MVL Stumbles Late But Still Wins Biel

MVL Stumbles Late But Still Wins Biel

| 7 | Chess Event Coverage

After leading by 1.5 points with three rounds to go, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (6/10) managed just two draws in his final three games. Still, it was enough for him to win the Biel International Chess Festival by a half-point over top Polish GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek (5.5/10).

Biel is a prestigious event with past winners that include GMs Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Fabiano Caruana, Anatoly Karpov, and (many years ago) Bent Larsen.

The two played in today's final round. Had Wojtaszek managed to make something of his tiny plus, the order of the top two could have been swapped. As it occurred, Vachier-Lagrave held the game and his first place standing.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, winner in Biel in 2009 and now in 2014

The only other player with a shot at the title today was bottom-seeded but overachieving GM Hou Yifan. Like Wojtaszek, she needed to win as Black, but she played from behind all game and eventually lost to GM Pentala Harikrishna.

Five of the six players ended with an even score or better. Hou, Harikirshna, and GM Anish Giri all finished with 5/10. Only current European Champion GM Alexander Motylev (3.5/10) failed to get to 50 percent or better.

(Left to right) GMs Motylev, Harikrishna, Wojtaszek, Giri, Vachier-Lagrave, and Hou (photo courtesy official site)

The field became bunched up when top-seeded Vachier-Lagrave suffered his only loss of the double round-robin in game nine. Giri enacted retribution from the first cycle by narrowly winning a knight ending against the leader.

"I'm not really upset," Vachier-Lagrave said. "Anish played a really good game."

"You're lying -- you are upset, I know this," Giri laughed.

In fact, all three games were won by White in round nine (all three in round eight were drawn).

GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek, very close to his first Biel title

Wojtaszek put himself in position to have a chance at first by dominating the space advantage all game against Harikrishna. Whereas Giri played an Anti-Grunfeld system, the Indian #2 was allowed to enter the Grunfeld, but it didn't help. He could neither win nor effectively blockade White's center pawns.

37. Rxe6 was obvious but nonetheless pleasing.

"I just tricked him," Wojtaszek said.

"I did not expect this variation," Harikrishna said. "I missed the idea of e5...I spent a lot of time to find some way out."

Hou became the third winner in round eight, and kept her tournament chances alive when she took out Motylev. Like in the Giri-Vachier-Lagrave match, a rook and knght endging was reached.

"After the opening, it is kind of boring," Hou said. "But then I just simply played this Rd1 and missed this ...Nd5, ...f5 and Black has some promising chances."

Black was better until he started drifting and allowed White to gain pressure down the g-file. 35...Rf8 was especially wasteful, since after 36. d4 and eventually Rxg6, the Black king is ineffective.

When asked about her ability to win the tournament, she said, "Improving quality is more important."

The end of the tournament, coupled with the end of Dortmund, means there will be no more rated events before next month's Sinquefield Cup.(The Olympiad will not be rated in time) If GM Sergey Karjakin accepts his invitation, the average rating will be exactly 2804. This would be above previous estimates and would make it the officially the highest-rated tournament in history.

In the Biel "Master Tournament," Indian GM Baskaran Adhiban leads with 7.5/10 with one round to play. He is trailed by two video authors: GMs Victor Mikhalevski and Sam Shankland, along with GMs Mateusz Bartel, Dragan Solak and Dariusz Swiercz, all with 7/10.

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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