16 Jan

The Wijk Way

The historic annual tournament in Wijk aan Zee on the windswept Dutch coast is always the first ‘chess major’ of the year.  Its origins, though, run back to 1938 and born from a simple works’ social club tournament for the local steel and aluminum producer, Koninklijke Hoogovens, and was held in nearby Beverwijk, about three miles inland; and didn’t move to the fabled Dutch hamlet of Wijk aan Zee until 1968.

After 41.Qd1!

And like Doctor Who, it has had many regenerations since starting life as the Hoogovens tournament.  After British Steel merged with Hoogovens in 1999, to form the Anglo-Dutch company Corus, it became the Corus tournament from 2000 to 2010, and then, in 2011, following more corporate takeovers, now the Tata Steel tournament.  This year’s 79th edition is therefore just the seventh Tata Steel tournament as such - but the wonderful tradition continues.  

This is the tournament where Magnus Carlsen made a name for himself on the world stage, winning the C group in 2004.  That was when Magnus was 13 - and now the world champion is back to play in his thirteenth time at Wijk, as he heads the field for the 2017 Tata Steel Masters.  But an early show-stealer so far has been the very in-form Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine, who leads the field with his impressive perfect start of 2/2, half a point ahead of Carlsen and Pentala Harikrishna, the Indian No.2 behind Vishy Anand.


1. Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine) 2/2; 2-3. Magnus Carlsen, Pentala Hariskrishna (India) 1.5; 4-10. Wesley So (USA), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Anish Giri (The Netherlands), Dmitry Andreikin (Russia), Wei Yi (China), Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) 1; 11-14. Radolsaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Richard Rapport (Hungary), Loek Van Wely (The Netherlands), Baskaran Adhiban (India) 0.5pts.

