Hort, Karpov, Vaganian In Action At 50th Biel Festival

Hort, Karpov, Vaganian In Action At 50th Biel Festival

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

The 50th jubilee edition of the Biel Chess Festival is underway in Switzerland. Among the participants are Vlastimil Hort and Anatoly Karpov, who played the rapid tournament on Sunday, and Rafael Vaganian, who plays both the rapid and the main event.

The Accentus Rapid Tournament on Sunday. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

Most of the chess world knows it as Biel, but officially the town in northwest Switzerland is named "Biel/Bienne." The reason is that the town finds itself right on the language boundary between the French-speaking and German-speaking parts of Switzerland.

Home town of famous watch brands such as Rolex, Swatch and Omega, Biel has been hosting one of the finest chess festivals for half a century now. Not many events that are still running, are older—probably only Hastings, Wijk aan Zee and the Capablanca Memorial.

To celebrate its 50th jubilee edition, a number of former world class grandmasters was invited to participate. On the first day there was a rapid tournament with none other than Anatoly Karpov, who was joined by younger GMs, but also two of his old rivals: Vlastimil Hort and Rafael Vaganian.

It was a knockout with two games per round. The time control was ten minutes plus 5 seconds increment on the clock, and if necessary an Armageddon. 

2017 Biel Accentus Rapid Tournament | Participants

# Fed Name Rapid Rtg Born
1 David Navara 2716 1985
2 Pentala Harikrishna 2706 1986
3 Alexander Morozevich 2662 1977
4 Yannick Pelletier 2644 1976
5 Anatoly Karpov 2611 1951
6 Hou Yifan 2611 1994
7 Rafael Vaganian* 2560 1951
8 Vlastimil Hort 2455 1944

* Classical FIDE rating

Unfortunately (for the older fans among us) Karpov didn't last very long. The 12th world champion, and three-time Biel winner, was paired against Alexander Morozevich

Karpov got a good position in the first game but lost on time. He said he was winning at the end, but sadly the PGN of this game is incomplete.


The start of the second game between Karpov and Morozevich. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

As White, Karpov couldn't really press, and in a rook endgame with an extra pawn Morozevich offered a draw. After his exit, Karpov spent quite a while joining the live commentary with Danny King and Georgiadis:

The other two former top GMs were also knocked out in the first round. Vaganian lost twice to native Biel grandmaster Yannick Pelletier, who only played the rapid—because he is also the director of the Grandmaster Tournament. 

It was perhaps good old Hort who put up the most resistance. After losing the first game, the second ended in a draw after he had some initiative. In a rook endgame Pentala Harikrishna went for a perpetual:

The rapid tournament was won by top seed David Navara, who first eliminated Hou Yifan, and then also Morozevich. The former world number two could easily have won this semifinal though, as he was winning in both games.

The first he lost on time after missing a clear win:


The first round of Sunday's rapid tournament. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

And in the second, Navara managed to hold on in a lost rook endgame. Some years ago the Czech grandmaster explained in Wijk aan Zee that he loves studying rook endgames, and perhaps this was one of those games where it paid off.

Incidentally, in the studio Karpov immediately pointed out the winning plan for Morozevich. But, at the board and with little time, it's never easy.

In the final, Navara defeated Harikrishna by winning the first and drawing the second. His white game was pretty straightforward:


A medal for Harikrishna, a trophy for Navara. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

Games from TWIC.

A day later the Grandmaster Tournament started, which is a 10-player round-robin. The time control is 100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for 20 moves and then 15 minutes to the end of the game, plus a 30-second increment starting from move one.

Five of the eight players in the rapid event also play in the main event, together with Ruslan Ponomariov, Peter Leko and Etienne Bacrot as well as two Swiss talents, IM (GM-elect!) Noel Studer and IM Nico Georgiadis.

2017 Biel Grandmaster Tournament | Participants

# Fed Name Rtg Born
1 GM Pentala Harikrishna 2750 1986
2 GM David Navara 2739 1985
3 GM Ruslan Ponomariov 2712 1983
4 GM Peter Leko 2703 1979
5 GM Etienne Bacrot 2696 1983
6 GM Alexander Morozevich 2675 1977
7 GM Hou Yifan 2652 1994
8 GM Rafael Vaganian 2560 1951
9 IM Noel Studer 2498 1996
10 IM Nico Georgiadis 2472 1996


The participants with some of the organizers. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

The first round saw Bacrot-Ponomariov, Vaganian-Harikrishna and Georgiadis-Navara ending in draws, but the two decisive games were both very interesting. For starters, Hou Yifan defeated Alexander Morozevich as Black after defending brilliantly in a sharp position that came from a King's Indian Attack. 

The next day Morozevich revealed that he played the sacrifice on d5 because at that point he didn't like his position anymore. The sac was correct, but the follow-up was not.


A handshake with two smiles, that's how it should be! | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

Last year during the Isle of Man tournament Peter Leko stated that he is still putting in hours of work each day to keep an opening repertoire that is good enough for 2750 level chess. It's interesting to see how that will work out in Biel. Against one of the two Swiss IMs he picked maybe something that is not part of his regular top-notch repertoire: the Benoni.


Peter Leko played the Benoni in his first game in Biel. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

Obviously also in that opening the former world championship contender knew his way, although he spent a lot of time in the opening. The Hungarian GM ended up playing a beautiful strategic game. However, Studer also showed what he's made of, and played rather well. But that infamous 40th move...


Losing like this against a top GM? Nothing to be ashamed of. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

The second round saw even more drama, with three decisive games. Bacrot beat Vaganian and Ponomariov won against Leko, but we'll look at Morozevich again, who bounced back (and thus took revenge!) against the winner of the rapid tournament.

It was another Benoni, where the pawn on d6 is often Black's Achilles heel. Moro's solution? Just give it up!


Another Benoni in the making: Navara vs Morozevich. | Photo: Biel International Chess Festival.

2017 Biel Grandmaster Tournament | Round 2 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Ponomariov,Ruslan 2699 2887 ½ 1 1.5/2 1.75
2 Bacrot,Etienne 2715 2821 ½ 1 1.5/2 1.25
3 Hou,Yifan 2666 2774 1 ½ 1.5/2 1.25
4 Harikrishna,Pentala 2737 2529 ½ ½ 1.0/2 0.75
5 Georgiadis,Nico 2496 2737 ½ ½ 1.0/2 0.75
6 Leko,Peter 2678 2596 0 1 1.0/2 0.50
7 Morozevich,Alexander 2675 2701 0 1 1.0/2 0.50
8 Studer,Noel 2493 2482 ½ 0 0.5/2 0.75
9 Navara,David 2737 2395 ½ 0 0.5/2 0.50
10 Vaganian,Rafael 2562 2536 0 ½ 0.5/2 0.50

Games from TWIC.

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.

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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