Wijk aan Zee 2016 – The First Free Day

My last post ended with the question about the Chinese prodigy Wei Yi. The answer is that the kid is made of solid stuff.

Playing the World Champion for the first time with all the media pressure and build-up before that cannot possibly be easy. Perhaps they have special psychological training in China, not to notice these things. After all, the 16-year old doesn’t seem to be impressed by too many things.

Wei Yi (source: internet)

Carlsen chose the Marshall Attack, which is the modern way to play for a draw when not playing the Berlin. The Chinese was well-prepared and in fact put some pressure on Carlsen.

So Wei Yi didn’t have much problems in his first game against Carlsen. Quite a promising sign for him.

A spectacular attack was played by Navara against Giri. Just imagine what I would have written had Giri lost again!!

A lot of the talk so far was of the following position from the game Mamedyarov-Eljanov:

38 c5?? Qb1 0-1

How is it possible to blunder in such a way? Well, from experience I can say that anything is possible in a game of chess. Literally. This is just one of those rarest of cases where an elite player blunders a rook in one (Svidler’s recent blunder against Karjakin in the final of the World Cup in Baku was at least in a rapid game – see the details here). Losing instead of winning is the harshest punishment you can get in chess.

Naturally, when you receive such a gift you are elated. Needless to say Eljanov won in the next round as well! Who did he beat? Who else if not the Dutchman with the longest Wijk standing!

The challenger for the Women World Championship title (how absurd can it get?) Hou Yifan beat Navara in a beautiful game, I particularly liked the slow, improving moves like 29 f5 and 34 Nc1. Here you have the same mechanism but in reverse: Navara failed to win a won game against Giri and he was swiftly punished in the next round. Chess is unforgiving!

I would like to note that after the shock of the game against Eljanov, Mamedyarov easily drew with Carlsen with black. He has lost quite a few games lately against Carlsen, but he managed to steady his nerves and patiently play a solid position to a dull draw. Great result for him which should give him confidence for the rest of the event. Carlsen keeps drawing his games, but he can start winning at any moment.

The leader after 4 rounds is Caruana with 3/4. He has been somewhat in the shadow lately, but playing closed openings (not very successfully, if you ask me!) and not showing his preparation for the Candidates is not easy. He’s leading thanks to his fighting qualities and he almost beat Giri (just imagine what I would have written had Giri lost again!)

The next round has two especially interesting pairings: Wei Yi-Giri and van Wely-Carlsen. Giri doesn’t remember playing people younger than him and the Wijk resident van Wely will surely try to beat Carlsen. Should be fun.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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  • Anonymous
    Jan 22,2016 at 5:14 pm

    I do understand your focus on Carlsen and candidates, but it is (and they are)really booorin'. Particularly here in this tournament instead showing good form of Ding and Hou you are spending half of blog on rather boring game Wei vs Carlsen (ok u got Hou win vs Navara,but all her performance needs more attention)It is obvious that candidates trying to hide as much as possible,but let organizer punish them for not showing their best, and talk about guys and girl that making this event interesting,all the best !

  • Jan 20,2016 at 6:56 pm

    True, 56…e3 wins, I thought that 56…Ra4 would be the more practical way to play, take with check, then Kf3 and an autopilot win. But you are perfectly right, of course.

  • Jan 20,2016 at 6:14 pm

    In Giri-Caruana, if 55… Ra3 56 Rxa5 then Black can again play 56… e3 and maybe this is easier than 56… Rxa4.

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