Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, as Nat King Cole would say. But there’s not much chance to sit back and relax during this time of the year in the chess world, as events tend to move fast and furious with top chess festivals mixing with holiday-oriented tournaments to serious top-class chess following hard on the heels of each other.
One such was the recent Dortmund Sparkasson Chess-Meeting in Germany won by newly-minted US No.2, Fabiano Caruana. And now at the opposite end of the Alps, there’s another long-time chess festival fast reaching it’s conclusion, with the 48th annual Biel Chess Festival in Switzerland ending at the end of the month.
First contested in 1968 - when there was a “Master Open” - Biel is regarded as one of the best and most enduring fixtures on the summer calendar. And each year, Biel always has an eclectic mix for the field for the top GM tournament, the latest edition having an average rating of 2720 Elo points (Category 19), and consisting of Michael Adams (England, Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), David Navara (Czech Republic), Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine) and Richard Rapport (Hungary).
We’ve seen four of the top seeds taking the outright lead in the double-round robin tournament, the latest being ex-World champion Vishy Anand’s lead second, Wojtaszek - but he’s now been caught and in a two-way tie at the top with Navara, with both on 5/8, a half point ahead of defending champion Vachier-Lagrave.
Radoslaw Wojtaszek - Maxime Vachier Lagrave
48th Biel GM, (7)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 Vachier-Lagrave ('MVL') is one of the world's foremost experts on the Grünfeld, and Wojtaszek is Anand's second - an intriguing tussle is set to ensue. 5.e3 0-0 6.Rc1 Be6 An unusual sideline; more common is 6...c5 aiming at breaking up White's pawn centre. 7.c5 c6 8.Bd3 Bg4 9.Nge2 Re8 10.f3 Bc8 11.0-0 Nbd7 12.Bg5 e5 Despite losing three tempi with his bishop (Bc8-e6-g4-c8) MVL is still able to get in the freeing idea of ...e5. 13.b4 Nf8 14.Bh4 Bh6 15.f4 e4 This takes some space in the centre but stabilises the kingside, allowing White more or less a free hand on the queenside. However, Black had the wildly complicated option here of 15...g5!? 16.fxg5 (16.Bxg5 Bxg5 17.fxg5 Ng4 18.Qd2 Qxg5) 16...Ng4 17.Qd2 Bxg5 18.Bxg5 Qxg5 19.Nd1 Ng6 and Black is no worse here. 16.Bc2 Bg7 17.b5 Bd7 18.Ba4 In hindsight, the option of 15...g5!? may well have been better, as now Wojtasek capitalises on his space advantage. 18...Qc8 19.h3 Nh5 20.Rb1 f5 21.Qb3 Bf6 22.Bxf6 Nxf6 23.bxc6 bxc6 24.Qb7! It's now evident that White is much better. Once the queens are exchanged, the endgame is going to be difficult for Black with the weak pawns on a7 and c6. 24...Ne6 25.Nc1 Rb8 26.Qxc8 Rexc8 27.Nb3 The knight is heading to a5 to further hit c6. 27...Nc7 28.Na5 Nb5 29.Ne2 Na3?! This is desperation from Black; he's all but given up on the game now. It would have been a hard struggle, but nevertheless 29...a6 was playable and had to be tried. 30.Rxb8 Rxb8 31.Bxc6 The problem is that as c6 fallls, then d5 will soon follow. 31...Bxc6 32.Nxc6 Rb2 33.Nc3 Rc2 34.Ne7+ Kf7 35.Ncxd5 Nc4 36.Rb1 Nh5 37.Nc6 Nd2 38.Ncb4! (See Diagram) This forces the rooks off, and with it the double knight ending is easily won with the central pawn mass storming fast down the board. 38...Nxb1 39.Nxc2 Ke6 40.Nc7+ Kd7 41.Nd5 Ke6 42.Ndb4 Nf6 43.d5+! Kd7 Of course, if 43...Nxd5 44.Nd4+ wins the knight on d5. 44.d6 Nc3 45.Nd4 Nfd5 46.Na6 1-0 The knight is going b8-c6-e5 where, in conjunction with the knight on d4, will safely see the pawns passing.