Wijk aan Zee 2015 – Round 11

Wesley So is the man to follow. That’s what I wrote yesterday and today I can only repeat it.

So beat Saric in a strange game that shows the dangers of (too much) computer preparation. They played a really long computer variation and on move 20 Saric played a move not tested by the computers. He was immediately worse and 2 moves later he blundered a piece. This is also part of modern chess.

This win moves So to sole second, within striking range of the leader. Two more rounds, can he stage a sensation? Personally, I don’t think so, as he plays Giri with black tomorrow, and we know what that means (in case you don’t read until the end of this report).

Carlsen couldn’t beat the Frenchman with too many names (I only use his first surname, Vachier). In a Grunfeld Carlsen went for the main line with 7 Nf3 c5 8 Rb1 by a completely different move-order – 7 Be3 c5 8 Rc1. It seemed that he confused the Frenchman and he was a pawn up in the endgame. Surprisingly he didn’t make the most of it and black saved the draw. Carlsen will most probably win the tournament anyway, as he gets to play the groggy Saric in the last round, and he will certainly be out for a revenge for that loss at the Olympiad.

I probably wrote too many times in these Wijk reports “Jobava lost again” so I’d like to avoid writing it again. This time I’ll say that Hou Yifan beat Jobava and I’ll show how:

39…Kg8?? 40 Qe6+, picking up the Bd6 (39…Kf8 was OK for black)

In the Dutch duel, Giri beat van Wely. A curious decision by van Wely to play the Pirc in this tournament. He has always been a Sicilian player and now that Kasparov is long gone it seems that he has nobody to fear there. He did lose to Ivanchuk in round 3, but that was really a bad prep on his part, something that is rare to see by van Wely, and he came close to beating the complexly-named Frenchman in round 5. Giri followed the game Karjakin-Wang Hao and black introduced a new move 10…Ng4, the second choice of the engine. It is becoming increasingly popular to play the second (or third) choice of the engines, since everybody’s analysing the first. Another quirk of modern computer preparation. But you cannot bamboozle Giri with such primitive tricks! He was prepared like a mongoose at a cobra convention and he obtained an edge, which he went on to win in a long game.

Aronian and Ivanchuk usually play decisive games, but not this time. Aronian was pressing the whole game, but Ivanchuk saved the draw. It’s likely that Aronian will finish the tournament on a minus score, something that I cannot recall ever happening to him.

Ding Liren is the new young Radjabov. He plays only the KID against 1 d4 (the wiser Radjabov of today included other openings in his repertoire, like the QGD). Today he was under pressure against Wojtaszek, but kept on finding those annoying chances the KID offers to its faithful followers. When white should have held the perpetual, he seemed indecisive, as he could play without risk, but then he blundered in the endgame.

Caruana and Radjabov played the Romanishin line in the Nimzo that was made popular after Kasparov’s impressive wins in his matches with Karpov. Theory advanced considerably since those times and nowadays it’s considered that black has more than one way to be fine. Radjabov chose a rare sideline and obtained slightly worse endgame which he was able to hold. Again I have to express my amazement at Radjabov’s transformation (or, reprogramming, as Botvinnik would have put it) from a dynamic player to a player ready to sit patiently and defend slightly worse endgames.

Looking at the standings, tomorrow’s big game should be Giri-So, but I predict an easy draw. It even rhymes!

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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