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    Entries in Biel 2012 (11)

    Thursday
    Aug022012

    Biel 2012: Wang Hao Wins (Thanks, Fake Scoring)

    Magnus Carlsen came close to winning the tournament and threatened Garry Kasparov's all-time rating record for a while, but in the end he was second on both counts. Wang Hao quickly defeated Anish Giri in a Gruenfeld, and then waited while Carlsen tried to grind Bacrot down in a Spanish torture. Bacrot held firm, and the result was that although Carlsen outscored Wang Hao on normal scoring (7 vs. 6.5 [out of 10]) and beat him 2-0 in their head-to-head battles, Wang Hao won Biel thanks to the ridiculous 3-1-0 scoring system. The difference was that although Carlsen went +4, he had six draws, while Wang Hao only drew one game while winning six (and losing three). (Mind you, I'm not complaining about the result. Wang Hao seems like a nice, humble person who plays very exciting chess, and I think it's good that Carlsen not win every tournament he plays in. It's just that this seems a ridiculous outcome.)

    A little more about Wang Hao - Giri. The line of the Russian System Gruenfeld they chose had previously seemed like an instant draw. In particular, the position after 17.0-0 had been played in 13 GM games since 2009 (and only in GM games!), with an overall score of +1 -1 =11. Yawn, right? Except it didn't work out that way. Giri's 19th move was new, but he didn't follow it up in the right way. After White's slightly inaccurate 22.Bc5, Giri would have equalized (with chances for more) with 22...Rfd8. Then if 23.Rfd1 e6 looks slightly better for Black after 24.dxe6 Rxd1+ (24...Qxc6 is fine too) 25.Qxd1 Qxc6 26.exf7+ Kh8.

    Giri first played 22...Bh6, and after 23.Rc2 continued 23...Rfd8 24.Rc2 e6. This time it doesn't work: after 25.dxe6 Rxd1+ 26.Qxd1 Black cannot play 26...Qxc6 on account of 27.exf7+ Kh8 28.Bd4 (or 28.Be7), when it's time for him to resign. 22...Bh6 was an okay move, but not in conjunction with the (here) mistaken 24...e6(?). Giri played 26...fxe6, but the damage had been done. After 27.Ba4 material was even, but White's bishops were monsters and the e6 pawn was a big weakness. Giri was in trouble, and further errors on moves 27 and especially 29 led to a speedy finish. Down the exchange with the worse position, Giri gave up on move 32.

    Finally, just as it was Bacrot's lot to repeatedly lose with the King's Indian, Viktor Bologan's bane was the Benko. In fact he wasn't in too much trouble in the middlegame and early endgame against Hikaru Nakamura, but couldn't quite manage to hold the rook and knight ending a pawn down. One of the curious aspects of the game was the seeming "immortality" of White's a-pawn. Starting from around move 22 it looked for all the world like the pawn would be rounded up, but there was always some trick that kept it alive. Eventually it perished as a b-pawn, but by that point Black was suffering in a clearly lost knight ending. Maybe Bologan could have kept some drawing chances with 33...e4 or some other 34th move, though it would have been difficult. Once the rooks came off, it was a "mathematical" forced win.

    With the win, Nakamura finished tied for third-fourth with Giri (both on normal and fake scoring) and has come within 1.6 rating points of Bobby Fischer's American record of 2785. (If you think there has been rating inflation, then he still has a ways to go to "really" catch him, but it's still a very impressive figure in any case.)

    Final Standings (3-1-0 scoring first, 1-.5-0 scoring in parenthesis):

    1. Wang Hao 19 (6.5)
    2. Carlsen 18 (7)
    3-4. Giri, Nakamura 16 (6)
    5. Bacrot 7 (3)
    6. Bologan 4 (1.5 out of 8 games, with Morozevich 0 for 2 before that)

    Thursday
    Aug022012

    Biel 2012, Round 9: Carlsen Narrowly Leads Wang Hao And Giri Entering The Last Round

    This was the setup round in Biel, and the best chance for someone not named "Magnus Carlsen" to win the tournament. Anish Giri was just a point behind Carlsen (remember, they're using 3-1-0 scoring) and had White against the Norwegian, but failed to achieve anything against the latter's unambitious but very solid line of the Queen's Indian. The pieces came off quickly, and by move 23 the only remaining task was to make the draw official.

