Wijk aan Zee 2015 – Round 3

When the World Champion loses a game it is always a sensation. Carlsen lost in a very similar way he was losing games at the Olympiad – he pushed too hard and lost objectivity along the way. First a highly provocative opening and then bad play, a recipe for disaster.

Wojtaszek didn’t have to do anything special to win, he only had to keep cool and collect what was offered. Carlsen’s blunder of 28..Qe6 came in an already bad position. I can understand Carlsen’s desire to experiment in the openings and play adventurous chess, especially now as he’s safe with his title for two more years, but loss of objectivity and bad play will lead him nowhere. Or, as Tarrasch said: It is not enough to be a good player, one must also play well.

28…Qe6? 29 g4, winning the bishop

The over-ambitious and too-original bug also got another victim today – Jobava. Today’s game against Ding Liren is a clear example of what happens to original players like Jobava when they don’t play well and still insist on playing in the same style – they lose very badly in about 20 moves. This loss was almost identical to his loss to Mamedyarov at the Olympiad, compare the games in the notes.

Another game that was decided by a one-move blunder was So-Aronian. In a very interesting and complex position with mutual chances Aronian lost a piece. This usually doesn’t happen to these people, so it’s difficult to explain it.

20…Ng8?? 21 Bh5, game over

Van Wely got what he deserved after yesterday’s missed wins. He got swarmed over by Ivanchuk in a Sicilian that quickly became winning for white. My life-long experience with both colours in the Sicilian tells me that black is worse already by move 10, his set-up with Bd7 and Rc8 is way too slow. The final position shows the pleasant sadistic feelings that Ivanchuk must have enjoyed.

Black resigned.

The Frenchman (Vachier) and Radjabov followed in the footsteps of Leko and Kramnik in a popular line of the QGD with 5 Bf4. It was interesting to see that after playing quickly for 23 moves, the Frenchman played his novelty 23 h4 after which Radjabov thought for some time and replied with the human move 23..a4, fixing the pawn on a3, which my comp mentions only at depth 33 as a second choice. This resulted in 26 minutes of thought by the Frenchman, a clear sign of either too shallow preparation or too weak hardware. This was the only interesting moment in the game, as it was predestinied to draw, such is the character of the line chosen.

Saric and Hou Yifan were obviously shaken by their losses and this resulted in a wobbly game. Hou was winning, after the very bad 16 a4 by Saric (16 Bd3 instead is much better), but after mutual mistakes the game ended in a draw.

16 a4? Bc3 and black is practically winning

Chuchelov’s students, former (Giri) and present (Caruana) slugged it out in another QGD with 5 Bf4, with Caruana playing his preferred move 7…Ne4. Giri improved on Anand’s play on move 10, but it didn’t seem like something big, as black was OK. After the double-edged exchange sacrifice by Caruana (which wasn’t forced) Giri had all the chances but Caruana defended well and could draw by perpetual. And here comes the most instructive moment – when after a long defence he realised he wasn’t in any danger of losing anymore, Caruana decided not to take the draw and play on! This kind of keen sense of the dynamics in the position and in the players’ heads is a rare gift and Karpov comes to mind immediately, as he was famous of momentarily switching to playing for a win the moment his hard defence brought him an equal position. Giri was on the defensive but up to the task and the game was eventually drawn after 97 moves.

After three rounds we have Caruana and Ivanchuk on 2.5/3 and Carlsen, Aronian, van Wely and Saric on 1/3. It promises to be an exciting tournament as the favourites now have to go through the field and play catch-up!

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