GM Magnus Carlsen - GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek
79th Tata Steel Masters, (2)
Sicilian Najdorf
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.a3 Amazingly, a new twist in Bobby Fischer’s favourite main-line Sicilian Najdorf. In the opening round, Carlsen was impressed with Sergey Karjakin's adoption of this unlikely move  against Anish Giri, and opted to play it himself. However, Karjakin explained via Twitter "The only reason why I played 6.a3 against @anishgiri is that I forgot [the] adaptor for my laptop and I urgently had to create a new ideas." However it is not new, just an old idea that was never really played. In my database, white got the first win with it in Djurasevic-Gligoric, Belgrade 1954. And Gligoric was a very strong player then. But a3 is as useful as many other waiting moves here, forcing black to decide about a principled plan rather than reacting to a specific plan of action, as is the norm in Najdorf. The benefit of 6.a3 is that it at least allows white to have a possible secure spot for the white bishop on a2, answers Qa5-ideas with b4 later, or defending the b2 pawn and the a-file at the same time with Ra2 etc. 6...e5 7.Nf5!? Now 6....e5 is common theme in the Najdorf - but White rarely answers with Nf5. For example, in the lines after 6.Be2 e5 7.Nf5, the Be2 gets in the way of Qg4. But with the waiting move of 6.a3, Nf5 and Qg4 is back in play, as Carlsen demonstrates. 7...d5! The most logical way to attempt to refute outright the idea of Nf5. If Black play's timidly with 7...g6 8.Ne3 and White's grip of the d5-square assures him an easy game. 8.Bg5 d4 The point is that taking on e4 leads to a crash after 8...dxe4 9.Qxd8+ Kxd8 10.Rd1+! (This is stronger than 10.0-0-0+, as in some lines Black could have salvation with a timely ...Bh6+.) 10...Kc7 (Black has to be careful not to fall into mating traps, as can easily happen after: 10...Ke8? 11.Nxe4! Bxf5 (11...Nxe4?? 12.Rd8#) 12.Nxf6+ gxf6 13.Bxf6) 11.Nxg7! Nbd7 (11...Bxg7 12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.Nd5+ Kc6 14.Nxf6 Bf5 15.Bc4 Rf8 16.Bd5+ easily winning. 9.Bxf6 Qxf6?! This is the wrong idea, and just 'gifts' Carlsen the added boost of an extra temp with Nd5. After 9...gxf6 10.Nb1 Bxf5 11.exf5 Qd5! Black has good counterplay; certainly nothing to worry about. However in the game, it all goes badly wrong. 10.Nd5 Qd8 11.Qg4! And here's the cause of all Black's problems now. 11...Bxf5 Almost forced, as Black can't play 11...g6? 12.Qg3! Nd7 (12...gxf5? 13.Qxe5+ Be6 14.Qxh8 winning.) 13.Nxd4! exd4 14.Nc7+ Ke7 15.Nxa8 Bg7 16.Qg5+ f6 17.Qd5 with a big material advantage. 12.Qxf5 Bd6 13.h4! Carlsen has his simple plan of Bc4 followed by Rh3-g3 (or f3) with an easy attack brewing. 13...Nc6 14.Bc4 b5 15.Bb3 Ne7 16.Qg4 Carlsen could also have played 16.Nxe7 Qxe7 17.Bd5 Rd8 18.Bc6+ Kf8 19.h5! which also promises a good game, as Black is in a somewhat awkward scenario, as he can't easily develop his king's rook here. Moreover, if queens get exchanged off, Black's pawns on a6 and b5 could become an easy target. 16...0-0 17.Rh3 Carlsen's intentions can't be more clearer than this! 17...Nxd5 18.Bxd5 Ra7 Black's rook is well-placed here. 19.Rg3 Qf6 20.a4 Bb4+?! This looks wrong, as Carlsen will need to find a safe haven for his king anyway, and this is a move he'd have to make sometime soon. Perhaps better was 20...Rc7 21.Bb3 with balanced play ahead. 21.Kf1 bxa4 22.Rxa4 a5 23.Ra1 Rc7 24.Bb3 Ra8 25.Kg1 Prophylaxis from Magnus.  In certain lines, Black may be able to play an awkward ...Qa6+, so Carlsen deals with it now rather than later. 25...Bf8 26.Qh5 Carlsen want's to tempt Wojtaszek into playing ...g6, as he can later play h5 further weakening Black's kingside defences. But the pressure now mounts for Black, and he's just managing to stay in the game by his finger tips - but one wrong move, and it all becomes a game of Jenga. 26...g6 27.Qg4 Ra6 It is an extremely difficult and dangerous position for Black, and you wonder of here he might have been better trying to orchestrate an opposite bishop ending by sacrificing a pawn with 27...a4 28.Rxa4 Rxa4 29.Bxa4 Bh6. 28.h5 Qf4 29.Qe2 Exchanging queens just helps Black from defending all his kingside weaknesses, so Carlsen keeps them on the board. 29...Qf6 30.Qb5 Carlsen would have been in his element here, as he relentlessly turns the screws to prolong the torture for his opponent. And here, something has to give - but can Wojtaszek - despite his mounting time trouble - hold on to stay in the game? 30...Qc6 31.Qxe5 Re7 32.Qf4 a4 There's no respite, as after 32...Qxe4? 33.Bxf7+! Kg7 34.Qxe4 Rxe4 35.hxg6 hxg6 36.Bc4! and White is well on top, and will likely pick-off either the a- or the g6-pawn also. 33.Bd5 Qc7 If 33...Qxc2 it still remains 'awkward', as after 34.hxg6 hxg6 35.Rf3 Qc7 36.Qg5 Rd7 37.Rc1 all of White's assets are moving in for the kill. 34.Qd2 Qb6 35.Ra2 Basically, Magnus has his opponent where he wants him: Paralysed! There's nothing Wojtaszek can do, as Magnus very calmly bides his time for the right moment to pounce. 35...Rc7 36.Rf3 Qb4 37.Qe2 Rb6 38.hxg6 hxg6 39.g3 Kg7 40.Kg2 Rd7 41.Qd1! Amazingly, Magnus' winning plan is simply threatening c3 rounding up Black's a-pawn after which, Black's position will soon collapse. 41...Rf6 42.Rxf6 Kxf6 43.c3! dxc3 44.Rxa4 1-0 And Black resigns, the point being that after 44...Qxb2 45.Qd4+ leads to a forced mate in all lines.

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