Here I'll give a quick review of the important events of rounds 1-4 of Wijk aan Zee, along with a few cool chess moments explained.
To me the big story here was Aronian failing to convert a good position against Van Wely.
I would really expect Aronian to win this game if he was in top form and on his way to winning this tournament. So it seems like his recent uneven patch will probably continue, and it may be someone else who races for first with Carlsen and Nakamura.
The next most interesting event was the endgame win of Harikrishna against Giri from this position:
It looks like white's advantage is only nominal-- technically you would prefer white but they can't really do anything. Watch what Harikrishna does with it:
Zugzwang!! Look at the variation on the previous move, to see how Harikrishna might have been able to force this zugzwang regardless of what black did. Now black has a tough choice. I think he should have just traded the c-pawn for the a-pawn.
Absolutely gorgeous!! This speaks very well for Harikrishna's first-ever campaign in the A group, and his chances of reaching 2700 at this tournament.
And here is one useful chess concept you can learn from the other round 1 winner, Sergey Karjakin:
Aronian had another nice position, this time against Carlsen, who hung on and made a draw. That's two whites and two nice positions for Aronian-- not looking good. Anand also appeared to completely out big-picture Giri, then failed to convert:
This is pretty disappointing. Anand really needs to find something to convert more of these games-- be it calculation, determination; I'm not sure what the missing ingredient is, and perhaps neither is he. But this is a game that he just has to win if he wants to be 2800 again. In the post-game interview, Giri was ecstatic.
In other games, Caruana had difficulties against Harikrishna and Nakamura was very very far behind against Sokolov, escaping with a miracle draw.
Don't watch games with computer evaluations!!
I had never done this before, that I can recall. But I was watching the last several moves of the van Wely - Hou game, and rooting for Hou, because it would be exciting if this young girl could do well in a super-tournament. The official live games have a computer evaluation right below or next to the position, which is very easy to glance at.
What had actually happened here? Well, first of all, the players were actually calculating variations and missing a detail or two, here and there. For example, after c5, Van Wely's idea, and Hou's concern, which I had of course missed was a2 c6 a1= Qc7! not with the threat of queening, but the threat of giving perpetual check with the existing queen. The only solution to this idea is:
Not that obvious is it? Now can you imagine not seeing that line and a couple others with 2 minutes to think? Basically looking at the computer evaluation has two insidious effects:
- you stop thinking and become dumber (note how i could not see a single thing while i was watching)
- you start to dis-respect the players (note the critical nature of many of my thoughts while watching)
Do you want to be an idiot? Do you want to disrespect the greatest players of the game? If the answer to either of these questions is 'no' then avoid looking at engines while watching a game.
Round 3 Anand??
This as Anand's biggest and best win that I can remember in a long time. Young Fabiano Caruana is one of the players to have passed him on the rating list in the past year, and one of the guys to keep an eye on as someone who could compete with Carlsen. Anand beat him very nicely, without any opening preparation. Just simple, positional chess, and attention to detail all the way through to the end. This game really made me wonder if Anand might turn things around (much more so than his flashy round 4 game). Observe:
In other action, Carlsen won his first game, very easily, and Karjakin eked out an impressive win against Wang Hao to stay in the lead. No other player in the A group distinguished themselves yet.
Karjakin survived a scare against Nakamura, while Anand and Carlsen won again, to draw even with him. Basically after 4 rounds it looks likely to be a race between these four players. And I would strongly favor Carlsen in that race up to this point. Both played great games in round 4. Anand's was a particular beauty, but Carlsen's win was just as effective. Wang Hao and Caruana pulled back up to event by beating lower-rated players, but that is nothing special. Nobody has shown superb form other than the three tied for the lead. I'm sure you've seen Aronian-Anand by now, but if not, go find it!!
Favorite in Group B so far--
I really expected a two-horse race here between the two rating favorites, Naiditsch and Movsesian. But Richard Rapport has shattered my expectations with a quick 3.5/4, besting Movsesian in round 4, who like Naiditsch only has 2/4 so far. 16-year old Rapport of Hungary became a master at 12, an IM at 13, and a GM at 13 years and 11 months. He made some incredible performances at that age, and then his progress slowed over the next 2-3 years. Perhaps we are witnessing a new breakthrough? His games thus far have been close and complicated, and thus hard for me to evaluate the quality. Here's one that seems pretty nice:
And we should also mention that veteran Sergey Tiviakov also has 3.5/4, playing a mean Queen's Indian so far.
Favorite in Group C so far--
The rating favorite, Fernando Peralta is a 33 year old player from Argentina who crossed 2600 elo for the first time in 2011. He is nearly 50 points higher rated than the #2 in the C group, and his games so far have been very convincing. Usually the C group is won by someone who runs away with it, playing very confidently and scoring an extremely high number of points. I think Fernando could be that player this year. Here is the conclusion to one of his games that really caught my eye:
That's all we've got so far. The event continues!! Next up Anand-Carlsen in round 5! and Tiviakov-Rapport also clash this round! Key links:
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