Cap d'Agde: Bacrot Beats Karpov in the Final

Cap d'Agde: Bacrot Beats Karpov in the Final

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On Saturday Etienne Bacrot won the second Karpov Trophy in Cap d'Agde, France. The French grandmaster beat last year's winner Anatoly Karpov 2-0 in the blitz, after both rapid games had ended in a draw. On Friday Karpov had eliminated Mariya Muzychuk, while Bacrot defeated last year's finalist Vassily Ivanchuk.

Etienne Bacrot wins in Cap d'Agde | Images courtesy of Europe-Echecs

On Friday late afternoon and evening, the semi-finals of the second "Karpov Trophy" were played in Cap d'Agde: Anatoly Karpov vs Mariya Muzychuk, and Etienne Bacrot vs. Vassily Ivanchuk. These four players had qualified from the preliminary tournament which was won convincingly by Karpov. The rapid games were played at 25 minutes plus 10 seconds per move.

In their first game, Muzychuk played well and aggressively against Karpov's Petroff Defense. Eventually she reached an ending with an extra pawn, but Black had enough compensation to hold the position. In any case, it was an excellent game by the 21-year-old Ukrainian, who is the younger sister of world #4 Anna Muzychuk.

Also in the second game Muzychuk was doing well, as Black in an Anti-Grünfeld, but she shouldn't have allowed the transition into the pawn ending. In fact Karpov could have won that immediately with the study-like 47.g5!. Instead, a drawn queen ending was reached which Muzychuk defended tenaciously, until she blundered after more than a hundred moves. 

Vassily Ivanchuk has been struggling with his form in the last year or so, and only barely made it to the semifinals. In his first game with Etienne Bacrot, the Ukrainian top GM was completely outplayed:

In a must-win situation, Ivanchuk must have been happy that his opponent went for a sharp King's Indian but also in game 2 he failed to find his way through the complications:

Below is a video of the semi-finals created by Europe-Echecs.

And so one could say that the tournament saw a dream final between local hero Bacrot and chess legend Karpov. The French GM was obviously the favorite in this match, but the previous days Karpov had shown to be in excellent shape, so everything was possible!

And it showed. The first game of final was a very tense affair, where Bacrot won an exchange and reached a winning position, but Karpov refused to go down. With just seconds left on the clock, Bacrot had to stop his efforts and offer a draw.

The second rapid game was something like we've seen a few times at the FIDE World Cup as well; Bacrot didn't want to take any risks in the rapid and preferred to go straight to the blitz. He started repeating as early as move 10 (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.d4 c6 5.h3 Bf5 6.Nf3 Nd7 7.Nh4 Bg6 8.Nxg6 hxg6 9.Ne4 Qd5 10.Nc3 Qd6 11.Ne4 Qd5 12. Nc3 draw). This meant that the crowd was in for a treat, as two more blitz games would follow (3 minutes plus 2 seconds per move).

The first started with the same moves as the first rapid game, but now Karpov did much better. The Russian reached a winning position, and even missed a simple double attack, but in timetrouble he gave everything away:

The second game was even more disappointing for the 12th World Champion, who outplayed Bacrot from the start, was completely winning but then lost on time. A good win result for the Frenchman, who had the strongest nerves and was just a bit quicker on the clock - a major factor in blitz.

Karpov loses on time...

...and so the Karpov Trophy went to Bacrot

Below is a video of the final created by Europe-Echecs. You can find more on their YouTube channel.

The "Trophée Anatoly Karpov" started with a preliminary event, which is an 8-player, double round robin. The players were Vassily Ivanchuk (2733), Etienne Bacrot (2730), Anatoly Karpov (2619), Yannick Pelletier (2578, Switzerland), Mariya Muzychuk (2491, Ukraine), Nino Maisuradze (2302, France), Zhao Xue (2579, China) and Marie Sebag (2510, France). The tournament ran from Friday, October 25th till Saturday, November 2nd in Cap d'Agde, the seaside resort of the town of Agde, France, on the Mediterranean sea, southwest of Montpellier.

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