Nakamura and Anand Again Separate Themselves From the Pack at Tata Steel


Game Replays

After a great day of fighting chess in Round 10 of the Tata Steel chess tournament in the Netherlands, Viswanathan Anand of India, the world champion, and Hikaru Nakamura of the United States are once again tied for the lead in the top section. Anand and Nakamura were also co-leaders after the fourth, sixth and eighth rounds.

Four players were tied for the lead after Round 9. But on Wednesday Nakamura beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France and Anand beat Alexei Shirov of Spain, while Levon Aronian of Armenia and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia respectively drew with Anish Giri and Jan Smeets, two Dutch grandmasters.

Anand and Nakamura each have 7 points and Aronian and Kramnik are tied for third with 6.5 each.

In the other important game of the day, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, who was tied with Vachier-Lagrave a half point behind the leaders after Round 9, lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia.

Carlsen, Vachier-Lagrave and Nepomniachtchi all have 5.5. points, which probably leaves them too far behind the leaders with three rounds to play to have a chance to still win the tournament.

Anand’s win seemed relatively effortless, which is an indication of how out-of-form Shirov is. To borrow a baseball term, he is usually a hard out. Wednesday, he was Black and obtained a reasonable position out of the opening, though there were some pitfalls he had to avoid. For a player like Shirov, that should have been no problem. But he started floundering just out of the opening, first missing a simple developing move (18 … Rac8) and then blundering by misplacing a rook (23 … Rbd8). Three moves later he resigned, probably as discouraged by his play as by the position on the board.

Shirov is tied for last place with Alexander Grischuk, each with 2.5 points.

Nakamura’s win over Vachier-Lagrave was a bit more difficult than Anand’s was over Shirov, but it was very impressive. Vachier-Lagrave chose the Grunfeld Defense and the game entered one of the most popular and complicated variations of the opening. Vachier-Lagrave allowed Nakamura to create a passed pawn, but it seemed he would no difficulty blockading it and obtaining counter play by opening the king side. When he did so, however, it boomeranged on him as the open position became an avenue of attack for Nakamura’s pieces. The speed with which Nakamura mobilized his pieces was impressive. Within a few moves, Vachier-Lagrave had lost a rook and his king was caught in a mating net, and he resigned.

Carlsen began the day only a half point behind the leaders and he had White, so he probably felt compelled to win. The opening was a Sicilian Defense and Carlsen played a bit speculatively, losing his advantage and allowing Nepomniachtchi to obtain a solid position. Nepomniachtchi tried to force a draw by repeating moves, which Carlsen should have allowed. Instead, he avoided the repetition and pressed ahead, using up more and more of his allotted time. At a critical moment, he overlooked a nice queen move by Nepomniachtchi (25 … Qd7), and suddenly White was a bit worse.

Thrown on to the defensive, Carlsen played carefully and Nepomniachtchi had no clear path to victory. He had an opportunity to force a draw by perpetual check, but since Carlsen’s king was very exposed, he chose to continue. It turned out to be a wise decision as he slowly improved the position of his pieces and Carlsen’s king began to run out of air. In desperation, Carlsen sacrificed an exchange (a rook for a knight) to quell the attack. But Nepomniachtchi was able to force a winning endgame and Carlsen eventually resigned.

Two of three leaders in the B section lost on Wednesday. Gabriel Sargissian of Armenia was beaten by Le Quang Liem of Vietnam in a long maneuvering game in which Le Quang’s knight proved to be better than Sargissian’s bishop in the endgame.

Luke McShane of England lost a fascinating and entertaining game to Zahar Efimenko of Ukraine. At one point, McShane tried to sacrifice his queen and Efimenko had to decline it as accepting it would have led to checkmate.

With the victory, Efimenko is tied for the lead with Wesley So of the Philippines, each with 6.5 points. Sargissian and McShane are tied for third with Vladislav Tkachiev of France (who drew with So on Wednesday) and David Navara of the Czech Republic (who beat Li Chao of China). Each has 6 points.

In the C section, Daniele Vocaturo of Italy lost to Ivan Ivanisevic of Serbia. It was Vocaturo’s second loss of the tournament, but, with 7.5 points, he still has a one point lead over Kateryna Lahno of Ukraine, who drew on Wednesday. Ivanisevic is tied for third with Ilya Nyzhnyk of Ukraine, each with 6 points.

Wednesday, 15 of the 21 games in the three sections ended decisively. The high proportion of decisive results has been the pattern throughout the tournament, which is unusual. Often in elite events, about 30 percent end in victory.

It may be the relatively large fields in the sections — there are 14 players in each — puts more pressure on the competitors to play harder because if they draw too many games, they will have little chance to win the tournament.

It may also be that the organizers invited a good mix of players, like Nakamura and Carlsen, for example, who almost always try to win and usually disdain short draws.

Thursday is a rest day and the tournament resumes on Friday with Round 11.

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