Wijk aan Zee 2015 – Round 9

Carlsen makes it 6/6 and the tournament winner is already determined, 4 round before the end. I don’t think anyone can muster up enough points to challenge the World Champion, even more so, he may be tempted to improve his (and Kasparov’s) record of 10/13.

Today’s game against Radjabov followed along the second game of the match with Anand in Sochi (with a slight difference in the move-order) and it was Radjabov who deviated first. Like in the game with Anand, white didn’t have much from the opening, just a playable position. But perhaps that can be considered an advantage for Carlsen, as that’s what he strives for?! The game looks like smooth sailing for white, but even though this is deceptive, it still is an aesthetic pleasure to play through.

Giri beat Ding Liren in the Petrosian Variation in the KID. A very rare guest at top level until Kramnik resurrected it a month ago when he beat Nakamura with it in London. I have the impression Giri is a very good copycat, he plays everything Kramnik plays. But this time Giri went for the main line with 9 Bh4 (Kramnik went 9 Be3) and it seems to have caught black unprepared. After the unexpected and dubious exchange of the black-squared bishop for the knight on d2 black was much worse and even though it took a while (he could and should have won much faster) Giri won convincingly.

Wojtaszek and Ivanchuk played an odd Bogo-Indian with an uncharacteristic pawn structure. First they started repeating, then Ivanchuk declined the threefold repetition, then he ended up worse, offered a draw and Wojtaszek accepted. Tournament play has its own reasons for each player.

The duel of the theoreticians So and Vachier was fought in their favourite opening – the Grunfeld. They followed the game Aronian-Grischuk, first game of their Candidates match in Kazan 2011, until move 24 when Vachier deviated with 24…Rac8, a move suggested by Caruana in the comments to the Grischuk game. The position was already equal by then, black having full compensation for the pawn, besides, you don’t expect people like Vachier to go that deep without having it analysed until a draw. But then So made an uncharacteristic mistake and suddenly black had great chances.

I was surprised Caruana couldn’t beat Hou Yifan. He got a small, but stable advantage out of the Najdorf with 6 h3 and the fact that he managed to play it out to a worse position speaks volumes of his bad form. Before the time control things got out of hand and first black and then white had winning possibilities. All were missed and the game ended in perpetual check.

Aronian won his first game in the tournament against the Santa Claus of the tournament, the entertaining Jobava. Jobava is true to his style and playing philosophy, but perhaps sometimes shame should kick in? He’s a much better player than the score he has shows, being stubborn when things don’t go your way is just a recipe for a worse disaster.

Saric and van Wely played the longest game of the round. Another strange game by the players who showed very unusual bad play. First, Saric – how can such a strong player get from this position:

White should be technically winning here

to this position:

A dead draw

and then to this one:

Completely lost for white

It’s a mistery. But then it was van Wely’s turn to perform a miracle. In the above position, instead of 90…Kh3 with the idea of Rg2, g4-g3 etc. he went 90…Rg3?? and after 91 Ke4 the position was a dead draw again. Which is how the game ended.

The main question for tomorrow’s round is whether Ivanchuk will stop Carlsen’s streak? He is white, after all, but then again he lost without a fight with white against So…?!

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