Wijk aan Zee 2016 – The Second Free Day

Sometimes I think I should start betting. Especially when I make correct predictions – I did write that Carlsen can start winning at any moment!

And so he did. What was striking though, was the character of all his victories. Namely, his opponents reeked of fear! I will try to show this in the comments to the games below.

Van Wely is a valiant guy. Carlsen used the Grunfeld to beat him last year, when van Wely bravely chose the Fianchetto Variation. This year he went for the solid system with Bf4.

But I suppose it’s fine for van Wely. I think in some 10 more years playing in Wijk he will learn.

Then came the “The Professor.” Usually a collected guy with profound understanding, he got a solid and fire-proof position out of the opening. Then he started thinking and gave Carlsen attacking chances in 2 moves. Trying to delve deep and “see all there is” (another result of nerves, not trusting intuition and trying to play it safe) he missed an uncommon exchange.

At the beginning of the tournament, while he was still making draws, Tomashevsky said that he was enjoying the tournament. This is a guarantee for failure. How can you enjoy a tournament when in order to be successful you have to fight for your life, be motivated, be full of energy and ready to destroy everybody? The only moment to enjoy a tournament is afterwards. Then you can enjoy the fruits of your hard work, but during a tournament it is war and there is no joy there. Remember what Spassky said before going to Reykjavik – he was going to a “celebration.” We all know how that went. I’m afraid Tomashevsky won’t improve his results if he enjoys it too much, although I’m sure he won’t be repeating the same words if asked again now, when he’s on -2.

And then came Eljanov. His fear came in the guise of a loss of objectivity. He did say afterwards that he was overestimating his position during the game. The extremes of loss of objectivity, overestimation and underestimation, strive either to mask the fear with bravery or augment it with attempts to be as certain as possible in your calculations. It is worth noting that Carlsen used the same strategy as in his game against Navara – he played a solid opening and then sharpened things with a move like …g5!

The three wins were followed by a tame draw with Karjakin and Carlsen found himself in the sole lead on the second free day in Wijk.

The other Dutchman, Giri, managed to win two games and is now on +1. It is admirable that he overcame the bad start (when he could have lost several times) to come to a plus score. Playing badly and not losing (and even sometimes winning) is a sign of world class. Maybe he does share more than the number of letters in their surnames with his great Dutch predecessor? (No, it’s not Timman!)

Caruana was going strongly and shared first with Carlsen until he messed up with Navara. But I am still not convinced – he failed to pose problems to Hou Yifan with white, he didn’t win a winning rook endgame against Giri and he misjudged the position against Navara. He is still wobbly in my mind.

If several years ago somebody predicted that in the 2016 edition of Wijk the biggest number of players would be from China, he would have got excellent odds. And the Chinese are doing great – Hou Yifan should have won more games, Wei Yi is calmly drawing everything, while Ding Liren was leading until he ran into Caruana’s preparation. They are definitely not worse than the rest so, a bit later perhaps than in the real world, the Chinese are here to stay.

Have you noticed that the Berlin featured in only one game in Wijk (in the very exciting game Adams-Eljanov, miraculously saved by Adams)? That doesn’t mean that its influence is gone though, as Nimzowitsch in My System said: the threat is stronger than its execution. Still the effect was the same, or worse, in my opinion, as the resulting positions were more sterile than in the Berlin!

I started this post talking about odds. What are the odds of the Berlin not featuring at all in the rest of the tournament? Whatever they may be, I’d bet against it.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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  • Jan 26,2016 at 8:49 pm

    you would win your bet !

  • Jan 25,2016 at 8:50 pm

    Quite possibly. But there are people who will not play in the Candidates…

  • Jan 25,2016 at 12:48 pm

    Maybe Berlin is not played deliberately and 'saved' for candidates?

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