    That seemed like great news for Wang Hao, who entered the round tied for first. He had the black pieces, but his opponent was Viktor Bologan, who had only managed one draw against five losses in his previous games. Unfortunately for Wang Hao, results aren't pro-rated based on earlier games, and things didn't turn out his way. Bologan enjoyed an advantage most of the way in a positional Najdorf, but let it slip near the end of the time control. Most of the advantage was already gone before White's 40th move, and when Bologan played 40.Re2 rather than 40.Rf2, it was equal. Unluckily for Wang Hao, he didn't have time to properly calculate his 40th move, and on the last move of the time control he played 40...Ne5(?? - 40...Ne8=). The move loses material to the obvious 41.Rxb2, when 41...Qxb2 42.Qxb2 Rxb2 43.Bd4 wins. Wang Hao chose instead 41...Rxb2, when here too 42.Bd4 wins material.

    There's no doubt in my mind that Wang Hao saw this obvious two-mover, but thought his kingside counterplay would be enough. It's close, but Bologan found all the only-moves to pull out the win. For instance, after 42...Qg3 White correctly played 43.Bxb2! If instead 43.Qxb2? Black draws with 43...Nfg4 44.hxg4 Nxg4 45.Rf2 (45.Rd1 Qh2+ 46.Kf1 Ne3+ 47.Bxe3 Bxb2=) 45...Bxd4 46.Qxd4 Qh2+ 47.Kf1 Qh1+ 48.Ke2 Qxb1 and despite the extra rook White cannot win, e.g. 49.Rf4 Qa2+ 50.Qd2 Qa6+=.

    After 43.Bxb2! Nf3+ 44.Rxf3 exf3 45.Qd2! (45.Qc2?? Qe1+ 46.Kh2 f2-+) it's fortunate that White can meet 45...Bh6 with 46.Nxf5!! - without this resource, Black wins! I doubt Bologan foresaw this in time trouble; indeed, he burned lots of time in the second control working through all the complications. But he succeeded in clearing all the hurdles and obtained his first victory of the tournament.

    Finally, Etienne Bacrot vs. Hikaru Nakamura was a tough fight that ended abruptly when Bacrot blundered with 30.Re1??, losing on the spot to the elementary desperado 30...Qxe1+. Before that their Semi-Slav had been quite unclear: White enjoyed a bit more space thanks to the passed d-pawn, but his light-squared weaknesses and the presence of opposite-colored bishops gave Nakamura enduring counterplay.

    Going into the last round, here are the standings:

    1. Carlsen 17
    2-3. Wang Hao, Giri 16
    4. Nakamura 13
    5. Bacrot 6
    6. (Morozevich/)Bologan 4

    Last Round Pairings:

    Nakamura - Bologan
    Wang Hao - Giri
    Carlsen - Bacrot

    Wednesday
    Aug012012

    Biel 2012, Round 7 & 8: Carlsen, Wang Hao Lead; Bologan Gets On The Scoreboard

    Magnus Carlsen's recent tournaments have often seemed to follow a pretty consistent pattern. He gets off to a decent start, has a long lull of decent but not particularly special results, and then after a tough (even, on occasion, a lucky or undeserved win) becomes an unstoppable monster. Once he gets his confidence up, he's a buzz saw.

    And so it is here in Biel. For a good chunk of the make-up game with Viktor Bologan Carlsen didn't seem to have anything special going, but after overcoming a severe time shortage to outplay Bologan and win, he started turning into a new player. In round 7 he took on the leader, Wang Hao, and won that game with Black as well. It was a pity for Wang Hao, as he had been playing great chess in the tournament and played a very nice game against Carlsen as well. A positional pawn sac gave the Chinese grandmaster enduring pressure, and had played 46.b6 his position would have been unloseable. 46...a3 would be forced, and then White could choose between 47.Nxa3 Nxb6 48.Nxc5 with a dead draw, or 47.Nc1 Kf8 48.e5 Nd5 49.b7 Ke7 50.Nxa3 with a position that's still drawn but which forces Black to show some accuracy.

    Instead, Wang Hao erred with 46.Ndb2, missing a nasty trick: 46...Nb6! The knight is immune from capture (47.Nxb6?? a3, 48...a2, 49...a1Q), but the upshot was that Black kept his extra pawn, and now all the winning chances were his. Even after that the game may not have been lost, but the tide had turned and Wang Hao was unable to regain his mental equilibrium. 52.Na3 was inaccurate (52.Kc2 kept the damage manageable) and 55.Ne5 (again, 55.Kc2 was better) finished the job.

