In round 9 I had the black pieces against Viswanatan Anand who has played very well except against Kramnik. We ended up playing a Ruy Lopez variation that is somewhat better for white but solid for black. It was a surprise when he went c4 as I thought I might have more problems after a slower approach with b4, and eventually rerouting the knight from g3. White still had the initiative, but it was not much. When he offered me a draw on move 32 it was still fairly equal. Since I couldn’t see any scenario where I would end up better, I promptly accepted.
Anish Giri was the only one winner in round 9. Matlakov went wrong in a strategic middlegame, and Giri expertly took advantage.
The second host city in the 2018 Tata Steel Chess is Groningen, situated in the north, further away from Wijk aan Zee than other cities visited in past tournaments. The other players were shuttled to Groningen Tuesday evening while I chose to travel before the round Wednesday. In retrospect it worked out just as I had hoped. The initial museum visit was well planned and quite interesting. The academy building at the Groningen University represented an inspiring choice of venue, and visitors queued up to fill the playing hall. My opponent Wesley So has cooled down a bit after a great run in the autumn of 2016 and winter of 2017, but was still in contention for 1st with four rounds to go in this tournament. I played the London system as white and was happy to find the e4-trust despite my vulnerable king on d1. Black was fine until he got tempted to play Nd4 to exchange knights. My white-squared bishop was better than his black-squared bishop, and it more than offset king vulnerability. I think he would have been fine after Qe6-f7 instead of Qd7, but it is a counterintuitive move. As I hoped he quickly went Qd7. White was clearly better and with rooks left it is often a fine line between draw and victory. He found some tactical resources and should theoretically be able to hold with the extra piece against my three pawns. He quickly went astray and with four pawns for the bishop the win was relatively straight forward, especially as I can give up one pawn in order to exchange rooks in any of the lines. It was not perfect, but I really enjoyed the fight. Mamedyarov won convincingly against Svidler to make it a three-way tie for first with 7/10 with three rounds to go! Kramnik and Anand also won and is 4th and 5th.
I have the black pieces against co-leader Mamedyarov Friday.
Magnus Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee, Holland, January 25th 2018