Can anyone stop Magnus Carlsen? Since the London Chess Classic in December, the World Champion has been on a tear, with his good form continuing through the Qatar Masters Open to now the 78th Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee, as he beats one of his regular “customers”, Michael Adams, for a fourth win in five games to extend his lead at the top over Fabiano Caruana now to a full point.
It’s power-play personified from Carlsen, who has now won 8 out of 10 (with two draws) games against the Englishman - and in the process, Carlsen has now gone 31 games straight without a loss through three of the strongest tournaments in the world. In this sort of form, Carlsen looks set to notch-up his 26th super-tournament title. And if he does win, he’ll also equal Vishy Anand’s record of five Wijk titles.
Perhaps we need to look to the future for someone take Carlsen’s crown? Step forward 16-year-old phenom Wei Yi, who inflicted on David Navara one of his trademark sacrificial slaughters to score his first - of what could well be many more - wins at Wijk. More importantly, Wei is unbeaten so far, and showing promise for the future - and he’s already played and drawn with Carlsen!
Last year, the teenager became the youngest-ever champion of China - and many pundits agrees he’s (more or less) already on the same rating trajectory as Carlsen was at 16, and he’ll challenge the Norwegian for the world championship within five years. Not only that, but the national coach of China has already promised us a Chinese World Champion by 2018. So no pressure then.
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Wei still has a lot to learn and to further develop his game; but there’s no doubt he’s a tactical genius with a flair for the spectacular. And giving him easy attacking options, as Navara did in today’s game of the round, could be said to be akin to going swimming in Amity Island circa 40 years ago with a gaping wound oozing blood. Da-dum… Da-dum… Da-dum-da-dum-da-dum-da-dum-da-dum…
Caruana draw Karjakin
Wei 1-0 Navara
Mamedyarov draw Ding
Van Wely draw So
Tomashevsky draw Hou
Eljanov draw Giri
Carlsen 1-0 Adams
Round 9 Standings: 1. Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 6.5/9; 2. Fabiano Caruana (USA) 5.5; 3-6. Wesley So (USA), Wei Yi (China), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Ding Liren (China) 5; 7-9. Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine), Shakriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 4.5; 10-11. David Navara (Czech Rep.), Hou Yifan (China) 4; 12-13. Evgeny Tomashevsky (Russia), Loek Van Wely (Netherlands) 3.5; 14. Michael Adams (England) 2.5.
Round 10 (27th Jan): Karjakin-Adams, Giri-Carlsen, Hou-Eljanov, So-Tomashevsky, Ding-Van Wely, Navara-Mamedyarov, Caruana-Wei Yi. This round will be played at the Spoorwegmuseum in Utrecht with live video commentary from Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam and GM Jan Timman, starting at 14:00 local time (08:00 ET, 05:00 PT) by clicking here.
GM Wei Yi - GM David Navara
78th Tata Steel Masters, (9)
Ruy Lopez, Anti-Berlin
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 The dreaded Berlin "Wall" Defence - an opening Judit Polgar half-jokingly said "...is partly the reason why I retired...It's not an opening I'd like to see on the board.." And with Wei Yi's attacking style, a good choice, as the big mainline sees the queens coming off early and an endgame - so Wei avoids that. 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bxc6 dxc6 6.Nbd2 0-0 On reflection of how easy White's attack comes now, perhaps castling was wrong and Navara should perhaps play 6...Be6 first to stop 7.Nc4? 7.Nc4 Could this be the antidote everyone has been looking for to the Berlin? If so, it has its roots in the so-called DERLD, the acronym moniker given to the Delayed Exchange Ruy Lopez Deferred It was analysed and written up in a monograph by Len Pickett that was very popular in the UK in the early 1970s; rising to fame on the back of a crushing 24-move win for Brian Eley over GM Ludek Pachman - one of the world’s top GMs of that era - at the 1972 Islington Open, where just about all of the moves were given in Pickett's monograph. 7...Nd7 8.Qe2 Re8 9.Bd2 Bd6 10.h4! If this isn't a clear statement of intent, then I don't know what is. But what becomes abundantly clear now is that Navara seems dead in the water and unable to respond to this simple plan of attack from Wei Yi, and the end result is a trademark spectacular victory for the Chinese teenage superstar. 10...c5 11.h5 h6 12.0-0-0 Nb8 13.Rdg1 It is becoming all too brutally clear what going to happen here - the amazing thing is just how quick the attack comes. 13...Nc6 14.g4 f6 15.g5! Smelling blood, Wei Yi moves in for the kill now. And he sacrificial attack comes so quickly and lethal, that the only conciliation for poor David Navara is at least he won't have to sit through hours of this agony. 15...fxg5 16.Nxg5 Nd4 17.Qd1 hxg5 There's nothing else - you are basically resigned to your fate in situations such as this. As I said previously, no use Navara having to agonisingly sit through some sort of spurious defence that may last another half dozen moves or so. On the bright side, fantastic news for all those hard-working chess journalists out there with a newspaper column! 18.Bxg5 Be7 19.Be3! (See Diagram) In the post-game summery with Wei Yi, GM Yasser Seirawan wanted to know why he rejected out of hand 19.Bh6!? Well, apart from the fact that 19...Kh7! 20.Rxg7+ Kxh6 21.Rhg1 Bg5+ 22.R1xg5 Qxg5+ 23.Rxg5 Kxg5 all looked rather "messy", Wei Yi calmly and correctly replied he "wanted to keep the pieces on...to prolong [for his opponent] the agony". And he's right: there's no rush, as the attack just plays itself without him having to force something. 19...Bf6 20.h6 Re7 The alternative 20...g5 allows Wei Yi to cut to the chase with the powerful 21.Bxg5! Bxg5+ 22.f4! exf4 23.Qh5 Kh8 (If 23...Ne2+ 24.Kb1 Nxg1 25.Qg6+ mates.) 24.Rxg5 with a crushing attack. 21.hxg7 Rxg7 22.Qh5 Be6 Hopeless also was 22...Rxg1+ 23.Rxg1+ Kf8 24.Bh6+ Ke7 25.Bg7 Kd7 26.Bxf6 Qxf6 27.Rg8! and Black's getting mated or losing a lot of material. 23.Bh6 Bf7 24.Bxg7! What's a Wei Yi sacrificial slaughter without him adding also his queen to the body count? 24...Bxh5 25.Bxf6+ Kf8 26.Bxd8 Ne2+ 27.Kb1 It's hopeless: Wei Yi is going to emerge with a piece and a shed-load of pawns into the bargain. 27...Nxg1 28.Bxc7 1-0