Shankland Knows His Classics, Reaches New Peak

Shankland Knows His Classics, Reaches New Peak

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Aug 11, 2016, 12:48 AM |
19 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Sam Shankland finished in clear first place at the masters tournament of the Biel Chess Festival. The American grandmaster's rating will rise to 2679, the highest in his career.

It's been more than a week, but the Sinquefield Cup absorbed most of our news coverage. The rest day in St. Louis gives a good opportunity to look back once again at the Biel Chess Festival. Besides Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Peter Svidler, who played their match (and the two junior matches held on the same podium), the playing hall was full of other strong players.

The masters tournament had 112 participants from 29 different federations, including 32 GMs and 15 IMs. The top seeds were GMs Nikita Vitiugov (RUS, 2728), Maxim Rodshtein (ISR, 2698), Eltaj Safarli, (AZE, 2678), Sam Shankland, (USA, 2661), Ivan Saric (CRO, 2660), Georg Meier (GER, 2657), S.P. Sethuraman (IND, 2656), Axel Bachmann (PAR, 2649), and Mateusz Bartel (POL, 2649).

It was Shankland who won the tournament alone, only a few weeks after his victory at the Edmonton International. The American was the only player to reach 7.5 points, with three draws and six wins. The runner-up, Safarli, remained undefeated as well but with one more draw. 

Shankland's tournament started with a funny game against a player rated 2292. The theme: know your classics!

Shankland, on Facebook:

“Even in today's hypermodern age, it is very important for chess players to know their classics and educate themselves with games from previous generations. This can be difficult to remember in the age of 3400 rated engines, but the rewards are very tangible.”

Note the striking similarity to the classic Tarrasch-Marco, Dresden 1892:

The playing hall in Biel. | Photo Biel Chess Festival.

There's so many interesting games from the winner to include here! Let's just look at a few fragments. In round two, where he played the Dutch and got his desired attack, he also had his share of winner's luck.

Annotations by Sam Shankland

These days it's very useful if you can play both 1.e4 and 1.d4. Shankland used the latter to beat Croatia's number-one player Saric. White found an excellent trade which cemented his advantage.

A textbook win vs Saric. | Photo Biel Chess Festival.

A bit more luck and good endgame technique got Shankland another win in the penultimate round. A quick draw with Safarli then did the job for him in the final round.

Annotations by Sam Shankland

With the Olympiad in Baku starting in three weeks, Shankland's good results are excellent news for the U.S. men's team. With Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So they have three top-10 players, but a strong performance on board four can be crucial. 

Two years ago, in Tromsø, Shankland scored an undefeated 9/11 with an 2831 performance. If he can keep his form, and if Ray Robson will play well, winning a medal won't be the question in Baku. It will be which medal.

We'll leave the final words of this report to the winner himself. Here's his Facebook post:

# Fed Name Title Rtg W D L Pts TB1 TB2
1 Shankland,Samuel L GM 2661 6 3 0 7.5 48.0 366.5
2 Safarli,Eltaj GM 2678 5 4 0 7.0 47.5 361.5
3 Aravindh,Chithambaram VR GM 2543 5 3 1 6.5 49.0 351.0
4 Bachmann,Axel GM 2649 5 3 1 6.5 46.0 347.5
5 Salem,A R. Saleh GM 2608 4 5 0 6.5 45.5 352.0
6 Sasikiran,Krishnan GM 2639 5 3 1 6.5 45.0 348.5
7 Baklan,Vladimir GM 2618 4 5 0 6.5 43.5 352.0
8 Khairullin,Ildar GM 2629 4 5 0 6.5 43.5 347.5
9 Saric,Ivan GM 2660 5 2 2 6.0 48.0 351.0
10 Kovchan,Alexander GM 2576 5 2 2 6.0 47.5 357.5
11 Vitiugov,Nikita GM 2728 3 6 0 6.0 47.0 348.0
12 Kraemer,Martin GM 2567 5 2 2 6.0 43.0 355.0
13 Erdos,Viktor GM 2578 3 6 0 6.0 43.0 332.0
14 Henrichs,Thomas IM 2471 5 2 2 6.0 43.0 322.0
15 Brkic,Ante GM 2585 4 4 1 6.0 42.0 349.0
16 Meier,Georg GM 2657 3 6 0 6.0 42.0 346.0
17 Edouard,Romain GM 2639 3 6 0 6.0 42.0 340.5
18 Donchenko,Alexander GM 2583 4 4 1 6.0 41.0 337.0
19 Balogh,Csaba GM 2635 4 4 1 6.0 40.5 335.5
20 Rodshtein,Maxim GM 2698 3 6 0 6.0 39.5 338.5
21 Bartel,Mateusz GM 2649 5 1 3 5.5 46.5 334.5
22 Kunin,Vitaly GM 2592 4 3 2 5.5 46.0 347.5
23 Gozzoli,Yannick GM 2571 4 3 2 5.5 44.5 338.5
24 Bellahcene,Bilel IM 2498 4 3 2 5.5 44.5 330.0
25 Karthikeyan,Murali GM 2513 4 3 2 5.5 43.0 327.0
26 Sethuraman,S P. GM 2656 4 3 2 5.5 42.5 351.0
27 Jumabayev,Rinat GM 2613 5 1 3 5.5 42.5 346.5
28 Horvath,Adam GM 2498 5 1 3 5.5 42.0 334.0
29 Swayams,Mishra IM 2457 4 3 2 5.5 41.0 337.5
30 Baron,Tal GM 2557 4 3 2 5.5 41.0 319.5

(Full final standings here.)

Safarli, Shankland and Aravindh Chithambaram VR, the top three finishers at the Biel Masters. | Photo Biel Chess Festival.

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