Tata R9: Aronian and Kramnik join Anand and Nakamura in the lead

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Tata R9: Aronian and Kramnik join Anand and Nakamura in the leadWith four rounds to go the Tata Steel Chess Tournament is likely to face a nerve-racking finish. On Tuesday Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik, who defeated Alexei Shirov and Erwin l'Ami respectively, joined Vishy Anand and Hikaru Nakamura in the lead. Wesley So lost and so in the B group everything is open. Daniele Vocaturo has a 1.5-point lead in 'C'.

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.

Jan Timman

The legendary Jan Timman was responsible for the commentary on Tuesday and visited the playing hall at the start of the round

January 24th, 2011: Round 9

The international chess players who came to Wijk aan Zee this year are pretty lucky. The January month has been very mild so far, with temperatures several degrees above zero, and often quite sunny weather, like on Tuesday. Inside, just about every day the tournament has seen nothing but fighting chess in all three groups.

In this 9th round co-leaders Hikaru Nakamura and Vishy Anand met on the board. The World Champion answered the American's 1.d4 with a Nimzo-Indian, and got a slight advantage out of the opening. Nakamura wasn't happy with the way he played it (he'll probably prefer 13.Nd4 or 13.Bxe4 next time) but he continued strong enough to keep the game in the drawing zone. We finally got to speak to Nakamura, and we asked him about this game and about the disaster against Carlsen:



This draw meant that Levon Aronian, Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave all had a chance to catch the leaders in the standings. The first who did so was the former World Champion. Kramnik successfully tried the rare move 5.d3 in an English (Grünfeld style) against Erwin l'Ami. The Russian was the first to admit that his set-up couldn't be that dangerous, and suggested 7...c5 8.g3 b6 9.Bg2 Bb7 as an instant equalizer. Thanks to Black's early castling White could play in attacking style and the rest was explained in yet another entertaining press conference by Kramnik, to be published in a separate post.


Two more players who were trailing the leaders by half a point, Vachier-Lagrave and Carlsen, faced each other. Again the Norwegian played the Berlin Wall and, interestingly, after the game both players felt they had been close to an advantage. Here's Carlsen speaking about the Berlin Wall as his main choice in Wijk aan Zee:



After Kramnik, at the end of the day Levon Aronian also managed to join the leaders with a win. His opponent Alexei Shirov went for the Cambridge-Springs variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined and tried the new 11...cxd4. With natural moves Aronian kept a slight advantage for a while, but the tactics that followed in the middlegame were not disadvantageous for Black. Or, as Aronian put it: “I was doing very well out of the opening but I messed it up. 17.Bg3 was patzer move and I continued playing like a patzer.”

White won two pieces for a rook, but was left with a bad knight and Black had a pawn majority on the queenside. Indeed in the following phase it turned out that Black was just better, but Aronian managed to hold on and then Shirov missed a good chance to draw the game:

Aronian-Shirov Wijk aan Zee 2011
Here Black can force a draw with 40...Rc1 41.Qxc1 Rxc1 42.Rxa2 fxe5 and White has to go for 43.Rxa5 Rxe1 44.Rb5 Rb1 45.Rxe5=. Instead, Shirov played 40...Qxd2?! 41.Qxd2 fxe5 42.Qd5+ Rf7 43.Kg2 Rcf8 44.h4 Kh8 45.Qxe4 Rxf2+ 46.Kh3 b3 47.Nd3 b2 48.Qb7
48...R8f7? Black might still save the game with 48...a4! 49.Nxb2 (49.Nxe5 a3 50.Ng6+ Kh7 51.Nxf8+ Rxf8 52.Kg2 h5) 49...a3 50. Nd3 a2 51.Qa7 Rd2 52.Nb4 h5. 49. Qb5! a4 50.Nxb2 a3 51.Nd3 Rf1 52.Qa4 Rh1+ 53.Kg4 1-0


There were two more winners this round. Wang Hao had an easy day against Ruslan Ponomariov, who chose the 4...Bf5 Caro-Kann. The Ukrainian went for a set-up successfully employed several times by Alexander Motylev in 2008, but chose to put his king's rook on c8 instead of his queen's rook. White started pushing his kingside and just when Black seemed to create some dangerous counterplay, the following happened.

