Chess Piece

Tata Steel Combined Standings
Kolkata, India
Nov. 22–26, 2019

Final Standings (Rapid is considered double)

1. Magnus Carlsen NOR 2870, 27.0/36

2. Hikaru Nakamura USA 2741, 23.0/36

3–4. Anish Giri NED 2776, Wesley So USA 2760, 18.5/36

5. Ding Liren CHN 2801, 18.0/36

6. Ian Nepomniachtchi RUS 2773, 17.0/36

7. Viswanathan Anand IND 2757, 16.0/36

8–9. Pentala Harikrishna IND 2731, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2722, 14.5/36

10. Levon Aronian ARM 2772, 13.03/36

The 2019 Grand Chess Tour is a series of tournaments (two classical and five rapid/blitz events) where each participant is given GCT (Grand Chess Tour) points depending on how they finish in the individual events. The top 4 players will then go to the London Finals with its very big prizes.

Levon Aronian had been doing well in the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. He was third place in Croatia, first in Saint Louis rapid/blitz, and first in the Bucharest Superbet rapid/blitz event. His performance has been so good that all he needed was one solitary GCT point to guarantee himself entrance to the Grand Finals. Now, since the last-placer in a Grand Chess Tour tournament gets a consolation of one grand prix point, that means that all he had to do is show up in Kolkata and finish the tournament. The blurb was that “even if Aronian finished last he would qualify” Well, finish last he did in Kolkata!

He was not doing too badly in the Rapid section but completely self-destructed in the Blitz. In the first day of blitz he started off with two losses and finished with one win (against Ding), two draws and six losses. The final day of blitz was more of the same: 0 wins 4 draws and 5 losses.

Nothing seemed to go right.

Carlsen, Magnus (2870) — Aronian, Levon (2772) [A28]
Tata Steel India Blitz Kolkata IND (7), 25.11.2019

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nb6 7.Be2 Be7 8.Be3 0–0 9.0–0 Be6 10.a4 a6 11.a5 Nd7 12.d4 exd4 13.Nxd4 Nxd4 14.Bxd4 Nc5 15.Be3 Qxd1 16.Rfxd1 Rfd8 17.Nd5 Bxd5 18.exd5 Nd7 19.Bf4 Bd6 20.Bxd6 cxd6 21.Rac1 Nf6 22.Rc7 Rab8 23.Bf3 b6 24.b4 bxa5 25.bxa5 Rb5 26.Ra1 Nxd5 27.Bxd5 Rxd5 28.Ra7 g6 29.h3 Rb8 30.Rxa6 Kg7?

A bad tempo loss. Aronian should have gone right away with 30…Rd2 31.Rf1 (31.Rb6 Rxb6 32.axb6 Rb2 33.Ra8+ Kg7 34.Rb8 Kf6 35.b7 d5 is a draw as well) 31…Rbb2 32.Rc6 Ra2 33.a6 Kg7 when both sides are deadlocked.

31.Rc6 Rb2 32.a6 Rdd2 33.a7 Rxf2 <D>



The only winning move. 34.a8Q with the idea of putting his king on the c-file where it is defended by his own rook does not work. Black will continue 34…Rxg2+ 35.Kf1 Rbf2+ 36.Ke1 Re2+! 37.Kd1 Ref2! 38.Ke1 (otherwise he is mated on the back rank) 38…Re2+ 39.Kd1 Ref2= draw.

34…Rbxc2 35.a8Q

Now the queen defends the g2 square and white wins.

35…h5 36.Qe4 Rce2 37.Qd4+ Rf6 38.Rf1 Re5 39.Rxf6 Kxf6 40.Qxd6+ Re6 41.Qf8 Re5 42.Kf2 Rf5+ 43.Ke3 Re5+ 44.Kd4 Re2 45.g4 hxg4 46.hxg4 Rg2 47.Qh8+ Ke7

Black has to defend his f7–pawn to try and set up a fortress which the white queen cannot penetrate. If 47…Kg5 48.Qd8+ Kxg4 49.Qf6 the pawns fall.

48.Qh3 Rd2+ 49.Ke5 Re2+ 50.Kf4 Re6 51.Kg5 Re5+ 52.Kh6 g5 53.Kg7 Re6 54.Qa3+ Ke8 55.Qa8+ Ke7 56.Qb7+ 1–0

After the tournament concluded the top four of the Tour were announced — Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren, Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. They are currently in London to contest the $350,000 (about P17.8 million) Grand Chess Tour finals which started last Dec. 2 at the Olympiad London. The winner will take home $150,000 (P7.6 million).

You might recall that back in 2017 there was a 30-game in rapid, blitz, and bullet between Magnus and Ding Liren in the speed challenge. Carlsen won that one by a mile, scoring 22-8. It now appears that Ding has fully recovered from that beating.

In the Sinquefield Cup last June held in Saint Louis the two of them tied for first and played a rapid tie-break match which Ding surprisingly won 3:1. Here in Kolkata we saw more of the same. Despite his rampaging form Carlsen lost two games across the rapid and blitz phases of the event and both of them were against Ding Liren. The Chinese GM forced Magnus to resign in both moves a few moves away from mate. Here is one of them.

