Most years leaving Norway early January for Wijk aan Zee translates to leaving the snow and the freezing cold behind. This year has been remarkable in that we.ve had below zero temperatures and snow on the ground since arrival on the 10th. It feels even more like home this year☺,
I.ve played against my round 8 opponent Sergey Karjakin more than 30 times over the years in different formats. In classical chess the score was even until yesterday while I.m well ahead with shorter time controls. Several times I.ve had winning or promising positions also in our classical encounters, and he has saved the draw in the end. The game yesterday was balanced until close to the first time control when he seemed to lose control at one point. I got a nice but maybe not decisive advantage. The rook plus opposite bishop coloured endgame was materially balanced, but white had the active bishop, possible pawn breaks and a safe king. I made various threats for some 20 moves and in the end decided against pushing my e-pawn as he would likely defend too easily this way. I calculated the g4 and h5 pawn sacrifices and concluded that it was unclear but should not lose for white. As I expected Karjakin took the g-pawn but not the h-pawn due to the threat f5 followed by f6+ and e6.
Despite being a pawn down I was quite optimistic due to well placed pieces and his vulnerable king. I think I found the right moves at this stage, and after more than 90 moves and nearly 7 hours it was over. 1-0!
Consequently I.m once again sole leader ahead of Anand, after Anand had caught up with me in round 7 by beating van Wely.
I played Leko with black in round 7 and to my surprise he went for the 5.Re1 line in the Ruy Lopez trying to exploit a minimal endgame advantage. I was left with a passive defence shuffling my king around. He had two options, play a4 and/or g4, but I knew I could hold. He moved his king and bishop around for two hours without making up his mind, and a draw was agreed with the pawns still on a3 and g2☺,
Aronian came very close to winning in round 7 against Karjakin, and as he won in round 8 he is shared 3rd with Nakamura at +2 going into the 2nd rest day.
Played some football again today in the snow!
Tuesday I.m black against Hou Yifan from China.
Magnus Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee, January 21th 2013