Wang Hao-Ponomariov Wijk aan Zee 2011
Wang Hao-Ponomariov
23.Nxe6! Na3+ (23...fxe6 24.Qxe6+ Kh8 25.Rxd5 is the easy pointe) 24.Ka1 Nb4 25.bxa3 Qxc3+ 26.Bb2 Nc2+ 27.Kb1 Nxa3+ 28.Bxa3 Qxa3 29.Nd4 and White won.

Wang Hao-Ponomariov

Jan Smeets recovered from a number of losses with an excellent game against Ian Nepomniachtchi. With Black, the Dutchman had to face a surprising concept from the Russian Champion.

Nepomniachtchi-Smeets Wijk aan Zee 2011
11.e4!? bxc4 12.e5 Qc7 13.exd6 Qxd6 14.Bg5 a5 15.Bxf6 Nxf6 16.Na4 Ba6 17.Nc5 Rfb8 18.Rac1 h6 and Black kept his pawn. At move 66 Smeets converted this into a full point.


Last but not least: the encounter between Alexander Grischuk and Anish Giri, in fact one of the most interesting games of the round. After many complications we'll skip here, Grischuk starts to gamble in his own timetrouble. At first Giri reacts very well:

Grischuk-Giri Wijk aan Zee 2011
31.Rxe6!? fxe6 32.Nf4 Kh6! 33.Qb1 Ra5 34.Nxe6 Qf6 35.Qc1+ f4 36.Rc3 Be3 37. Qe1 Bf2 38.Qc1
Under pressure it's tough to calculate at which point Black should take on e6. This was it: 38...Qxe6 39.Qxf4+ Kg6 40.Be4+ Kg7 41.Rc7+ Bd7 and White can resign. 38...Be3 39. Qe1 Qxe6 40.gxf4 Now White wins back a piece. 40...Qf6 41.Qxe3 Ra1+ 42.Rc1 Bd7 43.h3 Rxc1+ 44.Qxc1 Qd4 45.Qc7 Bf5 46.Qe7 Qxf4 47.Qf6+ Kh5 48.Qxb6 draw agreed.


So who should be considered the favourite? Let's look at the rest of the schedule for the co-leaders:

Anand: Shirov (w), Vachier-Lagrave (b), Giri (w), Nepomniachtchi (b) Aronian: Giri (b), Ponomariov (w), l'Ami (b), Smeets (w) Kramnik: Smeets (b), Carlsen (w), Nakamura (b), Vachier-Lagrave (w) Nakamura: Vachier-Lagrave (w), Nepomniachtchi (b), Kramnik (w), Wang Hao (b)

From looking at the opponents, their ratings and how they're doing in this tournament, one should conclude that Aronian has the best chances to win the first Tata Steel.


As jazzkoo already mentioned in the comments, the race for the live number one rating is almost as tight as the tourney. At the moment Anand is first at 2816,9, Aronian second at 2814,4 and Carlsen third at 2813,1!

Everything is possible in the B group, where Wesley So lost his first game. The Philippine simply didn't have his day and was outplayed in a Grünfeld by Li Chao. This allowed Luke McShane and Gabriel Sargissian to catch him in the standings.

Wesley So

Wesley So didn't have his day

In the C group Daniele Vocaturo reigns supreme after yet another convincing victory with the White pieces. In a Kan Sicilian against Siebrecht the Italian tried an early pawn sacrifice and managed to keep the initiative going, until he won material.


Nyzhnyk and Lahno drew against each other and share second place with 1.5 points less.

Games Group A

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Tata 2011 | Schedule & results Grandmaster Group A

Tata 2011 | Round 9 Standings Grandmaster Group A

Games Group B

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Tata 2011 | Schedule & results Grandmaster Group B

Tata 2011 | Round 9 Standings Grandmaster Group B

Games Group C

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Tata 2011 | Schedule & results Grandmaster Group C

Tata 2011 | Round 9 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.

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