Bottom-placed Wang Yue ground down co-leader Matthias Bluebaum to leave Radek Wojtaszek as the sole leader with two rounds of this year’s Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting to go. The real action was elsewhere, though, with Vladimir Kramnik and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave sacrificing pieces with abandon, while Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu pulled off a miraculous escape after massively underestimating Vladimir Fedoseev’s attack. Wojtaszek also needed to dig deep to hold against Dmitry Andreikin.
We’ve only had four decisive games in 20 attempts in Dortmund, but when you get as much action as we did in Round 5 on Friday it would be churlish to complain!
You can replay the live commentary on Round 5 below, with Peter Svidler making an early appearance alongside Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent. Apologies for the echo during that segment, and also to dolphin lovers who watch to the end of the show… (plus it seems YouTube hasn't finished processing, so at the time of writing only the last four hours are available - all six should later be visible)
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s 6…a5 was a very rare option, while Kramnik’s 7.Bf4 had only been tried once by a lower-rated player. Kramnik went for a somewhat artificial-looking setup, though said after the game that he felt, as he usually does, that he had some advantage. The way he played tempted Maxime to exploit the position of the bishop, and the Frenchman was happy to take up the challenge:
He trapped the cleric with 22…g5 23.hxg5 hxg5 but of course Kramnik had something in mind: 24.Bxc7 Qxc7 25.Bxd5 Bxd5 26.Qxd5
Kramnik has two pawns for the bishop, two powerfully placed rooks, a nice pawn chain in the centre and the g5-pawn is hanging, but most players in Black’s position would likely have gone for 25…Qa5 or 25…Qd8 and asked White to prove his compensation was sufficient. Instead MVL met fire with fire with 26…Rxe3!?, a sacrifice Jan Gustafsson described as “pretty sick”.
It had the virtue that it also came in some serious time trouble for Kramnik, who had spent 35 minutes on an earlier move, but Big Vlad was at the top of his game and found computeresque moves right until the end, beginning: 27.fxe3 Qxg3+ 28.Qg2! Qxe3+ 29.Kh1!
Briefly it looked as though Kramnik might even gain a slight edge himself, but Maxime impressively marshalled his limited army to set the maximum problems:
Fortunately by this stage move 40 had passed and Kramnik had plenty of time to find the precise 42.Ne4!, when Black has no useful discovered check. After 42…Kg6 43.Rg8+! Kf5 44.Nd6+! Bxd6 45.Rxd6 the rest was trivial for the former World Champion, who was able to give up the exchange for one of the pawns and reach a drawn rook ending where Black’s extra pawn counted for nothing.
It had been a finely played game by both players, with Maxime summing up after his rook sacrifice:
I thought I was somewhat better after that, but ultimately I didn’t miss a clear chance to win.
Or as he put it on Twitter:
Vladimir Fedoseev managed to play what seems to be a novelty (for professional chess players) with 6.a4!? against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu’s Caro-Kann and had soon built up a visually extraordinary position:
He’s only a rook shuffle and a bishop sac away from getting all his pieces on dark squares, with Peter Svidler chiming in with a lament:
Peter “blundered” with the also winning Qf7, while in the game in Dortmund aesthetic considerations soon went out of the window. White’s position is actually very good, though it was understandable Nisipeanu thought he could exploit the lack of development and line-up of pieces on the a1-h8 diagonal with 15…f6!? 16.exf6 Nxf6 17.Nf3 0-0 18.Bh3 and now the critical moment:
It’s hard to resist, but Nisipeanu should have resisted 18…Ne4?! (he can simply defend the pawn with 18…Qe7, though that gives White the time to castle), since after 19.Bxe6+ Kh8 20.Qxd5 Bxc3+ 21.Ke2 Black is winning the exchange but entering a world of hurt:
It was impressive that after 21…Bxa1 22.Qxe4 Qf6 Fedoseev managed to keep resisting the urge to capture on b7 and instead went for the attack: 23.Ng5! Rae8 24.h4! h6
25.h5! was a killer move made possible since 25…hxg5 26.hxg6+ Kg7 27.Rh7# would be a very abrupt end to the game. White was winning after 25…Kg7 26.hxg6 Rh8 27.Qxb7+ Re7 28.Qd5 Rhe8 29.c6!, when taking on g5 remains a tactical impossibility, but just a few moves later after 29…Bb2 30.Kf3 Rxe6 31.Nxe6+ Qxe6 we got the first inkling that this was going to be another of those incredible Dortmund escapes:
Here Fedoseev would almost certainly have scored his 2nd Dortmund win after 32.e4!, preserving the passed c-pawn, with the opportunity to push b5 and create a passed a-pawn as well in the near future. Instead he entered the ending at the first opportunity with 32.Qxe6 Rxe6 33.f5 Rxc6, when Black’s blockading chances were dramatically increased. Fedoseev could still have won after that, but instead the game ended with bare kings on move 59. Nisipeanu summed up:
We both felt it must be winning for White, but luckily it wasn’t so easy.
The remaining two games were critical for the tournament standings, and turned on fine margins:
Dmitry Andreikin opened with the Trompowsky and probably got what he wanted when he had a previously unseen position on the board by move 9 against a famously “booked-up” opponent. Initially, though, it seemed it was Radek Wojtaszek who was playing for a win with the black pieces. He lamented after the game that “it’s always problematic when you play slowly and badly”, and he gradually slipped into trouble.
The critical moment came after 34…e4!?
That was a new weakness, but it tempted Andreikin to attack it immediately with 35.Ra4!? Rb1+ 36.Kh2 Rd1! 37.Rxe4 Rxa5, when even though 38.Rxg7+ picked up another pawn for White we were left with a drawish position where White had an extra pawn but all pawns were on one side of the board. Wojtaszek held firm to claim the draw, while if Andreikin had simply shored up his position with 35.Be3! he would have retained the passed a-pawn and excellent winning chances.
You have to feel for Matthias Bluebaum. In Round 4 he spent 7.5 hours failing to win a position a rook up, then in Round 5 he got ground down by Wang Yue in what was also the longest game of the day. A tricky opening saw Bluebaum deprive Wang Yue of the right to castle, but the Chinese grandmaster made a virtue of that necessity:
The game developed into a classic case of hanging pawns, with Wang Yue exchanging off queens to leave a position where the pawns gave Bluebaum no attacking potential. Then just when he'd teased his opponent with the prospect of a draw by 3-fold repetition he launched the winning attempt with 26.b4!
After 26…cxb4 27.axb4 the b-pawn would prove crucial. Wang Yue doubled his rooks on the a-file to win the pawn on a6 and make the b-pawn passed, while he was perfectly happy for Bluebaum to pick up the irrelevant g4-pawn. Wang Yue showed Andreikin how he should have gone about it by using his dark-squared bishop to solidify his position, with Bluebaum finally resigning on move 59 in the following position:
Black can win the b-pawn, but the connected passed pawns on the e and f-files would win the day.
Before that game Wang Yue was bottom with Kramnik while Bluebaum was top with Wojtaszek, meaning that suddenly we had a sole leader in Wojtaszek and Mr Dortmund is alone in last place. No less than six players are tied on 50%:
Of course the fact that Kramnik is only one point off the lead means there’s absolutely everything to play for in the last two rounds. Two wins for the former World Champion would give him excellent chances of winning the tournament, though it’s probably not ideal that his first “must-win” game is Black against Wang Yue! Bluebaum-Wojtaszek on Saturday will be a chance for Bluebaum to leapfrog back above his opponent – or potentially for Radek to win his first supertournament – while MVL-Fedoseev promises fireworks. After six draws Maxime probably feels it’s time to set about defending his title!
Tune in for Round 6 from around 15:15 on Saturday here on chess24! You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps: