MVL Beats Caruana As Dortmund Takes Off

MVL Beats Caruana As Dortmund Takes Off

| 18 | Chess Event Coverage

The Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dortmund started with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave beating Fabiano Caruana in what could be one of the key games of the tournament. Evgeny Najer won against Rainer Buhmann.

All photos courtesy of Dagobert Kohlmeyer.

For the first time ever, the tournament in Dortmund has two 2800 players; after day one, a third player broke this barrier in the live ratings. World #4 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave reached the highest virtual Elo in his career after he beat world #3 Fabiano Caruana. With three top-10 players playing, this was the first of the three top-10 versus top-10 encounters in this tournament.

Whereas someone else in this event is being called “Mr. Dortmund,” perhaps it's time to start calling MVL “Mr. Najdorf.” The Frenchman has been very successful with this opening that was used with great effect by two of the greatest chess players that ever lived, Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.

Whereas Caruana used one of Fischer's ideas, 6.h3, in his last two encounters, this time he went for an English Attack. The U.S. grandmaster seemed better prepared than his opponent, who spent 23 minutes on 13...Rb8 despite the fact that 14.f4 was the first new move.

An interesting middlegame followed where it was Caruana who eventually got the upper hand. He needed too much time on the clock though, and he chose the wrong piece setup on move 32. From that point forward, in mutual time-trouble, MVL took over completely. 

“It's always good to start a tournament with a win, especially against a strong opponent,” said Vachier-Lagrave. “But there's another tough game tomorrow against Kramnik.” About the game, he remarked confidently: “It would be a shame in such a tournament not to play for a win.”

Yet another Najdorf win for MVL. 

The first round saw another winner as Evgeniy Najer, the qualifier from the Aeroflot Tournament, defeated the lowest rated player, Rainer Buhmann. That game started as a Classical French with 5.Nce2, a move initially played by the first official world champion, Wilhelm Steinitz of Austria. 

Najer went for early aggression on the kingside, but Buhmann responded well, and in fact, played an excellent game until move 26. On his way to getting into time trouble, the 35-year-old German played the ugly Bd7-c8, Najer then missed a direct win but scored the point anyway when his opponent missed a difficult move pointed out by the computer. All in all, not a bad game to watch! 

A good Steinitz-French won by Najer.

What about 10-time winner Vladimir Kramnik? Well, he did better than last year when he started with a loss. The Russian drew a quiet Berlin with Cuban number-one, Leinier Dominguez, who played the 5.Re1 line which almost always ends in a draw at this level. At the same time, there are ways to get a tiny edge without any risk, and that's what Dominguez went for with his novelty on move 20.

Theoretically, White should have an edge with bishop versus knight, but maybe that's not so if the pawns are fixed on the squares of the bishop's color. In the game, it was always about equal, and Kramnik must have felt comfortable throughout.

The B-N endgame in Dominguez-Kramnik was quite interesting.

Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu is known for is imaginative play, which got him to a shared second place in Dortmund last year. In this first round, he once again put the board on fire with his 19th move, the start of the complications. It was a risky affair, and Black was definitely better, but Ruslan Ponomariov allowed his opponent to get away with a draw.

“Our game was not without mistakes, but I am happy with the result,” said Nisipeanu.

A wild draw between Nisipeanu and Ponomariov.

Dortmund 2016 | Round 1 Standings

Place Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2798 3610 1 1.0/1 0.00
2 Najer, Evgeniy 2687 3453 1 1.0/1 0.00
3 Kramnik, Vladimir 2812 2713 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
4 Dominguez Perez, Leinier 2713 2812 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
5 Ponomariov, Ruslan 2706 2674 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
6 Nisipeanu, Liviu-Dieter 2674 2706 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
7 Caruana, Fabiano 2810 1998 0 0.0/1 0.00
8 Buhmann, Rainer 2653 1887 0 0.0/1 0.00

The second round will see the games Vachier-Lagrave vs. Kramnik, Buhmann vs. Dominguez Perez, Ponomariov vs. Najer, and Caruana vs. Nisipeanu.

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