19 January 2016

Giri -- Caruana, Tata Steel 2016

Fabiano Caruana currently leads the Masters Group at the Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Today, he is playing Anish Giri, the current number three on the FIDE rating list. Caruana is number five. Giri has White in today's game.

My database, ChessBase Big 2012 updated with every issue of The Week in Chess through 1104 (4 January 2016), contains 22 games between these two players with an even score. Each has four wins; most games have been draws. With Giri playing White, the Queen's Gambit and the English have been the norm. In rapid play, they have played a Four Knights, and Caruana played a Sicilian Kan in a blitz game.

Today's game is important because Caruana is the current leader and these two are the second and third seeds behind Magnus Carlsen. In addition, Giri lost to Wesley So in the first round and was worse for most of his game against David Navara yesterday (see "Wei Yi").

Watching the Tata Steel Chess tournament live while blogging always proves challenging. There are seven games in the Master's Group and seven more in the Challengers. It is easy to get a superficial look at all the openings when I first wake up as the first hour of play is finishing, but then some of the games become quite complex and I must make choices. As the players near the time control, watching even one game can be a challenge.

I could just sit back and listen to Yasser Seirawan, but I prefer the active engagement of challenging blogging. Most satisfying is when I chose a single game to follow and it becomes one of the more interesting games of the day.

Giri,Anish (2798) -- Caruana,Fabiano (2787) [C83]
Tata Steel Chess Wijk aan Zee (4), 19.01.2016

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Be3 

These two players contested this position from opposite sides last summer.

9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.c3 Be7 11.Bc2 d4 12.Nb3 d3 13.Bb1 Nxb3 14.axb3 Bf5 15.Re1 0–0 16.b4 Qd7 17.h3 Rfd8 18.g4 Bg6 19.Bf4 a5 20.bxa5 Rxa5 21.Ba2 Rf8 22.b4 Ra4 23.Qd2 Nd8 24.Bg5 c5 25.Bxe7 Qxe7 26.bxc5 Qxc5 27.Nh4 Ne6 28.Bb3 Rxa1 29.Rxa1 Qxe5 30.Nxg6 hxg6 31.Bxe6 fxe6 32.Qxd3 b4 33.Rc1 Qf4 34.Rf1 b3 35.Qxg6 Qc4 36.Re1 Rf6 37.Qe8+ Kh7 38.Qh5+ Rh6 39.Qe5 Rxh3 40.Qxe6 Qxe6 41.Rxe6 Rxc3 42.Rb6 Rc4 43.Rxb3 Rxg4+ ½–½ Caruana,F (2805) -- Giri,A (2773), Stavanger NOR 2015, The Week in Chess 1077.

9...Be7 10.c3 Qd7 11.Nbd2

Black to move


Last played in 2001 by Victor Kortschnoj

11...Rd8 has been played in a handful of games, including against Giri.

a) 12.Qe1 1–0 Giri,A (2686) -- Van Wessel,R (2383), Netherlands 2010 (80 moves)
b) 12.Re1 1–0 Kasparov,G (2813) -- Shirov,A (2726), Izmir 2004 (40 moves)

12.Qxd2 Na5 13.Bg5 c5

Kortschnoj played 13...Nc4 ½–½ Ponomariov,R (2677) -- Kortschnoj,V (2639), Donetsk 2001 (91 moves).

14.Bxe7 Qxe7

Perhaps this position was one that Giri looked at in home preparation.

White to move


15.Ng5 0–1  was played by Andrei Sokolov against Artur Jussupow, who went on to win after a long struggle that included a queen and pawn ending. Jussupow annotated the game for Chess Informant 40/414 (Sokolov,A (2555) -- Jussupow,A (2600), Montpellier 1985, Candidates [85 moves]).

15...Rd8 16.c4 Nxc4 17.Bc6+ Kf8!?

17...Bd7 18.Bxd7+ Rxd7 "Black is okay." Yasser Seirawan.

What is going on here?
Part of how this tournament always appeals to me is the exceptional coverage. English language coverage is hosted by GM Yasser Seirawan with a rotating cast of co-hosts. Yesterday and today, IM Jan Van de Mortel joined Seirawan. In the image above, they are trying to get a handle on Giri -- Caruana after Caruana's surprising 17...Kf8, and the subsequent two moves by each player.

18.Qc3 b4 19.Qc1 h6 20.a3 bxa3 21.bxa3 g5

Black threatens g4 to kick White's knight to an awkward square.


Now, Black's queen is threatened.

Black to move

22..Qc7 23.Be4 Qa5 24.Rb7 Rg8 25.Rb3 Nd6!

White to move


26.Re3 Nxe4 Rxe4 and Black seems a little better.


Giri goes for the exchange sacrifice as a practical decision.

27.Qb2 Be6 28.Rd1 Qb5 29.Qf6 Qa4

White is down material, but Black's rook on g8 is not really in the game yet. Moreover, White's king seems a bit more comfortable.

White to move


30.Qxd8+?? Kg8

Oops! Both queen and rook are hanging and White's king is in trouble.

30...Qxe4 31.Qxd8+ 

"Box." Seirawan

31...Kg7 32.Qb6 g4 33.Nd2 Qd3

White has won back the sacrificed exchange. All three results are possible. Seirawan feels that he would prefer to be playing Black's position because the bishop on e6 seems a better piece than White's knight. Caruana, however, is a little short of time, under six minutes plus the increment.

34.Qb2+ Kg6 35.f3

Seirawan and Mortel had been looking at this position when Hou Yifan arrived in the broadcasting booth after her terrific win against David Navara. If I find the time, I may post something about that game tomorrow.

White's 35.f3 seems like an effort to improve the knight.

Black to move

While Hou discussed her game with Seirawan, matters were clarified a bit in Giri -- Caruana and both players made the time control.

35...c4 36.Ne4 c3 37.Nxc3 gxf3 38.Nd1 Qxd6 39.Ne3 Qd3 40.Qc2 Qxc2 41.Nxc2 Kf6

White to move

42.Ne1 fxg2

The tournament leader appears to me to be in full control today.


Pinning the bishop with a fork on the a-pawn may be the only way to eliminate the pesky pawn on g2 without capitulation.


I would have played this move, but Seirawan and Mortel were willing to shed the a-pawn in favor of securing the g-pawn. 43...h5!?

44.Ra6 Rg5 45.Nxg2 Rf5 46.h3 Rc5 47.Nf4 Kf5 48.Nxe6 fxe6

White to move

With the minor pieces gone, has White improved his chances of holding a draw?

49.Kf2 h5 50.a4 e5

Watching Seirawan and Mortel analyze this rook ending is great pleasure and very instructive. Rook endings are critical to chess strength.

51.Ra8 e4 52.Ke3 Rc3+ 53.Kd4 Rd3+ 54.Kc4 Kf4 55.Rxa5

Black to move


55...Ra3 was the winning move. Seirawan received word that a fellow in Norway with a super computer put the position up on a website. My computer (an i7 desktop with 16 GB of RAM) finds the truth in under a minute. Reportedly, Black's score on the super computer is -40. Stockfish 6 on my box has -8.

56.Ra8 Rh1 57.a5 h4 58.a6 Ra1 59.a7 Ke3

Avoiding checks.

60.Kb5 h3 61.Kb6 Rb1 62.Kc6 Ra1 63.Kb6 1/2-1/2

Giri dodged another bullet. Caruana remains the leader with 3.0. Five players are one-half point behind: Wesley So, Hou Yifan, Sergey Karjakin, Ding Liren, and Pavel Eljanov.