Super-GMs Compete In 'Month Of Friendly Matches'

Super-GMs Compete In 'Month Of Friendly Matches'

| 5 | Chess Event Coverage

Last week, friendly matches were played between Boris Gelfand and Ernesto Inarkiev, and between Ding Liren and Alexander Grischuk. Yesterday another match started in Biel; this one was between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Peter Svidler.

It seems like it's the month of friendly matches. Two have just finished; one has just started. By “friendly,” we mean that the winner doesn't qualify for the next stage of the world championship or something like that!

Gelfand versus Inarkiev

Let's get started with Boris Gelfand versus Ernesto Inarkiev, the longest match of the three. It was held July 12-22 in Magas, the capital of Ingushetia in the North Caucasus region of Russia. The match consisted of six classical games and six rapid games (15 minutes plus 10 seconds per move). It was part of the Tower of Solidarity Chess Festival which included a junior tournament, seminars, and simuls.

Inarkiev - Gelfand (game one) | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

On July 12, an armageddon game was played to determine the colors in the match. It was won by Inarkiev, who chose to start with the white pieces. This game was drawn, but the next day Gelfand opened the score with a nice combination.

After three more draws, Gelfand won another nice game to set the score at 4-2 for the classical segment. The 2012 vice world champion is known for his positional understanding, but that doesn't mean he cannot play a mating attack!

Next on the agenda were three rapid games on July 21. One was drawn, but Gelfand won both of his black games to clinch the match. The last three rapid games were played on the viewing area of the city symbol, the Tower of Concord, which stands at a height of almost 100 meters. It started with a draw followed by yet another win for Gelfand. In the final game, Inarkiev finally scored a win.

The Tower of Concord in Magas. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

Ding vs Grischuk

Anther match was held in Wenzhou, China, from July 19-22 between Alexander Grischuk and Ding Liren. This was a much shorter match; in fact it was only four games! Grischuk won the first, and only decisive game.

Grischuk won the first and only decisive game in Wenzhou.

Game three saw a highly tactical phase that deserves to be shown here as well. In another King's Indian (This time Ding chose the Fianchetto variation.), first Ding missed a good chance, and then Grischuk missed another. 

Grischuk took home $20,000 for his victory; Ding won $10,000. 

Vachier-Lagrave vs Svidler

This Sunday another match started, this one is part of the annual Biel Chess Festival. In recent years, the main event was always a six-player double round robin, but it has now shrunk to a match.

Yesterday, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Peter Svidler played four rapid games. This week four classical games will follow, and then they'll also participate in a blitz tournament on Saturday.

In the first game, MVL immediately took the lead, using the Najdorf as Black. What a joy it is to have at least one top class grandmaster using that great opening regularly and in such great style!

“Very well-played by Maxime but not by me,” said Svidler. “I haven't played chess for a while, and I think it kind of showed.” The Russian GM was already five minutes down on the clock by move 22; the time management was unnecessary and began to play a role later in the game.

The second game was a fun one. Svidler said that his opening choice, the Kan Sicilian, had to do with the result in game one. “I felt I need to go for something riskier.” MVL's queen sac was fine, but he failed to find the critical follow-up.

Game three was a Grünfeld battle between two of the greatest Grünfeld experts in the world! It was funny to see that Vachier-Lagrave came up with a novelty which improved upon a game by Svidler (as Black) from 25 years ago — something Svidler didn't seem to remember, but we'll forgive him.

The endgame was right from the start a one-way affair. “Very well converted by Maxime,” said Svidler.

The fourth game was a 6.d3 Ruy Lopez which kind of fizzled out fairly quickly. Now the players will move to classical chess. There are in fact two more matches under way between young players: Benjamin Bok (Netherlands) versus Nico Georgiadis (Switzerland), and Francesco Rambaldi (Italy) versus Noël Studer of Switzerland.

All six match players standing together. | Photo Biel Chess Festival.

The top seeds in the open tournament are GMs Nikita Vitiugov, Maxim Rodshtein, Eltaj Safarli, Sam Shankland, Ivan Saric, Georg Meier, and S.P. Sethuraman. With so much going on, we'll definitely return to Biel at a later stage!

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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