Tata R8: Nakamura loses to Carlsen, leads with Anand

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Nakamura in sole lead again in Wijk aan ZeeIn round 8 of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament leader Hikaru Nakamura lost his first game, to Magnus Carlsen. The American again shares first place with Vishy Anand, who drew with Levon Aronian. Alexei Shirov won his first game, against Alexander Grischuk. In the same round Anish Giri beat Wang Hao and Vachier-Lagrave was too strong for Jan Smeets.

General info

The Tata Steel Chess Tournament is held from Friday, January 14th till Sunday, January 30th, 2011 in Wijk aan Zee, The Netherlands. Besides many amateur events there are three Grandmaster Groups (A, B and C), all 14-player round-robins. All rounds begin at 13.30 CET, except for the last which begins at 12.00 hours. There are three rest days: on January 19th, 24th, and 27th. The time control is 100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for 20 moves, then 15 minutes for the remaining moves with 30 seconds increment for each move starting from the first move. More info here.

January 23rd, 2011: Round 8

"The real tournament for me starts probably tomorrow," Hikaru Nakamura said after he beat Jan Smeets in the 7th round. The American was referring to his tough second half, in which he would meet the players who are doing well so far, including the trio Anand, Carlsen and Kramnik. Only a day later, in his game against Magnus Carlsen, Nakamura would find out how close he had been to the truth.

The game started as a Sicilian Najdorf and already at an early stage Carlsen showed his will to win, with a g2-g4 push. Soon the two reached a typical middlegame position with opposite castling. Nakamura decided to put his bet on getting a knight on the thematical c4 square, but Carlsen found some clever manoeuvres like Kb1-a1 and Bf4-c1, which basically avoided tricks based on ...d6-d5 and ...Nc4xb2.


And so, being deprived from real counterplay, Black was getting into trouble rapidly on the kingside. Carlsen was also happy with his 24.Qg3, which prepared his later idea of sacrificing on h6 and pushing the g-pawn.

Carlsen-Nakamura Wijk aan Zee 2011
There was nothing wrong either with 26.Rdf1, where online spectators were raving about 26.Nxe6 Rxe6 27.Rdf1 which should win as well. The computer's 'improvement' for Nakamura was 26...Qe5, but Carlsen's gut feeling that 27.Qd3 should win there for White can be supported by a sample variation like 27...b5 28. Bf4 Qc5 29.Bxh6! gxh6 30. Rxf8+! Rxf8 31.Nxe6 Qb4 32.b3. More of this game later in Carlsen's press conference on video, in a separate post.
Vishy Anand took a different approach: safety first. It might have been related to the tournament situation, or to his opponent Levon Aronian, against whom Anand has a lousy score with White over the last few years. In any case, the Indian went for one of those typical Marshall endings where White has an extra pawn of almost no importance. "He's just going for a draw," GM Jan Gustafsson said in the press room, and we won't argue with that. Update: It's not that simple. If Anand had played Ke1 instead of Ke2 at the end, White can still try.


Not long after Carlsen finished his press conference, Anish Giri was invited to show his game with the demo board too - which means we'll have two videos this time, making up for round 7 when no press conference was organized. Giri had played an excellent game against Wang Hao, refuting a new set-up by the Chinese GM, and refuting his pawn sacrifice in the middlegame.

The other Dutch GM's Erwin l'Ami and Jan Smeets were facing a similar task this round: defending a difficult ending. l'Ami succeeded, with superb defence, to save the half point, against Nepomniachtchi. Smeets didn't. In a rook ending Vachier-Lagrave didn't like his opponent's 39.h4 and 40.h5, and suggested an earlier a2-a4. Here's the Frenchman's comment:



The many fans of Alexei Shirov were relieved to see their man scoring his first victory in Wijk aan Zee. His victim was Alexander Grischuk, who by now is playing a really horrible tournament. Shirov went for an old line in the 6.Be3 Ng4 Najdorf, in which he lost two famous games against Kasparov in the late 90s. (To be fair, in later games he did better and drew several times with The Boss in this Najdorf.)

The Latvian was well prepared and played quickly until around move 20, where he was already an exchange up in an ending. After many complications a theoretical ending with Rp vs Bp was reached, which Shirov played perfectly.


The last game we didn't mention yet was Ponomariov-Kramnik but this was also the least interesting one. As in his game against Vachier-Lagrave, Ponomariov played it extremely safe, which avoided any danger but also allowed Black to equalize rather quickly. Already after 19 moves there was not much left to play for.

Wesley So won his fourth game in a row, against Spoelman, and now leads the B group with 6/8. McShane is still in second place after a draw with Sargissian; Efimenko is a bit further down now after a loss against Tkachiev. Top seeded Wojtaszek is still in the running thanks to a victory against Le Quang Liem.


In the C group we find Italy's Daniele Vocaturo leading by a full point - he beat Mark van der Werf with Black, while Nyzhnyk lost to Ivanisevic. The elegant Tania Sachdev (2391) is doing surprisingly well and can boast on a 2581 performance rating after eight rounds.

Tania Sachdev

Games Group A

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Tata 2011 | Schedule & results Grandmaster Group A

Tata 2011 | Round 8 Standings Grandmaster Group A

Games Group B

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Tata 2011 | Schedule & results Grandmaster Group B

Tata 2011 | Round 8 Standings Grandmaster Group B

Games Group C

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Tata 2011 | Schedule & results Grandmaster Group C

Tata 2011 | Round 8 Standings Grandmaster Group C


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.”

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