21 January 2014

Giri -- Aronian, Tata Steel 2014

Defending Against the Catalan

Levon Aronian leads the Tata Steel Grandmaster tournament in Wijk aan Zee by a full point over Sergey Karjakin and Anish Giri. Giri can catch him with a win today. I have been following Aronian's games throughout this event and blogging them while they are in progress.

If Aronian were playing Vladimir Kramnik, I would be uncertain who I favored as a fan. Otherwise, I choose Aronian. I hope that one of these two becomes Magnus Carlsen's first challenger for the World Championship title and that he beat the young Norwegian. I know that is a long shot, but Aronian's play in this event so far has been impressive. Or, at least his results have been impressive. In the postgame interviews, he credits luck.

Giri has not yet fallen behind on the clock, which may be a first for Aronian's opponents in this year's Tata Steel tournament.

Giri,Anish (2734) -- Aronian,Levon (2812) [E05]
Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee (8), 21.01.2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 0–0 6.0–0 dxc4 7.Qc2 a6

White to move

I usually play 8.Qxc4, but Giri's move is almost as popular. Aronian played 8.a4 against Karjakin in blitz last month. In the same event, Le Quang played 8.Qxc4 against Aronian. Black won both of those games.

8...Bd7 9.Qxc4 Bc6 10.Bf4 Bd6

Both players have taken a less-well trod path on move ten. Now there are a mere few dozen reference games in the database.

White to move

11.Bg5 Nbd7 12.Nc3 h6 13.Bxf6 Nxf6 14.a5 Qe7 15.Nd2

This move appears to be a novelty.

Black to move

15...Bd5 16.Bxd5 exd5 17.Nxd5 Nxd5 18.Qxd5 Qxe2 19.Ne4 Rab8 20.Rfe1 Qxb2

White to move

This position seems to be a sort that could lend itself to a draw if that is what White is seeking. The rooks harass the queen which slides back and forth along the second rank.

21.Rab1 Qc3 22.Rec1 Qe2 23.Re1

Giri spent fifteen minutes on this move. He intends to apply some pressure.

23...Qc2 24.Nxd6 cxd6 25.Rb6 Rbe8 26.Rf1

Black to move

26...Qe4 27.Qxb7 Qxb7 28.Rxb7 Re4 29.Rd1 Rc8

Perhaps Black is the one who is applying pressure. My initial, superficial assessment is cliche-bound: "rook endings are drawn." However, such endings are not simple and always require concrete analysis.

30.Rb6 Rc2

Aronian gets a pig.

White to move


Aronian appears to be thinking for a long time. He remains ahead on the clock, but both players have roughly an hour for less than ten moves. The clock is not a significant factor today.

I played out a line in my database record that starts with 31...d5 and had the idea of winning the d-pawn. In my line, White gained a passed a-pawn, but it fell with an exchange of rooks on a7. There is plenty to calculate in this ending. My line was quick and superficial.


I was not looking at this move. I do see that Rxd6 can be met with Re6, so the vulnerability Aronian has just created on h6 may not be so important.


A lot of moves were made while I drove my wife to work. Most of them were easy to predict. Although I did not anticipate 31...g5, once it was played, I more or less thought that I understood Aronian's plan.

32...h5 Rf3 g4 34.hxg4 hxg4 35.Rxf4 Rxf4 36.gxf4 Ra2 37.Rxa6 Kg7 38.Kg2 Kg6

White to move

39.Rxd6+ Kf5 40.a6 Kxf4 41.Rf6+ Kg5 42.Rb6 Kf4 43.d5

Here, I arrived back home, got the garbage cans set out and started following the game again.


Seemed the obvious move to me.

44.d6 Ke6 45.Kg3 f5

White to move

I think that Aronian is looking for a draw, but his position is not without threats if Giri becomes careless.

46.d7+ Kxd7

Both players have over an hour on their clocks.

47.Rf6 Ke7 48.Rh6 Kf7 1/2-1/2

Just as I am wondering whether there is anything more than elementary rook ending technique here, the players agreed to a draw. Aronian maintains his one point lead over Giri. He has White against Karjakin on Thursday. I will follow the game until it is time to leave for work.

This game was the only draw today and Karjakin was one of the winners. Aronian's lead has been cut to 1/2 point.

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