Carlsen and Alekseev start victorious in Biel

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Magnus CarlsenReading between the lines, you have probably guessed that we at Chessvibes don't really feel reluctant towards Biel at all. As true chess addicts, we're licking our chops, of course, and planning to provide daily coverage.

By Michael Schwerteck

It was an interesting first round (click here to download the games; we're still trying to get the gameviewer as soon as possible!) with two decisive games and one well-fought draw. So let's just talk about a little bit about the games one by one. I have to admit beforehand that I haven't had the time to seriously analyse the games, so this report for a change will rather be based on my emotions.

Carlsen ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú Pelletier

Being a great Carlsen fan and having predicted a huge score for him, watching this game was quite a nerve-racking experience. In my view a win with white against Pelletier was a must, of course. My emotions were quite fluctuating.

First phase: Carlsen played an aggressive line with a pawn sac. ?¢‚Ǩ?æGreat?¢‚Ǩ?ì, I thought, ?¢‚Ǩ?æhe's gonna crush the guy as he pleases?¢‚Ǩ?ì. By the way, they followed the game Bareev-Polgar from their candidates match in 2007. Bareev annotated this game (which he won) in New in Chess 5/2007. Polgar's 18...Bxf3 was criticized by Bareev. He recommended 18...Nc2 and indeed this was Pelletier?¢‚ǨÀús choice. However, Carlsen immediately deviated from Bareev's line (19.Bxf6 Nxf6 20.Re7) by playing 19.Re7 at once. This must have been preparation since he played very fast. (He played the whole game in Vishy speed, by the way.) I'm not sure what's going on at this point, but I guess (or rather: Rybka guesses) that the idea is 19...Bxe7 20.dxe7+ Ke8 21.Rc1 f6 22.Rxc2 fxg5 23.Re2 and the e7-pawn looks dangerous at least to the human eye (Rybka isn't that impressed).

Second phase: Pelletier refused to take any of the material on offer and after some exchanges the game petered out to a dead-drawn ending.

Third phase: Dead-drawn ending? It seems that nowadays the only dead-drawn ending in Magnus's view is king vs. king. Probably most GMs would simply have agreed a draw around move 35. However, we have already witnessed quite a few games in which Magnus played such endings on and on and on, often winning in the end. And he did just the same against Pelletier. And yet, the position looked sooo drawish... But okay, maybe it wasn't so easy, after all, as Black's pawns were slightly vulnerable. Still, it was incredible how smoothly Carlsen went on to win. At some point Pelletier gave up a pawn (was this really necessary?) to reach an opposite-coloured bishop ending. His position then became more and more passive and in the end he found himself in a terrible zugzwang. In the final position Black was bound to lose his h5-pawn, so Pelletier resigned. An intriguing game indeed.

Alekseev ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú Bacrot

After spending so much time on the Carlsen game, please forgive me my shorter coverage of the other ones. I can't say much about the opening in this game, but the position after some ten moves simply looks more pleasant for White to play. (Note from Arne: In Ivanchuk-Bacrot, Crete 2007, Etienne opted for 8...g6 instead of the obscure 8...Qc7 - a game that he actually won! I'm sure there must be a good reason for not playing g6 this time... Anyway, Aronian once chose 9.Bg5 instead of Alekseev's 9.e4. The sharp center advance definitely looks like the most principled way to play this line for White. The first new move of the game seems to have been 9...e5. It looks highly risky and I wonder if Bacrot prepared it at home.) In the game White had a clear plan: pushing the queenside majority. It's a primitive plan, but it sure worked out well in the game. Alekseev just pushed his c-pawn, won a piece and Bacrot resigned. It looked amazingly easy. I'll leave it to the experts to analyze where Black went wrong.

Dominguez ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú Onischuk

They played a line in the Arkhangelsk Variation which Onischuk had already defended against Sutovsky (Montreal 2006, drawn in 25 moves). Dominguez deviated with 15.Nh4 (instead of 15.Bd5), after which the game soon became quite sharp, especially after 22.Bxh6!?. Some detailed analysis is needed to say who was better and when and why. Anyway, in the game Onischuk had enough counterplay against White's king and secured the draw by perpetual check. Let's hope for more exciting games like this.

P.S.: Just when I had finished my report, Henrik Carlsen updated his blog. According to him (reflecting Magnus's opinion, I assume), the ending was ?¢‚Ǩ?æfairly even, but slightly better for white?¢‚Ǩ?ì. Whatever that means.
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