Reports Jul 31, 2015 | 8:24 AMby Colin McGourty

Biel 2015, Round 10: Maxime scores a hat-trick

If we ever get tired of shortening his name to MVL we can always just call Maxime Mr Biel! | photo: Biel Chess Festival 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has won his third Biel title in a row and a historic fourth in total after scoring a comprehensive victory over Richard Rapport in the final round – his opponent’s fifth loss in a row. Radek Wojtaszek looked guaranteed to force a playoff by beating David Navara, but lost his way just when all the hard work had been done. Pavel Eljanov went one worse, not only blowing a winning position but allowing Mickey Adams to snatch victory and third place.

The final round of the 2015 Biel Grandmaster Tournament saw more of the decisive action that has been the hallmark of this year’s event. Let’s take a look at the final games and how the tournament went overall for each of the players.

Vachier-Lagrave 1-0 Rapport

It may have all gone wrong for Richard chesswise, but it never seems to dampen his spirits | photo: Biel Chess Festival

Despite four losses in a row Richard Rapport continued to play rare openings, this time opting for the Philidor Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6). Maxime was ready, though, and chose a fianchetto setup that worked to perfection when he responded to his opponent’s 14…c5 with 15.Nb5!

Rapport sank into deep thought here, spending 35 minutes on 15…d5!? (15…Ba6 may be better), and then after 16.exd5 another 30 minutes on 16…Bxh3!?. Maxime played the sharp tactical sequence that followed to perfection and achieved an overwhelming position while allowing no counterplay whatsoever. He could even afford to take a slower but safer path to victory:

Here computers point out that the passed d-pawn is so strong that almost any move that keeps it on the board e.g. 36.Qg5 is a killer. Instead Maxime exchanged queens with 36.Qe7, giving up the d6-pawn but picking up the pawns on f7 and a5. It’s impossible to criticise a decision that led seamlessly to victory on move 48.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: 1st, 6.5/10 (4 wins, 5 draws, 1 loss), 2828 performance, +13.2 Elo

Maxime commented after his game:

Of course I’m really excited about it because Biel is a very strong tournament and to win it three times in a row is some kind of result I didn’t post anywhere else. Of course it feels great.

So we can expect to see you here for the next five or ten years?

I don’t know about the next five years, but I’ve been there for seven years in a row now, so I hope there’s many more to come!

Watch Rustam Kasimdzhanov’s full final report:

Maxime tweeted:

As he mentions, he's now won Biel a historic four times, surpassing the three titles of Anatoly Karpov and Alexander Morozevich. That outcome had looked unlikely in Round 7, when the French no. 1 was knocked back to 50% by losing to Wojtaszek after a tournament that up until that point had merely been solid. That proved to be the spur he needed, though, and Maxime went on to beat Adams, Navara and Rapport in the final three games.

The final surge means Maxime will go into next month’s Sinquefield Cup with a rating (or at least a live rating) much closer to the rest of the field. Note that although Vachier-Lagrave started the tournament as nominally only the third seed he's now edged back in front of his fellow Biel grandmasters:

Richard Rapport: 6th, 2/10 (0 wins, 4 draws, 6 losses), 2490 performance, -21.6 Elo

It’s hard to exaggerate how badly things went for 19-year-old prodigy Richard Rapport. His high water mark perhaps came in Round 2, when he played a thrilling King’s Gambit against Mickey Adams, but overall he could have scored even less than he did.

While it’s unusual and refreshing to see a youngster refuse to switch to self-preservation mode when entering supertournaments, it’s also clear that Rapport needs to change something in his approach. He’s now gone from 2720, world no. 28 and top junior (apart from the older Anish Giri) in October 2014 to 2649.2 after Biel, seeing him fall out of the world’s top 100. Difficult times, but let’s hope Rapport can start his climb back to the top soon!

