Giri “resigns” to a draw in the second playoff game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
On Sunday Magnus Carlsen won the Tata Steel Chess Tournament for a record sixth time. The Norwegian grandmaster tied for first place with Anish Giri and then beat the local hero 1.5-0.5 in a blitz playoff. Vidit Santosh Gujrathi won the challengers group and qualified for the 2019 Masters.
“It is huge for me obviously,” said Carlsen moments after a historic victory in Wijk aan Zee. “This is one of the top tournaments, not just right now but of all times. Having the record here, especially after such a bad spell that I’ve had, it’s amazing.”
Although he ended it on a high note by winning the world blitz in Riyadh, the world champion was determined to leave the demons from 2017 behind and start the new year with a fresh mind.
Carlsen has been generous with smiles over the past two weeks like he has been generous with giving interviews during this tournament. A good mood tends to lead to good chess.
“Mr Six” Magnus Carlsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Carlsen took his good blitz form into 2018 by winning the Chess.com Speed Chess Championship, then won three games in the PRO Chess League but obviously, his win in Wijk aan Zee is of completely different proportions.
He won his first super tournament in 1.5 years—we have to back to Bilbao 2016 for his last victory. The world champion is now the first player in history to have won Wijk aan Zee six times; Viswanathan Anand was playing for the same record this year. (Anand rightly noted that speaking about these records is now a bit more complicated because the tournament didn’t use to have a playoff until last year!)
Since it is @MagnusCarlsen's record sixth @TataSteelChess victory, I could save time by retweeting previous congratulations. But winning supertournaments never gets old, so neither should the tweets! https://t.co/J5dZ94U0Cm
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) January 28, 2018
In the long history of this tournament, which was first held in 1938, Max Euwe, Levon Aronian, Viktor Korchnoi and Lajos Portisch got four titles. Only four players won three times: Johannes Donner, Efim Geller, Garry Kasparov and John Nunn.
Carlsen, obviously in an excellent mood at the press conference. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
The tournament, however, was not a one-man story. The 80th edition also marked the return of Anish Giri to the highest level. Two years ago the Dutchman was a consistent top 5 player, but he started this tournament as the world number 15.
In Wijk aan Zee, Giri won 25 Elo points and is back in the world’s top 10. Carlsen is back to having a comfortable lead over the other top players.
The live ratings top 10 after the Tata Steel Chess Tournament. Source: 2700chess.com
Like Carlsen, Giri achieved plus five this year—a magnificent score that would have won the tournament in many previous editions. Last year the organizers introduced a playoff (which wasn’t needed then), but they might have regretted that decision this year. “Giri joint winner with Carlsen” sounds better in Dutch than “Giri just misses out on Wijk aan Zee title,” which news service Teletekst prominently headlined today.
Giri came super close to winning the tournament, but Jan Timman’s 1985 record still stands. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
It was a playoff with Carlsen that stood between Giri and tournament victory, and this hurdle was too high. The Norwegian, who hadn’t lost a single playoff he played in over a decade, was simply too good.
Giri tried to joke his nerves away (“The pressure is on him. Also if I win I’ll probably write something incredibly nasty about him on Twitter, so he’s probably absolutely terrified about that possibility!”) and the Dutchman did seem quite concentrated in front of a home crowd, but that wasn’t enough today.
The start of the playoff between Carlsen and Giri. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Game one was a “vintage Carlsen” victory. Afterward, GM Danny King used an apt description for the winner: “The Master of Transition.” How many players would have gone for 30.e4 in a blitz game?