Top seed Michael Adams beat David Navara to score the only win in the first round of the 2015 Biel Chess Festival. He was nearly joined by Radek Wojtaszek, but the Pole missed his moment to press home a big advantage and had to settle for a draw. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Pavel Eljanov’s draw came in a tense Berlin Endgame where both players had hopes of playing for a win.
Biel Chess Festival 2015 Round 1 games
Sometimes Alexander Grischuk’s time management looks like pure madness, but on Monday in Biel David Navara unwittingly revealed some of the method behind that madness. Adams chose the same g3 setup against the Najdorf as Magnus Carlsen had done against Grischuk in Norway Chess. On that occasion Grischuk spent over 38 minutes on his 11th move, where he took the decision to exchange knights on d5 to get the following position:
Grischuk here instantly followed through with his plan of 12…Nf6, with the idea that he would respond to 13.Nxe7 with 13…Kxe7!? Grischuk commented back then, “I wasn’t in love with my position at all – it’s far from great”, but Carlsen instead took on b5 and ended up slightly worse.
It was curious, therefore, that Navara repeated the diagram position against Carlsen’s second Adams. It was also curious he spent 10 minutes thinking before making the natural move and the computer’s first choice 12…0-0. What we did get to see, though, was why Grischuk had thought so long and gone to such drastic lengths to avoid the normal course of events, since in only a few moves Navara was condemned to passive defence of his clear weaknesses on b5 and d6. Mickey felt a difficult defence was then compounded when David decided to exchange off his bishop for the knight on d5.
It was soon the kind of quietly treacherous position around which Adams has built his chess career, and he began to put tactics to the service of his positional goals. Navara needed to play the d5-break as soon as he could, but instead took the bait with 28…Qxc3?
Like Carlsen before him Adams now switched to put his focus on the f7-pawn with 29.Bc6! (29…Qxb4 30.Bd5!). The power of opposite-coloured bishops when attacking here left Black defenceless, so Navara switched to a desperate attempt to force a perpetual with 29…Qf3 30.Qd7 g5:
And now, it turns out, following through with the plan of 31.Bd5! would have been decisive, since the black bishop on f6 only gets in the way of the defence. The winning plan required a long series of only moves, though, and in time trouble 31.hxg5 Bxg5 Qxd6 instead allowed Navara to hold on and exchange off queens into a position where opposite-coloured bishops favoured a draw.
As against Wesley So in their first game in Prague, though, Navara seemed too eager to try and force a mathematically drawn ending (45…h4? instead of 45…Kg6!, although the best defence was to play 44...Bc5! a move earlier) and slipped into a lost one. The moment when it became clear the game was up was the beautiful 49.Bd1!
Suddenly the black king is completely cut off from the action and the b and f pawns can’t both be stopped.
So it wasn’t quite as beautiful a textbook victory as it could have been without the miss on move 31, but Adams is still drawing plaudits for his play:
Afterwards he told GM Danny King:
Well, it’s always good to win and yeah, at the end it was ok. I think I was a little bit better to start off with, then he played this Bxd5 and I got this very favourable opposite-coloured bishop position. Then I was missing some wins in time trouble. I think it was probably a draw at move 40 but it was still quite tricky, and in the end he blundered and suddenly I got both my pawns running and managed to get the bishop in the right place to cover the pawns. It all worked out in the end and it was a bit of a relief. It wouldn’t have been nice to have squandered that position!
You can see that interview and all the highlights of the day’s play in Danny King’s excellent video report (from where we’ve also taken screenshots since there aren’t yet any official photographs available of the day’s play):
In our preview we noted Richard Rapport’s recent disastrous series of results, and you might say that began with a Round 6 loss to Russian Junior Champion Ivan Bukavshin at the Aeroflot Open. In ten games starting from there Rapport lost six and drew four.
Danny King asked him about his ups and downs:
Mostly down, recently! I’m definitely not having my best period, but actually I felt that at the beginning of this period I played some games unluckily or just over-pushing... but after that I just played badly.
In that game against Bukavshin, Rapport played the Chigorin Defence (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6!?), just as he did in Biel, but he managed to get real attacking chances with 19…f5 and 20…f4:
It was only a tactical slip later on that saw the game go in his opponent’s favour.
Rapport was the first to deviate against Wojtaszek, playing 9…Nb8 instead of 9…Ne7, but Rapport followed up with the same strategically risky plan of closing the queenside with …c5 and looking to play …f5. He admitted, though, that something had gone wrong when he allowed his opponent to play 23.Bd3 (stopping …f5) and his position “got kind of dangerous”. A couple of moves later everything seemed set for White to break through:
26.f4! looks like the most natural move in the world, though perhaps Wojtaszek was concerned by the amazing queen sacrifice, 26…exf4 27.e5 Qc6!!? White still has various ways to stay on top, though, while in the game Rapport was just in time to avoid pawn exchanges and set up an impregnable fortress.
So it was a disappointing start to married chess life for Wojtaszek, although it’s perhaps worth noting that it wasn’t the worst possible outcome of the game. Radek has gone on to lose similar games to one of his most inconvenient opponents, Baadur Jobava (see their Wijk aan Zee encounter this year), and can look vulnerable against opponents happy to play “incorrect” openings.
The final game was a Berlin Endgame that while hard-fought and tense never looked overly likely to produce a decisive result. It was a good start to the tournament for Pavel Eljanov, who improved on his last-round draw from the Qatar Masters against Sam Shankland with the radical 13…g5:
That sent Maxime Vachier-Lagrave into a 20-minute think and after what the Frenchman described as “sloppy” opening play Eljanov managed to seize the initiative. He perhaps pressed a bit too hard, though, until it was Maxime who was playing for something. The 55-move draw that ensued was a logical result, with Eljanov summing up:
It was not the worst game, for sure.
In Round 2 Eljanov has White against Navara, Maxime has White against Wojtaszek and leader Adams has Black against the ever unpredictable Rapport. Don’t miss the live action here on chess24 from 14:00 CEST.
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