    As a result, Wang Hao and Carlsen were tied for first at the end of round 7, and they both won in round 8 to maintain their places. Wang Hao impressively bounced back by defeating Hikaru Nakamura with the black pieces. They played a rare line of the English, reprising the game Nakamura-Topalov from this year's Wijk aan Zee. Nakamura varied with the very, very rare 8.Be3, and with Wang Hao's 8...Qd8 the players were on untrodden ground. 20...Ne6 seems to have been inaccurate (the engine prefers 20...Qb6, a sensible move that keeps White's queen out of d6), and White's resulting edge could have grown larger had Nakamura played b4 on moves 22, 23 or 24. After 30 moves the chances were roughly level (which is not to say that the position was in any sense a "flat" one - the game was non-standard throughout, with each side having very different and unusual trumps), with the trend running in Black's favor. 32.Nc5 would have maintained equality; after 32.Nd2? White was in trouble, and 34.Rfe1 probably lost the game. (Right idea, wrong rook.) Black's d-pawns were too much, and in dealing with them White suffered serious king problems as well.

    As for Carlsen, his second game with Bologan in three days gave him his third consecutive win. Bologan essayed the Benko Gambit for the second time in the tournament (he had done so in round 5 against Wang Hao), and managed to keep the extra pawn to the end. Normally White's a- and b-pawns are weak, but Carlsen not only managed to keep them reasonably safe, he was eventually able to turn the a-pawn (which became the b-pawn) into the winning asset.

    It's not just the Wang Hao and Carlsen show, though; Anish Giri is just a point behind (a point behind in the 3-1-0 scoring system, that is, which means that if he wins while they draw, he leapfrogs them into first by a point). In round 7 he was unable to get anything with White against Nakamura in a "near-Meran", and after what may have been the minimum number of moves permitted - 30 - they agreed to a draw in a completely even knight ending. In round 8, however, he bounced back, defeating Etienne Bacrot on the black side of a 6.h3 Najdorf-turned-Keres Attack Scheveningen. Bacrot's 10.Bg2 varied from Vallejo Pons' (and others') 10.a3, which he used to crush Topalov in their rapid match earlier this year. That worked out well for Black, but Giri's 19...bxa3 was a big error. (19...dxe5 was equal.) Fortunately for Giri, Bacrot returned the favor with interest. Instead of 21.Qd3, with a big advantage, Bacrot's 21.Nd4? either blundered the exchange or misjudged the compensation afforded by his bishops. Maybe there was some way for White to hold, but he didn't manage to keep control over Giri's rooks and the blunder 32.c6?? didn't help either.

    After drawing with Giri in round 7 and losing to Wang Hao in round 8, Nakamura is in a distant fourth. Bacrot is well back in fifth, ahead of only Bologan. They played in round 7, and the game was drawn - a success for both players. For Bologan, it put him on the scoreboard - at last he has more points than in the tournament than we do! - while for Bacrot it was his first draw with the King's Indian, after suffering three pretty brutal losses with it in the previous rounds.

    Standings After Round 8 (on 3-1-0 scoring):

    1-2. Carlsen, Wang Hao 16
    3. Giri 15
    4. Nakamura 10
    5. Bacrot 6
    6. Bologan 1

    Round 9 Pairings:

    Bacrot - Nakamura
    Giri - Carlsen
    Bologan - Wang Hao

    Monday
    Jul302012

    Biel 2012, Round 3 Make-Up Game: Carlsen Defeats Bologan

    Didn't see that one coming, did you? Okay, you probably did, but during the game few spectators expected that Magnus Carlsen would defeat Viktor Bologan. A Moscow/Rossolimo Sicilian hybrid turned into a sort of Ruy Lopez, and with White Bologan came out of the opening in great shape. His position was a little more comfortable, and he had a huge lead on the clock. After 17 moves Bologan had more than 70 minutes left; Carlsen just 29. Three moves later Bologan still had over an hour left, Carlsen less than nine minutes.

    That time needed to be spent, as Black needed to play accurately to neutralize White's initiative. Carlsen succeeded and equalized, and kept his cool as his time continued dwindling away - 3 minutes left with 15 minutes to go. A key moment came at move 32. Bologan spent a ton of time - almost half an hour - before playing a move that looked inaccurate. By now he was a little worse, but the spectators and (or maybe because of) the engines preferred 32.h5, keeping and fixing the pawn on h6 as a weakness and possible snack for a knight after Ng4 or Nf5. Instead he traded, and after 32.hxg5 hxg5 played 33.Rd2 b3 34.Bxe5?, hoping for and probably expecting 34...fxe5.

    What Bologan missed was 34...g4! (Incidentally, this trick is one reason why 33.g4 would have been a good move.) Now 35.Nxg4, as played, allows a decisive queenside infiltration with 35...Nc4, but if the knight retreats then White's compensation for the piece (after 35...fxe5) would be inadequate. After 35...Nc4 Bologan was lost, and further errors on moves 36, 38, 39 and 40 let Carlsen finish the time control with a move forcing a quick and simple mate.

    So Bologan has lost all four of his own games in Biel, "building" on Alexander Morozevich's double donut. Incidentally, we need a term for their combined 0-6 score. Two losses are castling short (0-0), three are castling long (0-0-0), four have been described as an "Audi" (the company's logo has four rings), five as Olympic rings. It's not a visual metaphor, but maybe we can call it "getting Fischered", after the fate suffered by Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen in their Candidates matches with the late and former world champion Bobby Fischer?

    Standings After Round 6:

    1. Wang Hao 13 (on 3-1-0 scoring)
    2. Giri 11
    3. Carlsen 10
    4. Nakamura 9
    5. Bacrot 5
    6. Morozevich/Bologan 0

    Round 7 Pairings:

    Giri - Nakamura
    Bologan - Bacrot
    Wang Hao - Carlsen

    Saturday
    Jul282012

    Biel 2012, Round 6: Two Draws And Another Bolozevich Loss

    The second cycle got underway today at Biel, and Wang Hao still leads after a short and easy draw with the black pieces against Etienne Bacrot. If White ever had anything, it was gone by move 20, and the rest was mass liquidation leading to a draw.

    Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen had their second draw of the event, and like Bacrot-Wang Hao it was a Gruenfeld. This one too was quicker than it seemed. After Nakamura's 11.c5, Carlsen thought for half an hour and found an effective way to hoover up all the minor pieces to reach a drawn major piece ending; after that, it was just a matter of engineering a draw that would satisfy the nannies.

    Finally, Anish Giri moved to clear second by beating poor Viktor Bologan in a 92-move marathon. Giri went up a pawn in the opening, but this wasn't easy to convert at all. After 30 moves they reached a position with rooks, opposite-colored bishops and knights, with each side having an a-pawn and White enjoying a 4-3 kingside majority. After 20 more moves White's e-pawn had been swapped for Black's f-pawn, but nothing much else had changed. What eventually made the difference was the poor position of Black's king. Giri seized the 7th rank, cutting off Black's king on the back rank, and that forced Bologan to make concessions that eventually proved fatal.

    Standings After Round 6:

    1. Wang Hao 13 (based on 3-1-0 scoring)
    2. Giri 11
    3. Nakamura 9
    4. Carlsen 7 (based on five games)
    5. Bacrot 5
    6. Morozevich/Bologan 0 (based on five games)

    Tomorrow is a rest day, except for Bologan and Carlsen, who will play their round 3 game. Round 7 will be Monday.

    Friday
    Jul272012

    Biel 2012, Rounds 4 & 5: Wang Hao Dominates, Bolozevich Stuck at Zero

    The Chinese grandmaster Wang Hao was something of a regular on the world chess scene in 2010, but then disappeared last year. He's back now, and with a vengeance, as his first half total of four wins (and a loss to Magnus Carlsen) has him in a dominating first place, all the more so on the 3-1-0 scoring system in place at Biel. In round 4 he defeated Anish Giri, who had been leading after three rounds. The chief culprit was probably 15.g3, a TN (theoretical novelty) that was more like TNT that backfired. Despite the fairly symmetrical pawn structure that resulted a couple of moves later, and the exchanges of several pieces, it was always Black who enjoyed more space and more control, and Giri was ground down mercilessly.

    In round 5 Wang Hao won again, this time against Viktor Bologan, who has unfortunately managed to build flawlessly on Morozevich's "perfect" score. Bologan's 10...Bc8 was rare and the sequence 10...Ba6-c8, 11...Ba6-c8, 12...Bf5-c8, 13...Bc8-a6 was pretty amusing; but as students of the Benko Gambit know it's in fact a pretty typical maneuver. On move 10 the bishop does little on a6 but get in the Ra8's way, and that's thanks to the pawn on e2. Richocheting the bishop to f5 induces e2-e4, and then the bishop can bounce back to a6 and from there go to d3. Thus White played 15.Nf3, and that covered d3 but allowed 15...Bc4. Now neither 16.Ra1 nor 16.a3 is pleasant, while 16.b3 is an outright error. So Wang Hao simply sacrificed the a-pawn to break in the center. (He was up a pawn anyway, and returning it broke the pressure and let him completely take over the initiative.)

    After 22.e6 White enjoyed a very big advantage, and soon it was a winning one, but on move 28 he gave most of it away. 26.Nd3 would have won a piece, and 26.Re2 would have been fine if he had met 26...Nc6(!) 27.Nxc6 (not 27.Qxb6?? Nd4!) Qxc6 with 28.Re7! Instead, he played 28.Re6?, probably missing 28...Qa4! 29.Qxb6 Qd1+ 30.Bf1 Rxf4! Taking the rook allows an immediate perpetual, so Wang Hao had to play 31.Qxc5 and hope to win the game all over again. He did. 35...Ke6 was an error, as was 42...Qg4. In the end, Bologan even lost his bishop, but after 42...Qg4 there was already no saving the game.

    Wang Hao was not the only player to go 2-0 in rounds 4 & 5; Hikaru Nakamura did so as well. In round 4, he "welcomed" Bologan to the tournament by defeating him in a long, exciting but not very cleanly played game and after winning that game with Black in a Queen's Gambit Accepted he defeated Etienne Bacrot with White. Bacrot has played well and successfully with White in the tournament, but with Black he has used the King's Indian in every game and been decisively outplayed each time. Bacrot's earlier King's Indians were in the Bayonet Attack, but Nakamura chose instead the Petrosian System.

    Bacrot followed theory for a long time, but it's not clear that he was really in control in terms of his preparation. His 14...f5 (rather than the usual 14...Bh6) left the beaten track (although Garry Kasparov beat Vladimir Kramnik with that move in a rapid event back in 1995, but Bacrot deviated from that game a move later. The position after White's 20th move had occurred in six earlier games, with White scoring 100%. Only Nakamura's 22nd move was officially new, but it's unlikely that either player was still in preparation by then. Certainly Bacrot wouldn't have been, or he would have prepared a losing line! Nakamura's move was a very good one, and when Bacrot played 22...Nb8, fearing 22...Nc5 23.b6, the upshot was that he was a piece down for the rest of the game, as that knight would never again see the light of day.

    It all came down to whether Black's kingside attack could break through. If not, then the joke-knight on b8 would cost him the game. Objectively, it seems that White was much better or winning, but the position was complicated enough for the players to miss something, and perhaps they did. After Nakamura's apparently erroneous 29.Qd2 (the engine prefers 29.Nxg3, 29.Nxg5 Qxg5 30.gxh3 and even 29.b6) Bacrot missed a spectacular resource: 29...hxg2 30.Kxg2 Nh3!!, which would have offered dangerous counterplay. Having missed his chance, White kept control and won.

    The day before Bacrot drew with White against Carlsen in a Bogo-Indian (via the Keres-Indian), and Carlsen could only draw in round 5 with Giri in a 5.d3 Petroff. (Boooooooooo!) The good news for Carlsen is that he has his round 3 game with Bologan coming Sunday, and as the Morozevich/Bologan "team" ("Morozogan"? "Bolozevich"?) has gone 0-for-the tournament so far, he'll have good chances to get right back into the race for first.

    Here are the standings at the halfway point, excluding tomorrow's make-up game:

    1. Wang Hao 12
    2-3. Nakamura, Giri 8
    4. Carlsen 6 (out of 4 games)
    5. Bacrot 4
    6. Bologan 0

    Round 6 Pairings:

    Nakamura - Carlsen
    Bacrot - Wang Hao
    Giri - Bologan

    Wednesday
    Jul252012

    Biel 2012, Round 3: Wang Hao, Giri Win; Morozevich Withdraws

    The biggest story in today's action at Biel was a story of inaction. Alexander Morozevich, who started with two losses, withdrew pleading illness. (The nature of that illness hasn't been publicly specified; we wish him the best.) He didn't play in round 3, but his third round game will be made up on Sunday (the scheduled rest day) by his substitute, Viktor Bologan, who will play in Thursday's round 4 game with Hikaru Nakamura. Unfortunately for Bologan, he will inherit Morozevich's losses. Sometimes the substitute gets to start from scratch, but already three days behind it's a bit late for that.

    Only two games were played today (Wednesday), but they were exciting, full of adventure and both finished with a decisive result. It was especially entertaining to see Nakamura dare the Polugaevsky Variation of the Najdorf against Wang Hao. The variation has been at death's door for a good 50 years, but intrepid souls (including of course the late, great Lev Polugaevsky himself) are always finding new resources to keep the ball rolling.

    On move 17 Wang Hao tried a near-novelty, 17.Nfg5, which had been played only once by a 2000-level player in a loss to a GM. This probably wasn't any home prep - who expects the Polugaevsky Variation anymore? - and after 17...h6 he played a new move, 18.Qh3. In the earlier game White played 18.Nxe6?, a sac that left him down a piece for nothing. Another sac was playable though: 18.Nxf7, which seems to lead to a perpetual: 18...Kxf7 19.Ng5+ hxg5 20.fxg7+ Kxg7 21.Qxg5+ Kh7 22.Bd3+ Rxd3 23.Qh5+ Kg7 (23...Kg8? 24.Rxf8+ gives White a big advantage) 24.Qg5+ Kh7 etc. (In fact, Nxf7 was a decent option on moves 19, 20 and 22 as well.)

    Wang Hao's move wasn't bad, but he didn't play with the kind of energy one needs against the Polugaevsky. The position remained very complicated, but Nakamura was making real progress and stood objectively better, though in a position where the cost of an inaccuracy would be much greater for him than for White. Sure enough, Nakamura made a serious slip with 26...Nd6. It's a natural move, centralizing a piece, moving it closer to his king and trying to trade off an attacker. Unfortunately for him, there was a tactical problem: 27.Rxd5! Before 26...Nd6 it would have been possible to respond with ...Rxd5; here, 27...Qxd5 was forced, and after 28.Bxe6! fxe6 29.f7+ all kinds of nasty tactics faced Black.

    Both players were in real time trouble now, and after 29...Kd8?! (29...Ke7 was better, when White is better but maybe not yet winning after 30.Qxh6! Rdd8 31.f8Q+ Rdxf8 32.Qg7+) 30.Nxe6+ White was winning. A key point was that if Black later played 33...Qxd6, then 34.Rxd8+ Rxd8 35.Nxd8+ Kxd8 36.Qd3 produces a won king and pawn ending for White. So Nakamura tried 33...Kb8, but when the time scramble ended after move 40 White was two pawns up in a queen and rook ending. Wang Hao played too passively though, and Black still had some chances to resist with 46...Kb7. Instead, Nakamura erred one last time with 46...Qg3?, allowing White to transpose play into a trivially won rook ending with 47.Qh2, forcing immediate resignation.

    In an interview after his win in round 2, Etienne Bacrot said of his round 1 defeat to Wang Hao on the black side of a Bayonet King's Indian that he had forgotten his prep. Today he had the chance to remember his preparation, as Anish Giri also played the Bayonet against him. It was Giri who deviated first, however, going for 12.f3 rather than 12.Bf3. This is in fact the main move, with nearly 500 games in ChessBase's online database, including van Wely-Bacrot from this year's French Team Championship.

    They followed that game and quite a few others for a while. On move 19, some early games (e.g. Pachman-Taimanov, from the 1967(!) Capablanca Memorial) went towards an immediate perpetual with 19.Nxa8 Qxg3+ 20.Kh1 Qh3+ etc. 19.Rf2, as played by Giri here and van Wely many times, is the winning try. Here Black has two tries: 19...Nxe4, when White may have an edge after 20.fxe4 Rxf2 21.Kxf2 Rf8+ 22.Ke3 Qxg3+ 23.Kd2 Rf2 24.Ne8 (van Wely has gone 1-1 here: a win over Radjabov in 2008 and a loss to Stellwagen in 2009). "Mr." Houdini thinks it's 0.00 equal, but as I'm sure that neither van Wely nor Giri would allow a forced draw there are doubtlessly some mysteries to be explored. (Maybe there's something instead of 24.Ne8, or perhaps there's some new life to be found with 20.Rh2 - a move van Wely used - and lost with - to Jean Marc Degraeve back in 2000.)

    Anyway, the other theoretical move, chosen by Bacrot both here and against van Wely earlier in the year, is 19...Rac8. That game was followed through move 25, when instead of van Wely's 25.c6 Giri chose 25.Be3. It looks like a good novelty. 25...Qxf5 was the right reply, but after 26.Rf1 it seems Black should play 26...Kh8, when White is only a very little better after 27.Bd3 e4! 28.fxe4 Qh3 29.Rg3 Qh4 30.Qf4 Qxf4 31.Bxf4 Rxc5. Bacrot's 26...Bf8 wasn't as good. Now 27.Bd3 e4 28.fxe4 cost White the exchange, but it was in fact a winning "sacrifice". White's bishops and central passers absolutely dominated, and the rest of the game was a piece of cake for the tournament's youngest player and (for now) sole leader.

