Wijk aan Zee 2016 – The Third Free Day

Only two rounds between the free days as the organisers decided to give the players time to recuperate after the trip to Utrecht for Round 10. In the last several years it has been fashionable to turn back the years in Wijk and imagine we’re witnessing the 1938 AVRO tournament. A chessplayer’s regime is a very subtle thing and even a smallest disturbance can throw a player off his rhythm and cause disbalance. And getting up earlier, travelling for an hour or so and loitering in the playing hall for an hour and a half before the game is definitely not your exemplary regime. I am quite sure Kasparov, known for his strict regime, would never have played in such a tournament.

In Round 9 Carlsen increased his lead by beating his former second and regular customer Adams. In some way their styles are similar, but Carlsen’s class being higher, Adams doesn’t really stand a chance and the horrible score he has against Carlsen (especially with black) clearly confirms the fact. Add to this his bad form and you have the following:

The game of the round, perhaps even the tournament, was Wei Yi’s first win. He brutalised Navara in a tour de force.

Fantastic performance by the young Chinese. They say that a long series of draws ends with a loss. Wei Yi had 8 draws before this one and only the best can keep their high level for long enough to strike when an opportunity arises. The others cannot and they lose a game. For me this stability is proof that the Chinese finally produced an elite player worthy of a shot at the title.

But then came the trip to Utrecht and Wei Yi suffered his first defeat. He got into some deep preparation by Caruana in the Open Spanish and his time-trouble didn’t help matters either. So the kid has still much to learn, but he’s on a good track.

The trip to Utrecht turned out to be quite a picnic for Adams. After suffering so much in Wijk aan Zee he was probably very happy to leave that place. Playing black he destroyed Candidate Karjakin in 31 moves (although white could have resigned earlier).

A very one-sided game that shows what can happen when you go berserk and only want to attack, attack, attack. Karjakin may have been lulled into over-confidence in view of Adams’ bad form and his excellent score against him (3.5-0.5), but their last game was in 2009 and Adams can still play chess even if out of form.

And of course, I have to mention the game everyone was expecting with trepidation. The mighty four-lettered Dutchman against the World Champion. Perhaps the opponents of a future World Championship match. The ferocious fighters who will define our era. Meh.

Carlsen was at least honest when he said he was ashamed how he played the opening and the game, but I don’t see why he should be ashamed of that. To play you need an opponent who also wants to play, and especially at this level if white wants to steer the game towards a draw, very little can be done to prevent it. And draw with black is usually OK when playing strong opponents. And Giri knows it, just that in the last sentence he forgets to insert the words “with black.”

Three more rounds to go in Wijk (all of them there, bad news for Adams!) and Carlsen leads by half a point ahead of Caruana. The winner will be one of these two. You can bet on that.

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