Tata Steel: Aronian Grabs The Lead in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum

Tata Steel: Aronian Grabs The Lead in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum

| 22 | Chess Event Coverage

On Wednesday Levon Aronian grabbed the lead in the fourth round of the Tata Steel tournament, which was played in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The Armenian grandmaster defeated Hikaru Nakamura in a knight vs. bad bishop ending. The day started with a visit to the Night Watch but almost ended in a nightmare scenario with one game (Dominguez-Caruana) going way beyond the scheduled time in the Rijksmuseum. It was a rest day for the Challengers Group but on Tuesday Baadur Jobava grabbed sole lead. The Georgian GM beat IM Merijn van Delft and is now the only player on 3.5/4.

It was a very special day for the Tata Steel tournament: for the first time in its long history the tournament was held somewhere else than in Wijk aan Zee or Beverwijk. And it was a very special location indeed: the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In April last year the museum re-opened after a ten-year renovation which costed € 375 million, and less than a year later it opened its doors for the world's best chess players. 

On Wednesday morning the participants of the Masters Group were brought to Amsterdam by bus, and around 12:15 they first walked to the iconic “I amsterdam” sign on the Museum Square.

Sergey Karjakin is missing here - he actually spent the night in Amsterdam and joined the players in the museum

After that, the participant entered the museum and around 13:00 they were led to the most important piece of art of the Rijks, and maybe of all Dutch art: The Night Watch by Rembrandt. Dozens of photographers / cameramen took their shots for about ten minutes, and a few hundred curious visitors gathered.

For the players the timing of all this wasn't great; about 13:15 they finally arrived in the playing hall, but that was 45 minutes before the start of the round. Many of them took one of the spectators’ seats and grabbed their phones, to kill the time. Surely many of them would have preferred to spend somwhat longer preparing for their games. As Van Wely put it: “It was hard to psych myself up today.”

The playing conditions in the playing hall, the museum's Auditorium, weren't perfect either. With about thirty photographers in between the six tables, the stage was really packed during the first ten minutes. This way the players could hardly walk around (and the media could hardly do their work). And, throughout the day, the light wasn't great; e.g. some players would create huge shadows over the board with their head. But sometimes you have to make some sacrifices to promote the game, right?

With better lights the Auditorium could host a World Championship match
The “museum day” was a good day for world #2 Levon Aronian, who beat his closest rival, world #3 Hikaru Nakamura. With the Gligoric variation of the King's Indian the Armenian went for a slighthly better ending and after some exchanges he ended up with a knight vs. a bad bishop. This ending was probably still holdable, but it looks like Nakamura put his king on the wrong square one move before the time control.
Boris Gelfand and Arkadij Naiditsch also played a King's Indian, and the Israeli grandmaster went for the variation named after the oldest grandmaster alive: Yuri Averbakh. The players followed theory for twenty moves, when Gelfand deviated from a 2008 correspondence game by taking the knight on a6. Naiditsch then found a few accurate moves that led to an equal position and suddenly the game was over.
Richard Rapport keeps on playing sidelines and that makes him an interesting player to follow. Against Sergey Karjakin, he tried the Winawer with 7...f6!? but failed to surprise his opponent. As Karjakin pointed out afterwards, White can simply take on g7 on move 15, and so Black's opening cannot be called a success. It took a bit longer, but eventually Karjakin won anyway when Rapport failed to find the right check on move 38.
Sergey Karjakin
Loek van Wely couldn't get a real opening advantage in a Catalan as Pentala Harikrishna played a few tricky moves in the opening. The Dutchman quickly realized that this game was heading for a draw, and on move 29 he offered a draw.

The game between Anish Giri and Wesley So also ended in a draw, but after a tough fight. In the main line of the Closed Catalan, the young Dutch GM kept an edge out of the opening and then won a pawn, but the Filipino defended extremely well. 

The longest game lasted no less than 7.5 hours and that was a lot longer than was anticipated. By 20.30 the live commentary had finished, and the technicians were asked to pack their stuff because the museum's security would not let them out after nine! And so at some point almost everyone left, even though Leinier Dominguez and Fabiano Caruana were still playing. Eventually they finished 21:30, after a great endgame performance by Dominguez who used zugzwang several times.

Tata Steel 2014 | Masters | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Pts SB
1 Aronian,Levon 2812 ½ 1 1 ½ 3.0/4
2 Harikrishna,Pentala 2706 ½ ½ 1 ½ 2.5/4 5.50
3 Karjakin,Sergey 2759 ½ 0 1 1 2.5/4 4.25
4 So,Wesley 2719 ½ ½ 1 ½ 2.5/4 4.25
5 Giri,Anish 2734 ½ ½ ½ 1 2.5/4 4.00
6 Dominguez Perez,Leinier 2754 0 ½ 1 ½ 2.0/4 4.00
7 Caruana,Fabiano 2782 0 1 0 1 2.0/4 3.50
8 Nakamura,Hikaru 2789 0 ½ 1 ½ 2.0/4 2.75
9 Van Wely,Loek 2672 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1.5/4 3.50
10 Rapport,Richard 2691 ½ 0 0 1 1.5/4 2.50
11 Naiditsch,Arkadij 2718 ½ 0 0 ½ 1.0/4 1.75
12 Gelfand,Boris 2777 0 ½ 0 ½ 1.0/4 1.50

It was a rest day for the Challengers Group but on Tuesday Baadur Jobava grabbed sole lead in Wijk aan Zee. The Georgian GM beat IM Merijn van Delft and is now the only player on 3.5/4.

In that fourth round, not a single game ended in a draw! Jan Timman bounced back from a loss with a good win over Sabino Brunello.

Yu Yangyi won't be happy with himself. After trying to squeeze water out of stone, he just wouldn't agree to a draw, and then went too far.

Tata Steel 2014 | Challengers | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Jobava,Baadur 2710 1 ½ 1 1 3.5/4
2 Saric,Ivan 2637 1 ½ ½ 1 3.0/4 6.25
3 Muzychuk,Anna 2566 ½ ½ 1 1 3.0/4 5.75
4 Reinderman,Dimitri 2593 0 ½ 1 1 2.5/4 4.50
5 Bok,Benjamin 2560 ½ 0 1 1 2.5/4 4.00
6 Zhao,Xue 2567 0 1 ½ 1 2.5/4 3.25
7 Timman,Jan H 2607 ½ ½ 1 0 2.0/4 4.50
8 Duda,Jan-Krzysztof 2553 ½ 0 ½ 1 2.0/4 3.75
9 Wojtaszek,Radoslaw 2711 0 ½ ½ 1 2.0/4 1.75
10 Brunello,Sabino 2602 0 ½ 0 1 1.5/4 2.25
11 Troff,Kayden W 2457 0 0 ½ 1 1.5/4 2.00
12 Yu,Yangyi 2677 0 0 1 0 1.0/4 2.00
13 Van Delft,Merijn 2430 0 0 0 1 1.0/4 0.00
14 Goudriaan,Etienne 2431 0 0 0 0 0.0/4

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

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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