All photos from official site
We've been spending so much time lately trying to find ways to make the Dortmund supertournament sound exciting that we have been ignoring a tournament that doesn't need any such help. That would be the Biel Grandmaster tournament, finishing Thursday in Switzerland. Only 41% of the games have been drawn and there have been many sensational games.
Alexander Morozevich, again the dominating winner in Biel.
There's a good reason for both of those occurrences, a very good reason named Alexander Morozevich. Just like he did last year, Moro has totally dominated the event in both score and style points. Today he won clear first place with a round still to play, a very unusual thing, at least in tournaments where the 27-year-old Russian isn't playing. Not only that but many of games showed him at his chaotic, thrilling best. Morozevich has the unique ability to stir up incredible complications only he seems to understand. See what we mean in the analysis section below.
Moro, the world's #4 ranked player du jour, will also add a passel of rating points. With Kramnik dropping quite a few in his so-far lackluster Dortmund showing (he made it to the semis on tiebreaks but has yet to win a rated game) it may make for a narrow scrape for the once-invulnerable #3 spot on the next rating list.
Standings after round nine
As you can see from the crosstable it has also been a very good event for the Indian #2, Krishnan Sasikiran. He has locked up clear second place and a healthy number of rating points in the bargain. Sasi was even giving chase to Morozevich for a while before an eighth-round loss to him pretty much decided the trophy race.
The millions of Anand-crazed Indian chess fans must be delighted to see the 23-year-old continue his climb up the world ladder. The Indian papers that once only covered Anand abroad are now providing daily and thorough coverage of Sasikiran's international events. We'll know he's really made it in the homeland when he starts to be followed to tournaments by some of the Indian reporters who currently only follow the man, the legend, the Vish. (Some of the best chess journalism to be found is in the Indian papers, but they rarely cover events where Indian players aren't present!)
With two players so far ahead of the pack, somebody in the category 18 tournament (avg. 2680, just 10 points lower than Dortmund) must be having a bad week at the office. Actually that would be several somebodies. Most disappointed is former FIDE champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine, who surely hoped for a more glorious return to action.
The 20-year-old hadn't played a single tournament game this year and played very little classical chess in the second half of 2003. He has looked very shaky in Biel, losing three games and narrowly avoiding a loss with white against Morozevich with a miracle save (see below).
Frenchman Etienne Bacrot, like Ponomariov a former holder of the "youngest GM ever" title, did not fare well in his first event as a 2700 heavyweight. His only wins were gained against poor Luke McShane, who started out dropping points like they were poisonous frogs. After beginning with four straight losses the Englishman has made an even score. From the good news/bad news department comes the host nation's representative, Swiss #2 Yannick Pelletier. (Milov is #1. Korchnoi has finally fallen to #3.) He's at -1, but is still performing above rating expectation.
Ponomariov - Morozevich after 66...Be3
Even knowing the eldritch drawing powers of opposite colored bishops it is something of a surprise that this position is a draw.
As long as the black king can't penetrate the white bishop has no problem stopping the black pawns. Even advancing the d-pawn to d2 doesn't help. Ponomariov put his bishop on the d1-h5 diagonal and mirrored the black king with his own. The draw was agreed on move 87.
Sasikiran - Pelletier after 36...Bb6
White finds a pretty way to turn a complicated endgame into a simple technical win. 37.Bd5+! putting the bishop on what looks like the worst possible square.
37...Kxd5 Of course not 37...Nxd5?? 38.a8Q+ 38.Bxb6 Na8 39.Bd8 The bishop totally dominates the knight. 39...Kc4 Going after the a-pawn with 39...Kc6 offered better chances. 40.Be7 Kb3 41.Bf8 1-0
Morozevich-Bacrot after 28...Rh6
A rook on c5 with a pawn on c4? Must be a Morozevich game! Here he liquidated another of his tactical masterworks with the nice interference shot 29.e6!
Bacrot tried to hold the knight with 29...Rb6 but then the pawn became his undoing. 30.exf7 Rh5 31.Re1 1-0. Black will lose a rook to 31...Rb8 32.Re8+! Rxe8 33.fxe8Q+ Kxe8 34.Bxc6+ A winning discovery. 34...Bxc6 35.Rxh5.
29...Nd8 doesn't fare any better after 30.Ne5!
Morozevich - Sasikiran after 27...Rxe5
Sometimes we wonder if Morozevich does what Tal was often accused of doing, playing wild sacrificial moves just to see if his opponents crack under the pressure.
A normal human would play something like 28.Nf3 here. Instead, Moro, like Tal the beloved of every tactics-loving fan, dropped his knight on c4! Sasikiran, no slouch in the tactics department himself, decided to allow his queen to be trapped after 28.Nc4! Re7 29.Ra3 bxc4 30.Rxa2 Rd8 but two pieces weren't enough for the queen and he resigned on move 35.
If Black takes the knight he ends up in a miserable endgame despite an extra pawn. 28...bxc4 29.Bxc4 Qxa4 30.Bxf7+! Kh8 (30...Kxf8?? 31.Rxb7+ wins the black queen.) 31.Rxb7 Qxd1 32.Rxd1 Rxe4 33.Rdd7. Fritz says it can hold this endgame but we all know Fritz is a masochist.
Pelletier - Morozevich after 13.0-0-0
Here the tournament winner plays for an attack with Black in the 4...Nd7 French he played against Pelletier with White in round five. (Draw in 24)
Most players would go for the logical and strong 13...Ng4, hitting the f2 pawn again. Indeed, that move was played in a game in 1999. Of course Moro has other plans, namely to throw away his e-pawn!
13...e5!?! As usual, Morozevich is saying "you'll be fine if you can handle the complications as well as I can." As usual, his opponent can't. 14.Nxe5 Re8 Threatening 15...Bd4.
Now White should have backed up his knight and covered b2 with 15.Bc3. Pelletier tries to get the queens off the board and is immediately punished. 15.Nc4? Qa6! Stepping right into a potential discovered attack on his queen, but hitting a2 and maintaining the rook's attack on the white queen. White is already in deep trouble. Morozevich continued with more fireworks and went on to win to clinch the tournament victory with a round to spare.
16.Qf3 Bg4 17.Qg3 Qxa2! 18.Bc3 Ne4! Threatening mate in one. 19.Bxe4 Rxe4 20.Nd2 Rd4!? 0-1 in 40