Carlsen, Magnus (2870) — Ding, Liren (2801) [C85]
Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz (14), 25.11.2019

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.d3 Nd7 8.Nbd2 0–0 9.a4

A sideline. The most popular way to play this is 9.Nc4 f6 10.Nh4 Nc5 11.Nf5 Bxf5 12.exf5 although, I should add, back in the 1970s the Yugoslav GMs Mato Damjanovic and Bruno Parma used to play this line for White whenever they were content with a short draw.

9…a5 10.b3 f6 11.Nh4 Nc5 12.Nf5 Ne6 13.Nc4 b6 14.Nxe7+ Qxe7 15.Ne3 g6 16.Bb2 c5 17.Qd2 Bb7 18.Rae1 Rad8 19.f3

Intending to move his queen into the kingside with Qd2–f2–h4.


Ding has the inspired idea of tucking away his king in c8 and then he will be the one to attack the kingside.

20.Qf2 Ke8 21.Qh4 Kd7 22.f4!?

Good move but then White does not follow-up properly.

22…Nxf4 23.Rxf4?

Magnus badly underestimates Black’s counter-attacking potential. Better was 23.g3 Ne6 24.Rf2 with the follow-up Re1–f1 and Ng4, putting pressure on the f6–pawn which cannot be held.

23…exf4 24.Ng4 g5 25.Qh6 Qe6 26.Nxf6+ Kc8 27.Qxg5 f3! 28.Rf1

[28.gxf3? Rg8 29.Nxg8 Rxg8 30.Bg7 Qf7 Black wins]

28…Rg8 29.Nxg8 Rxg8 30.Qe5 Rxg2+ 31.Kh1 Qg6 32.h4 Bc6

A safety valve move so that in case of any checks the king can hide on b7.

33.Qf4 Rxc2 34.Rg1 Rg2 35.Qe3 Qg3 0–1

The sad story from Kolkata came from the Vishy Anand camp. He could have qualified for the London Finals had he finished at least in 6th place. The huge crowds in Kolkata knew this and of course wanted their hero to do well. In the first few days of the tournament he was in good form and appeared to be on the way to clinch the required place. However, disaster occurred in the last day when he blundered against Vidit and lost on time in a better position against Anish Giri. At the end Anand finished in 7th place and in his stead it was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who qualified for London.

The following game illustrates how frustrating it must have been for Vishy — he plays very well and whips up a surprise attack that would have succeeded against lesser opposite Magnus Carlsen is remorselessly accurate, takes advantage of all tiny slips and brings home the victory.

Carlsen, Magnus (2870) — Anand, Viswanathan (2757) [D38]
Tata Steel GCT Rapid Kolkata IND (7), 24.11.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 d5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 0–0 8.e3 Bf5 9.Nd2

The idea, of course, is Bxf6 when Black will have to recapture with the g-pawn because if …Qxf6 then Nxd5.

9…g5 10.Bg3 c5! 11.a3

[11.dxc5 d4 12.exd4 Nc6 13.Nf3 Re8+ 14.Be2 Ne4 White is under a lot of pressure, for example he cannot play 15.0–0? because of 15…Bxc3 16.bxc3 Nxc3 and the e2–bishop falls]

11…Bxc3 12.bxc3 c4 13.h4!

White has a brief respite while Black is gathering a second wind, so he goes after the opposing king.

13…g4 14.h5 Nbd7 15.Bf4 Qa5!?

Vishy goes for the throat rather than defending his h6–pawn with 15…Kh7 although objectively that might be the better course.


[16.Bxh6 Rfe8 17.Qc1 Nb6 transposes back into the game]

16…Nb6 17.Bxh6 Na4 18.Bxf8 Rxf8

The c3–pawn cannot be saved. Carlsen goes for counterplay.

19.f3! Re8?

Best probably is 19…g3!? to take away the f2 square from the king.

20.Kf2! b5

Another inaccuracy. It is quite possible that Anand intended to play 20…g3+ 21.Kxg3 Rxe3 but only now noticed that it is refuted by 22.Nxc4!


Magnus takes advantage of all of your mistakes. The problem with 20…b5 was that it blocked the black queen’s passage to the kingside along the 5th rank, so White uses his chance and opens up the center for his own queen to join in the kingside attack.

21…dxe4 22.Nxc4! bxc4 23.Qg5+ Kh7?

[23…Kf8! 24.Qxf6 e3+! 25.Kg1 Re6 26.Qh8+ Ke7 White is still better but at least Black is fighting]

24.Qxf6 e3+ 25.Kg1 Be6

[25…e2 26.h6! Rg8 27.Qxf7+ Kh8 28.h7 it will be mate soon]

26.d5 Qxd5 27.Re1 Qd2 28.Re2 Qc1 29.Qd4 gxf3 30.Qxe3 Qxc3 31.gxf3 Rg8+ 32.Kf2 Qg7 33.Qe4+ Kh6 34.Qf4+ Kh7 35.Qe5! Qh6 36.Rg1 Rc8 37.Qe4+ Kh8 38.Qd4+ Kh7 39.Rxe6! [39.Rxe6 fxe6 40.Qd7+ Kh8 41.Qxc8+ Kh7 42.Qg8#] 1–0

Bad luck for Vishy but for Vachier-Lagrave this might be a good omen – immediately after the London Grand Chess Tour Finals he will be playing in the Jerusalem Grand Prix tournament from Dec. 10–24 where he has to finish high up in the standings to qualify for the March 2020 Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Will everything finally fall into place for the French star? Soon we will see.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.