I.m trying to find a metaphor for the role of the Wijk aan Zee tournament in chess compared to other sports. The 75-year tradition, the unique 14 player all-play-all format, played in the cold and dark of Northern Europe in January makes it quite a challenge. Some players claim they always (or on average) perform below parity in Wijk, while I cannot really think of good examples of players consistently over-performing. It is a tough tournament.
Maybe this it is the chess equivalent of a cross-country marathon or the .Eleven Cities Tour. skating race in Holland.
I think it is fair to say that the Tata Steel Chess Tournament more or less starts after the first free day. We had been here for a week with 9 rounds to go.
Frankly I was not well in round 5 on Thursday and did not have any ambitions in the game (beyond survival). As black against reigning World Champion V.Anand I went for the 5.. Be7 line in the Petroff. The d5 break and subsequent Qb6 provided sufficient counterplay, and after the exchange of queens he offered a draw that I was happy to accept.
Karjakin drew as well while 4 players on 50% won to reach +1 right behind the leaders.

As in round 4, today felt like a must-win situation. I haven.t played against my opponent Sokolov for more than 8 years. Back then he beat me several times. He has maintained his high level of chess understanding, but too many blunders hurt his average performance over time.
We played a quiet line in the Ruy Lopez when I made the strategic mistake Na3? He found the right continuation Na5 and to maintain any winning chances I simply had to accept a slightly worse position after Bc2 b4 forcing the knight back to b1. Sokolov had spent lots of time in the opening and tried to compensate by playing quickly in the middle game. I think he was doing well until he exchanged both rooks. With the knight on a5 and bishop on c7 he had no real counterplay. I got a knight to f5 and the position looked very promising for me. It was not so obvious how to make progress, and I was quite happy when he played d5 and the position opened up. Due to his exposed king and weak kingside pawns white was much better, and the rest should have been a matter of technique. Oddly enough it was when I played the inaccurate Nd5 having missed his defensive resources that he immediately blundered with Bd8 losing a piece or more. Two moves later he resigned.
Anand and Karjakin both drew and I.m in sole leader with 4,5 points!
Saturday I.m black against Peter Leko who has 3 points (after losing an opposite coloured bishop endgame against Aronian today).

Magnus Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee, January 18th 2013