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31 Jan

The Dutch Treat

In chess circles, distinguished tournaments are often known by the locality that hosts the tournament; and they are very often held in faraway or unexpected places. The annual Dutch treat of Wijk aan Zee that play’s host to the 78th Tata Steel Masters falls into such a category. This was where, in 2004, I witnessed the international debut of a certain 13-year-old Norwegian as he won the 'C' Group, and wrote: “I’ve seen the future of chess, and his name is Magnus Carlsen.”  

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Prophetic or what? Now, going into the final round of the 2016 edition of this long and storied tournament, Magnus Carlsen remains in control of his own destiny, and he could be set not only for a third successive major victory in as many months, following successes at the London Chess Classic and the Qatar Masters Open, but also equal Vishy Anand’s record haul of five title at Wijk.

After easily drawing with Wesley So in the penultimate round, Carlsen leads on 8.5/12 - but his rivals closest rivals, Fabiano Caruana  (8-points) and Ding Liren (7.5) both stay in touch with the World Champion with a brace of penultimate-round wins. And that means there’s still everything to play for, because in the final round, Carlsen will play Ding Liren and Caruana plays Evgeny Tomashevsky. The big question everyone is asking, is will Caruana go for broke in the final round against one of the tail-enders?

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If Caruana does, he will no doubt have been encouraged by the ruthless and very clinical manner in how he destroyed another tail-ender, Dutchman Loek Van Wely, the long-time Wijk stalwart, who over the years has somewhat cruelly picked up the tag from the stronger elite grandmasters (in the hunt for wins going down the home straight) as being the ‘Dutch treat’.

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

Round 12
Karjakin draw Giri
Hou draw Adams
So draw Carlsen
Ding 1-0 Eljanov
Navara draw Tomashevsky
Caruana 1-0 Van Wely
Wei draw Mamedyarov

Round 12 Standings: 1. Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 8.5/12; 2. Fabiano Caruana (USA) 8; 3. Ding Liren (China) 7.5; 4-5. Wesley So (USA), Anish Giri (Netherlands) 6.5; 6-8. Wei Yi (China), Shakhiryar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine) 6; 9-10. David Navara (Czech Rep.), Sergey Karjakin (Russia) 5.5; 11-14. Hou Yifan (China), Evgeny Tomashevsky (Russia), Loek Van Wely (Netherlands), Michael Adams (England) 4.5.

Final Round 13 (31st Jan): Mamedyarov-Karjakin, Van Wely-Wei Yi, Tomashevsky-Caruana, Eljanov-Navara, Carlsen-Ding, Adams-Wesley So, Giri-Hou Yifan. There’s live video commentary of the final round with host GM Yasser Seirawan and his guest(s), with an early starting time of 12:00 CET local time (06:00 ET, 03:00 PT) by clicking here.

GM Fabiano Caruana - GM Loek Van Wely
78th Tata Steel Masters, (12)
Sicilian Scheveningen, English Attack
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 Loek Van Wely is a creature of habit; and to his credit, through thick and thin, he's stayed faithful to his first love, the Sicilian Najdorf. 6.f3 The English Attack, so-called as all of the pioneering work on it in the 1990s was by the top English trio of John Nunn, Michael Adams and Nigel Short. Black players tend to transpose now into a Scheveningen Sicilian with ...e6 - and Van Wely has always opted for this route. 6...e6 7.Be3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 h6 10.0-0-0 Bb7 11.h4 b4 12.Na4 Qa5 In a flashback to Wijk in 2000, I remember watching Van Wely here playing 12...d5 against 'the Boss' Garry Kasparov, and living to regret it as he went down in flames in just 25 moves after 13.Bh3. But a few months after that debacle, Van Wely improved with 12...Qa5 when he faced Kasparov in an online event, and drew. So, if it's good enough to draw with Kasparov... 13.b3 Be7 I would imagine Van Wely would have felt comfortable here, as in the aforementioned note, he had this position in the drawn Kasparov game. But here, Kasparov played 14.Kb1 - and after a near 25-min think, Caruana instead decides to cut  to the chase with a more aggressive, route one hacker option. 14.Rh3! Unbelievably, in six moves from now, the Dutchman finds himself in dire straits - and I don’t mean in a good way, with Mark Knopfler on lead guitar! 14...Nc5 15.a3 Another nice little intermezzo; the point being that 15...Nxa4 16.axb4! wins a pawn with a good game. Instead Van Wely decides to try to muddy the waters. 15...Rc8 16.axb4 Nxb3+ 17.Nxb3 Qxa4 18.Kb2! While the engines make think this is equal, long-term White holds all the aces. 18...d5 19.Bc5! Qd7 Perhaps 19...Qc6 would have made a better fist of defending this. Now, Caruana's sudden bombardment strikes right through Van Wely's shaky kingside defences, as the 'Dutch treat' lives up to his tag. 20.g5! hxg5 21.hxg5 Rxh3 22.Bxh3 Nh7 23.f4 Also good was the immediate 23.g6.  23...Qc7 24.Bxe7 Kxe7 25.Nc5 The knight is a monster on c5, orchestrating the final assault. 25...a5 26.g6! Van Wely can't take on g6 as Bxe6 crashes through. 26...Nf6 27.e5 Nd7 And he can't play 27...Ne4 as there's a sting in the tail: 28.Nxe4 dxe4 29.Qd6+ Qxd6 30.exd6+ Kd7 31.f5! and Black can resign. 28.Nxd7 Qxd7 29.f5! (See Diagram) The same sting-in-the-tail wins, but in a different way. 29...Rc4 30.f6+! gxf6 31.exf6+ Kd6 Hopeless was 31...Kxf6 32.Rf1+ Kg7 33.gxf7 with an easy win. 32.Qh2+! The sort of move that is easy to miss.  Now the rest is just a formality, as Caruana clinically finishes the job. 32...Kc6 33.g7 Qd8 34.Qe5 Bc8 There's no hope; even 34...Rxb4+ 35.Kc1 Qg8 36.Bg2! and Black can't stop the winning rook hop Rh1-h8. 35.b5+ Kb7 36.Rg1 Qb6 37.g8Q 1-0

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