Magnus Carlsen plays Sergey Karjakin in the final round of the 2017 Tata Steel Masters knowing a win will likely mean a title playoff against Wesley So. In the penultimate round Magnus beat Pavel Eljanov from a position he was struggling merely to hold, while Levon Aronian inflicted a 7th loss of the tournament on Loek van Wely to move into a tie with Wei Yi and Carlsen for 2nd place. In the Challengers Jeffery Xiong’s hopes lie in tatters after he lost to Aryan Tari while Markus Ragger and Gawain Jones both won to overtake him.
The 12th round of the Tata Steel Masters set up the final round perfectly:
Magnus does it again
Magnus Carlsen has now won all five classical games he’s played against Pavel Eljanov, with the World Champion admitting “maybe it was in the back of his head”.
Carlsen played the Stonewall Dutch and soon ended up in what looked to be close to a strategically lost position.
Then the old, familiar Magnus took over, arguably playing his best chess of the event so far. Lawrence Trent takes us through the game:
Afterwards Magnus admitted, “it’s amazing considering how poorly I’ve played in the second half that I’m still in with a chance”, while also talking about his missed mate-in-3 against Anish Giri:
So vs. Wei Yi and other draws
Before the round the key showdown was Wesley So’s game against Wei Yi, with the young Chinese player theoretically in with a chance of overtaking the long-term leader.
Alas, the styles of both players – Wesley’s general solidity and Wei Yi’s rock solid black repertoire – meant the draw that followed was predictable. For 14 moves Wei Yi followed a line he'd played against Ding Liren in the 2014 Danzhou tournament. Queens were exchanged on move 9, with Black winning a pawn but slightly worse due to a ruined pawn structure. Wesley So varied with 15.Bf4+, but although Wei Yi soon took one of his deep thinks – over 45 minutes – there was no preventing a draw in 32 moves.
Karjakin-Nepomniachtchi, with both Russian players already out of the race for first place, was drawn in a blink-and-you-missed-it 21 moves, while Wojtaszek-Andreikin was a complicated 51-move draw in which the balance was never seriously upset. The other draws were less logical…
Not for the first time in Wijk aan Zee, Harikrishna appeared to blunder away a pawn in the early opening, this time with 9.Nd2?!