Wijk aan Zee 2011

Here are a selection of games from the recent Wijk aan Zee event, now sponsored by Tata Steel.
Hikaru Nakamura achieved a career best by finishing top of the pack.
World Champion Viswanathan Anand was also in great form.

Hikaru Nakamura (2751) - Alexei Shirov (2722)

Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee (3rd round) 17.01.2011

Spanish Neo-Archangel

1.e4 e5 2.♘f3 ♘c6 3.♗b5 a6 4.♗a4 ♘f6 5.0-0 b5 6.♗b3 ♗c5

Shirov's pet-line where Black tries to handle the Spanish in an active manner.

7.c3 d6 8.a4 ♖b8 9.d4 ♗b6 10.axb5 axb5 11.♘a3 0-0

Black ignores the threat to his b-pawn in his quest for rapid development.

12.♘xb5 ♗g4


The Spaniard has also faced the most popular move 13.♗c2 on several occasions, for example 13...exd4 14.♘bxd4 ♘xd4 15.cxd4 ♗xf3 16.gxf3 ♘h5 17.♖a4 c5 Szabo-Shirov, Mainz 2010, when it seemed that Black had enough activity for the pawn.

13...♘e7 14.♗c2 ♕d7!?

A slightly unusual move at this point.

The main choice here has been 14...♕e8 e.g. 15.c4 ♘xe4 16.♗xe4 f5 17.♗d3 e4 18.♗e2 exf3 19.♗xf3 ♘g6 Shirov (as White!)-Ganguly, Edmonton 2005. Here the players agreed a draw as Alexei Shirov clearly accepted that Black has decent practical chances for the sacrificed material.

15.♘a3 ♘exd5

Black relies on this temporary piece sacrifice to open the position.

16.h3 ♗h5 17.exd5 e4


The dramatic thrust 18.g4!? comes into consideration as after 18...♗xg4 White has (whereas 18...♘xg4 is met by 19.♘g5 ♘f6 20.♕d2 ♕e7 21.♕f4 when White should be able to consolidate) 19.♘e5! retaining the extra piece. The complications following 19...dxe5 20.hxg4 ♘xg4 21.♗xe4 f5 however seem to enable Black to obtain enough play with White's king being so denuded.

18...♗xf3! 19.♕d2

White daren't capture the bishop: 19.gxf3? ♕xh3 20.fxe4 (20.♗xf6 exf3) 20...♕g3+ clearly favours Black who wins back the piece and will continue to attack.

19...e3! 20.♗xe3 ♗xe3 21.fxe3!

Although 21.♕xe3 ♗xd5 22.c4 ♗a8 23.b3 is plausible, Black is then very comfortable.


Rather than 21...♗xd5? which fails to 22.♖xf6.


White also holds onto his pawn after 22.♗xe4 ♘xe4 23.♕d4 f5, but Black would then have the makings of a fortress with the knight well-installed on e4.

22...♗xc2 23.♖f4 ♗g6

Not 23...♖xb2?? simply 24.♘xc2.

24.♘c4 ♖a8

The dust has settled and Nakamura has emerged with an extra pawn. Black in return has a solid set-up with no obvious chinks in his armour.

25.♘a5 ♖fe8 26.♖a3 ♗e4 27.c4 g5!

When in doubt, Shirov generally opts for an active approach.

28.♖f1 g4 29.h4 ♕e7 30.♕f2 ♗g6

Nakamura's task now is to hold everything together thus enabling him to redeploy his knight.

31.b4 h5 32.♖c3 ♕e5 33.♖b3 ♕e4 34.♖c3 ♕e5 35.♖fc1 ♗e4

Here perhaps 35...g3! 36.♕f4 ♕g7, with ...♖e4 in the air, could have been tougher for White e.g. 37.♕xg3? ♖e4! with a strong black initiative.

36.♕f4 g3 37.♕xe5 ♖xe5 38.♖a3 ♔g7 39.♖f1 ♖ee8 40.♖fa1

The American is finally ready to move his sidelined knight.


After 40...♗g6! White would have to think again, as 41.♘c6 allows 41...♖xa3 42.♖xa3 ♖e4 forking two pawns.

41.♘b3 ♖xa3 42.♖xa3 ♗xd5!

Shirov's idea was this neat resource.


Unfortunately for Shirov White is still able to keep some advantage with this move. After 43.cxd5? ♖xe3 44.♔f1 ♔f6 White's pieces are completely stymied and it is therefore Black who has the winning chances!


