28 Jan

Off The Rails

Although the spiritual home for the 78th Tata Steel Masters tournament is the seaside hamlet of Wijk aan Zee, we’ve previously explained that - in that rich peripatetic Dutch chess tradition, that first started during the great 1938 AVRO tournament - that for two rounds the tournament would be going on the road, or to be more precise the rails for round 10, with play being held in the Dutch Railway Museum (Spoorwegmuseum) in Utrecht.


With Holland being such a small country, this isn’t such a difficult thing to do - and, much like AVRO 1938, the big idea is to take the travelling circus and the game directly to the masses. It worked back then, with each venue attracting renewed interest and more crowds. But taking the players to the Dutch Railway Museum must have exceeded all the expectations of Tournament Director Jeroen van den Berg, who excitedly tweeted that 3,000+ spectators turned up to watch the action (and some put the official figure at nearer 5,000!).

It would be nice to think they all turned up en masse to witness a bloodthirsty duel between World Champion Magnus Carlsen and the young Dutch star Anish Giri, who could well emerge from the Candidates Tournament in Moscow in March as his next challenger. But it wasn’t to be, as the two rivals played out a somewhat tame and insipid 34-move draw. But the draw served its purpose for Carlsen, who holds on to the sole lead going into the final weekend of play.


However his lead is now reduced to half a point over Fabiano Caruana - seen as another favourite to win the Candidates and challenge for the title - as the American easily beat rising star Wei Yi. The Chinese teenager all but went off the rails in the most fitting of venues by losing his first game, as Caruana surprised his young opponent with an old line he’d obviously trained up on.

Photo © | http://www.tatasteelchess.com/

Round 10
Karjakin 0-1 Adams
Giri draw Carlsen
Hou 0-1 Eljanov
So draw Tomashevsky
Ding draw Van Wely
Navara draw Mamedyarov
Caruana 1-0 Wei

Round 10 Standings: 1. Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 7/10; 2. Fabiano Caruana (USA) 6.5; 3-6. Anish Giri (Netherlands), Wesley So (USA), Ding Liren (China), Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine) 5.5; 7-8. Wei Yi (China), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 5; 9-10. David Navara (Czech Rep.), Sergey Karjakin (Russia) 4.5. 11-13. Hou Yifan (China), Evgeny Tomashevsky (Russia), Loek Van Wely (Netherlands) 4; 14. Michael Adams (England) 3.5.

Rest Day Thursday 28 January

Round 11 (Friday 29th Jan): Wei-Karjakin, Mamedyarov-Caruana, Van Wely-Navara, Tomashevsky-Ding, Eljanov-So, Carlsen-Hou, Adams-Giri. There’s live video commentary with host GM Yasser Seirawan and his guest(s) each round, starting at 13:30 local time (07:30 ET, 04:30 PT) by clicking here.

GM Fabiano Caruana - GM Wei Yi
78th Tata Steel Masters, (10)
Ruy Lopez, Open Variation
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 The Ruy Lopez Open - and this surprises me as a choice to play against Caruana, because not only is he one the best prepared players in the world, but this is also a system he plays himself from time to time. However there is that old chess truism that players hate having to face their own pet-lines. 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Be7 At club level, the Dilworth Attack with 9...Bc5 still packs a punch - but not so at elite level. 10.Bc2 The big mainline is 10.Nbd2, but Caruana's choice is a very old continuation he had prepared deeply and it confused Wei Yi, who immediately started eating well into his time to fathom it out. And this could well be the way to play against emerging Chinese wunderkinds, such as Wei Yi. In the commentary a couple of days ago, Aussie GM Ian Rogers made some very insightful comments on the differences of "chess education" (on openings) between the Eastern Europeans and the Chinese. His point being that if you play something long-forgotten from the era of the 1950s and 1960s, Chinese players do not seem to have this past knowledge of the evolution of chess openings and can easily be stumped. And this is exactly what Caruana does - he picks a system that is still good, but a throwback to many decades ago that's long gone out of fashion. 10...Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 12.g4 Bg6 13.Nd4! Clearing the path for the rapid pawn storm with f4.  I can imagine Wei Yi had to feel very uncomfortable already here. 13...Qd7 14.f4 Nxd4 15.cxd4 f5 This is one of those positions where the engines slightly favour Black. I don't believe this assessment for one minute - and more importantly, neither does Caruana, who has likely crunched this position on his home computer ages ago. 16.Be3 0-0 17.Nc3 c6? Caruana believed 17...c6 to almost being the decisive error. Instead, what was necessary now was 17...Nxc3 18.bxc3 Qc6 19.Bd3 with a sharp struggle developing. 18.Bxe4 dxe4 19.d5! (See Diagram) And now we see why 17...c6 was wrong, as it allows 19.d5! and suddenly Black is facing many difficulties just to stay on the board. 19...b4?! Another bad option.  If 19...cxd5 20.Qxd5+ Qxd5 21.Nxd5 Bd8 22.Rfd1 White has total control. Wei Yi probably had to accept he faced enormous difficulties and play 19...Rac8 - but 20.d6 followed by b4 and a4 does not look like fun to have to sit and defend against. 20.dxc6 Qxd1 If 20...Qxc6 21.Qd5+ Qxd5 22.Nxd5 is a better version for White than the above note. 21.Nxd1 Rfd8 There's no hope for Wei in this position, as Caruana's extra pawn is a very big pawn on c6 - and the e-pawn is even bigger. The rest of the game is just total domination from Caruana. 22.Rc1 Rd3 23.Bc5 Bd8 24.e6 Rc8 25.e7 Ba5 26.gxf5 Be8 If 26...Bxf5 27.Nf2 Rd5 28.Rfd1 Rxd1+ 29.Rxd1 Kf7 30.Rd5 Be6 31.Rd4! Rxc6 32.Rd8 wins easily. 27.Nf2 Rd5 28.Nxe4 Bxc6 29.Bxb4! Ooops! 29...Bxb4 30.Rxc6 Re8 31.f6 Rd4 32.Re6 1-0 Black is getting mated after 32...Kf7 33.Ng5+ etc.

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