Vachier-Lagrave Atop Biel After Round 7

  • FM MikeKlein
  • on 7/21/14, 11:05 AM.

French number one GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is having his way at the Biel International Chess Festival. He sits on an undefeated 5/7 and leads by 1.5 points with three rounds to play.

Though he is more likely to call the bilingual Swiss town "Bienne," its French name, chess fans are seeing that his recent play is more than just "bien."

According to his FIDE profile, he has not lost a game in all of 2014, and in fact his unbeaten streak has just hit 50 games!

The best French player of all time won again today, surviving a scary assault on his pawnless king against the current European Champion. 

GM Alexander Motylev's piece sacrifice was justified, but he missed the paradoxical queen trade 28. Qe4! Black is compelled to accept (otherwise 29. Nc4, heading for e5, is mighty scary). After 28...Qxe4 29. Nxe4 Rh6 is punished by g2-g4-g5. 

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while he still had pawns near his king (all photos courtesy official site)

The successful defense netted Vachier-Lagrave a few more rating points, which was enough to eclipse GM Veselin Topalov for world number 8. His last loss was in October, 2013, and he is thus far unscathed in this Category 19 event (although he just committed to play a Category 23 event next month!).

The win today was unlike his two previous wins, which were slow grinds.

In round five, he chose not to climb the Berlin Wall, and instead got the bishop pair for himself. It was just barely enough to win against GM Anish Giri.

11. Re2 and 31. Qa1 were certainly unusual places for the heavy pieces, but "MVL" looked in control the entire time.

The 7. Bf1 move inspired at least one top-level player. Two days after this game, GM Ruslan Ponomariov used the same system to beat the struggling GM Vladimir Kramnik in Dortmund.

When asked after round 5 if he had refuted the Berlin Defense, Vachier-Lagrave said, "I hope so...but I don't think I was really better. I had some kind of little pressure." He then allowed that his bishop pair required Black to play precisely. "Qa1 was really delicate, then I don't know if it was possible to hold," he said. 

The leader's third win came earlier against the bottom seed, GM Hou Yifan, who is acquitting herself nicely in Biel, aside from that game. She sits on an even 3.5/7, and is tied for second. (This is her only loss so far.)

GM Hou Yifan, now only 20 points from GM Judit Polgar

Although nominally a Sicilian, the game had all the trademarks of a closed Ruy Lopez. Hou closed the center early, and after making some advances on the kingside, Vachier-Lagrave once again placed his queen in the corner (this time a8) for a successful invasion.

Every player has at least one win, and Hou nearly had her second today, but her extra d-pawn proved too weak to even move. (To see her first win, see this previous report.) Had she won in this reverse Benoni, she would have been in clear second and still controlled her own fate in the double round robin.

Like Hou, GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek has not followed up his first-round win with anything. He is also on 3.5/7, where he is joined by GM Pentala Harikrishna. Giri's five decisive games have only netted him 3/7, while Motylev (2.5/7) rounds out the field.

The matchups for round 7

There are no more rest days remaining, so rounds 8-10 will be played the next three days (Tuesday-Thursday), with all rounds beginning at 14:00 CET (GMT +1), which is 08 am in New York and 05:00 in Los Angeles.

To hear more interviews with the players, watch the excellent video reports being filed by GM Daniel King, or see the festival's own analysis of the games.

Results from official site

10950 reads 18 comments
4 votes


  • 2 years ago


    @ErwinSachs.  Yes, Hou Yifan beat Judit Polgar (classical) at the Gibraltar 2012 Open.  (Yifan was 17 yrs of age at that time.)

    In fairness to Judit she had not played a number of years while raising a family.  Her ELO reflects her results prior to leaving chess; in short, she is in the twilight of her career at 38 yrs of age.      

  • 2 years ago


    Absolutely delighted for Hou Yifan.....the more I see of this girl & her chess, the more I like....she has all the attributes needed to hit the very top. Now she is mixing it, and holding her own admirably, with the best male players, 5 super GM here, as she knows she must if she wants to seriously challenge the strongest female chess player in history. Have Judit Polgar & Hou Yifan actually gone head to head??.

    The finish against Motylev was brilliant!!...

  • 2 years ago


    9th Round FLASH:  MVL loses to Giri, Hou beats Motylev, Wojtaszek downs Harikrishna.

    Entering the 10th and final round, MVL (5.5 pts) leads by 1/2 pt. followed by Hou and Wojtaszek (5.0) and Giri (4.5).

    10th Round Pairings:  Harikrishna vs Hou, Motylev vs Giri, and MVL vs Wojtaszek.

  • 2 years ago


    They ought to start calling MVL , " Maxime de la Bourdonnais"

  • 2 years ago


    Hou Yifan had an amazing win against Wojtaszek:
    It's even more beautiful than I thought first: after 7 Qa6! Qd7 8 Qa8+ Bd8 9 Qc8! nails it. Reminds me of the famous (although probably spurious) game Adams-Torre.
    Of course white can also win prosaically with 3 Rxf8+ Qxf8 4 Rc1 (my engine tries to hold on with 4... Qe8 5 Qa5 Bd8 6 Nxd8 Rxb5 7 Qa4 Kf8 where 8 Nxf7 should win)
    It's quite possible for stronger players to find moves like 7 Qa6 and 9 Qc8, even for me. But I couldn't believe my eyes when the engine produced 4 Qa4.
  • 2 years ago


    MVL is underrated imo, 2795-2815 would be real

  • 2 years ago

    NM CrayonRouge

    Bravo Max!!  What a nice series of games.  Fait la même chose à St-Louis maintenant! :)

  • 2 years ago


    Youth will be served, a prodigy will win this tournament.  (not Motylev at 35 yrs, not Harikrishna at 28 yrs, nor Wojtaszek at 27 yrs).

    If FIDE held an annual tournament of prodigies, with invites to every nation, I'd probably book a flight every year to watch. 

  • 2 years ago


    @gmfinegold Who would've thought?Wink

  • 2 years ago

    GM gmfinegold

    Who would have thought MVL was so good???  Wink

  • 2 years ago


    I am not sure why white has done in the past matters, I don't see how d4 doesn't lead to a crushing position for white. How would you respond to d4?

  • 2 years ago


    JasonStraight, white had already sac-ed a knight on d4.

    Stockfish claims that white threw a 2.31 advantage (to 0.98) with 29.Qc2


  • 2 years ago


    That's the idea behind 23. Qd3! take the sting away from c2 and threaten to just take on c3 and bring the queen to bear on e5.

  • 2 years ago


    Jason, Wojtaszek is piece up, so after 21. d4 he can play simple Bd6. Now mass exchanges are forced on e5 and we got equal position.

    ... or its even better for black:
    d4 Bd6
    dxe5 Nxe5
    Nxe5 c2

    Way she played gave her pawn up.

  • 2 years ago


    Still looks crushing to me. I haven't put this through the computer yet.

  • 2 years ago

    FM MikeKlein

    @jason, well White was behind a knight at the time.

    I think the mistake was allowing the rook to get behind the pawn so easily at the end.

  • 2 years ago


    What happens in Hou-Wojtaszek after 21. d4. Doesn't it simply win the knight?

    It seems like she had reached what should have been a winning position but had to settle for a draw. 

  • 2 years ago



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