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    Entries in Biel 2014 (10)

    Friday
    Jul252014

    The Daily Roundup: Biel & Gelfand-Svidler Finish, And More

    Biel ended as one would have expected for most of the event; Maxime Vachier-Lagrave recovered from yesterday's "hiccup" against Anish Giri and took clear first after drawing - hanging on, really - against Radoslaw Wojtaszek. "MVL" had the white pieces and played a very safe opening line, but after the odd 25.f4 he was worse and had to pull it together to avoid a complete collapse in the event. He did, and his score of 6/10 kept him half a point ahead of Wojtaszek.

    Hou Yifan could have tied for first with a win against Pentala Harikrishna, but although she equalized with Black she went a bit crazy and lost. She had already been taking some risks for several moves by her 27th move, but 27...Rf5? was just too much. 27...Bg5 had to be played, when Black is still okay; instead, she sacrificed the exchange for scant compensation, and was slowly but surely ground down. She finished tied with Harikrishna and Anish Giri for 3rd-5th with 50%.

    In dead last was Alexander Motylev, who had some advantage against Giri but preferred the safety of a draw by repetition to the possibility of a 5th loss in the tournament.

    The Gelfand-Svidler rapid match also finished today (or yesterday, depending on where you are), and Peter Svidler was the winner. He won game 7 while game 8 was drawn, and he thus won the match with a 5-3 score.

    That does it for elite events until the Olympiad, but two other events may be of interest to some readers. The British Championship has passed the halfway point, and Jonathan Hawkins is leading with a perfect 6/6, leaving him a point and a half clear of his closest competitors. There's also the Politiken Cup, a strong annual open tournament held in Helsingor, Denmark; this too is led thus far by a player with a perfect score. Bu Xiangzhi has 5/5; nine players are half a point back in this 10-round tournament.

    Thursday
    Jul242014

    The Daily Roundup: Vachier-Lagrave and Svidler Lead Their Events Going Into The Final Day

    Biel: On Tuesday all three games were drawn, but on Wednesday White went 3-0. This was highly significant to the race for first, because Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who had been a convincing leader throughout, was finally defeated while his closest rivals both won their games. Vachier-Lagrave lost to the hitherto winless Anish Giri, who played very well if not perfectly to keep some drama in the tournament. Radoslaw Wojtaszek won a nice game against Pentala Harikrishna, while Hou Yifan capitalized on a serious error by Alexander Motylev, and in the process brought her rating to a very impressive 2665. (Just 11 points south of Judit Polgar!) Both Wojtaszek and Hou are within half a point of Vachier-Lagrave, but as both have Black in the last round (in Wojtaszek's case, Black against Vachier-Lagrave himself) the Frenchman is still a big favorite to finish in clear first.

    Gelfand-Svidler Rapid Match: Boris Gelfand won quickly in game 5, with the black pieces, no less, but then promptly lost the rematch to end the day as he started it: a point behind his opponent. The last two games will be played today.

    N.B.: ChessBase has nice reports on both Biel and the rapid match that are worth checking out, with plenty of videos.

    Monday
    Jul212014

    The Daily Roundup: Vachier-Lagrave Extends His Lead In Biel; Svidler Leads Rapid Match vs. Gelfand

    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.

    Saturday
    Jul192014

    The Daily Roundup: Dortmund (Caruana Clinches First), Biel

    1. Dortmund: With one round to go, Fabiano Caruana (come home!!) clinched clear first with a white win in a Berlin ending over Michael Adams. His brilliant score of 5/6 gives him a 2972 TPR and a 2801.7 rating on the Live List. Unless he loses against Peter Leko in the last round, he will finally achieve an official 2800 rating, making him the 7th player in history to reach that remarkable plateau. Leko, who drew with Vladimir Kramnik, is a point and a half behind, as is Arkadij Naiditsch, who won an impressive attacking game against Ruslan Ponomariov.

    2. Biel: The second cycle got underway with three draws, and so Maxime Vachier-Lagrave maintains his full point lead over Pentala Harikrishna, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Hou Yifan.

    Friday
    Jul182014

    The Daily Roundup: Dortmund, Biel, and Most of Bergamo

    1. Dortmund: Peter Leko beat Arkadij Naiditsch, while the other three games were drawn. Michael Adams pressed with Black against Georg Meier and won material, but was unable to convert. In the battle of the top dogs (by rating), first Fabiano Caruana (with Black) had some advantage and then Vladimir Kramnik did, but it never got out of control for either player and the draw was agreed after 48 moves. Caruana leads with 4/5, a point clear of Leko.

    2. Biel: After losing his first two games, a resurgent Anish Giri won the next two and faced top seed and tournament leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final game of the first cycle. With a win Giri would have put himself in clear first; instead, Vachier-Lagrave won a nice game to extend his lead and relegate Giri into a tie for last. (The other two games were drawn.) Vachier-Lagrave has 3.5/5, three players have 2.5, including Hou Yifan, and Giri and one other player have 2.

