s queen and a knight. The pawn structure too was symmetrical. The game went on until the 64th move but the result was never really in doubt.
Thursday is a rest day at Tata Steel Chess and play will resume on Friday, 19 January.
Updated Date: Jan 18, 2018 19:20 PM