MVL Stumbles Late But Still Wins Biel

  • FM MikeKlein
  • on 7/24/14, 11:35 AM.

After leading by 1.5 points with three rounds to go, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (6/10) managed just two draws in his final three games. Still, it was enough for him to win the Biel International Chess Festival by a half-point over top Polish GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek (5.5/10).

Biel is a prestigious event with past winners that include GMs Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Fabiano Caruana, Anatoly Karpov, and (many years ago) Bent Larsen.

The two played in today's final round. Had Wojtaszek managed to make something of his tiny plus, the order of the top two could have been swapped. As it occurred, Vachier-Lagrave held the game and his first place standing.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, winner in Biel in 2009 and now in 2014

The only other player with a shot at the title today was bottom-seeded but overachieving GM Hou Yifan. Like Wojtaszek, she needed to win as Black, but she played from behind all game and eventually lost to GM Pentala Harikrishna.

Five of the six players ended with an even score or better. Hou, Harikirshna, and GM Anish Giri all finished with 5/10. Only current European Champion GM Alexander Motylev (3.5/10) failed to get to 50 percent or better.

(Left to right) GMs Motylev, Harikrishna, Wojtaszek, Giri, Vachier-Lagrave, and Hou (photo courtesy official site)

The field became bunched up when top-seeded Vachier-Lagrave suffered his only loss of the double round-robin in game nine. Giri enacted retribution from the first cycle by narrowly winning a knight ending against the leader.

"I'm not really upset," Vachier-Lagrave said. "Anish played a really good game."

"You're lying -- you are upset, I know this," Giri laughed.

In fact, all three games were won by White in round nine (all three in round eight were drawn).

GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek, very close to his first Biel title

Wojtaszek put himself in position to have a chance at first by dominating the space advantage all game against Harikrishna. Whereas Giri played an Anti-Grunfeld system, the Indian #2 was allowed to enter the Grunfeld, but it didn't help. He could neither win nor effectively blockade White's center pawns.

37. Rxe6 was obvious but nonetheless pleasing.

"I just tricked him," Wojtaszek said.

"I did not expect this variation," Harikrishna said. "I missed the idea of e5...I spent a lot of time to find some way out."

Hou became the third winner in round eight, and kept her tournament chances alive when she took out Motylev. Like in the Giri-Vachier-Lagrave match, a rook and knght endging was reached.

"After the opening, it is kind of boring," Hou said. "But then I just simply played this Rd1 and missed this ...Nd5, ...f5 and Black has some promising chances."

Black was better until he started drifting and allowed White to gain pressure down the g-file. 35...Rf8 was especially wasteful, since after 36. d4 and eventually Rxg6, the Black king is ineffective.

When asked about her ability to win the tournament, she said, "Improving quality is more important."

The end of the tournament, coupled with the end of Dortmund, means there will be no more rated events before next month's Sinquefield Cup.(The Olympiad will not be rated in time) If GM Sergey Karjakin accepts his invitation, the average rating will be exactly 2804. This would be above previous estimates and would make it the officially the highest-rated tournament in history.

In the Biel "Master Tournament," Indian GM Baskaran Adhiban leads with 7.5/10 with one round to play. He is trailed by two video authors: GMs Victor Mikhalevski and Sam Shankland, along with GMs Mateusz Bartel, Dragan Solak and Dariusz Swiercz, all with 7/10.

8489 reads 9 comments
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  • 2 years ago


    So , Maxime is a friend and he told me , he was very happy to win Biel for the third time ! Now , he wants prepare good the Olympiad in Tromso and the Sinquefield Cup ...

  • 2 years ago


    Hou holding her own in a CAT 21 tournament means she is consistently playing 2700 chess now, its a matter of time before she gets the 2700+ rating.

    Really impressive from Hou.

  • 2 years ago


    "GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, winner in Biel in 2009 and now in 2014"
    also in 2013...

  • 2 years ago


    Weak spots seem to be far and few between as Hou marches relentlessly on.

    Great experience for her in a field of super GM & 50% in such strong company is no mean feat. Surely only a matter of time before she sits atop the womens rankings. Fantastic to see!...

  • 2 years ago


    If she plays the Najdorf Hou must be prepared to face the Sozin attack.  (Because after this game everyone will play it against her.)  A harsh lesson but it identified a weak spot in her repertoire.  

    11. Ba4! leaves black without a good reply, invalidating black's setup.  (Najdorf/Scheveningen hybrid)  Maybe 17...Qb8 or 17...Qa5 offered better chances but it's all uphill.

    Good experience, better days ahead.

  • 2 years ago


    "I'm not really upset," Vachier-Lagrave said. "Anish played a really good game."

    "You're lying -- you are upset, I know this," Giri laughed.Laughing

  • 2 years ago



    My guess is that in both cases white plays Nf4 followed by Nd3, where the white c-pawn is also a potential problem for black, the black King rook is stranded, the black d pawn is weak and his h pawn is a target. I would love to play white here, even without knowing the engine evaluation.

    Some GM's may prefer just trying to hold a position like that, but, to paraphrase Korchnoi, that may be connected with childhood problems.

    Maybe the best for black (now I díd use an engine) was to interpose 23... h3 - after 24 g3 white can later have some back rank problems. Then stirring up things with Rh5 (later followed by Qc7 instead of Qe8) might have had a little more effect.

  • 2 years ago


    Move 23 and 24, surprised not to see the simple and logical Bxc5 from Hou. Was it simply too drawish?

    Also she got herself into serious time trouble in this game moves 30-40 she was working with the 30secs per move. 

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