Reports Mar 20, 2017 | 12:58 AMby Colin McGourty

Stars align for Baden-Baden in Bundesliga

Despite Radek Wojtaszek losing a game to his Polish apprentice Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Baden-Baden look unstoppable after racking up 10 wins in 10 matches this season. Their challengers are melting away. First last season’s surprise champions Solingen lost a second match in a row, this time to Hockenheim, to trail by 4 points. Could Hockenheim mount a challenge? No! They lost in the very next round, with David Navara beating Evgeny Tomashevsky on top board.

Baden-Baden roll on

Wojtaszek, Adams, Vallejo and co. are on course for yet another Bundesliga title | photo: Georgios Souledis, official website 

Rounds 9 and 10 of the 15-round Chess Bundesliga were played in venues around Germany this weekend. In each round 8 players represent each team, and since teams average around 15 players on the roster that means the strength of a team can vary dramatically between rounds. For instance, Baden-Baden played their 5th highest ranked player, Radek Wojtaszek, on Board 1 this weekend (Mickey Adams is currently higher rated, but the ratings are from the start of the year-long event):

1. Baden (RtgAvg:2767, TB1: 20 / TB2: 59)
1GMCaruana Fabiano28071½1,522602
2GMVachier-Lagrave Maxime2811½11,522580
4GMAnand Viswanathan2776½11,522570
5GMSvidler Peter27450½½1114,062640
6GMWojtaszek Radoslaw274611½½½1½05,082613
7GMAdams Michael2745111½½15,062608
8GMVallejo Pons Francisco2711½½½½2,042612
9GMKasimdzhanov Rustam269111½11½5,062580
10GMBacrot Etienne26921½10½1½1½½6,5102528
11GMShirov Alexei2679½1110½½4,572501
12GMNaiditsch Arkadij2684111111½1½½8,5102460
13GMMovsesian Sergei2677½1111½5,062479
14GMMeier Georg264811114,042426
16GMGustafsson Jan26281½1½14,052396
17FMMartin Julian2288011,022339

Baden-Baden did just enough, with wins on the bottom two boards in each round leading to 5:3 wins in their two matches. You can play through any game in the event by clicking on a result in the selector below:

In Round 9 it was Anand’s second Radek Wojtaszek against Carlsen’s second Laurent Fressinet in a sharp theoretical struggle that ended abruptly on move 24. In Round 10 a quirk of the pairings meant that Polish no. 1 Wojtaszek met Polish no. 2 Jan-Krzysztof Duda on top board. Both players are missing the 2017 Polish Championship that starts in Warsaw on Tuesday (Wojtaszek is second seed in the Sharjah Masters Open beginning on Thursday), so there was added spice to the contest.

Is Jan-Krzysztof Duda ready to break into the elite? | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

Duda is 18 years old and second only to Wei Yi on the junior rating list. In Round 9 he showed how to mate with bishop and knight vs. Sebastien Feller, while in Round 10 he showed he can kill the Najdorf almost as convincingly as Wei Yi! The first new move of the game was Wojtaszek’s 23…Ndf6 and soon the youngster got the upper hand in the complications, until finishing with a knockout final blow:

40.Be6! If a family fork with a bishop is possible this is what it looks like!

That was Wojtaszek’s first loss of the season, but his teammates more than made up with it, with wins for Mickey Adams, Georg Meier and a certain Jan Gustafsson sealing victory.

Challengers fall like flies

Last year’s champions Solingen were without Anish Giri and Harikrishna, who play in the Shenzhen Masters in China from Thursday onwards, and although their team led by Richard Rapport whitewashed Griesheim 8:0 in Round 10 that was too little too late for this season. In Round 9 they suffered a second loss in a row as they were crushed 5.5:2.5 by Hockenheim. The scene was set by quick losses for Jan Smeets against Ivan Saric and Predrag Nikolic against Dennis Wagner. 

Dennis Wagner won in style in Round 9, but fell to a loss in Round 10 | photo: Guido Giotta, official website

The latter game was a beauty, though one Nikolic will have struggled to admire, since his 13…hxg5? was already the losing mistake. We saw why after 14…Qxg5:

15.Ra2! and White swings the rook across the deserted second rank to devastating effect! 15…Qd8 (15…Qg3+ 16.Rf2 only stops the plan for one move – Rh3 will expel the queen) 16.Rah2 Nf6 and the simple but striking: 17.Qc2!

The bloodbath began with 17…g6 18.Rxh7! Nxh7 19.Qh2 and three moves later Black resigned. With his team needing a win at all costs Robin van Kampen sacrificed a piece against Baadur Jobava (who had previously sacrificed a pawn), but all it did was give him a lost position.

Baadur Jobava is back up at 2710 after beating Robin van Kampen | photo: Guido Giotta, official website

That win kept Hockenheim within 3 points of Baden-Baden, but if they had an outside chance of a title challenge it lasted under 24 hours, since they were beaten by Mulheim Nord in Round 10. Wagner lost this time, as did Buhmann, and wins for Saric and Balogh were only a consolation since Evgeny Tomashevsky lost the highest rated game of the day to the ever dangerous David Navara. The Czech no. 1 had Tomashevsky thinking for 40 minutes on move 13 and continued to play original and aggressive chess. This is the position after the pawn sacrifice 18.f5!

Tomashevsky rejected it with 18…f6, but was gradually outplayed, with Navara managing to win a finely balanced rook ending against one of the game’s greatest technicians.

David Navara beat Evgeny Tomashevsky in the key game of the day | photo: Guido Giotta, official website

Evgeny slipped out of the 2700 club, and to make matters worse he had to pay hotel bills for an impostor...

That loss for Hockenheim left Schwaebisch Hall as the closest team to Baden-Baden at only a 3 points deficit, after they won their two matches despite missing their top 5 of Inarkiev, Jakovenko, Rodshtein, Matlakov and Laznicka. Their most memorable game of Round 10, though, was the one they lost after Frank Zeller played 31.Qe5?? in a tricky but defensible position:

White is offering a queen exchange and hinting at mate, but Black gets there first! 31…Qh1+ 32.Ke2 Rd2+! Here White resigned rather than allow 33.Bxd2 Rxd2# on the board!

There are only two weekends remaining of the 2016/17 Bundesliga. First they play Rounds 11 and 12 on April 8-9, then the final three rounds take place in one venue, with the teams all converging on Berlin from April 29-May 1. Let’s hope there’s still some intrigue and we get to see the teams playing their top players!

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