If 43...♗c6, then 44.♘f1 picks off the g-pawn.

44.e4 ♗g4 45.♖xg3 f5 46.♖e3

Instead 46.exf5 ♔f6 simplifies Black's defence.

46...♖e8 47.♔f2 ♖a8 48.exf5 ♖a2 49.♖d3 ♗xf5 50.♖d5 ♗e6 51.♖g5+

51.♖xh5?? ♖xd2+.

51...♔h6 52.♔e3

Despite Shirov's resourcefulness, Nakamura has held everything together. The question now is basically 'how to exploit the extra pawn?'.

52...♖a3+ 53.♔d4 ♖a1 54.g3 ♖d1 55.♔c3 ♖g1 56.b5 ♖c1+ 57.♔d3 ♗f7 58.♘b3!

Freeing the knight for a more active role. Nakamura has correctly calculated that he stays a pawn up whatever.


Neither way of capturing is satisfactory i.e. 58...♗xc4+ 59.♔d2 ♖h1 60.♘d4 and then ♘f5+ will lead to White picking off the h-pawn; and 58...♖xc4 59.♘d4 ♔h7 60.♖xh5+!.

59.♔e2 ♖b1 60.♘d4 ♗xc4+ 61.♔d2 d5 62.♘f5+ ♔h7 63.♖xh5+ ♔g6 64.♖g5+ ♔f6 65.♘e3 ♖b2+ 66.♔d1!?

Or 66.♔c1 ♖xb5 67.♘xc4 ♖c5 68.♖g4 when the rook ending is strongly favourable.

66...♗e2+ 67.♔c1 ♖xb5 68.♔d2 ♖b2+ 69.♔c3 ♖b5 70.♘xd5+ ♔f7 71.♖e5 ♗g4 72.♖e7+ ♔f8 73.♖e4


Two connected passed pawns tend to beat a single passed pawn in endings such as the one after 73...♖xd5 74.♖xg4. However there are sometimes drawing chances against the 'g' and 'h' couplet. This could well have been Shirov's last chance to save the game.


Taking the opportunity to snatch a second pawn.


The alternative 74...♗xe4 75.♘xb5 is hopeless.

75.♖c4 ♖e5 76.♖f4 ♔e7 77.♔d4 ♖a5 78.♘d5+ ♔e6 79.♘c3

Nakamura has all his pieces in place and can now start to advance his pawns.

79...♖a8 80.g4 ♗h7 81.♔e3 ♖c8 82.♘e2 ♔e5 83.♖a4 ♖b8 84.♘d4 ♖b1 85.♖a5+ ♔f6 86.♔f4 ♖f1+ 87.♘f3

The knight is an excellent piece when all the play is on one wing as it keeps Black's checks from doing any damage whilst supporting the pawns.

87...♗c2 88.♔g3 ♖b1 89.♖a6+ ♔g7 90.♘d4 ♗d3 91.♖d6 ♔f7 92.♔f4 ♖a1 93.h5

Shirov had seen enough.


Hikaru Nakamura (2751) - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2715)

Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee (10th round) 26.01.2011

Grünfeld Defence (D86)

1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 g6 3.♘c3 d5 4.cxd5 ♘xd5 5.e4 ♘xc3 6.bxc3 ♗g7 7.♗c4 c5 8.♘e2 ♘c6 9.♗e3 0-0 10.0-0 ♘a5 11.♗d3 b6 12.♕d2 e5!?

This gambit idea has become popular, especially as experience suggests that snatching the c-pawn gives Black good play.


Trying to disrupt Black's development.


Vachier-Lagrave avoids playing the committal ...f6.

14.♗h6 ♗b7

After 14...♗xh6 15.♕xh6 f6 16.f4 ♕g7 17.♕h4 exf4 18.♕xf4 ♗e6 19.♕f2 ♖ad8 20.♘f4 ♗f7 21.♖ad1 White had some pressure due to his central preponderance in Gelfand-Kamsky, Bazna 2009.

15.♗xg7 ♔xg7


An improvement on 16.f4?! f5! 17.d5 fxe4 18.♗xe4 ♘c4 19.♕d3 ♕a4 20.f5 ♘d6 Leitao-Sutovsky, Bursa 2010, when Black was on top.

16...f5 17.f3 ♖f7?!

This proves to be a little slow. Gaining space on the kingside seems more to the point, for example with 17...f4, or by 17...c4 18.♗c2 f4 19.g3 g5, Black would keep his kingside closed.



