Harikrishna Wins Biel Chess960 As Plexiglass Separates Players
Harikrishna making a move. Photo: Biel Chess Festival.

Harikrishna Wins Biel Chess960 As Plexiglass Separates Players

| 38 | Chess Event Coverage

As the first, top-level over-the-board chess event that wasn't canceled due to the coronavirus since March, the Biel Chess Festival began on Saturday in Biel, Switzerland. GM Pentala Harikrishna won the one-day Chess960 tournament ahead of GM Vincent Keymer.

As noted in our article last week, "offline chess" is returning as many countries are easing their lockdowns. On March 25, the last high-level moves played on a real chessboard were made in Yekaterinburg, Russia, (and a day later, the second half of Candidates Tournament was postponed). The first high-profile event started 115 days later in Biel.

Biel 2020 players
Players and organizers in a "socially distanced" group photo. Photo: Biel Chess Festival.

In some countries, it is safe to organize big events again, and Switzerland is one of them. But also there, it cannot be done without measures to control the spread of the coronavirus.

All participants have to abide by the special Protection Concept (published in PDF on the official website). General principles include social distancing, regular hand washing, and the disinfection of clocks, boards, and pieces after each round. The use of facemasks and gloves is voluntary.

The top grandmasters have also something else: they are playing with a plexiglass partition between them.

The main, classical event isn't starting until Tuesday, but there are two one-day events this weekend: a Chess960 rapid tournament on Saturday and a regular rapid event on Sunday.

These are not just warm-up tournaments before the real thing starts. The organizers have chosen a rather interesting mix of blitz, rapid, and standard time controls with different values for the scores:

  • 7 rounds of Chess960 rapid on July 18 (tiebreak)
  • 7 rounds of rapid on July 19 (2 points for a win, 1 point for a draw)
  • 4 rounds of standard chess on July 21-24 (4 points for a win, 1.5 for a draw)
  • 14 rounds of blitz on July 25 (1 point for a win, 0.5 for a draw)
  • 3 more rounds of standard chess on July 27-29 (4 points for a win, 1.5 for a draw)

The first segment of this multidisciplinary tournament, Saturday's Chess960 tournament, will serve only as a tiebreaker in case players will tie for first place on points next week.

Biel Chess 2020
The players getting information about the unique playing conditions. Photo: Biel Chess Festival.

Harikrishna won the Chess960 tournament with 5.5/7 and was the only player to remain undefeated. The time control was 15 minutes plus a five-second increment, and the first prize was CHF 2,000 ($2,131 / 1,864 euros).

He won an interesting game in round two against GM Alexander Donchenko, who made a last-minute trip to Biel as GM Salem Saleh was originally scheduled to play but couldn't leave the UAE. In the main event, GM Arkadij Naiditsch will replace Salem.

In his database of over 3,000 games, this author couldn't find a single Chess960 game with this particular starting position, which scored 4-0 for White in the second round.

The following is a nice win by GM Michael Adams, who took down the local hero, 23-year-old GM Noel Studer. Don't miss the cross-pin on move 13. (And for this starting position, there are three games from a 2010 simul by GM Alexandra Kosteniuk.)

Biel chess plexiglass
New conditions provide new challenges for photographers! Photo: Biel Chess Festival.

GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek was keeping pace with Harikrishna but suffered an unexpected loss in the final round to Studer:

Biel Chess960 | Final Standings

# Fed Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Harikrishna,Pentala ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 5.5/7
2 Keymer,Vincent ½ ½ 0 1 1 1 1 5.0/7
3 Wojtaszek,Radoslaw ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 0 4.5/7
4 Donchenko,Alexander 0 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 3.5/7 10.75
5 Adams,Michael ½ 0 0 1 ½ ½ 1 3.5/7 9.75
6 Anton Guijarro,David 0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 1 3.0/7
7 Edouard,Romain 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 1 2.0/7
8 Studer,Noel 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1.0/7

Biel Chess960 | All games

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