Magnus Carlsen, Man of Steel, Wins Wijk aan Zee

Photo Cathy Rogers
Transported through the streets to the village square, serenaded by the local steel workers’ choir, awarded a medal by the city mayor – isn’t this the dream of everyone who plays chess? Sunday January 28, 7.45pm
Photo Cathy Rogers
Alighting from his car, Magnus Carlsen is greeted by a 3-meter tall woman dressed in white who accompanies him to the stage on the edge of the square, Julianaplein, where the choir is about to begin their Song of the Year, ‘Wijk aan Zee!, Wijk aan Zee!’. To cheers, Carlsen is introduced to the audience and then the singing begins, tuneful and enthusiastic. The tradition of the village singing to the winner of the 80-year-old Wijk aan Zee winner goes back only as far as 2015. However the town has been involved in supporting the chess tournament for decades, most notably billeting hundreds of competitors with local families, a feature of the event which lasted until the 1980s. When the first song is concluded, the Mayor of Wijk aan Zee takes the stage – actually the Mayor of the larger town Beverwijk, but he receives only jeers from the crowd when he mentions this fact. The story of Carlsen’s success is told with the help of a Dutch-English translator app: how the Norwegian’s victory was known only after the final minute of the final game and the records Carlsen had broken. Carlsen is awarded a giant gold medal and the choir begins again – with an instrumental! This performance tells the story of the sounds at the steelworks which indicate imminent danger and the guitar, accordian and melodian, accompanied by female interloper on the rattle, create a haunting melody, interspersed with deep ‘Oof!’ sounds from the choir. Magnus is duly impressed. The performance – the final event in a street festival organized that day by the village for the thousand-plus chessplayers visiting Wijk aan Zee for the chess festival - is over in ten minutes but the crowd, including Carlsen and his father, walk away content.
Magnus Carlsen, Photo Cathy Rogers
7.15pm Half an hour earlier, Carlsen was sitting at the winner’s press conference, accompanied by his vanquished tie-break rival Anish Giri, telling the assembled media about his path to a record-breaking sixth Wijk aan Zee victory. Inevitably, attention turns to Carlsen’s remarkable and tournament-defining game against England’s Gawain Jones; a game where Carlsen blundered a piece yet still won.

[Event "Wijk aan Zee GM A"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.01.21"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Jones, Gawain C B"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B76"]
[WhiteElo "2834"]
[BlackElo "2640"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r2qr1k1/p5bp/2p1b1p1/3nppN1/2B5/4BP2/PPP3PP/1K1RQ2R b - - 0 16"]
[PlyCount "52"]
[EventDate "2018.01.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "13"]
[EventCountry "NED"]

{A modern main line of the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian defense has been
reached, with two main choices for Black - 16...Bc8 and 16...a5. Against 16...
a5 17.g4! is recommended, while against 16...Bc8, 17.h4! is the preferred
option. Unfortunately for Carlsen, play continued...} 16... Bc8 17. g4 $4 f4 $1
18. h4 fxe3 19. Qxe3 {So White has simply lost a piece. As Carlsen later
explained, "I thought I must try not to lose the game [without a fight] - I
would make him win it. I felt I must try to resist [and take my chances if
they come] - stranger things have happened." Jones said later that he
understood his task would not be simple, paraphrasing Coldplay's 'No one said
it was easy, [but] no one ever said it would be this hard."} h6 20. Qc5 Bb7 21.
Ne4 Re6 22. h5 Qb6 $6 {"This surprised me - now the game is up for grabs,"
said Carlsen. "After} (22... g5 {I planned just to make it as hard as possible
for him to do anything."}) 23. g5 $1 hxg5 24. Qa3 $1 Rb8 25. b3 Qd8 $2 26. Qxa7
gxh5 27. Rxh5 {By now White is well on top and Carlsen finished the game
smoothly.} Rg6 28. Rxg5 Rxg5 29. Nxg5 Qc8 30. Rg1 Ra8 31. Qb6 Ra6 32. Qc5 Qd7
33. Ne4 Kh8 34. Qf2 Qe7 35. Bxa6 Bxa6 36. Qh2+ Kg8 37. Qh6 Qa7 38. Qe6+ Kf8 39.
Rg5 Ne3 40. Qd6+ Kf7 41. Nc5 Bc8 42. Rxg7+ 1-0

Carlsen, reflecting on the Jones game, said “In a 13-round tournament, as long as you don’t lose you can [usually] get a streak going.” Indeed Carlsen’s streak took him to a tie for first with Giri and resulted in his first super-tournament victory since Bilbao 2016. “It’s a big deal to win after a year and a half,” said Carlsen. “It was a huge relief that I played decently here – apart from blundering a piece. You can only control your own destiny. Keeping a stable level is more of an indicator on how I am doing.” Giri, a long-time Twitter antagonist of the World Champion – and also one of the top players with the best score against the World Champion, could only admit that he was close but not close enough: “This was by far my best result - +5 is fantastic – but even in my best tournament I didn’t finish first. Magnus won it fair and square.” 6.45pm
Giri vs. Carlsen, Photo Cathy Rogers
Half and hour earlier again and Carlsen, having smoothly won the first tie-breaking game, is under a fierce attack from Giri. Despite being past the official time for the start of the legendary closing ceremony – serving pea soup to both players and villagers – the crowds watching the game were eight-deep. Many were unable to stretch high enough to see the players and had to settle for watching the action on the many video screens.

[Event "80th Tata Steel GpA TB"]
[Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"]
[Date "2018.01.28"]
[White "Giri, Anish"]
[Black "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C53"]
[WhiteElo "2752"]
[BlackElo "2834"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "3rrqk1/bp3p2/p1p1b2p/5P2/4PQ2/2P5/PPB2PP1/R3R1K1 b - - 0 25"]
[PlyCount "26"]
[EventDate "2018.01.28"]

{Giri has sacrificed a piece and White's center pawns are ready to roll. In a
blitz game one might regard Black's situation as particularly perilous but
Carlsen thought for 40 seconds and calmly replied...} 25... Qg7 $1 {
"Incredibly practical and nasty," said Giri. "I am in the mood for e5 and f6
and he just kills everything. Strong blitz players have [a great sense of
danger]. I noticed this also when playing Nakamura."} 26. fxe6 Rxe6 27. Rad1
Rde8 28. Re2 Qg5 29. Qf3 {An understandable decision given that Giri feared
that a pawn up might not be enough in an opposite colored bishops endgame,
but nonetheless, "I should play} (29. g3 {," said Giri. "Now it becomes very
difficult for me to play."}) 29... Rf6 30. Qh3 Qf4 31. Rf1 Re5 32. Qh2 Qg5 33.
g3 $2 {Entombing his own queen. Only} (33. Rd1 {offered chances to stay iin
the playoff, although Black's threatening pieces are likely to triumph long
before White reaches an endgame.}) 33... Qg4 $1 34. Rd2 Rg5 35. e5 {A last
trick, hoping for 35...Qxg3+? 36.Qxg3 Rxg3+ 37.Kh2.} Rxe5 36. Bd1 Qg5 37. Rd3
Ref5 38. Qh4 {Carlsen's chivalrously accepted Giri's belated draw offer.}

By winning this game, Carlsen had won a record sixth Wijk aan Zee title, secured the 10,000 Euro first prize – massively overshadowed, of course, by his appearance fee - and returned his rating closer to the stratospheric levels which had threatened a Carlsen era without rivals just a few years ago. Yet here was the home favorite Giri pushing Carlsen all the way to a tie-break, albeit one where the Norwegian was hot favorite, not having lost a rapid or blitz playoff for a decade. Sure, enough, soon after 6.45 the crowd were acclaiming Carlsen as the new Tata Steel Chess Champion, while secretly wishing that Giri had broken the long drought since Wijk aan Zee had seen a Dutch winner. Earlier in the day Neither Sergey Karjakin nor Wei Yi, playing against Carlsen and Giri respectively, wanted to be a hero in the final round and the two leaders were given no chance to win their final games. Long-time leader Mamedyarov could catch the leaders if he wore out Viswanthan Anand – not achieved – but the Azeri knew that even so, only Carlsen and Giri would be competing in the tiebreak match due to his loss to Giri.
GMs Wesley So and Hou Yifan face off, Photo Cathy Rogers
Defending Champion Wesley So had the satisfaction of finishing the tournament on a high with a win against luckless back-marker Hou Yifan. After his loss to Carlsen in round 10, the US Champion finished the tournament with 2.5/3 to end just a point behind the joint winners. So’s  above par performance returned him to the world’s top 5 and ensured that he will be one the favorites at the upcoming Candidates tournament.

[Event "Wijk aan Zee GM A"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.01.28"]
[White "So, Wesley"]
[Black "Hou, Yifan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E01"]
[WhiteElo "2792"]
[BlackElo "2680"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "2018.01.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "13"]
[EventCountry "NED"]

1. c4 e6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. d4 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Bd6 6. Nc3 O-O $6 {An unlucky
idea, which had previously been played by strong players with success. However
none of their opponents had played the direct response which So chooses.} 7.
cxd5 $1 exd5 8. Nxd5 Nxd5 9. Bxd5 Bxg3 10. Qb3 Bd6 11. Nf3 {Simple chess. So
doesn't look for material but simply develops, knowing that the g file will
offer attacking chances later.} c6 12. Bc4 Bf5 13. Ng5 Qe7 14. Qf3 Bg6 $6 {
Probably the decisive error. After} (14... Qf6 {Black is sitll in the game
because} 15. e4 Bg6 {is now playable for Black.}) 15. h4 $1 Bb4 16. O-O-O Bxd2+
17. Rxd2 h5 18. Rg1 Nd7 19. Qg3 Nb6 20. Bb3 Qf6 21. e4 Rae8 {[#]} 22. e5 Qf5
23. Bc2 Qg4 24. Bxg6 Qxg3 25. Bh7+ Kh8 26. Rxg3 f6 27. Bg6 fxg5 28. Bxe8 gxh4
29. Rg5 Rxe8 30. Rxh5+ 1-0

In contrast, Fabiano Caruana had a disastrous tournament, losing in the penultimate round to Vladimir Kramnik to leave only Hou and Baskaran Adhiban behind him at the finish. In the process he dropped from world number two to world number eight with plenty to ponder as March’s Candidates tournament approaches. Nonetheless, Caruana still has his fans; Carlsen opining “You can’t completely disregard what happened here but he is still a force to be reckoned with and there is a lot of time to recover.” As usual, plenty of US players took part in the Wijk aan Zee festival, which features almost 150 separate, four to fourteen player, round-robin tournaments.
Jeffery Xiong, Photo Cathy Rogers
Jeffery Xiong tied for third place in the Challengers tournament, a point and a half behind winner Santosh Vidit, who thereby qualified for the top division in 2019. In the 7E division another US junior, Jonathan Chen, scored the only 9/9 score in this year’s festival.
Jonathan Chen, Photo Thomas Richter
Earlier in the Week... shaking-wijk- aan-zee/ Find out more about GM Rogers' in his Best of US Chess Award and more information on Tata Steel Chess on the official site.