    3. Bergamo: The game between Zoltan Almasi and Sabino Brunello has been adjourned, but in the game that was most critical for the leading standings Wesley So beat Baadur Jobava - convincingly - and has 4/5 with one game to play. There are a number of players who could theoretically catch him, depending on the remaining games and adjournments, but it seems unlikely. Emil Sutovsky is in nominal second with 3/5 and a game to play, Brunello has just one and a half points, but with two adjournments and a game with So yet to be played he's still theoretically alive in the race for first.

    Thursday
    Jul172014

    The Daily Roundup: Biel & Bergamo

    Biel: Anish Giri won his second straight game (the only decisive game of the round), this time over Alexander Motylev, and thereby managed to get back to 50%, where his 2-2 score puts him in a four-way tie for second. Motylev dropped to solo last place with 1.5 points, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave remained in clear first with 2.5 points.

    Bergamo: It's doubly hard to assess the tournament situation here, for two reasons. First, the staggered byes for each player; second, the adjournments. If, however, Baadur Jobava manages to convert his advantage against Zoltan Almasi, which seems likely, he will have 3.5/5 with one round to play while Wesley So will have 3/4 (and thus two games remaining). No one else appears to have a realistic chance at first, though Sabino Brunello entered the round looking like a contender. He started the day with 1.5/3 and White against the tournament tailender, but at the adjournment his position is lost or nearly so.

    As for Dortmund, the games were as exciting as usual, despite its being a rest day.

    Thursday
    Jul172014

    The Daily Roundup: Dortmund, Biel and Bergamo

    Dortmund: This is the Fabiano Caruana show. He was the only winner in today's round, defeating Georg Meier on the white side of a Steinitz French. Meier was under serious pressure, but the trouble only came near the end. First, his 34...gxf6 gave Caruana the upper hand, and only his last move, 37...Rcc8, gave up the game; 37...Rg6 instead would have allowed him to put up plenty of resistance. Caruana has 3.5/4, good for a full point lead over Arkadij Naiditsch and more over everyone else. Caruana has now jumped into third on the Live Rating List, and is closing in on 2800 once again. (In two previous tournaments he reached 2800 while the tournament was underway, but has yet to finish an event at or over 2800.)

    Biel: All three games were decisive today, and all three of the round's losers started the day tied for first! They were leapfrogged by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who is in clear first with two out of three.

    Bergamo: Wesley So continues to lead after an easy draw with Zoltan Almasi. He has 3/4 and leads Baadur Jobava (who won in this round) by half a point.

    Tuesday
    Jul152014

    The Daily Update: Dull Draws in Dortmund, Giri Gets a Root Canal in Biel

    Two of the three elite tournaments saw action today, though some might deem that verb a stretch when applied to the chess in Dortmund. Two Berlins achieved their aim, and Georg Meier's exquisitely dull French was equally effective in securing a draw. (I'm not objecting to the procedure; it's just not a lot of fun for the spectators.)

    Vladimir Kramnik's game against Baramidze was genuinely exciting, however, but for the third time in three rounds something went drastically wrong for the ex-champ. In round 1 he played a disastrous opening against Meier and got crushed, in round 2 he was winning against Michael Adams but let him escape, and the same thing happened today. Kramnik had a big advantage through much of the middlegame, and after squandering it he was given a one-move opportunity to win with 28.fxg7+ Kg8 29.Qf4, winning the exchange (see here). At a certain moment he even stood worse, but he held tight and saved the draw.

    Two of the three games in Biel were also drawn, but the exception was notable. Anish Giri lost his second straight game, to Pentala Harikrishna in the rare Canal Variation of the Giuoco Piano (hence the pun in the title). The opening was not to blame, except to the extent that it helped get Giri into time trouble. Giri's position after Harikrishna's 37.Qf3 was still very playable, but challenging, and 37...Rg8 was an error. (37...Ba5! was best, forcing the rook to abandon the protection of the first rank.) Worse still, it was preparation for a blunder on the next move, after which it was all but over, and Giri resigned on his 41st move. As an old friend used to tell me, they can't all be jewels!

    Tuesday
    Jul152014

    Brilliancies Everywhere

    Three high-level tournaments are underway, in Dortmund (Caruana leads with a 2-0 score), Bergamo (the ACP Golden Classic; So leads with 2.5/3) and in Biel (Wojtaszek and Hou Yifan were first-day winners). More importantly, the chess has been good and entertaining, so rather than offering tournament summaries I'll present some of the games that have caught my eye, with my brief comments - here.

    Sunday
    Jul132014

    More Coming Events: Biel (Monday), Gelfand-Svidler (Next Week)

    In case Dortmund and the ACP Golden Classic aren't enough to keep your interest, two more major events are coming your way. Biel starts Monday - today for some of you, tomorrow for others - and looks quite attractive. The main event is a six-player double round-robin, starring Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Pentala Harikrishna, Alexander Motylev (the graybeard of the event, the 35-year-old Russian is the only player in the event not in his 20s), and women's world champion Hou Yifan.

    The second event is an eight-game rapid match between Boris Gelfand and Peter Svidler, taking place in Jerusalem from July 20-24 (HT: Chess Today). The games will be followed by live video interviews, which is especially welcome with post-mortem world champion Svidler at the helm.

    With the Olympiad starting August 1, this is a great stretch for those who not only like to play but enjoy watching the game as well.