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The Touring Tournament: Rogers on Tata Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
January 24, 2014
Aronian in Tata Steel, Photo Cathy Rogers
Over the next two days, Levon Aronian will win his second Tata Steel Masters title in Wijk aan Zee.

The world number two already has an unassailable one and a half point lead and seems unlikely to repeat the late stumble which almost cost him the 2012 title.

The Tata tournament (formerly Corus and before then Hoogovens) is one of the great traditional tournaments, having run continuously for more than three quarters of a century. However in 2014 the tournament  decided to follow the latest trend and move the tournament to different locations for particular rounds.

The Netherlands is no stranger to mobile events, the 1935 and 1937 world title matches involving Max Euwe and Alexander Alekhine having been played in multiple cities around the country.

In more recent times, the elite Spanish tournaments in Linares and Bilbao have shared the first half with a city in the Americas or China; a feature popular with some players but tried and then boycotted by Vladimir Kramnik.

(Kramnik did however compete in the Alekhine Memorial tournament last year, split between Paris and Moscow, finding the time difference acceptable.)

Norway Chess in 2013 took the touring tournament concept one step further, hosting various rounds in different locations around the fjordland in Stavangar and it was this model which Tata 2014 decided to emulate.

Instead of playing round four in Wijk aan Zee, the 12 players in the top group travelled away from the seaside town into the Dutch capital of Amsterdam and competed in the Rijksmuseum, Holland's most famous art gallery. (Playing in art galleries is another modern trend for top tournaments, started by the 2012 world title match at Moscow's Tretyakov Museum.)

Unfortunately, as in Moscow, the playing hall was in a separate area rather than the gallery proper, so the players could not compose their thoughts in the shadows of the Old Masters. (To compensate, a photo shoot with Rembrandt's Nightwatch was organized, and the opening ceremony also had a Nightwatch theme.)

A week later the tournament moved to Eindhoven, a city in the south of the Netherlands, for a round in the High Tech Campus.

HTC used to be the research center for Eindhoven's biggest corporate resident, Philips, but has been extended to become a research center for other technology businesses. (Think Silicon Valley in California, only cold and wet.)

Moving the playing hall of a modern tournament is no easy feat - boards must be connected to transmit to the world, lighting modified at the new venue to suit the players and the ancillary team, especially video and audio broadcasting equipment, must be disassembled and reassembled constantly.

To this extent the players (and the internet audience) need to be prepared for less-than-perfect, or at least variable, conditions.

In the case of Eindhoven's HTC, this included a 2 hour bus trip from Wijk aan Zee before and after the games.

Yet there were few complaints; the players knew the conditions before they accepted their invitations (and also knew that the 2014 edition of the Tata tournament was being run on a severely depleted budget, meaning that income from additional sources like the HTC was sorely needed.)

The travelling certainly suited Aronian; at the Rijksmuseum he beat Hikaru Nakamura and in Eindhoven he virtually wrapped up the tournament with a win over his nearest rival, Sergey Karjakin.

Wijk aan Zee 2014
White: L.Aronian
Black: S.Karjakin
Opening: Queen's Indian

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Be7 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Bg2 c6 9.e4 d5 10.exd5 cxd5 11.Ne5


Karjakin had tried 11...Nfd7!? against Aronian in Sao Paulo 2012 and come unstuck after his exchange sacrifice  12.0-0 Nxe5 13.dxe5 Nd7 14.Re1 dxc4 15.Bxa8 Qxa8 was met by the brilliant novelty 16.Bh6!.
12.0-0 Nc6 13.Bf4 Na5 14.Rc1 Ba3 15.Rb1 Bb4

This line would have had pleasant memories for Karjakin, who defeated Aronian from this position in a factory in Norway last June - one of the four venues in which the Norway Chess 2013 tournament was played.
"Last time against him I played 16.Na4," said Aronian.
16...Nc6 17.Bg5 Be7 18.Nf4 Qd6 19.Bxf6 Bxf6

20.cxd5 exd5?!

"I forgot that Black can now play 20...Nxd4!, e.g. 21.dxe6 (Maybe I should play 21.Nc4 Qd7 (21...Qd8!) 22.Nh5 with some tricks.) 21...Bxe5 22.Bxb7 Rab8 23.exf7+ Kh8 but probably Black is fine, so perhaps the whole operation with 19.Bxf6 is not good for me," admitted Aronian.
21.Bxd5 Bxe5 22.dxe5 Qxe5 23.Re1 Qf6
"This position is very unpleasant for Black," explained Aronian.
24.Nh5 Qh6 25.Qg4 Qg6 26.Qh3 Rad8
Aronian felt that 26...Rae8 27.Nf4 Qc2 was suspicious due to Bxf7+ possibilities, but in fact White has a direct win with 28.Rec1! Qxa2 29.b4 Qa4 30.Qd7.
27.Nf4 Qf6 28.Be4 g6
"After 28...h6 29.Nh5 he will have similar problems, so he has to hide his lady," explained Aronian, channelling the late Jerry Hanken.
29.Nd5 Qg7 30.Rbc1


A pleasant surprise for Aronian; "I thought he was going to play 30...Rfe8."
31.Nxb6! axb6
"I could understand the pawn sacrifice if he had 31...Nb4!? but then 32.Nd7! works for White.
32.Bxc6 Bxc6 33.Rxc6 Rd2 34.Qh4
The computer shows a sensational way of reaching a fast liquidation - 34.Qc8!!?, when Black cannot avoid a single rook endgame with an extra b pawn for White. This is probably the best pawn for White to have to create winning chances - though some experts have also argued for a c pawn - but curiously Aronian was convinced that such an endgame should probably be a draw, the consequence of his experiences against Ivanchuk mentioned below.
34...Rxa2 35.Qb4 h5 36.Qxb6 Ra1 37.Rcc1 Rxc1 38.Rxc1 Qb2 39.Rd1 Kh7 40.Qb5

