Biel R6: Young Stars take an extra rest day

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Tomashevsky-So (c) Biel International Chess FestivalToday is an official rest day in Biel, but yesterday, the young stars looked determined to make it not one but two breaks in a row.

After the fourth round, we expressed the hope that the youngsters would play more enterprising chess in the rounds to come, but they probably didn't read our request - or didn't care - since both in round 5 and 6, a majority of the games ended in quick draws.

For instance, we don't have to spend much time on such fifth round games as Howell-Tomashevsky (draw in 16 moves) and Negi-Truong Son (draw in 22 moves). And this trend continued in the sixth: Tomashevsky-So (24 moves), Andreikin-Rodshtein (20 moves), Giri-Negi (20 moves) and the needlessly overlong Truong Son-Caruana (31 moves). What's up with these guys? What are they afraid of? It's anyone's guess.

So let's focus on the few exciting games that were played yesterday and the day before. First of all, there was the surprise loss of tournament leader Wesley So against Fabiano Caruana in round 5.

Black's knight on g4 is attacked, but White's knight on h7 is also an instability in the positon. So comes up with an fascinating solution:

16...cxd4! This is probably better than 16...Ngf6 17.dxc5 with an edge for White. However, Black had two other interesting moves, namely 16...Nde5!? and 16...Nxf2!?, the latter with the idea 17.Qxf2 f5! and the knight on h7 is trapped. The result is a double-edged position.

17.exd4 Probably best. After 17.hxg4 Ne5! 18.exd4 Nxd3 19.Qxd3 Qxd4 Black is fine despite the fact that he's a piece down for the moment. Now, So did withdraw his knight, and after 17...Ngf6 18.Bf4 Qe7 the position was roughly equal. However, two moves later Black became active a move too soon:

Black is OK after a move like 20...Nd5, and even 20...Rxd4 seems possible, but after 20...b5? Caruana replied with the cunning 21.Bc7! totally disrupting the coordination of Black's pieces. After 21...Rd7 22.Qc6 Ra7 23.Bb6 White had an edge due to the bishop pair. Still, it wasn't all misery for Black until he failed to grab back a sacrificed pawn.

White is a pawn up, but after 33...Bd5! with the idea Nc6, Black seems to have sufficient counterplay. Instead, So played the active-looking 33...Rxf1+? 34.Kxf1 Bf3 but it transpired that White could hold on to his pawn after 35.Ke1 Nc6 36.Rb5 and Black didn't have enough compensation - he never saw it back. Also in the 5th round, Maxim Rodshtein played a good game against Anish Giri, basically outplaying him straight from the opening.

Black seems to be winning back the pawn, but alas, White has the strong pseudo-sacrifice 27.Qxc5! Bxc5 28.Rxc5 with a crushing bind, which he converted after a subsequent blunder by Giri. A well-deserved win for Rodshtein.

The only other decisive game of the past two days was Howell-Vachier Lagrave. David Howell is having a pretty miserable time in Biel, and in the sixth round, things went wrong once again after a well-played opening and middlegame phase.

Despite his doubled e-pawns, White has a pleasant plus due to Black's weakened kingside. There are several attractive plans in the position, such as 26.Rg3 with the idea of doubling rooks, or 26.Rdf1 with the idea Qd1 and perhaps Qg4 to follow, but there's also the tactical solution 26.Nxd6 Qxd6 27.Rxg5 after which something like 27...Rf2 doesn't work in view of 28.Rdg1, winning.

But for some reason Howell played the defensive 26.Nc3? which gave Black to opportunity to grab the initiative with 26...Nf3!.

A few moves later, Black was fully activated:

Now, White's 26th move might have been useful after all, as 31.Nxa4! seems possible: 31...Nxa4 32.Qa5 with serious counterplay. It wasn't to be. Howell thought he had time for the solid-looking 31.Ka2? but was surprised by 31...Rh1! after which White has problems holding on to his e-pawns.

After 6 rounds, the Italian Fabiano Caruana has taken the lead with 4/6, closely followed by no less than five players with 3,5. Anish Giri has a bit of a disappointing tournament so far with 2,5 points. For Negi and Howell, the tournament can already be considered lost. Let's hope the players use their offocial rest day well.

Standings after Round 6:

1. Caruana 4 2. So, Tomashevsky, Andreikin, Vachier Lagrave, Rodshtein 3,5 7. Truong Son 3 8. Giri 2,5 9. Negi, Howell 1,5

Games start daily at 14.00 CET, except July 25, which is a rest day.

Biel Young Grandmasters Games round 5 & 6

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