Preview Biel

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Being a chess fan can be quite tough. We've already had so many super tournaments this year, the latest of which, Poikovsky, just having finished. And so many are yet to come: Sochi, Mainz, the Tal Memorial, the Grand Slam Final in Bilbao, the Olympiad and God knows what else.

By Michael Schwerteck

Ah yes, isn't some World Championship match scheduled, too? I can't even remember the date. One might expect that at least for one week or two the poor chess fans get some respite. Alas, no, yet another super tournament has been crammed into the calendar. Even worse, ?¢‚Ǩ?æthat annoying Norwegian dude?¢‚Ǩ?ì (Peter's words, although they could have been mine) is participating again. So what can we do? We have to muster up all our courage and cope with it somehow, albeit reluctantly

To get a little bit more serious: I'm of course talking about Biel. The first round starts on Sunday, 14:00 CET. It's a six player double round-robin, so at least there are only three games per day we have to watch. In case of a quick draw or two, one might even get some serious work done, but only if one doesn't pay any attention to the Politiken Cup in Copenhagen nor to the ZMD Open in Dresden, nor to any of the countless other tournaments which are being held at the same time (can't anyone talk reason into the organizers?). If you wish to know more about the Biel tournament, I recommend that you visit the nice official site. As you may already have noticed, I'm in a funny mood today and don't feel like copying serious information. Let me rather have some fun by presenting the players my own way and making some wild predictions.

Magnus Carlsen:

I can't resist the temptation to quote Nakamura's words after Carlsen's first appearance in Biel three years ago, when Magnus finished last (from ?¢‚Ǩ?æSchach?¢‚Ǩ?ì 9/05): ?¢‚Ǩ?æI don't rate Carlsen very highly. He won't make it. He used to be aggressive, but now he makes far too many draws.?¢‚Ǩ?ì Well, obviously Carlsen did make it, at least better than Nakamura. It has become evident that the boy is one of the most amazing geniuses of all time and I can't help feeling that he is still far from having reached his peak, however scary this sounds. He just keeps improving further and further. And yet, I think there is a grain of truth in Nakamura's words.

Sometimes I feel that Magnus is just acting too cautiously, as if he wasn't really aware of his own strength. Perhaps he is such a modest person that he can't easily get used to the idea that he's one of the greatest players ever. My personal impression is that we still haven't seen the real, grown-up Carlsen, who might be of almost irresistible strength. However, I do think we got a glimpse of that person at Foros where Magnus started to simply beat anyone out of any kind of position. It's also interesting to see that he has taken up the Dragon as one of his main weapons. This shows that he is now willing to battle against top GMs in very sharp and double-edged positions.

It has worked out well so far. I expect him to continue in the same fashion in Biel and wouldn't be too surprised by a massive result like Moro's 8/10 in 2003. It should be noted, however, that Carlsen has a negative score against both Alekseev and Pelletier. Against the latter, he lost dreadfully in 15 moves three years ago and last year he went down again after a mysterious pawn grab on h7. I don't think such things will happen again, though. My prediction: + 5.

Lenier Dominguez:

Another very exciting player. I was most impressed by his performance in Barcelona 2006: Before the final round he had 7/8 and faced Ivanchuk with white, who was trailing him by half a point. Instead of aiming for a solid draw, the Cuban totally crushed his famous opponent with a sacrificial attack. Dominguez is usually very well prepared and seems to be especially dangerous when having the initiative. Unfortunately, his style has become more solid and nowadays he doesn't mind taking unfought draws from time to time. Still, he can be an extremely dangerous opponent for anyone, Carlsen included, and I expect him to do well. My prediction: +2.

Etienne Bacrot:

The Frenchman has been around for ages, it seems, usually hovering around 2700. Besides, he's the proud father of two children. I can hardly believe that he's just 25 years old, two years younger than myself, but that's the truth. I consider him a very resourceful player with a universal style. He seems to feel comfortable in very different types of positions. For instance, one day he might play 1.e4 and crush the Sicilian in great attacking style and the next day he might play a closed opening and outplay his opponent with subtle manoeuvres. One of his main problems is that he can suffer terrible losing streaks when he's tired or out of form. I just remind you of his collapse against Kamsky in their candidates match 2007. Or, more recently, his three losses in the final rounds of Baku. This time, however, I expect him to do reasonably well. My prediction: +1.

Evgeny Alekseev:

I'm afraid I don't know very much about this player and I struggle to characterize his play. Anyway, he had a successful super tournament experience in Dortmund 2007, scoring 4/7 without a single loss against the likes of Anand, Kramnik, Leko and Carlsen. Topalov was impressed by his play then, calling him ?¢‚Ǩ?æDortmund's positive surprise?¢‚Ǩ?ì and praising the Russian's ?¢‚Ǩ?æmature chess?¢‚Ǩ?ì (?¢‚Ǩ?æSchach?¢‚Ǩ?ì 8/07). However, Alekseev doesn't seem to have progressed very much since then. He finished last in the Tal Memorial 2007 and recently scored ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú1 in Foros. I'm not sure what to predict but let's say 50 percent.

Alex Onischuk: A solid, no-nonsense player without any clear weaknesses but in my view a slightly dry playing style. He usually plays very solidly with black and tries to make something out of the advantage of the white pieces, using his detailed preparation and his good technique. Such an approach can lead to excellent games and tournament results occasionally, but to get to the very top you need a little bit more inspiration and brilliance. Currently Onischuk doesn't seem to be in very good shape. He scored a winless ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú4 in Foros and a winless ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú2 in Poikovsky. As the latter tournament has only just finished, Onischuk must be quite tired, too. I don't think Biel will be a real disaster for him, but I expect him to struggle a bit. My prediction: -3

Yannick Pelletier:

I hope it isn't understood as an offense if I say that, in my view, Pelletier is clearly the weakest participant. After all, the rating system expresses exactly the same. Yes, I know that he usually performs relatively well in Biel. But can this go on forever? One reason why this time might turn out differently is that Pelletier has bad individual scores against Bacrot and especially Onischuk. His positive score against Carlsen isn't much of an asset as the Norwegian will be particularly eager to adjust it. That said, Pelletier needs to be taken absolutely seriously and it's perfectly possibly that he'll score at least one win. After all, he's used to face such opposition. Still, someone has to lose a few games and Pelletier is simply the most likely candidate. Of course, I wouldn't mind to be proven wrong. My prediction: -5.
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