The first elite tournament of the year, Tata Steel Chess has reached its halfway stage. Six rounds down, Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov raced past Viswanathan Anand and Anish Giri to take sole lead in the tournament with his win against India’s Adhiban Baskaran.
Anand and Giri, who were pitted against each other in Round six, settled for a short uninspired draw.
Against Adhiban, Mamedyarov started the match on a bad note. Out of a Symmetrical English Opening, the players got a roughly level position but soon Mamedyarov began to go astray. After shuffling pieces back and forth in an equal middle-game position, he decided to stir things up with a pawn sacrifice that gave him a passed pawn on the queenside.
Consequently, Adhiban also got strong passed pawns on the queenside, not one but two! After Mamedyarov’s 41st move, it looked Adhiban was in winning position. After the game, Mamedyarov pointed out that Adhiban should have attacked black’s f4 knight with the move 42.g3 at this point. The knight could not move since there was a picturesque mate threatened.
But Adhiban missed this idea and went on rolling his pawns on the queenside. His still had the edge in the position but after his 45th move, the position began to look equal again. To stop Adhiban’s queenside passers, Mamedyarov gave up an exchange and liquidated all pawns on the queenside.
The position looked very equal after this until the first time control, when, perhaps under time pressure, Adhiban exchanged rooks and brought his king towards the center where it was vulnerable to the black pieces. Mamedyarov took full control of the position, and went on to win 26 moves later.
Before the rest day, after his fifth round game, Anand was pretty disappointed after being caught in his opponent’s opening preparation and finishing with a quick draw. Round six was no different for the former five-time world champion as he drew against the Dutch No 1 Anish Giri in 20 moves. Just that this time, he had the black pieces and the opening was an Open Catalan.
After the game, Anand said that Giri tried to use a different move order to get him out of his usual prep but he had reached the same position in his game against Magnus Carlsen very recently at the London Chess Classic and had already analysed the line.
Out of the opening, Anand had sacrificed a pawn and got the bishop pair along with a big initiative as compensation. At the same time, he also felt if he had continued playing, the game would have been more dangerous for Giri than for him. But since Giri had, evidently, analysed the position quite well, he decided to sign peace.
“At home, it looks like black is fine. But of course, at the board, you need to know some details but he (Giri) had also checked it. I think if we start playing, it can be more dangerous for white than for black because it’s easier for white to miss something,” Anand said after the game.
Carlsen and Peter Svidler played a fascinating game in Round 6. Carlsen, who hasn’t won a game in the tournament since Round 2, tried to discombobulate his opponent with a rare line of the English Opening. Giving up castling rights early in the game, Carlsen sought compensation in the gaping hole that while had on the d3 square. Also, Carlsen had a nice lead in development.
Making the most of all of his advantages, Carlsen generated a monstrous attack on the white king. But when checkmate was threatened in just one move, Svidler lashed out with a series of sacrifices that ended with his queen giving perpetual checks to sign the truce. Both players were pretty excited about the game and were seen analysing together afterwards.
In the Challengers, Anton Korobov, with his win against Norwegian Grandmaster Aryan Tari, has moved a clear point ahead of his nearest rival, Vidit Gujrathi. Korobov has won all of his games except his second round draw against Jeffery Xiong in the tournament so far to propel himself to the pole position.
In Round six, he came up with a nice opening novelty in the Fianchetto Gruenfeld to get the edge over his opponent. Aryan Tari, Korobov’s opponent, was clearly unprepared for this line and went down pretty quickly.
After the game, Korobov said that he had prepared this line a long time ago but got an opportunity to play it only on Friday. “The problem is that black has to enter very sharp stuff without any preparation. So, my opponent opted for 10…Bh3 and then, white is better, I think,” Korobov said after the game.
The Indian No 3 was pitted against local Grandmaster Benjamin Bok and was held to a draw for the second consecutive time after his fourth round win. The two opened with the Catalan-Bogo Indian in which neither side was able to secure an advantage. After a mass trade of pieces in the middle game, players had reached an endgame with equal pawns and bishops of opposite colour.
On move 31, they agreed to sign peace by mutual agreement.
Harika Dronavalli is still to win a game in Wijk Aan Zee. But except for her loss against Gujrathi in round four, she hasn’t lost a game either. In fact, having drawn against five players rated above 2600, she has gained a few rating points for herself. Playing against the 2622 rated Dmitry Gordievsky in the sixth round she played a 96 move long marathon in a rook endgame where she was a pawn down to cling on to a draw.
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Updated Date: Jan 20, 2018 18:38:04 IST