Bacrot Tries To Extend French Dominance In Biel
Chess players know it as Biel, but since 2013 it's been Bienne. After GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's four consecutive wins at the Biel International Chess Festival from 2013-2016 (three in tournaments, one in a match), another Frenchman is determined to keep the trophy on French soil.
While Vachier-Lagrave is not back to defend his title in the dual-named city, his friend and countryman is trying to fill his chaussures. With two wins in the last two days, GM Étienne Bacrot leads the 10-player field just over halfway through this year's marquee grandmaster event.
GM Étienne Bacrot is trying to make it five straight for the French. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.
The third seed is on 4.0/5 but still has yet to face the two highest-rated players; GMs Pentala Harikrishna and David Navara have the exact same rating (2737) to top the field.
After one of the two young Swiss IMs played a trade-fest draw with him in round three, Bacrot seemingly effortlessly took out GM Alexander Morozevich the following day. You don't usually see a queen posted up like Bacrot had on d6, but she served to hamper all of Black's counterplay.
GM Alexander Morozevich is creative, but not that creative. Developing the rook on move one is also not legal in Go. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.
The game is a model for how straightforward space advantages can lead to wins:
Today Bacrot was determined not to allow the other young Swiss IM, also playing White, to liquidate into a handshake. Bacrot absorbed the hanging pawns on the c- and d-files, when the balance of the game usually depends on the strength or weakness of the teammates.
When IM Noel Studer provoked them with 20. e4. The Frenchman advanced. There they sat patiently on c5 and d4 for 26 moves, while the other pieces fluttered about, often inaccurately for both sides. The instant that play returned to those pawns and one them advanced (46...c4), Studer resigned.
To balance out the score of hanging pawns, look no further than a neighboring board. Also today, GM Hou Yifan danced around Black's central duo to defeat GM David Navara.
It's not clear who "Toby Black" is (we're pretty sure it's not the #5 player on the Lakeside Middle School chess team), but GM Hou Yifan did just fine today playing White. She is lurking in second place. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.
Hou's game also served as revenge for being knocked out by the Czech number one a few days earlier in the preceding rapid tournament.
Navara's loss wipes away the gains from round four. In a violent day over the board, four wins came from the five games (contrasting the field's winless day three). We've already seen the winner's effort from yesterday, while in other action GM Pentala Harikrishna beat Studer in a 24-move rout.
In another matchup from Thursday, here's Navara's sweet tactic against GM Peter Leko for you to solve:
Bacrot's quest for his first Biel title must go through Hou and Leko beginning Sunday after tomorrow's rest day. He will then finish with the twin top seeds in the final two rounds.
"I think it doesn't matter," Bacrot said when asked about his upcoming pairings, which he didn't know from memory.
Also of note is ninth-seeded local player IM Nico Georgiadis, whose +1 score has him tied for third. No Swiss player has won the event since the late GM Viktor Korchnoi in 2001.
2017 Biel Grandmaster Tournament | Round 5 Standings
|9||GM||Vaganian Rafael A||2562||0||½||0||½||0||1,0||3,00|
The Biel Chess Festival takes place 24 July to 2 August 2017 in the Biel Congress Center. Alongside the main tournament there are a number of side events, including a strong open tournament with 13 players rated 2600 or higher. The top seed is GM Sam Shankland (USA). The festival has more than 600 participants in total.
Like every year, at the end of July the the Biel Congress Center is jam-packed with chess players. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.
You can follow the games of the Grandmaster Tournament live each day starting from 2 p.m. local time (5 a.m. Pacific, 8 a.m. New York) in Live Chess.