During the World Championship match in London in November, I admitted to admiring and missing the player I was three to four years ago. For the second year in a row my level of play during Tata Steel Chess represented progress. 2018 was a step in the right direction, and despite the same score, 2019 was clearly better in several ways. Looking back I don’t have any real regrets, generally avoiding blunders (compared to making several in most tournaments last year).  Probably part of the reason was my mental and physical preparation as well as discipline during the tournament. More knowledge and experience hopefully offset slightly less youthful energy compared to my early to mid- twenties.

I was in shared lead before the last two rounds with home favorite Anish Giri. In the 12thround I got an objectively big advantage from the opening against young Duda, but it was surprisingly difficult to make any progress without allowing significant counterplay or seriously compromising my king safety. I allowed much of my advantage to disappear without necessarily making it easier for Duda to defend. I liked the plan with 45.Kc1 and Bc2, and after a lot of maneuvering (and moves) I managed to win an important victory securing sole lead before the last round against runner-up Giri. In R13 Giri didn’t make much progress in the Sveshnikov variation as white, and he tried a more than dubious exchange sacrifice that wasn’t too hard to refute. As black I was better in a complicated position, and decided to simplify to a drawn position to secure sole victory!

 

As usual the organizers did a great job, and I continue to feel comfortable and happy about spending most of January on the Dutch coast:-)

I would have preferred to play again quite soon after the encouraging Tata Steel Chess experience, but the elite tournament program is curiously skewed this year. After a two months break, the plan is to play a lot more than in previous years from late March throughout the year.

 

Yesterday I played a short blitz exhibition match on chess24.com against Peter Svidler and won comfortably 5.5-0.5.

My next event is a simul with longtime main sponsor Arctic Securities in New York Wednesday 27th!

Magnus Carlsen, February 25th 2019