Biel: Caruana won Dortmund convincingly; likewise So in Bergamo. Now it looks like Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is going to be a third straight impressive winner of an elite round-robin event. His win today over Alexander Motylev extended his lead to a point and a half over the field - pretty impressive after just seven rounds (of 10). He has 5 points; Pentala Harikrishna, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Hou Yifan have 3.5.
Vachier-Lagrave's triumph today wasn't one of preparation. He was surprised by Motylev's 17.c3, which was a new move in a reasonably well-known position. (It wasn't a huge novelty, as it's a natural move and the computer's first choice, but given how much there is to know even a somewhat "obvious" novelty can still be effective.) Vachier-Lagrave's reaction wasn't best, according to the computer, which advocates the greedy 17...Nxb3 18.axb3 Qxb3. Easy for a computer, but not for a human, who doesn't know if the pawn is nutritious or poisonous. Motylev obtained the advantage, but in a very risky situation after he sacrificed a piece. The advantage would have been significant after 23.exf7+ Kxf7 24.Rhf1 Qe3+ 25.Kb1 Qe6 26.Qb4!, though even after that he maintained a plus through 27 moves. 28.Qe4 would have kept up the pressure, but after that small slip, and a bigger slip next move, he was suddenly worse. Then came time trouble, and on his last move he even managed to blunder a rook to a trivial two-mover. A pity for Motylev, but a good practical achievement by the young Frenchman.
Anish Giri failed to make up ground with the second-placers or to keep pace with the leader, and drew disappointingly with White against Harikrishna. Hou Yifan had an excellent chance to take over solo second, but spoiled a winning position against Wojtaszek. Her 29.Qxc2 was very natural, eliminating a dangerous passed pawn and consolidating her material advantage, but after a long series of exchanges her winning chances were minimal. Instead 29.Bxd5 Qxd5 30.Re8 (threatening 31.Qa3/b4!) would have won. After 30...g5 (30...g6 31.Qa3! mates) 31.R8e5! (not 31.Qa3 this time, because after 31...Rxe8 32.Rxe8+ Kg7 33.Qf8 isn't mate; here Black is even winning) 31...Qf3 (not 31...Bxe5?? 32.Ne7+) 32.Rc5 and now White will be two pawns up, not just one, and will win.
Gelfand-Svidler: Peter Svidler won an interesting third game, converting an ending with a doubled extra pawn with Black to score the first full point in this eight-game rapid match. Game 4 was an "easy" draw, so at the halfway point and leading into the rest day Svidler leads Boris Gelfand 2.5-1.5.
I should mention that the British Championship is underway across the pond. After 3 rounds of 11 there are three leaders: Jonathan Hawkins, Chris Ward and Justin Tan of...Australia. Unfortunately, the three biggest dogs are all absent - Michael Adams, Nigel Short and Luke McShane aren't there, and Gawain Jones and Matthew Sadler aren't playing either. That's not the fault of the players who are there, but it does take away from the event's attractiveness.