Hou Yifan Beats Biel-Leader Bacrot, 4 Tied For 1st
Etienne Bacrot had a clear lead in Biel after rounds five and six, but Hou Yifan's defeat of the frenchman in round seven produced a four-way tie for first entering the final two rounds. Bacrot is still among those tied for first, but now he is joined by Hou, Pentala Harikrishna, and the impressive young IM Nico Georgiadis.
Photos courtesy of Biel Chess Festival.
Such a horse race seemed quite unlikely after round six when Bacrot's nearest competitor, Hou Yifan, faltered against GM Pentala Harikrishna. She was ground down by the Indian's firm handling of a Maroczy Bind structure.
Hou Yifan decides on the first move against Harikrishna. | Photos courtesy of the Biel Chess Festival.
Meanwhile, Ruslan Ponomariov won one of the finest games of the tournament. He convincingly defeated the luckless GM David Navara in a classic Sicilian duel.
Ponomariov on a high in round six. | Photos courtesy of the Biel Chess Festival.
In the dramatic chaos of round seven, GM Alexander Morozevich was the first winner. He bested Ponomariov, plopping both of these fine players onto +1, a half-point behind the leaders. With a strong finish, either could still tie for first or win outright.
Morozevich was rewarded for aggression against Ponomariov. | Photos courtesy of the Biel Chess Festival.
That brings us to Hou Yifan's victory. As she said herself, White was attacking for most of the game, but things were not so clear. It is easier to attack than defend. In the face of both objective and practical difficulties, Bacrot slipped, allowing a decisive rook infiltration and resigning almost on the spot.
A fine win for Hou Yifan. | Photos courtesy of the Biel Chess Festival.
The final victory adding a new co-leader was by IM Nico Georgiadis who defeated fellow Swiss IM Noel Studer. Georgiadis must be thrilled to be among the leaders, but he may be even happier to have assured himself of the grandmaster title. According to chessgames.com, Georgiadis already has the required norms and needs only achieve a rating of 2500. With a projected rating gain of 25 points thus far when he needs only four, nothing (except perhaps bureaucracy) will prevent him claiming the title.
Georgiadis, smiling for excellent reasons. | Photos courtesy of the Biel Chess Festival.
Biel International Chess Festival | Standings After Round 7
Who is a favorite among the leaders to win the event? With two rounds to go, it may just be Hou Yifan. Her prospective pairings are against Georgiadis and Vaganian, tough opponents to be sure, but they are likely the most favorable pairings among the leaders. Should she win, this might be the most significant tournament captured by a female player since Judit Polgar. It is worth noting that Hou Yifan is only 23, not that much older than the 21-year-old Swiss talents, Georgiadis and Studer.
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.