Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tata Steel 2014

Well, as a spectator I'm certainly getting value for money from the annual Wijk aan Zee tournaments, as there has been plenty of action. There are 2 GM sections compared to 3 for the past few years, and an IM section as the top tier of the amateur festival. Actually, I remember this Dutch system of assigning players to small groups as I played in a similar style event at one of the OHRA Amsterdam festivals in the late 1980's/early 1990's. It's an excellent system where you get to play a series of games against players within a close rating range to yourself, making the tournaments very competitive without the typical swiss yo-yo of winning against fairly easy opponent's, and then losing to much higher rated opponent's.

The top section is being led by world number 2, Levon Aronian who has scroed 6/8 for a 2900+ performance. However, he is closely followed by Sergey Karjakin and these 2 play in these 2 will play in the next round. There have been some great games, but yesterday saw some amazing stuff. The move of the tournament so far must have been Dominguez' 19th against Wesley So:
To an untrained eye like mine, the black king looks a bit open, but how to exploit this? Try to double, or treble on the h-file? Try 19.Rh7!! wow, what a move to play! 19..d4 [19..Kxh7 loses to 20.Qxf7 when Rh1 will eventually mate] 20.Bc4 [Now 20..Kxh7 loses to 21.Rh1+ when Qxf7 will be mate] 20..Qe7 21.Qh4 and Black resigned
White is threatening to triple on the h-file and then play Rh8 with mate to follow. There is also the threat of Rxg7 and Qh6+. A very nice attack by the winner of last year's Grand Prix event in Thessaloniki.

The second Grand Master group has been no less exciting. Ivan Saric is half a point ahead of Baadur Jobava, and for fans of past greats, Jan Timman is in joint third. The tournament has had a very low draw rate so far (36%) and while things haven;t always been perfect, they have been entertaining such as the game between the top 2 seeds, Wojtaszek-Jobava:
White decided to kick the annoying central knight with 19.f4, but must have been surprised when it didn't move 19..Rad8!! White's king will find itself badly trapped in the centre after 20.fxe5 dxe5 21.Qb2 f4 22.Bf2 fxe3 23.Bg3 to prevent checks on the e1-h4 diagonal. What a position this would have been, check out white's king!
As it was white didn't take the knight, and still got smashed soon after!

The amateur events are headed by a round robin section with 6 IM's and 3 FM's among the 10 players and an average rating of 2375. Currently this tournament is being led by MCC member, Australian IM Ari Dale on 3.5/5. This is a fantastic performance by the young Aussie who is the lowest rated player in the tournament. Ari's younger brother Finley is also playing in Holland, albeit in a lower section and is currently tied for first, while another Australian, Arianne Caoilli, is on a plus score in the section just below Ari's master group. Good luck to them all in finishing their tournament's strongly.

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