Tata Steel Round 1: Caruana, So, Ding Victorious

Tata Steel Round 1: Caruana, So, Ding Victorious

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Upon sitting down to discuss his victory over Anish Giri with official commentator GM Yasser Seirawan, Wesley So immediately gave props to the American legend, proclaiming "I read your book, and you beat Mikhail Tal with the English, very inspiring." Indeed, So also utilized the English Opening to achieve an instructive positional win over the world No. 3, who hadn't lost a classical game in quite some time, including all three Grand Chess Tour events in 2015.

All photos courtesy of Alina l'Ami/Tata Steel Chess Tournament

Check out So's analysis of the game with Seirawan in the post-game commentary:

The ultra-solid Anish Giri lost his very first game of 2016. Photo: Alina l'Ami

The other two scores came from Fabiano Caruana, who sacrificed a pawn in the opening against Pavel Eljanov, and Ding Liren, who also essayed the English Opening to overtake Michael Adams in an eventual endgame:

Caruana-Eljanov has been annotated by GM Dejan Bojkov:

A very principled fight between Caruana and Eljanov. Photo: Alina l'Ami

Caruana also analyzed the fascinating struggle in depth in the post-game commentary with Seirawan:

The other games, though drawn, did not lack excitement. World Champion Magnus Carlsen was under pressure against David Navara after going for a risky variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. Both players felt like Navara had chances to put more pressure on Black, but he couldn't find the strongest continuation. After the game Navara pinpointed his slip--"When I played 21.Ne5, I missed that he's not obliged to take the e5-pawn, but can play 22...Nc4."

Check out Carlsen's and Navara's brief post-game comments below:

The game between Hou Yifan and Sergey Karjakin saw a hybrid English/Reverse Dragon setup for White:

In the late middlegame it seemed like Hou might have some pressure, but 35.Qd3 allowed the exchange of pawns after 35...Qxe5 36.Bxf5, which was to Black's favor, who quickly simplified into a drawn rook endgame.

The "underdog" of the group, local favorite Loek van Wely reacted quite nicely to Shakriyar Mamedyarov's Catalan-esque treatment of the Slav Defense and was even pressing deep into the endgame, but ultimately could not win with an extra knight against two pawns:

A determined van Wely showed he is not to be trifled with! Photo: Alina l'Ami

And lastly, the match-up between Wei Yi and Evgeny Tomashevsky ended peacefully, as the players repeated moves not long after the opening was over in a quiet Ruy Lopez:

Tata Steel Challengers

With a qualification spot for next year's Masters section on the line, the Challengers pulled no punches in Round 1, as all seven games ended decisively! The highest rated match-up took place between Russia's GM Alexey Dreev and Dutch GM Benjamin Bok, where a balanced endgame quickly alivened after 33.e5+ and 34.Nc5!, which gave White the upper hand in the ensuing complications:

Top seed GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu tried the ultra rare/sharp/trendy 7.g4!? in the Queen's Gambit Declined against IM Nino Batsiashvili, which paid off as the kingside aggression eventually yielded a large space advantage in the endgame. 
The breakthrough 30.f5! and 31.Bxf5! effectively ended the game, as the bishop was immune to capture in view of Rf3#.

The most exciting game of the round, however, came at the hands of GM Mikhail Antipov and GM Ju Wenjun, with the former sacrificing piece after piece, the latter accepting:

Eventually Ju came out on top, sliding her king over to the queenside to coolly get out of the way of White's incoming onslaught, before launching a lethal counterattack towards the end of the first time-control.

Cool defense from Ju Wenjun. Photo: Alina l'Ami

There were actually no upsets on the day; GM Erwin l'Ami showed his class with the fantastic 16.Kd2!, taking control of the c-file which soon proved to be decisive against IM Miguoël Admiraal:

GM Eltaj Safarli also looked to be in good form, accepting GM Samuel Sevian's exchange sacrifice only to later return it at the right moment, obtaining an advantageous heavy-piece endgame that he eventually converted: 

In a game that could've gone either way out of the opening, GM Nijat Abasov blundered with 19...Rxe2 against GM Baskaran Adhiban, who found the nice back rank trick 20.Rge1! to win an exchange and with it the game. Study your tactics kids!

Although scary-looking, 19...g6 was necessary for Black, since the possibility of Qe3 will force an exchange of queens against a move like Qh6 or Qc3.

GM Baskaran Adhiban showed good tactical vision today. Photo: Alina l'Ami

And in only one of two Black wins on the day, GM Jorden van Foreest employed the very rare 5...Bd7 in the Sicilian Defense, where Black has yet to decide between the Classical or the Dragon Sicilian. WGM Anne Haast reacted interestingly, and the players soon found themselves in an unbalanced endgame where eventually Black prevailed:

Round 2 continues tomorrow at 1:30 PM PST, with live coverage provided by Chess.com available only on the official website. Full replays of the coverage can be found here, post-game interviews can be seen on the Tata Steel Chess Youtube Channel, and more photos courtesy of Alina l'Ami here.

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