The double-advance ...c4 and ...f4 should have been played last move or perhaps not at all!

Here tactical play seems better as the sharper 18...♕xd5 is interesting but not by any means easy for Black: 19.fxg6 ♖d7! (or 19...hxg6 20.♖ad1 with the safer king for White) 20.♕g5! (20.♖ad1? fails to 20...c4) 20...♕xd3 21.♕xe5+ ♔g8 22.♕e6+ ♔h8 23.♘f4 (23.♕e5+ ♔g8 (23...♖g7 24.♘f4 ♕d7 25.♘e6 hxg6 26.♖ad1) 24.♕e6+ with a draw by repetition) 23...♕d6 24.g7+! ♔xg7 25.♖ad1 ♕xd1 26.♘h5+ ♔f8 27.♕f6+ ♔g8 28.♖xd1 ♖xd1+ 29.♔f2 where White has the initiative.

19.♗c2 gxf5 20.♖ad1 f4 21.g3 ♕d6 22.gxf4 exf4 23.♔h1 ♖e8 24.♖g1+

The weaknesses on Black's kingside now cost Black dear.


Or 24...♔h8 25.♖g4 ♖ef8 26.♖h4 with intolerable pressure.

25.♗e4 ♗c8 26.♘d4 ♕f6


Opening up Black's king.


After 27...♔e7, both of 28.♘g5 ♖g7 29.♘xh7, and 28.♖g5 ♔d6 29.♖f5 are very strong.

28.dxe6 ♕xe6 29.♗d5 ♕h3 30.♗xf7

There is no reason not to take the exchange.

30...♕xf3+ 31.♖g2 ♔xf7 32.♕d7+ ♔f6 33.♕g7+

Naturally 33.♕xe8?? would allow a draw with 33...♕xd1+.

In the game the Frenchman resigned in view of 33.♕g7+ ♔e6 34.♖e1+ ♔d6 35.♖xe8 ♕d1+ 36.♖g1 ♕f3+ 37.♕g2.


Viswanathan Anand (2810) - Wang Hao (2731)

Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee (4th round) 18.01.2011

Nimzo-indian Defence (E25)

1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 e6 3.♘c3 ♗b4 4.f3!?

Anand surprisingly takes up a pet-line of Shirov's.

4...d5 5.a3 ♗xc3+ 6.bxc3 c5

Black wants to attack White's centre before White gets organized.

7.cxd5 ♘xd5 8.dxc5

White's standard idea. He wants to open lines whilst distracting Black by his need to recapture the pawn.

8...♕a5 9.e4 ♘e7

White obtains strong dark-squared play after 9...♘xc3 10.♕d2 ♘c6 11.♗b2.

10.♗e3 0-0

Dangerous is 10...♕xc3+, as after 11.♔f2 ♘bc6 12.♘e2 ♕a5 13.♘d4 White has good play for his bishop pair.

11.♕b3 ♕c7

White needs to try and develop harmoniously whereas Black wants to recapture the forward c-pawn.

12.♗b5!? ♘ec6

If 12...♘d7, White would continue with 13.♗xd7 ♗xd7 14.♘e2 when Black will have to play on a pawn down. The pawn is doubled, and there are opposite bishops, but as they say...a pawn is a pawn.

13.♘e2 ♘a5 14.♕b4 e5 15.0-0 ♗e6

More precise could be 15...♘a6!? 16.♗xa6 bxa6 17.♖fd1 ♗e6, when Black has good light-squared counterplay, despite the loss of a pawn as in Moskalenko-Delchev, Benidorm 2007.


A delightful piece sacrifice that creates terrible problems in Black's camp. This idea is sometimes available in certain lines of the Grünfeld Defence where White has the same pawn structure.

16...exd4 17.cxd4

Two pawns, two bishops and a big centre for the piece is more than enough with Black's knights lacking decent outposts in the central arena.

17...♘bc6 18.♕c3 ♘e7 19.♖fd1 ♖ad8 20.♗f2!

Intending ♗g3. Black cannot compete on the dark-squares.


Black's best chance may have been 20...f5, for example 21.d5 (or 21.♗g3 f4 22.♗h4 turning the screw) 21...♗xd5 (or perhaps 21...♘xd5 22.exd5 ♖xd5 23.♖xd5 ♗xd5 24.♖d1 ♗c6 25.♗d3 with strong pressure) 22.exd5 ♘xd5 23.♕c2 when Black stays on the board for now, but the knights will struggle to contain the power of the bishops.