Wojtaszek ½ – ½ Navara

Navara may have taken a nap... but he proved to be Wojtaszek's nemesis in Biel | photo: Biel Chess Festival

Radek Wojtaszek looked for all the world as though he was going to force a rapid playoff on Friday against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, as for around 30 moves he played perfect chess, dismantling his opponent’s Grünfeld Defence. The words his and Vishy Anand’s second Grzegorz Gajewski used to describe his win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Round 7 applied:

Then, however, things began to slip. On move 29 he could have won in real style:

30.d7! was the royal road to victory, since although Black can take the b1-rook with check the d-pawn is unstoppable. Instead he spoiled nothing with 30.Rf1, but after 30…Rxc5 31.d7 Bf6 it really was critical:

32.d8=Q+ was now the way to go, eliminating Black’s bishop and keeping the chance to attack the black king. Instead 32.Rxb2? ran into 32…Rg5!, when suddenly the black queen, rook and bishop can coordinate an attack on the white king. A draw followed on move 42.

The Polish no. 1 commented afterwards:

Actually I missed 32…Rg5. It’s still winning, but it was quite a shock for me and there started to be at least some tricks and, ok, from there it started to be quite unclear.

Radek Wojtaszek: 2nd, 6/10 (3 wins, 6 draws, 1 loss), 2789 performance, +7.8 Elo

So near yet so far for the Polish no. 1 | screenshot: YouTube

Despite that setback it was an excellent tournament for Wojtaszek, so far disproving any theories about the negative effects of marriage. He scored half a point more than he did last year in Biel, beat the leader… but still, as in 2014, finished 2nd half a point behind Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. He’ll be disappointed to have missed a great chance to win his first supertournament, but we can expect him back challenging in future events.

David Navara: 4th, 5.5/10 (4 wins, 3 draws, 3 losses), 2755 performance, +4.4 Elo

David is in the same boat when it comes to a lack of supertournament victories, but he lived up to his status as a fan favourite in Biel. He played by far the most memorable game of the event to inflict Wojtaszek’s only loss, and showed his fighting spirit in almost every game. The Czech no. 1 perhaps simply peaked too early, falling out of contention after a sequence of three wins in a row from rounds 2 to 4.

Eljanov 0-1 Adams

The two oldest players in Biel certainly weren't taking things easy in the final round | photo: Biel Chess Festival

This game between two players no longer in contention for first place seemed, for a long time, to be developing quietly in contrast to the excitement elsewhere. Just around the time control, though, all hell broke loose, with Eljanov’s attack looking hard to parry. He first stumbled, though, then fell after 50…Qxe5:

Black might go on to convert his extra material into a win after an exchange of queens, but that was the best option, since after 51.Re1? Qxh8 White has no killer follow-up to justify the missing rook. 52.Nxd4+ was met simply by 52…Re5, and 53.Rh1 by 53…Qg7. They played on for another six moves, but there was nothing Eljanov could do.

Pavel Eljanov: 5th, 4.5/10 (2 wins, 5 draws, 3 losses), 2683 performance, -5.4 Elo

So it was a hugely disappointing end for the Ukrainian grandmaster, who had been in great form ever since he started badly with losses in rounds 2 and 3. He could easily have beaten Wojtaszek and Rapport as well with White, when he might have been challenging for first place, but as it was he ended up on a minus score and in second last place.

Eljanov may have ended on a down, but he more than proved he fits in such company | screenshot: YouTube

Michael Adams: 3rd, 5.5/10 (4 wins, 3 draws, 3 losses), 2752 performance, +1.6 Elo

It was the opposite story for Mickey, who snatched third place at the death to end with four wins and a positive score. It was an extremely topsy-turvy tournament for the English no. 1, who joined Navara in taking only three draws in ten games, with sequences of two losses and later two wins in a row.

The English no. 1 also found time - well, 99 seconds! - to answer some questions from Danny King:

The final standings looked as follows:

1.Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime2731½011½1½½½1
2.Wojtaszek, Radoslaw2733½1½½0½1½½16
3.Adams, Michael274000½½1101½1
4.Navara, David2724½01½001½11
5.Eljanov, Pavel2723½½0½100½½1
6.Rapport, Richard2671½0½0½000½02

You can replay all the games from Biel 2015 below:

So that’s all from Biel 2015. The next big international supertournament is the Sinquefield Cup that starts on 23 August, but before that we’ll have the Russian Championships and there’s also top action everywhere you look. Currently on chess24, for instance, you can watch:

You can also watch all the events in our free mobile apps:  


We also have regular live shows. This evening Jan Gustafsson and Niclas Huschenbeth will be playing Banter Blitz. 

chess24 Premium members can challenge them to a game, while anyone can tune in and enjoy the show!

See also: 

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