Matthias Bluebaum and Radoslaw Wojtaszek continue to lead in Dortmund after holding Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Vladimir Kramnik to draws with the black pieces in Round 3. Both MVL and Kramnik pushed g4 in an attempt to score their first wins, but both only ended up worse and had to work to force a draw. There was no stopping the same outcome elsewhere, as Vladimir Fedoseev and Dmitry Andreikin managed to avoid exchanging a single pawn while Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu used a pet line of Kramnik’s to draw against Wang Yue.
You can replay the games from Dortmund using the selector below (click a result to open the game with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see his results and pairings):
It’s fair to say Jan Gustafsson, Lawrence Trent and Peter Svidler were given one of the toughest rounds of chess to comment on in a while. You can see how they got on below – the video should start at the moment Peter joins from St. Petersburg to give his thoughts on proceedings (after a few technical hitches!), though you can of course also watch the whole show:
The most drawish game of a drawish round opened with a surprise from Dmitry Andreikin, who noted he played the Winawer French for the first time in his career. That opening is famous for sharp, aggressive chess, but instead both sides were soon left without any dynamic options.
First Andreikin’s queen manoeuvre on the queenside saw that part of the board shut down, before Fedoseev responded to 15…0-0-0 with 16.h4?!
Peter Svidler explained that Fedoseev is a maverick who has a tendency to say of his decisions, “I felt this was correct and didn’t feel any particular need to check but just went with it”. In this case Peter explained, “I guess he just felt that completely closing down one half of the board felt right today and he just went ahead and closed it”. Andreikin replied with 16…h5 and that, essentially, was that. Neither player had any way to make inroads into the other’s position and, although the draw was only agreed on move 37, it was never in any doubt.
Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu said of the Isolated Queen’s Pawn position he’d chosen to play against Wang Yue:
This variation is truly amazing. White seems to be better positionally, but since Kramnik has played it several times it has to be good!
Peter Svidler had commented for us during the show:
Of all the IQPs that Kramnik's been doing this one looks like the dodgiest in my eyes.
All the way up to 17.Nd4 the players were following Topalov-Kramnik from the recent Gashimov Memorial, where Vladimir played out a sharp and entertaining draw against his old foe:
In Shamkir Vladimir went for 17…h5, while Nisipeanu chose 17…f6. Despite the authority of Kramnik our commentary team felt this was the kind of position 1.d4 players dream of and that Wang Yue had the best chance of claiming a win in the round.
On the other hand, Svidler explained that Wang Yue had built his reputation with an unusual style:
He would just go for slightly worse endgames, seemingly with both colours, and score his +1, +2.
So to some extent this better endgame was unfamiliar territory, with the way Lawrence Trent chose to describe the novel experience causing Svidler to resort to the hashtags #dontdodrugskids and #pleadthefifth…
Sure enough, Nisipeanu managed to make claiming a draw look easy, even getting to show off a little at the end:
30…Rc5! was a neat way to cover f5, with 31.Rxc5 ready to be met by the 31…Bd4+ fork. That was as exciting as it got, though, with an opposite-coloured bishop position and a draw soon following.
20-year-old Matthias Bluebaum’s troubles in the GRENKE Chess Classic began when he lost with Black to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Round 2, but he showed the progress he’s made in a few months by holding a comfortable draw against the same opponent in Round 3 in Dortmund. He played the French, and even Peter Svidler couldn’t resist a joke:
I think Matthias will hold this reasonably comfortably. He’s a very accomplished French player, playing against the no. 1 French player in the world… That’s a very feeble pun, but I think it’s in keeping with what’s been going on in the show.
By that point Matthias had already been the first to spring a local surprise with the rare 11…Rb8, though the speed with which Maxime replied suggested he wasn’t overly taken aback. Again we got a closed structure, which the Frenchman decided to blow open on move 20:
20.g4!? was met forcefully by 20…f5! and after 21.exf6 Bxf6 22.Bc5 there was no reason to think White should be better. In fact, it was Maxime who felt obliged to shut things down with 31.Rd8+:
31…Kf7! 32.Qf2+! Qf6 33.Qa7+! Qe7 34.Qf2+ followed and the players repeated moves for a draw. Maxime has drawn his first three games, with Wang Yue up next with White before a tough final weekend where he has Black twice against Russians Kramnik, Fedoseev and Andreikin.
This game was classic “late-Kramnik”, with the former World Champion again showing that he’s adopted Magnus Carlsen’s approach in the opening of playing “anything” simply to get a game. He picked a rare option on move 6 and by move 10 had taken his extremely well-prepared opponent into wholly new territory. That came at the expense of any tangible advantage, though, and the rest of the game was about Kramnik trying to tempt his opponent into murky waters. For instance, by playing 13.Ne5 and leaving the pawn on g2 “en prise”:
Svidler would later comment about the option of taking on g2, “apart from just looking ridiculous I think in that position it just led to a forced loss”, which was correct. 13…Bxg2? 14.Rg1 Bb7 15.Qh6! g6 is seriously better for White, with 16.Nxg6 playable immediately, while building up forces with 16.0-0-0 is apparently even better.
Polish no. 1 Radek Wojtaszek dodged that bullet and after 20 minutes’ thought went for 13…Nd7, with Svidler concluding that after Kramnik exchanged knights on d7 all Black’s objective problems had been resolved. What followed was Vladimir, “trying his utmost to inject some life” into the position (Svidler), but almost pushing things too far.
It seems Vlad isn't alone in trying new things late in his career!
Kramnik's 20.g4!? was already a little eccentric and was met by the excellent response 20…Qh4!, when Kramnik sunk into a 24 minutes’ think. He may have been contemplating tricky variations such as 21.dxe6 Rxe6 22.Qf2!?
It seems that back-rank trick achieves little, though, since Black can easily parry e.g. with 22…Rxd1+ 23.Rxd1 Qe7. Instead in the game after 21.Bb3 Bc8 22.g5!? g6 23.Rd4!? Kramnik was both in serious time trouble (3 minutes + increments for 16 moves) and running genuine risks:
The Silicon beast here says Black can simply pick up the pawn with 23…Qxh2 and after the possible 24.Rdd1 exd5! (or 24..e5) the queen can’t be trapped and no disaster will follow on the h-file. However the bluff, if that’s what it was, worked, and Radek went for 23…Qh3. Kramnik threatened to play c5 with 24.Re4, an idea that Wojtaszek blocked with 24…c6! (25.c5 cxd5!), simultaneously setting the stage for the mass exchanges that would lead to a draw in 46 moves.
So there was frustration for Kramnik, who has 0.5/2 from his two games with the white pieces so far, while Wojtaszek and Bluebaum remain in the lead as the tournament is about to cross the half-way point:
In Round 4 the leaders have White and may be dreaming of glory, while Kramnik and MVL both have tough tasks if they’re going to get their first wins in Dortmund 2017:
Once again we’ll have commentary from Jan Gustafsson, Lawrence Trent and Peter Svidler from 15:15 CEST onwards. The show is premium-only, and if you’re not yet premium you have the chance to earn a highly-coveted signed mug if you take out a 1-year or longer chess24 Premium Membership. Arguably such things as thousands of exclusive videos by the likes of Svidler, Anand, Dvoretsky, Yusupov, Hou Yifan and co. are almost as good a reason to take the plunge
Tune in for Round 3 from around 15:15 on Wednesday here on chess24! You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps: