Radek Wojtaszek beat Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu in Sunday’s final round to win the 2017 Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting. Only a win would do, since Vladimir Fedoseev crushed Wang Yue and would have taken the title on the tiebreak of most wins if Wojtaszek had only drawn. On a day of all decisive games Maxime Vachier-Lagrave beat Dmitry Andreikin to end level on points with Fedoseev, while Vladimir Kramnik finished alone on 50% with a brilliant sacrificial victory over Matthias Bluebaum.
Round 7 doubled the number of decisive games in this year’s Dortmund supertournament. You can replay all the action using the selector below – click a result to go to the game with computer analysis, or hover over a name to see all the player’s games:
Relive the final day with commentary from Jan Gustafsson, Lawrence Trent and Peter Svidler:
Let’s draw some conclusions:
30-year-old Polish no. 1 Radek Wojtaszek has established himself firmly in the 2700 club and scored many fine scalps both for the Polish team and in individual events – for instance, beating both no. 1 Magnus Carlsen and no. 2 Fabiano Caruana in the 2015 Tata Steel Masters – but his previous best tournament victory probably came back in 2011, when he won the 9th Gyorgy Marx Memorial in Hungary with 8/10 and a 2893 performance. That event was memorable in more ways than one, since the women’s tournament was won by Alina Kashlinskaya, who he would later go on to marry.
It’s a similar story to how Anish Giri and Sopiko Guramishvili met and won their individual events at the Reggio Emilia tournament in Italy at the end of the same year. Now, though, Wojtaszek can boast of something even the hugely gifted Giri still can’t – victory in a universally recognised supertournament. Radek has written his name in chess history...
This time he scored 4.5/7 for a performance rating of a “mere” 2825 but, as Wojtaszek himself explained, that only told part of the story:
This is the greatest success of my career, but I’m satisfied and happy since my play was also very good in Dortmund. I only had problems against Andreikin.
He could also easily have picked up more points, since he was winning against Fedoseev and Bluebaum and at least significantly better against MVL. He was the co-leader after Round 2 and then the sole leader after Round 5, but handled that pressure impressively, even if it he admitted it wasn’t easy:
Last night I had only four hours of sleep since I was so nervous about the final round.
It probably didn’t help that the ceremonial opening move was made by one of his former coaches, Jerzy Konikowski. The 70-year-old prolific chess author has worked in Dortmund since 1982 and says this was his 35th tournament as an observer, but for many years he’s also been a constant critic of the top Polish players and the Polish Chess Federation.
It made it awkward in 2012 when Mateusz Bartel, who had published a polemic about Konikowski, qualified to play the event. In the case of Wojtaszek, Konikowski has long taken credit for the Polish no. 1’s success, going as far as to publish e-mails between himself and Radek without the latter’s permission to prove they cooperated. Wojtaszek, who travelled to the 2002 World Junior Championship in Goa with Konikowski (a certain Levon Aronian won!), explained in an interview two months ago that he’s had many coaches and others were more important to his development. Konikowski concluded a post about that on his blog:
Although Radoslaw Wojtaszek never officially thanked me (even in that interview) for 4 years of help, and thus devoting my valuable time to providing him with training and analysis material as well as professional advice, I'd now like to "thank him very much" for finally admitting to our cooperation!
As you can see, relations remain icy!
On the board, however, things started off perfectly well for Wojtaszek, who played 4.Qc2 against the Nimzo-Indian and got the solid position with the bishop pair and no weaknesses that Jan Gustafsson explains White is aiming for in his video series for chess24:
It was still an awkward situation, though, since Radek didn’t know whether to aim for a draw or a win… until Vladimir Fedoseev resolved that issue! The young Russian soon had an overwhelming position against Wang Yue, and since Fedoseev would have the better tiebreak of more wins in case of a tie, the situation became clear. Radek commented afterwards:
It helped that Wang Yue was losing to Fedoseev. I had to take risks, since I knew that I had to win.
That task looked daunting, given Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu had drawn his last 13 games in Dortmund, though if there was a good omen it was that Nisi’s last loss had been in the last round in 2015, when his opponent, Fabiano Caruana, claimed the title. In 2017 Wojtaszek began to take bold actions on the kingside, going for what initially looked like a risky pawn push to f5. It worked out perfectly four moves later, though:
22.f6! left Black with only hard choices, with Nisipeanu going for 22…Nxf6 but later admitting to overlooking 23.Qe1! and transferring the queen to the attack. It’s tempting to say that the f6-knight was going nowhere, but in fact Nisipeanu did retreat it with 23…Ne8?!, allowing 24.Rxf7 Qxf7 25.Rxf7 Kxf7, when after 26.Qg3 Nf6 27.Qe5 the following position was reached:
In terms of pure material Black is doing fine, but the white queen and bishop pair utterly dominate the board and g4-g5 will ask questions that have no good answer. Instead Nisipeanu jettisoned an exchange with 27…Rd2, but that simply left him with a technically lost position. Wojtaszek’s hand didn’t waver as he converted the most important game of his career to date.
He'd won the Vladimir Kramnik tournament in the legend's presence!
Vladimir Kramnik’s credentials as Mr Dortmund have taken something of a hit of late, since despite playing in the event for 25 years and winning it 10 times he’s failed to add to that tally in the last six attempts.
While in 2015 he scored three wins and three losses, in 2016 he scored six draws and then won his final game to finish in an unlikely 2nd place. In 2017 he lost in Round 1, drew the next five games, and then finally scored a win in the last round (his fourth last-round win in a row in classical events!). That victory over Matthias Bluebaum was a classic, though, with Kramnik sacrificing a pawn, a knight and two exchanges until his young opponent cracked in time trouble.
Jan Gustafsson takes us through the game:
This year that win couldn’t propel Kramnik into 2nd place, but since he started the day in sole last place below six players on 50% it was at the very least amusing that he ended it alone on 50% and up in 4th place:
Beating the lowest-rated player in the field earned Kramnik a mere 2.8 rating points, but that was enough to return to the 2800 club.
Our commentator Jan Gustafsson isn’t famed for his rook endgame prowess, but had nevertheless proposed he could write a book on how to win when you’re the side with an extra rook. Little did he know how relevant that would be in Dortmund 2017!
Matthias Bluebaum, who summed up his tournament with, “overall I’m half-satisfied, as it went much better than the GRENKE Chess Classic”, of course showed how not to go about it when he failed to win the following position against Dmitry Andreikin:
Dmitry showed fantastic tenacity and skill, however, so much so that he was tempted to revisit that field of glory against none other than Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, where he reached the following position:
One rook less? Check! Two connected passed pawns? Check! What’s not to like? Well, the fact that Maxime also had two connected passed pawns, for a start. On this occasion Dmitry decided to lay down his arms against the Frenchman after only a few more moves...
How did Andreikin get into that position? Well, as he commented afterwards, “I didn’t want to make a draw, since I saw no difference between a loss and half a point”. The same logic had led to the ending a rook down against Bluebaum, but it did seem that the lack of wins – only four before that tally was doubled in the final round – was getting to the players. We’re used to the likes of Vladimir Kramnik burning bridges left, right and centre, but as solid a player as Dmitry Andreikin?
Well, as Peter Svidler said during the live show, although, “outwardly unassuming, he is quietly a very ambitious player”. That was in evidence when Andreikin warmed Lawrence Trent’s heart by repeating his 1.e4 c5 2.b3 from a recent game against Nikolas Lubbe and also going on to play an early h4:
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had also scored a disappointing six draws in his first six games, though, and Svidler pointed out that if anything this game was an “MVL display”, since the French no. 1 went for the sharpest possible lines, here playing 7…d5!? 8.exd6 0-0!. In what followed Andreikin gave up an exchange to grab pawns, but left his king extremely weak. Objectively it was probably holdable, but he crumbled with 31.g4?, which was met by the crunching 31…Rc4!
If White continues with 32.gxh5 then 32…Rxb4! is fatal, since 33.cxb4 drops the queen on f3. Instead Andreikin went for 32.Qd5, but that was still met by 32…Rxb4!, since 33.cxb4 Rc8+! is not going to end well for White. Andreikin tried to dig in with 33.Qa2 Qxa2+ 34.Bxa2 but Black was up an exchange and could simply pick up the g4 and h4-pawns at will. We’ve already seen that MVL was up to the task of converting, heading for the tricky but theoretically won rook-up ending...
His +1 score couldn’t really be classed as a success, but he at least felt he’d improved as the event went on:
The first half of the tournament went disappointingly. I got no good positions, particularly with White. The second half and the end were ok, even if I missed a great chance against Fedoseev.
Andreikin, meanwhile, wasn’t getting too downhearted either:
I had a lot of new ideas and missed good chances against Bluebaum and Wojtaszek. Overall, although by no means good, it was a very interesting tournament for me.
We noted before the event that this could be considered the year of Vladimir Fedoseev, and the tournament did nothing to spoil that impression. He started with a bang, tempting Kramnik to his doom with a pawn sacrifice, and despite losing in the very next round he didn’t lose confidence. He showed Aronian-like resourcefulness and positivity to escape against Wojtaszek and MVL and should have beaten Nisipeanu in what would have been one of the games of the event.
It all came together for him in the final round, though, since he scored a remarkably easy win over Wang Yue and, since he played more games with the black pieces than MVL, he took second place. He also upped his rating to 2730.8, entered the world’s Top 30 (in 28th place) and is saying the right things:
I’m not satisfied because second place is never good!
The real mystery going into Dortmund was how 30-year-old Wang Yue would do, since he’d fallen off the chess radar and had only played a handful of Chinese League games since an unconvincing performance in the 2016 Olympiad.
The answer was “pretty well”. He showed he’d lost little of his tenacity in defence in his first game against Andreikin, and overall he held his own, while his victory over Bluebaum was in his classic style of nursing a small strategic edge to victory.
Where he was sometimes caught out, however, was in the opening. He found himself in a tough position against Wojtaszek in Round 2 and then lost after missing some middlegame tricks, before saving his worst for last. His opening against Fedoseev was a complete debacle, with 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 preventing him playing the Petroff but not being the kind of thing that should have caught him off guard. Nevertheless, on move 6 he already went badly astray:
6…Be6?! was described as “naïve chess” by Svidler, while Wang Yue didn’t improve the impression with his explanation afterwards:
I simply played the move without thinking too much about it.
Fedoseev whipped off the bishops and already had an overwhelming position by the time he played 19.e5:
Wang Yue tried sacrificing a pawn with 19…Ne4?! 20.Nxe4 dxe4 21.Qxe4 and sought to exchange off queens as early as possible with 21…Qd5. He achieved that goal a couple of moves later, but the position a pawn down with horrible pieces (take a bow, a5-knight!) was so unpleasant that it seems at some point Wang Yue simply stopped the clocks since he couldn’t take it anymore.
This isn’t strictly about Dortmund, though Vladimir Kramnik’s performance did put a dent in his chances of claiming one of the two rating spots in the 2018 Candidates Tournament:
That means he may be another player – like Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian – putting almost all his eggs in the World Cup basket to qualify for the Candidates. He could of course hope for an organiser nomination, but traditionally Armenia and Azerbaijan have outbid Russia to make use of that route for their players.
In any case, the big news is that World Champion Magnus Carlsen has decided to enter the cycle and play in the 128-player World Cup knockout to be held in Tbilisi, Georgia from 3-27 September this year! As the no. 1 in all forms of chess he’ll of course be the favourite for a knockout event combining classical, rapid and blitz chess. It won’t be easy, but at all stages of the way he’ll have the satisfaction of being able to block the path to a match against him for his opponents – that should really spice things up at the “business end” of the tournament!
Just when Magnus seemed to have taken a break from crushing everybody...
If he does reach the final then, since the two finalists qualify for the Candidates Tournament, it’s possible we’ll have a third-place match to determine the spot Carlsen is taking up … although it has been pointed out that technically there’s nothing clearly stopping Magnus playing in the Candidates Tournament and qualifying to play a match against himself It should be noted that if that’s his dream he could achieve it with no effort whatsoever by qualifying on rating (he does still need to play the World Cup, though, even if a Round 1 loss would suffice).
Sergey's busy (promotional) schedule sees him horseriding in a suit...
Just to make things even more confusing, Sergey Karjakin is also playing despite having qualified for the Candidates Tournament, so if they both reached the final things would get even more surreal. In any case, we can look forward to a fantastic event, since the first player missing if you go down the FIDE rating list is no. 16 Veselin Topalov.
Puzzling over the intricacies of FIDE regulations may be an enjoyable summer pastime for some, while others might be about to head off on a honeymoon…
…but for most of the chess world it doesn’t get much more active than the summer months! The main event of the Biel Chess Festival starts today, while looming on the horizon is the Sinquefield Cup in just over a week’s time. It’s going to be fun!