Report of round 8
While a fierce snow storm battered Wijk aan Zee, inside De Moriaan the audience was treated to a quiet round, occassionally upset by blunders that only can be explained in one way: Wijk aan Zee fatigue. The first player to drop a piece was Hou Yifan, who blundered a piece in a worse endgame against Levon Aronian, chasing a perpetual check that didn't exist: (see diagram) Instead of recapturing the e5-pawn, Black played 25...Rxa2? only to realize that after 26.Kb1 Rxf2 27.exd6 Rb7 28.Ka1 the intended 28...Rb6 with the idea Ra6 doesn't work after 29.Rd2. Soon after, several players in Group B joined the blunderfest. Nils Grandelius completely overlooked (see diagram) 13...Ne4? 14.Qxe5! against Predrag Nikolic, but Arkadij Naiditsch topped them all with the inexplicable (see diagram) 21...Bxh5? 22.Bxh5 handing the point to Robin van Kampen on a platter.
Back in the A-group Anand-Sokolov, Giri-Wang Hao and Leko-Harikrishna ended rapidly in a draw. Fabiano Caruana had an overwhelming position after the opening against Erwin l'Ami (see picture), but after several mistakes before the first time control the Italian Grandmaster had to start all over. Which he did successfully, raking in the full point before the second time control. Meanwhile Loek van Wely wasn't so lucky against Hikaru Nakamura. The American Grandmaster again confirmed his status as a Spartelkoning (Squirm King), to quote his Dutch opponent, and survived another lost endgame as he did earlier against Sokolov.
Today's last man standing was Magnus Carlsen, who again takes the sole lead after defeating Sergey Karjakin in a 92-move seasnake. The critical moment occurred at move 67, when Carlsen decided force matters with (see diagram) 67.g4!? hxg4 68.h5. Karjakin fell for the bluff with 68...Rh1?, where he could have a draw after 68...gxh5 69.f5 h4 70.f6 Kg6 71.Rxf8 Kf5! and black will force a perpetual check, for example: 72.Rh8 g3 72.Ke1 g3 74.Kf1 Rb1 75.Kg2 Rb2.
In Grandmaster Group the crowd was delighted to see 61-year-old Jan Timman win for the third time in a row, thus joining Richard Rapport and Sergey Movsesian in the lead at 5,5 out of 8. The Dutch living legend outplayed World Junior Champion Alexander Ipatov from a slightly better endgame (see picture). Italian Sabino Brunello again caught up with Fernanda Peralta to lead Group C with 6,5 out of 8. While Peralta was unable to beat Mark van der Werf, head of the Dutch Chess Federation, Brunello ground down Krikor Mekhitarian's Tarrasch Defence. Local player David Klein is one point behind the leaders after beating Ukraine's Oleg Romanishin (see picture). The Dutch International Master now requires a win in round 9 for a GM-norm.