Magnus Carlsen plays Sergey Karjakin in the final round of the 2017 Tata Steel Masters knowing a win will likely mean a title playoff against Wesley So. In the penultimate round Magnus beat Pavel Eljanov from a position he was struggling merely to hold, while Levon Aronian inflicted a 7th loss of the tournament on Loek van Wely to move into a tie with Wei Yi and Carlsen for 2nd place. In the Challengers Jeffery Xiong’s hopes lie in tatters after he lost to Aryan Tari while Markus Ragger and Gawain Jones both won to overtake him.
Magnus Carlsen has now won all five classical games he’s played against Pavel Eljanov, with the World Champion admitting “maybe it was in the back of his head”. Carlsen played the Stonewall Dutch and soon ended up in what looked to be close to a strategically lost position.
Then the old, familiar Magnus took over, arguably playing his best chess of the event so far. Lawrence Trent takes us through the game:
Before the round the key showdown was Wesley So’s game against Wei Yi, with the young Chinese player theoretically in with a chance of overtaking the long-term leader. Karjakin-Nepomniachtchi, with both Russian players already out of the race for first place, was drawn in a blink-and-you-missed-it 21 moves, while Wojtaszek-Andreikin was a complicated 51-move draw in which the balance was never seriously upset.
Going into the final round of the Challengers Jones and Ragger lead on 8.5/12, but have the black pieces. Xiong is joined half a point behind by Ilia Smirin, who also has Black. Xiong is the only contender with the white pieces, which is not to be dismissed given he’s won all his games with White so far in Wijk aan Zee! He faces Benjamin Bok, who has stabilised with five draws in a row after a bad start.