21.♗g3 ♕c8 22.♗f1

Otherwise, 22.♕xa5 axb5 23.♗d6 also looks good.


If 22...♘ac6, then 23.♗d6 ♖fe8 24.d5 is crushing.

23.♖ab1 ♘b3 24.♖xb3

Black's attempt at activity is snuffed out.

24...♗xb3 25.♕xb3 bxc5 26.d5

Only one pawn for the exchange, but the magnificent bishops are still out and about.

26...♘g6 27.♕b6 f5

Desperate, but Wang Hao must have suspected that his pieces weren't going to get going anyway.

28.♗xa6 ♕d7 29.♗b5 ♕f7 30.exf5 ♕xf5 31.♕xc5 ♖c8 32.♕d4 ♖fd8 33.a4

The two passed pawns will advance while Black can do little else but watch, so...


Viswanathan Anand (2810) - Alexei Shirov (2722)

Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee (10th round) 26.01.2011

Queen's Gambit Cambridge Springs (D52)

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.♘f3 ♘f6 4.♘c3 e6 5.♗g5 ♘bd7 6.e3 ♕a5

The Cambridge Springs Variation where Black sidesteps the pin and creates threats of his own down the a5-e1 diagonal.

7.cxd5 ♘xd5 8.♕d2 ♗b4

In the alternative line 8...♘7b6 9.♗d3 ♘xc3 10.bxc3 ♘d5 11.♖c1 ♘xc3 Black wins a pawn but falls behind in development.

9.♖c1 h6 10.♗h4 c5

Black's main idea where he challenges White's central superiority.


An unusual choice. White usually chooses between 11.♗d3 cxd4 12.exd4 b6 13.0-0 ♗b7 (with an isolated queen's pawn middlegame), or 11.a3 ♗xc3 12.bxc3 b6 13.c4 with a two bishops queenless middlegame. The latter option has in fact already featured three times in Shirov's games in the last twelve months.


In a previous game from this position Black was able to equalize with 11...♘7b6 12.♗xd5 ♘xd5 13.a3 ♗xc3 14.bxc3 ♘e7 15.♗xe7 ♔xe7 16.0-0 ♗d7 17.♘e5 ♖hd8 Solak-Blagojevic, Herceg Novi 2005.

12.bxc3 ♗a3 13.♖b1 a6

Intending ...b5, exploiting the position of the bishop on c4.

14.♗e2 0-0 15.0-0 b5

Black's problem-piece in the Cambridge Springs is generally his light-squared bishop and Shirov is well on the way to getting it into play, so Anand reacts immediately.

16.c4 ♗b4

After 16...♕xd2 17.♘xd2 cxd4 18.exd4 Black has a problem with his piece deployment as 18...b4 (even worse is 18...bxc4 19.♘xc4) 19.♗e7 costs Black a pawn. Shirov therefore keeps the queens on the board in order to hold his position together.

17.♕c2 ♗b7 18.♖fd1


There is nothing wrong with the routine 18...♖ac8 (=?) lining up the rook with White's queen.

19.dxc5 ♘xc5 20.♖d4!

Suddenly Black's pieces are stepping on each other's toes.

20...♖ab8 21.♘e5! ♗d5

Instead 21...♘b3 fails to 22.axb3 ♕xe5 23.♗g3 ♕g5 24.♖g4, after which White can take the exchange at leisure.

22.♗e7 ♖fe8 23.♗d6 ♖bd8?

The lesser evil was 23...♖b7 covering the seventh rank. Even so, White can then pick off a pawn with 24.♘xc4 ♗xc4 25.♕xc4 ♗a3 26.♖xb7 ♘xb7 27.♗xa3 ♕xa3 28.♕xa6.


A strong blow. Black's un-gamely forces on the queenside are in no condition to help defend the other wing.


What else? Both 24...g6 25.♗xg6; and 24...♖f8 25.♗xf8 are hopeless.

25.♗xf7+ ♔f8 26.♗xe8

After 26.♗xe8 ♔xe8 (or 26...♘d3 27.♘xc4 ♗xc4 28.♕xc4 when White will emerge with an extra exchange) 27.♕g6+ ♔d8 White has the neat blow 28.♖xd5! e.g. 28...♖xd5 (28...exd5 29.♕xd6+) 29.♘c6+.


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