    The standings are slightly confused at the moment, but look like this (based on 3-1-0 scoring):

    1. Giri 7 (3 games)
    2. Wang Hao 6 (3)
    3. Carlsen 4 (2)
    4. Bacrot 3 (3)
    5. Nakamura 2 (3)
    6. Morozevich/Bologan 0 (2)

    Round 4 Pairings:

    • Bologan - Nakamura
    • Giri - Wang Hao
    • Bacrot - Carlsen

    Tuesday
    Jul242012

    Biel 2012, Round 2: Carlsen, Bacrot Win; Carlsen, Giri Lead

    So far, so good for the 2012 edition of Biel: the games have been full of excitement and youthful energy. That's not surprising in a tournament where 24-year-old Hikaru Nakamura is in the graybeard half of the table.

    Speaking of Nakamura, he drew again today. He was pressing throughout against Anish Giri in a Catalan-turned-Bogo-Indian, but the youngster (youngerster?!) held and maintained a share of the lead.

    The battle between Etienne Bacrot and Alexander Morozevich was a bit mysterious at one moment, at least to me as an online spectator. Bacrot was White in a Marshall Gambit Slav, and in a well-known theoretical position after 9...Qxg2 he thought for about 45 minutes - at least if the relay on ICC was correct. (There weren't any delays with the transmission of the other games, so that shouldn't be the explanation.) His response after that deep think (or brief nap) was the conventional one. Ironically, Morozevich's reply to 10.Qd2 was the very unusual 10...e5; 10...Nf6 is standard. (In Ruslan Scherbakov's book The Triangle System, he spends 12 and a half pages on 10...Nf6, and says only this about Morozevich's move: "10...e5!? followed by ...Bf5 might be playable though.")

    Bacrot's natural reply 11.Bxe5 was already a new move, and the position grew incredible sharp. Seriously analysis of this game would take some time, but what is clear is that 21...Ba6 was a fatal error; Black needed to bravely play 21...bxc6 and hope that White had nothing better than 22.Qxa7 Rxd6 23.Qa8+ Kc7 24.Qa7+ Kc8 25.Qa8+ etc. He doesn't seem to. After 21...Ba6? Bacrot landed some nice blows: 22.Ng5! Nxg5(?) 23.Bd7+! Kxd7 24.Qe7+ Kc6 25.Qc7+ and Black preferred resignation over allowing 25...Kb5 26.Qc5+ Ka4 27.Qb4#.

    Magnus Carlsen vs. Wang Hao was a 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian with a quick e4. They were in new territory pretty quickly - 8.d5 was a new move in what was already a rare position - and it was soon clear that the battle would be between Black's structural advantages and White's initiative and attacking chances. After 16...h6 the spectators were looking with bloodlust at ideas like 17.Bxh6, but that appears to be inconclusive: 17...gxh6 18.Rhg1+ (18.Qd2 will transpose) Kh8 19.Qd2 Nh7 20.Qxh6 Rf7 leaves White with sufficient compensation after 21.Qxd6 or 21.Re6, but not more than that.

    So Carlsen kept squeezing, but maybe he could have played Bxh6 on move 21. Again, he preferred to keep up the pressure, and on move 22 he induced an error. Wang Hao should have played 22...Nh5, aiming to further activate one or both of his knights and maybe swapping off a White attacker or two. Instead, his 22...Nxd5? gave Carlsen what looks like a good opportunity, even if he chose not to play it: 23.Bxc5 bxc5 (23...Rxf5? 24.Bd6 or 24.Bd4 is crushing) 24.Be6 Nf4 25.Bxf7 Nd3+ 26.Kb1 Rb8+ 27.Ka1 Qxf7 28.Rxg7 Qxg7 29.Rxg7 Kxg7 30.Qa4 is not an ending Black should draw.

    But Carlsen chose 23.Bd4, which while probably not as good certainly maintained a pleasant advantage. (23.Bxh6 was also possible.) A few moves later he gave up his rooks for Black's queen and g-pawn, and with his very strong bishops Black's position was hard to play; indeed, he was soon in something pretty close to zugzwang. His last chance to keep the ship sailing, at least for a little while, was with 31...Rh7. After 31...Rfe7? the loss was guaranteed and speedy, and Black resigned after a forcing sequence culminating with 35.f4 because after 35...Rf5 36.Bxf6 Rxf6 Black's king and rook are parted by 37.f5+ Ke5 38.f4+.

