Carlsen On A Roll But Caruana Keeps The Pace

Carlsen On A Roll But Caruana Keeps The Pace

| 24 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen is on a roll at the Tata Steel Masters. Saturday he beat Pavel Eljanov and scored his third consecutive win. The world champ still shares the lead with Fabiano Caruana who beat Ding Liren.

As long as there's football, Magnus Carlsen will be doing fine. This axiom seems to be manifesting itself further.

On the rest day the Norwegian could be found on the green pitch; from that moment he won three games in a row. (And on Saturday night he was in the Amsterdam Arena, watching Ajax beating Vitesse 1-0.)

His future opponents might be worried by now. Last year, after two draws and a loss, Carlsen won no less than six straight games.

His victim today was Pavel Eljanov, who went for something that suits his style: a Catalan. Still, Carlsen created some dynamics early on with the remarkable move 10...g5!?.

If you just fell off your chair that's totally understandable. And it might look like a typical “modern” approach, so hold on to that chair before reading the next sentence: It originates from a Petrosian-Botvinnik game from 1963!

Boris Spassky also played it once, in 1990, and the now retired GM Ian Rogers once faced it as White against a young Ioannis Papaioannou.

Eljanov certainly played his role in what would become a great game full of sacrifices. Even a piece was given — by the Ukrainian.

A great game between Eljanov and Carlsen. | Photo Alina l'Ami.

Carlsen said he had seen the piece sac as an option for his opponent, and that accepting it wasn't the only way to play. “I thought let's go for it. I think the position was unclear after that but I don't think Black should be worse.”

The game saw energetic play by both players, but at some point Eljanov collapsed. “I wasn't so certain that it was winning,“ said Carlsen, “but certainly with the two bishops I couldn't be worse by any means and then I just took over after move 30.”

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov


Eljanov took his loss in a good way:

A key game in this round was the one between Fabiano Caruan and Ding Liren, who were both in first place, together with Carlsen. Again involved in the longest game, Caruana forced resignation on move 83.

The American GM deviated from Anand-Ding, Bilbao 2015 with 11.Nh4!?, an early knight maneuver towards the f5-square. It was traded for Black's light-squared bishop, and after the white bishop on a2 was swapped for a knight as well, Caruana suddenly gained control over the d5 square.

Caruana won the battle of the leaders. | Photo Alina l'Ami.

Soon after, Ding lost his c-pawn and it was clear that he had lost the opening battle. But good preparation is rarely enough to win games these days; Ding defended well. White's extra pawn was a doubled one, and Black controlled the center.

The middlegame with only heavy pieces was quite complicated and perhaps drawn somewhere; the computer suggests 41...Qd7 42.Qb1 Kh7 and it's hard for White to make progress.

After Carlsen won his game Caruana decided to steer away from the draw and keep chances. Strangely, it was right after the time control where Ding went from worse to lost.


Anish Giri is fully back as well — back to “plus one” — after winning the grudge-match among the two Dutch participants. Loek van Wely sharpened up the position in a Slav with 9.h4!? (where Wouter Spoelman took on g6 against Giri last year) and Giri's classic response was a pawn push in the center.

The fight between the two Dutchies in the Masters. | Photo Alina l'Ami.

The position was roughly equal until Van Wely chose the wrong route for his knight.


The fourth winner of the day was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who is really having a roller-coaster tournament. He probably won't mind since he has already tripled the number of wins he ever scored in Wijk aan Zee! (He went from only one win in many tournaments to three in total now).

The Azerbaijani's win was the first loss for Hou Yifan who miscalculated (or rather: fell for a neat trick) just before the time control.


The other games ended in draws, and so it's now Caruana and Carlsen who top the standings. Note that they already played each other: a draw in round two.  

2016 Tata Steel Masters | Round 7 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Caruana,Fabiano 2787 2924 5.0/7 17.75
2 Carlsen,Magnus 2844 2887 5.0/7 15.50
3 So,Wesley 2773 2796 4.0/7 15.25
4 Giri,Anish 2798 2786 4.0/7 13.25
5 Ding Liren 2766 2803 4.0/7 12.75
6 Hou Yifan 2673 2754 3.5/7 13.00
7 Wei Yi 2706 2760 3.5/7 12.25
8 Karjakin,Sergey 2769 2725 3.5/7 10.50
9 Eljanov,Pavel 2760 2746 3.5/7 10.25
10 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2747 2741 3.5/7 10.25
11 Navara,David 2730 2717 3.0/7  
12 Tomashevsky,Evgeny 2728 2643 2.5/7  
13 Van Wely,Loek 2640 2611 2.0/7 5.75
14 Adams,Michael 2744 2570 2.0/7 5.50


Judit Polgar is visiting the tournament this weekend and signed books for her fans today. | Photo Alina l'Ami.

The Challengers tournament also saw a clash between two tournament leaders: Baskaran Adhiban vs Alexey Dreev. Unexpectedly, this game wasn't really a fight: Adhiban won straight out of the opening. That was quite an achievement since Dreev has written two books on the Semi-Slav!

The Indian GM in fact played a novelty (15.e4) which he had found already a year ago. His play was very straightforward: keep the enemy king in the center and keep looking for threats. 


After six straight losses Anne Haast finally put her name on the score board. Amazingly she defeated none other than top seed Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. The Romanian-born GM (now playing for Germany) played the opening badly and found himself in a lost position quickly.



2016 Tata Steel Challengers | Round 7 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Adhiban,Baskaran 2653 2847 6.0/7  
2 Safarli,Eltaj 2653 2752 5.5/7  
3 Dreev,Alexei 2644 2721 5.0/7  
4 Batsiashvili,Nijat 2485 2614 4.0/7  
5 Nisipeanu,Liviu-Dieter 2679 2516 3.5/7 11.00
6 Antipov,Mikhail 2567 2579 3.5/7 9.50
7 Ju Wenjun 2548 2565 3.0/7 11.50
8 Bok,Benjamin 2607 2568 3.0/7 11.25
9 Sevian,Samuel 2578 2517 3.0/7 9.75
10 L'Ami,Erwin 2627 2533 3.0/6 7.50
11 Admiraal,Miguoel 2441 2502 2.5/7 8.75
12 Abasov,Nijat 2556 2474 2.5/7 8.25
13 Van Foreest,Jorden 2541 2479 2.5/6 6.50
14 Haast,Anne 2391 2313 1.0/7  


The Tata Steel Chess Tournament takes place in Wijk aan Zee, Amsterdam and Utrecht January 16-31. You can watch live streaming commentary daily at with GM Yasser Seirawan and guests.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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