It’s less than three months and counting now, but already we’re looking forward to the first major of the new year, as the organisers of the top Dutch super-tournament, the Tata Steel Chess tournament, held a press conference last week to announce a very strong line-up – headed by World Champion Magnus Carlsen – for January’s celebratory 80th anniversary edition, and held as usual in the tiny Dutch chess hamlet of Wijk aan Zee.
Not only does reigning champion Carlsen head the 12-player field, it also includes ex-champions Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand – and also in the mix is Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Sergey Karjakin, all seen as potential Candidates’ who could be vying to be Carlsen’s next title challenger. The full line-up (in rating order) is: Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Wesley So (USA), Viswanathan Anand (India), Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Wei Yi (China), Hou Yifan (China), Adhiban Baskaran (India) and Gawain Jones (England).
The Tata Steel Chess tournament will run 12-28 January 2018. And as in previous years, the tournament will go on tour, with two rounds not played in its spiritual home of Wijk aan Zee, but in external locations. “Tata Steel Chess On Tour” will visit the Beeld en Geluid (Image and Sound) Museum in Hilversum on 17 January and then the Groningen University a week later on 24 January.
Theo Henrar, CEO of Tata Steel Netherlands, said at the press conference that he wants his tournament to make a social contribution to chess and to young people. “We want to use Chess on Tour as a catalyst for social initiatives in the host cities. Chess helps groups of young people from different backgrounds to connect. Chess instills young people with confidence and stimulates strategic and creative thinking.”
And as punk impresario Malcolm McLaren taught us with his 1983 worldwide hit featuring New York high school girls, we can skip straight over to our very own version of “Double Dutch” with news this week from the 21st Hogeveen Chess Festival in Holland, that ran 21 through 26 October, and a pair of intriguing matches there.
This is yet another top-class Dutch chess tournament with a large international open and several lesser events for lower-rated players. However, the main feature of the annual festival is the “Hogeveen Matches” between four top grandmasters, two of which are also contestants in the Tata Steel line-up. The marquee event featured Ukrainian veteran Vassily Ivanchuk taking on 18-year-old Chinese prodigy Wei Yi, while the other match saw Adhiban Baskaran playing Jorden van Foreest, also 18, who is the leading Dutch junior star.
Both matches ended tied at 3-3 and went to blitz deciders, which were both respectively won 2-0 by Ivanchuk and van Forest. The talking point though of the match was easily the dramatic game 3 between Ivanchuk and Wei Yi, with the Chinese hot-shot uncharacteristically misfiring with a big tactical mishap in what ultimately proved to be a fatally flawed king hunt.
(Photo) It’s the critical moment, as Wei Yi begins to realize it’s a flawed masterpiece as Ivanchuk looks on | © Lennart Ootes (official Hogeveen site)
GM Vassily Ivanchuk – GM Wei Yi
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Ragozin Variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 d5 Something akin to the Nimzo-Indian, the Ragozin variation – named after the leading Soviet player and opening theorists of his day, Vlacheslav Ragozin (1908-1962) – is a very flexible, solid and a reliable system against the QGD, that found a new lease of life in the last couple of years following the New in Chess publication of a refreshing new book on it, The Ragozin Complex, by IM Vladimir Barsky. 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 0-0 8.e3 Bf5 9.Rc1 Nbd7 10.Qb3 Bxc3+ 11.Rxc3 c6 12.Nd2 Qa5 13.f3 Rfe8 14.Kf2 Rac8 15.Be2 c5 16.dxc5 Rxc5 17.Rhc1 g5?! It’s the famous Morecambe and Wise Grieg’s Piano Concerto syndrome – Wei Yi is playing all the right moves, but not necessarily in the right order! He needed to play, right now, the stunning 17…Rxe3!! with the point being that, with White’s bishop not covering the vital e5 square, then after 18.Kxe3 d4+ 19.Kxd4 Rc4+!! forces mate quickly mates after 20.Qxc4 Qe5#. This means White simply has to play, after 17…Rxe3!!, 18.Bxf6! Rxe2! 19.Kxe2 Qa6 20.Kd1 Rb5 and there’s nothing much in the position. 18.Bg3 Rxe3?! Despite thinking for 35 minutes, and the bishop now covering the mate on e5, Wei Yi still plays the rook sacrifice – but it proves to be a move too late and, consequently, fatally flawed. 19.Kxe3! d4+ 20.Kxd4 Re5 21.Bd3! Be6 Apparently this had been the position Wei Yi had been counting on, and he had been calculating 22.Rc8+ Kg7 23.Nc4 Bxc4 and perhaps wishing for the capture of the knight with the king or the bishop, as Black is better. Of course, taking with any of the major pieces is good for White – but Ivanchuk cuts straight to the chase with an even better move! 22.Qxb7! With the White king in no man’s land in the middle of the board, there’s no way to take advantage with the Qb7 covering the d5 square mate. 22…Kg7 23.Ne4 Nd5 24.Bxe5+ Nxe5 25.Rc5 1-0 [see diagram] Wei Yi resigns in a most unusual and amusing position, as it is not every day you see a top grandmaster resign before move 30, especially when he has his opponent’s king wandering in the middle of the board and surrounded by opposition pieces!