Photo by Frits Agterdenbos @

Report of round 6

Armenia’s Levon Aronian defeated Azerbaijan’s Vugar Gashimov in a sixth round plagued by blunders and narrow escapes to become the sole leader in the standings of the 74th annual Tata Steel Chess Tournament Friday. His main rival, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, dropped a half point after drawing his game with black against Czech GM David Navara and fell back to second place.

Aronian’s win, which came after 48 moves from a Ben-Oni Defense, earned him a 500-euro bonus as Dutch GM Ivan Sokolov selected it for the daily ‘Piet Zwart Prize,’ funded by the municipalities of Velsen and Beverwijk, of which Wijk-aan-Zee – a small coastal resort that proudly claims to be the ‘Chess Capital of the World’ these days – forms a part.

“Aronian played the opening very aggressively,” Sokolov said. “It was a great game except, maybe, for one mistake Gashimov made.” Aronian identified that mistake as 18…Nb6 and said that “Vugar’s position would’ve been alright if he’d opted for 18…Rc8 with the idea …Rc7 instead.” As regards Sokolov’s opinion about the opening, however, Aronian disagreed: “I hadn’t expected this line – a very rare and very risky line but highly interesting. You should play it very precisely, which I didn’t. I tried to play it safe, I think, and maybe giving the pawn on d5 wasn’t such a great idea after all. If Vugar had found 18…Rc8, it wouldn’t have been so easy for me to claim an advantage.” As the game went, black’s position collapsed after (see diagram)21…c3 and the rest was a technical matter. “I was able to beat a strong opponent in an easy game,” Aronian said, “which doesn’t happen very often.” It just goes to show that “your opponent has to help a lot.”

U.S. GM Hikaru Nakamura, for one, got all the help he needed in his Dutch Defense with black against Boris Gelfand. The Israeli GM was doing fine in a more or less balanced position until a frightful blunder forced him to resign after 35 moves. “It was an awful game. I played horribly,” complained poor Gelfand when he faced the press afterwards. “It was probably drawn,” admitted Nakamura, “but I think Boris was running a bit short of time.”

Another entrant to fall victim to a blunder was Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov who brought Vassili Ivanchuk of the Ukraine to the verge of surrender with white in a Berlin-Wall game, when he decided – erroneously – to cut off a black bishop’s retreat witth 52.g5 in the hope of capturing the piece. But trapping the bishop turned out to be impossible and the game ended in a draw.

“He had excellent chances,” giggled ‘Chukie’ after the two players had signed the peace. “But I was lucky. Okay, it was just sheer luck.”

“I’m very disappointed. I thought I was going to trap the bishop. But it was one huge disappointment,” said Topalov.

The late Dutch GM Hein Donner used to claim that blunders are not made but pre-exist and, like viruses, invest tournament halls where they pick their victims among unsuspecting players. If so, this might explain why Holland’s Loek van Wely escaped with a draw in his game with black against Fabiano Caruana despite the fact that the latter held a vast advantage. After Van Wely wasted his position with the blunder 18…Ne5 (better would have been 18…Ba4), the Italian missed several chances to force a win and then, in time trouble, allowed the position to result in a draw.

More here.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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