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'Mr Dortmund' Starts With A Loss Again

'Mr Dortmund' Starts With A Loss Again

"Mr Dortmund" Vladimir Kramnik is playing in the Sparkassen Chess Meeting for the 24th time, and won the tournament a record ten times. His 11th title is a bit further away after he started with a loss, to Vladimir Fedoseev.

A sacrificial Kramnik suffered a loss in round one. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

One of the most traditional super tournaments took off Saturday in Dortmund: the Sparkassen Chess Meeting. Like in recent years, it's an eight-player single round robin. Here are the results of the first round:

2017 Sparkassen Chess Meeting | Round 1 Results

Fed Name Rtg Pts Result Pts Fed Name Rtg
Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu 2683 0 ½ - ½ 0 Matthias Bluebaum 2642
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2791 0 ½ - ½ 0 Radoslaw Wojtaszek 2736
Wang Yue 2699 0 ½ - ½ 0 Dmitry Andreikin 2712
Vladimir Kramnik 2812 0 0 - 1 0 Vladimir Fedoseev 2726

Ten titles is truly impressive, but Kramnik hasn't won in Dortmund since 2011. In each edition since his last victory, he couldn't win his first round game. In both 2014 and 2015 he started with a loss, to Georg Meier and Arkadij Naiditsch respectively. This year it happened again.

On Saturday Vladimir Kramnik played in the style of Mikhail Tal, including a dazzling sacrifice that wasn't not entirely correct—because Kramnik made a miscalculation. Unlike most of Tal's opponents, Vladimir Fedoseev found all the precise defensive moves and completely refuted the over-aggression. 

Kramnik had started the game rather quietly in fact. Following IM Jaime Santos, who pressed Vishy Anand in León last week, the 14th World Champion played the Exchange variation against the Caro-Kann—a line that a young Bobby Fischer used to play as well.

Fedoseev, who qualified for Dortmund as the winner of this year's Aeroflot Open, was well prepared for this line. "I thoroughly analysed it this year with my trainer Alexander Khalifman," he said afterward. That was both well prepared and well played by the 22-year-old player from St. Petersburg.

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A surprising win for Black in the game of the Vladimirs. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

One certain chess player might have breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Kramnik's loss. Magnus Carlsen is only ten points ahead of the Russian on the July FIDE rating list, so the chance that he will lose his number one spot this month is somewhat smaller now.

The same pawn structure, albeit briefly, was seen in the game between Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu and Matthias Bluebaum. The Romanian-born grandmaster tried out Baadur Jobava's 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bf4!? and after 3...c5 4.e3 cxd4 5.exd4 we saw the same half open e-file vs half-open c-file, although with a white knight already on c3. 

The structure changed soon though, leading to three "pawn islands" for Black vs two for White. But, with only a rook and a knight for each player, this was too small an advantage for Nisipeanu to get serious winning chances.

Nonetheless, the game was the longest of the round because Nisipeanu tried everything he could find. "I had to find a few only moves in the rook endgame," said Bluebaum. "Luckily it just worked out perfectly."

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Nisipeanu tried everything trick in the book, but Blübaum didn't budge. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who is defending his title in Dortmund, can't have been too satisfied about his start. He didn't get much as White in an Anti-Marshall, and then decided to sacrifice his a-pawn. Radek Wojtaszek just grabbed it, and was better when he found 24...Bb4, 25...Ba5 and 26...Bb6.

"I completely overlooked his bishop maneuver, after which I am worse," said MVL, who was lucky to escape with a draw. Wojtaszek might have missed a clear win on move 33.

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Not a great start for MVL in Dortmund, but it could be worse. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

The other draw was between Wang Yue and Dmitry Andreikin. The Chinese GM—who is playing his first tournament in Europe in two years, if we don't count the Baku Olympiad—got surprised by his opponent's old and rare line in the Queen's Gambit Accepted: an early ...Bg4. It was a big opening success for Andreikin, who was pressing for most of the game. 


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A most comfortable draw for Andreikin in round one. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

2017 Sparkassen Chess Meeting | Round 1 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Fedoseev,Vladimir 2726 3612 1 1.0/1
2 Vachier Lagrave,Maxime 2791 2736 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
3 Wojtaszek,Radoslaw 2736 2791 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
4 Andreikin,Dmitry 2712 2699 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
5 Wang,Yue 2699 2712 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
6 Nisipeanu,Liviu-Dieter 2683 2642 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
7 Bluebaum,Matthias 2642 2683 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
8 Kramnik,Vladimir 2812 1926 0 0.0/1

The pairings for the second round, on Sunday, are Blübaum - Fedoseev, Andreikin - Kramnik, Wojtaszek - Wang Yue and Nisipeanu - Vachier-Lagrave.

The 45th Sparkassen Chess Meeting takes place 15-23 July, 2017 in the Orchesterzentrum NRW in Dortmund, Germany. The time control is 100 Minuten for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for 20 moves and then 15 minutes to end the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1.

You can follow the games each day starting from 15:15 CEST (9:15 a.m. New York, 6:15 Pacific) in Live Chess.

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