I.ve played against today.s opponent Jan Smeets (24) in the C-group, B-group (twice) and A-group since 2004. He had a good year in 2009 and is just a few rating points short of being the highest rated Dutchman. He won the qualifier for the Amber Rapid and Blindfold back in August so we.ll meet again in March in Nice.
Today I went for the sharp Botvinnik variation in the Slav although it is a favourite line of my opponent. He surprised me with a somewhat unusual knight move on the 17th move and I spent half an hour thinking. I found an interesting continuation and fortunately he was out of his preparation a few moves later. It was his turn to think, but to his credit he used the time well and came up with a good plan. We each had a large pawn majority on opposite sides, and the game continued to be balanced but extremely complicated until we both were down to increments (30 seconds per move) until the first time control (40 moves). At this point he went wrong, I started to chase his king around and just after the time control he resigned in face of heavy material losses.
With 1.5/2 I.m in shared 2nd place after the leader A.Shirov.
Magnus Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee, January 17th