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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

76th Tata Steel Chess R7: Levon Aronian Retains Lead, Van Wely beats Nakamura

Chess Blog for Daily Chess News and Trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2013

Hello everyone,

Official Website photos by Vincent Bloothoofd (Tata Steel) and Peter Doggers (

Levon Aronian opted for the Ragozin Variation in his game against Boris Gelfand. The leader in the standings tried a new opening idea, sacrificing a pawn for positional compensation. He moved fast, getting ahead on the clock once again. 

Aronian figured he “was slightly better, but I couldn’t really find a way to improve my position.” He did not feel like taking any risks and, to quote Gelfand, “the result was never in danger.” Aronian now enters the rest day leading the pack with a 5,5/7 score.
His main rivals for first place at the moment, Sergey Karjakin and Anish Giri, couldn’t benefit as they both drew their games. Giri quickly found himself in trouble against Fabiano Caruana. Caruana had a safe position and tried to build up his advantage. The Italian (“I probably missed many chances”) started drifting just before the time control, however, and Giri managed to hang on. A few moves later, the two competitors decided to share the point.
Karjakin had “a pretty normal game” versus Wesley So, when the Russian decided to sacrifice an exchange with 24. …Bxg2. After 25.Nxc2 Rxc2 26.Kxg2 Ne4 27.Be7 Karjakin initially regretted his decision, thinking he was “just worse.” But he found an interesting continuation and So was unable to seize the advantage. The Filipino even thought he was worse at some point but when he went for a rook-ending it didn’t take long before the result was in.
The most spectacular battle of the seventh round took place between Hikaru Nakamura and Loek van Wely. In a Scheveningen Variation, Van Wely went for an aggressive exchange sacrifice, giving him a strong initiative. The Dutchman obtained a winning position when he lashed out with the strong 33. …d2! After 34.Rxd2 Rxd2 35.Bxb5 axb5 36.Bxd2 Nd4 37.Rc8+ Kh7 38.Qc7 Qb1+ Nakamura’s king was in trouble. The American desperately tried to defend, but Van Wely rose to the occasion, steadily converting the game into a win.

Richard Rapport won his game as well, defeating Pentala Harikrishna. Harikrishna surprised his opponent with the Caro-Kann and Rapport returned the favour by playing an off-beat line. With the subtle 13.Be2 the creative Hungarian got a promising position. Rapport pushed on, forcing Harikrishna to give up the exchange with 28. …Rgg5. The Indian attempted to maintain the balance but, as Rapport commented, “my tactic was not the best probably because it was a pretty long game but he had no real chances.”
Replay all Round 7 games with Chess King.

In the last duel of the Masters group, Arkadij Naiditsch went for the solid London System against Leinier Dominguez. The game simmered along quietly but just before the time control, the German lost control of the position. Dominguez’ passed a-pawn became a menace and Naiditsch had to give up an exchange in order to get rid of the little rascal. The resulting ending looked fine for the Cuban but Naiditsch stubbornly defended and when Dominguez could not find a way through, the twosome settled for a draw.

In the Challengers group, Baadur Jobava kept the pedal to the metal, making short work of Yangyi Yu. Unorthodox opening play lead to an attack on Yu’s king. Jobava won a pawn and had no trouble converting the advantage into a win. Co-leader Ivan Saric could not keep up, as solid play by Merijn van Delft secured him a draw. In other games, Dimitri Reinderman punished an oversight by Xue Zhao. The remaining games all resulted in draws, giving Etienne Goudriaan his first score of the tournament.

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