    So Carlsen joins Giri in the lead, and pushes his unofficial rating to the verge of 2840. Here are tomorrow's pairings, with player scores given in parentheses. Note that the totals are based on 3-1-0 scoring:

    • Wang Hao (3) - Nakamura (2)
    • Morozevich (0) - Carlsen (4)
    • Giri (4) - Bacrot (3)

    Monday
    Jul232012

    Biel 2012, Round 1: Wang Hao, Giri Win

    The first showdown between the top two players in this year's big event in Biel was drawn, and if someone zipped through the game they might suspect that the Magnus Carlsen-Hikaru Nakamura contest was a non-event. Not so, though I confess to thinking that after 24.Rcc1 White's advantage was merely symbolic. Houdini 2 agrees (though I didn't look at any of the games with an engine while they were ongoing), but about three half-moves later "Faust" (Ian Nepomniachtchi) kibitzed on ICC that White had a very serious advantage.

    It's true that White's advantage had increased in the meantime, but even so, his point that Black's bishop was especially awful was an important one. It may seem that White's bishop's prospects weren't much better, but that's only in the short-term. There are ways for that to change, and for White to lever open Black's kingside, and in the meantime Black must sit and wait. Nakamura did this, and did it well, and held. One important line to note is that 35.Qh6+ Kg8 36.h5 Qxb2+ 37.Kh3 would be absolutely crushing for White, were it not for 37...Qa1!

    Wang Hao followed Vladimir Kramnik's recipe in the Bayonet Attack against the King's Indian with 10.g3 (Kramnik used this successfully against both Anish Giri and Alexander Grischuk, though in the former game Kramnik goofed and forgot his own preparation), and for that matter he followed his own game earlier in the year against Ding Liren. In the latter game, Black played 12...Rb8 and won a wild game, but Etienne Bacrot followed Kramnik's opponents and played 12...c6. Interestingly, Wang Hao followed Kramnik's "oops" game and played 13.Ba3 (rather than 13.Bg2, as in Kramnik-Grischuk). Bacrot's 15...h6 deviated from Giri's 15...Ne8, and then with 17...f4 he made the first new move of the game, varying from a game Grinev (2404) - Chircu (2190) from this past April.

    All was well for him at that point, but 20...Qxc4 looks like the wrong pawn. Instead, 20...Qxe6 21.Bxf3 Qxc4 gives Black an extra pawn and White the bishop pair. The chances would be roughly equal, though I'd expect White's position would be a little easier to handle. In the game, White won his pawn back quickly, while keeping an "extra" bishop and the monster pawn on e6. Black was doomed.

    Finally, there was the odd game between Alexander Morozevich and Giri. Through 32.Rxa5 the position had been more or less even throughout, but now the adventures began. If Giri had interpolated 32...Rb1+ and only after 33.Kh2 played Qd6, he would have been fine. Instead, 32...Qd6?? was a simple blunder: 33.Qh6+ won a pawn (33...Kxh6 34.Nxf7+ and 35.Nxd6; 33...Kg8 34.Qh8+ insists; 33...Kf6? 34.Qf4+ is even worse for Black). But Morozevich missed it (but let's not be too hard on him - Alekhine and Euwe both missed this same trick in one of their world championship matches!), and the game went on.

    A little later, 35.Qxe5+ would have been the safest way to continue: 35...Qxe5 36.fxe5 c4 37.Rc5 Re1 38.Rxc4 Rxe5 is drawn. Instead, 35.fxe5 kept some life in the position, but that favored Black. Yes, White would win the c-pawn, but his king was rather exposed, and chronically so. White was living on the precipice, and after 44.Kg4?! (better to take the pawn - one fewer attacking unit!) 44...Kh6 45.Ra4? (45.Ra8 was the last hope) 45...Rxe5, Giri was winning. Luckily for Morozevich, Giri's 46...f6? was an error - 46...f5+ kept the winning advantage. Still, the basic problem remained: White's king was terribly overexposed, and anything but perfect play would lead to disaster. That disaster happened after 49.Re4?; 49.Rg4 was absolutely forced, and White gave up after 50...Qg3+. (Not after 51.Kd4 - that's the incompetent arbiter doing his thing on the incompetently designed DGT board, episode 12584. Sigh.)

    Tomorrow's games:

    Nakamura (.5) - Giri (1)
    Bacrot (0) - Morozevich (0)
    Carlsen (.5) - Wang Hao (1)

    Sunday
    Jul222012

    Biel 2012, Round 1 Pairings

    Just what the audience wanted: the double round robin event in Biel kicks off with a Magnus Carlsen - Hikaru Nakamura pairing! The other games are Wang Hao vs. Etienne Bacrot and Alexander Morozevich vs. Anish Giri. Action kicks off at 2 p.m. (1400) local time/8 a.m. ET.