"I thought I would be very clever and play 41.Qd3 and 42.Rb1 but I think the position should be holdable. Ivanchuk once held a similar ending against me," explained Aronian. (In Wijk aan Zee 2008 and 2009, Aronian held an extra b pawn in a rook endgame against Ivanchuk and only drew, though in both those games the task was a lot simpler for the defender than here.)
40...Kg7 41.Qd3 Rb8 42.Rb1 Qe5 43.Qd2
"43.b4? Rxb4! would not be a good idea," said Aronian.
"If I were Black I would not allow the queen exchange," admitted Aronian. "After 43...Kh7 I think Black should be able to hold it."
44.Qb2 Qxb2 45.Rxb2


With a rook behind the b pawn and nothing going on on the kingside, the only observer who seemed to think that Black could survive was Houdini.
45...Rb4 46.Kf1 Kf6 47.Ke2 Kf5?!

The computer wants Black to bring his king to the queenside and this is a better chance. One would expect that with the Black king offside and the Black rook trying to keep out the White king on the kingside, at some moment  White can abandon the b pawn and pick off the Black kingside pawns, yet this seems to be difficult to achieve, e.g. 47...Ke6 48.Kd3 Kd5 49.Kc3 Re4! intending ...Re1-h1. Then if 50.Rd2+ Kc5 51.Rd7 hxg3 52.hxg3 f5 and Black may be able to survive.
48.Kd3 g5 49.Kc3 Rb7 50.b4 Kg4 51.b5


"I though he might go 51...f5 52.Kd4 f4 53.gxh4 gxh4," explained Aronian, "but now, even if I don't have 54.Rb3, I was considering 54.b6 Kh3 55.Ke4 Kxh2 56.Kf3! and I will torture him through zugzwang after 56...h3 (56...Kg1 57.Kxf4 h3 58.Kg3 is also hopeless.) 57.Rb1."
52.gxh4 gxh4 53.f4 Kg4 54.b6 f5 55.Kd4 Kxf4 56.Rb3!
"56.Kd5 might also win, but because of 56.Rb3 I don't have to worry about this," said Aronian with a smile.
56...h3 57.Kd5 Kg4 58.Kc6 Rb8 59.Rg3+! Kh4 60.b7 f4 61.Rg7 1-0

A huge boost for Aronian against one of the players who will line up with him in Siberia in March for the Candidates tournament to find a challenger for World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

For Hikaru Nakamura, the Tata tournament has been something of a nightmare. A first round win over Germany's Arkadij Naiditsch augured well but since then America's number one has managed only five draws and three losses, thereby dropping from his career peak of world number three to number seven, fractionally above the fading former World Champion Viswanathan Anand.

The low point for Nakamura came in round 8 against Pentala Harikrishna.

Wijk aan Zee 2014

White: P.Harikrishna
Black: H.Nakamura
Position after White's 29th move.


Nakamura had sacrificed a pawn, and after 29...Ra8 30.Rxa8 Qxa8 31.Bxf8 Qxf8 he would retain reasonable drawing chances. However, failing to see the danger, Nakamura played
and after

he discovered that White's attack was overwhelming, e.g. 30...Qxa7 31.Nf6+ Kh8 32.Bxf8 and Black is helpless.
30...Bg7 31.Bxg7 Qxa7 32.Qh6 f5 33.Ng5 1-0

There is also US interest in the second group in Wijk aan Zee, with 15-year-old Kayden Troff facing one of the toughest assignments of his life.

Like Nakamura, a first round win was followed by a winless streak which has lasted until now. In Friday's eleventh round Troff ran into Polish GM Jan Krzystof Duda playing like a man possessed.

Wijk aan Zee Challengers 2014

White: K.Troff
Black: J-K,Duda
Position after Black's 28th move


Troff started the excitement by playing

whereupon Duda began an extraordinary combination
29...Bg4 30.Qd3 h3 31.Bf3


The additional question mark is only because the pesky computer suggests that 31...Rxb4! 32.Bxb4 Qd4! would have been even stronger.
32.Bxe4 Rxe4! 33.Qxe4 f5!! is the extraordinary point behind Black's play, though apparently White can survive by giving back bulk material via 34.Qd3 e4 35.Qd4!.
32...Bf5! was more prosaic but at least as strong.
33.Rxf2 e4 34.Qd2?!
34.Qc2 is obvious and better since now Black could gain a decisive advantage with the obvious 34...e3. Instead, with both players somewhat short of time, Duda goes on a hunt for an even more spectacular finish... and finds it.
34...Bxf3+ 35.Rxf3 exf3 36.fxg5?

36.Nc6! Was the last chance.
36...Re8! 37.Re1 Rxe1+ 38.Qxe1 f2 39.Qe8+ Kh7 40.g6+ fxg6 41.Qf8


Troff may have thought that his mating threat on g7 would keep his position together, at least temporarily, but Duda finds a wonderful finish.
41...Rf4!! 42.Qxf4 Qe3!! 43.Qh4+ Qh6 0-1

Sadly there was almost no audience present in the Wijk aan Zee hall since the top group were having a day off; otherwise a shower of gold coins across the board would have been almost inevitable.


The penultimate round of the Tata Masters tournament begins on Saturday at 7.30am AEST. Live commentary can be viewed on  http://www.tatasteelchess.com/tournament/livegames with Garry Kasparov as a special guest after 8.30am.