The intimate six-player double round robin in Biel, Switzerland got underway yesterday. This 47th edition once again takes place in the capital of Swiss watchmaking, and two players showed their precision on day one.
GMs Hou Yifan (2629) and Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2733) jumped out to the early lead. They beat GM Anish Giri (2750) and GM Alexander Motylev (2698), respectively. Top seeded GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2766) tried an opening surprise, but was met with a bigger surprise against GM Pentala Harikrishna (2726); they drew despite the chicanery.
Hou Yifan's 100+ point upset continues her recent hot streak. Earlier this month, she closed out a +7 performance at the FIDE Women's Grand Prix event in Lopota, Georgia. In her last dozen games, she has buttressed her rating by nearly 25 points, effectively halving the margin between her and longtime women's number one GM Judit Polgar.
"I'm just trying to improve my rating -- that's more important to me than any one specific result," she said after the game. Her career mark against Giri is now +2 -0 =2.
GM Hou Yifan, world number two for how much longer?
Unlike in many Sicilians where Black accepts a backward d-pawn and hole on d5, Giri ditched his weakness right away. The activity gained was succinctly snuffed out by Hou Yifan, and when she offered the pawn back to acquire the bishop pair, all the tactics worked out in her favor.
It only took 28 moves for her to overcome the Dutch number one.
"I got a pawn up. I just tried to keep this material advantage and keep it until the end," Hou Yifan told GM Daniel King after the game.
"I tried, but I probably wasn't in the best shape today," Giri said. "This situation was difficult -- I gave a pawn and then had to find the compensation, which I thought was there, but I didn't manage to find it."
Wojtaszek also found himself defending against the Moscow Variation. Unlike Giri, he blocked with his bishop and not his knight, then didn't advance his e-pawn at all. The Maroczy Bind formation resulted, but when White overpressed on the kingside, Motylev went to great lengths to attempt to justify his expansion.
Wojtaszek said he thought his position was under control until 19. e5. "After that it was a little bit shaky," he said.
Top-seeded Vachier-Lagrave opened with the Trompowsky and not surprisingly reached an original position early in the game.
The move e5 was once again the critical moment, but this time it was played by Black, and already on move 5! Harikrishna said he found the move over the board.
"I didn't expect Maxime to play Bg5," Harikrishna said. "I usually play 3...c5 but I decided to change."
Vachier-Lagrave said that he was in time pressure and "lucky" that right at the time control he could play 40. cxd5+, since after 41. e4, d4 is not possible due to 42. Nb3. "Otherwise, I would be in quite some trouble," he said.
Flash report from day two -- All three games ended right after the time control. The two leaders, Hou and Wojtaszek, drew in an opposite-colored bishop ending. They retain their lead at 1.5/2.
Vachier-Lagrave also drew in a rook ending to Motylev. Giri fell to 0-2 after an inspired pawn sac and slow-burning attack by Harikrishna.