A valiant Vishy in Eindhoven
The fifth round of the ongoing Tata Steel Chess Tournament was played in a new venue in Eindhoven yesterday and became witness to a sparkling performance by the five-time World Champion Vishy Anand. Vishy's mammoth experience proved too much for his young and talented opponent Jeffery Xiong of the United States who ventured to surprise him with an unusual move in the French Winawer. Elsewhere, Alireza Firouzja too got back in his form and shocked Anish Giri in a tricky rook-pawn ending. In the Challengers group, as many as six games ended decisively. Nihal Sarin suffered his first defeat in the hands of Lucas Van Foreest, while Surya Shekhar Ganguly was held to a draw by David Anton Guijarro.
For round five of the ongoing Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2020 the players travelled to Eindhoven, the "Chess on Tour" destination this year, and played their games in the Philips Stadium, the home ground of the PSV Football club. The 15th of January was scheduled as a rest day so the players found the time to spend some time away from chess and rejuvenate themselves.
Chess wise the fifth round witnessed quite a few interesting encounters in both the Masters and Challengers groups. Five-time World Champion Vishy Anand, who was having a lacklustre event back in Wijk Aan Zee, returned very strongly in Eindhoven after the day of rest on 15th and defeated the talented American prodigy Jeffery Xiong in a crushing manner. Elsewhere, Alireza Firouzja got back his form and outplayed Anish Giri in a rook pawn ending to join Wesley So in the lead. And in the Challengers, as many as six out of seven games ended decisively. Nihal Sarin suffered his first defeat of the tournament in the hands of Dutch champion Lucas Van Foreest, while Surya Shekhar Ganguly was held to a draw by David Anton Guijarro with black pieces.
With his emphatic win against Jeffery Xiong, Vishy has revived his chances in the event and now has a score of 2.5/5 points. In the game yesterday, he evinced his intentions right off the bat when he unhesitatingly went into the mainline Winawer against Jeffery's French. With 7.Qg4 it was clear that the Madras Tiger was out for some blood.
Vishy Anand - Jeffery Xiong, Round 5
The move 8...h7-h5 indeed looks quite reckless for it makes the g5 square an obvious target to hit at. The online database shows only four games played in this line and none of them are from Grandmaster play! It has to be said that the American came up with a pretty rare choice here if not a dubious one.
Even though it appears as if Black has made some concessions, the position was probably still roughly equal at this point. The usual plan here for Black would have been to go 11...Nf5 putting more pressure on the d4 square or perhaps 11...Ba6 just getting the light-squared bishops exchanged, but in the game Jeffery played 11...cxd4. The objective evaluation actually started to shift in White's favour only after this, the simplification in the center made it easy for White to commit himself on the kingside.
Black didn't have much choice here other than accepting a liquidation. For instance, 31...dxc4 simply runs into the devastating 32.Qxc4 Kf8 33.Qd6 Kg7 34.Rxf7+ Kxf7 35.Rc7+ etc where Black ultimately gets mated. Therefore in the game Black went 31...Rg4 and the position simplified into an ending with 32.cxd5 Rxd4+ 33.Bxd4 Qxc2+ 34.Kxc2 Nxd4+
Alireza proved once again with his fifth round victory against Anish Giri that he his truly capable of taming elite level opposition. Starting off with a Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav it was a rook-pawn ending that proved critical in this encounter. Let's now have a look at what happened here.
Alireza Firouzja - Anish Giri, Round 5
Well, 39...Re7 was probably an inaccuracy because in the game after 40.Kf3 Kf5 41.Rxh4 Kxe5 42.Re4+ Kf6 43.Rxe7 Kxe7 the position clearly went into a winning pawn ending for White. The correct continuation would have been 39...h5! after which White really runs out of options to make progress. For example, 39...h5 40.Kf3 Kg5 or 39...h5 40.Rxh4 Rxe5 etc gives very equal position.
Among the Challengers too the fight for the top place is getting tougher with each passing round. After five rounds three players - Pavel Eljanov, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, and Erwin L'Ami - lead the field with 3.5/5 points each. Yesterday, six out of seven games ended decisively, and Ganguly versus Guijarro was the only encounter to finish in a draw.
Nihal Sarin - Lucas Van Foreest, Round 5
The sixth round will be played in the main venue of Wijk Aan Zee today and following are the pairings:
Round 6 pairings - Masters
Dubov, Daniil - Artemiev, Vladislav
So, Wesley - Duda, Jan-Krzysztof
Giri, Anish - Kovalev, Vladislav
Yu, Yangyi - Firouzja, Alireza
Xiong, Jeffery - Vitiugov, Nikita
Van Foreest, Jorden - Anand, Viswanathan
Carlsen, Magnus - Caruana, Fabiano
Round 6 pairings - Challengers
Mamedov, Rauf - Smirnov, Anton
Warmerdam, Max - Eljanov, Pavel
Van Foreest, Lucas - Grandelius, Nils
Abdusattorov, Nodirbek - Nihal Sarin
Saduakassova, Dinara - Keymer, Vincent
Anton Guijarro, David - L'Ami, Erwin
Smeets, Jan - Ganguly, Surya Shekhar