Aronian Also Beats Karjakin, Close to 4th Tata Victory
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With two rounds to go Levon Aronian is very close to clinching his 4th victory in Wijk aan Zee. In the 9th round of the Tata Steel tournament's Masters Group the Armenian grandmaster beat Sergey Karjakin with the white pieces and increased his lead to 1.5 points. Aronian might also improve upon his all-time highest rating of 2825 this month - in the live ratings he is now on 2828.4. In today's round Pentala Harikrishna quickly beat Arkadij Naiditsch and Wesley So won against Loek van Wely. Nakamura-Caruana, Rapport-Giri and Gelfand-Dominguez were drawn. The players of the Challengers Group enjoyed a rest day.
The players of the Masters Group will play their last two rounds in Wijk aan Zee on Saturday and Sunday, and it can hardly go wrong for world #2 Levon Aronian, who is simply in top shape. On Thursday he beat his closest rival Sergey Karjakin, and because Caruana, Dominguez and Giri all drew their game, they are also trailing by 1.5 points.
In a Queen's Indian, Aronian ended up with better development and more active pieces. At some point Karjakin decided to sacrifice a pawn so that he could trade the minor pieces and activate one of his rooks, but White managed to liquidate to a rook ending with an extra pawn on the queenside. With his rook behind the pawn, his advantage was very big from the start and Aronian converted the point after 61 moves.
The round started with a strange game. Completely out of form, Arkadij Naiditsch decided to do something completely different and played 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bf4. This setup just lacks any punch in the center and Pentala Harikrishna got a better position quickly when he found moves such as 6...Nc6! and 7...Bg6!. Around move 11 White was already lost!
Whereas Naiditsch played it on move 3, Richard Rapport moved his bishop to f4 right away. Normally this leads to a London System, but when he answered Anish Giri's 2...c5 with 3.dxc5!? Rapport yet again left theory early on. Right out of the opening some wild tactics arose, and after the dust had settled Rapport had only a slight edge in a rook ending.
Boris Gelfand and Leinier Dominguez played a very correct draw. The Cuban came up with a new move in the Grünfeld that looked very solid; he got clear compensation for a pawn and was never in danger. The players reached an ending but soon realized that there was little to play for.
In the winning mood, Van Wely returns to his old love, the King's Indian. He must have been prepared for Wesley So's 13.g4 but maybe not for the strange-looking 22.fxg4. We all learnt that one should take back toward the center, but sometimes it takes a 2700 GM to find an exception in chess! The game developed like a typical King's Indian where White crashes through on the queenside while Black hopes to find a checkmate somewhere. Giving an exchange on f4 was a good practical choice, and in timetrouble Van Wely lost the thread.
The last game to finish was the one between Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana. It was a Fianchetto King's Indian and the players played a fashionable line where White accepts an isolated c-pawn in return for pressure on the queenside. Caruana sacrificed his b-pawn and got some threats, but it seems that White still had the better chances. When the queens were traded the ending was about equal.
This 9th round was not played in Wijk aan Zee but in Eindhoven, at the High Tech Campus - dubbed as "the smartest square km in the Netherlands". After the fourth round was played in the Rijksmuseum, this was the second "away game" for the grandmasters. Friday is a rest day; the last two rounds will be played over the weekend. On Saturday Garry Kasparov will visit the tournament and join the live commentary.
Tata Steel 2014 | Masters | Round 9 Standings
The Tata Steel tournament runs 11-26 January and is held in Wijk aan Zee, Amsterdam and Eindhoven. You can find the official website here and the live games here. The live streaming commentary can also be found here on Chess.com!