Report of round 7

Norway’s Magnus Carlsen defeated Israel’s Boris Gelfand in seventh-round action to regain his place on top of the standings in the premier division of the 74th annual Tata Steel Chess Tournament at the rain and wind-swept Dutch North Sea coastal resort town of Wijk-aan-Zee Saturday. (see picture)

Playing white against Gelfand’s Slav Defense, the world’s highest ranked grandmaster profited from a minor mistake to obtain a slight advantage and then gradually increased the pressure on his opponent, forcing him to resign after 52 moves.

Carlsen was not completely satisfied with his performance, however. “I had a plus straight out of the opening,” he explained after the game, “but then I blundered and lost all my advantage. It was just that later on, he exchanged queens one move too late. If he had simply played (see diagram) 30…Qc2 instead of 30…Nd7, there would have been no question of me having an advantage. When he came up with the exchange one move later, I won a pawn, and it became very difficult for him to fight his way back into the game.” Gelfand, who had not yet recovered from a horrible blundering loss in the previous round, proved unequal to the task. “Boris has produced only one fine win (against Ukraine’s Sergei Karjakin) so far. He’s not in great shape,” Carlsen said.

Armenia’s Levon Aronian, second on the international rating list and the Norwegian’s main rival in the field of fourteen, was black in Saturday’s round in Grandmaster group A. He settled for a draw after 30 uneventful moves from a Catalan opening against Vassili Ivanchuk of the Ukraine, dropping half a point and allowing Carlsen to come alongside again. (see picture) “The line we played is one of those variations that are supposed to be draws,” Aronian told reporters after he left the tournament hall. “But Vassili has a very good feeling for such positions. He had this cunning plan to make me lose my concentration and to beat me like that. Fortunately, I managed to avoid trouble.”

Two more encounters ended peacefully without much ado, with Hikaru Nakamura of the U.S. and Teymour Radjabov of Azerbaijan calling it a day in a Sicilian game after just 28 moves. Radjabov explained later that the balance had been “dynamical” and that the two players therefore “had to tread very carefully” but since they both did, the result was never in doubt. Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan and Italy’s Fabiano Caruana split the point in a Ruy Lopez that took 50 moves. Gashimov played white and was slightly worse throughout much of the encounter but that turned out to be insufficient for Caruana to score a win.

Also drawn was the Dutch derby between ‘Lucky’ Loek van Wely and national champion Anish Giri – a drawn-out affair from a rare Trompowski opening, in which Van Wely had a lasting advantage that dwindled gradually and disappeared completely at move # 59. The peace was signed nine moves later.(see picture)

“Tiredness is taking its toll,” explained GM Ivan Sokolov, who is responsible for awarding the daily ‘Piet Zwart Prize’ funded by the municipalities of Velsen and Beverwijk. “Van Wely was a long-time candidate but he let his advantage slip.” U.S. champion Gata Kamsky won his Berlin-Wall game with white against David Navara but that “was a very disappointing game,” Sokolov felt, with the Czech GM “on a disastrous roller coaster down” having lost four games so far. Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov, black in a Sicilian game against Sergei Karjakin of the Ukraine (see picture), “was clearly better” when he, too, fell victim to tiredness and suffered “a dramatic turning of the tables” finally to lose after 99 moves, Sokolov said. “It was very difficult to choose in a round marred with blunders,” he added, in the end awarding the 500 euros to Carlsen, who gave a “fine display of his skill of exploiting microscopic advantages.

In Group B, Sokolov awarded the prize – set at 250 euros in this section of the tournament – to 15-year-old Ilya Nyzhnyk for his win in 34 moves with white in a Ben-Oni against Italy’s Daniele Vocaturo.(see picture) “The young Ukrainian nicely demonstrated the typical Ben-Oni central break (see diagram) 16.e5! after which Vocaturo’s position quickly collapsed,” Sokolov said, adding that Vocaturo “should have tried 16…exd5 if he had wanted to stay in the game rather than 16…dxe5.”

India’s Pentala Harikrishna kept the lead in Group B after a draw with black in 66 moves from a Nimzo-Indian against Russia’s Vladimir Potkin. He was one full point ahead of his nearest rival in the field of fourteen.

The 100-euro daily prize in Group C went to Russia’s Maxim Turov and India’s Sahaj Grover for the highly entertaining ending to their Queen’s Gambit which resulted in a draw after 65 moves. Turov remained in first place in this group with a score of 6 pts. He was followed at half a point by Sweden’s Hans Tikkanen, who defeated Holland’s Lisa Schut in 47 moves with black from a Sicilian Dragon.(see picture)