50th Biel, Round 2: Wins for Bacrot, Ponomariov and Morozevich

by André Schulz
7/26/2017 – The second round, like the first, provided viewers with ample entertainment value. Alexander Morozevich rebounded from yesterday's loss by beating David Navara. Ruslan Ponomariov sprung a trap on Peter Leko that netted a pawn and the game and Etienne Bacrot played the French against an Armenian playing the Armenian variation!

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Three winners in round two

Some no doubt believe that Rafael Vaganian would have been much more successful if he had not regularly used the so-called "Armenian variation" in the French Defense, Winawer, after 4...Bb4 and 5.a3. Black does not take on c3 and instead retreats the bishop back to a5 heading for sharp complications. Vaganian and Smbat Lputian applied this system regularly, going back to the 1980s, which is how it got its name. But perhaps this is too harsh a judgment, since although Vaganjan lost a number of games, he also won many. Above all, he rarely played to a draw, and overall has scored more than 60% in this line.

However, recent theoretical progress has undermined confidence in the variantion, particularly after 7...Ne7. In fact of less than a dozen or so games played by grandmasters in the past decade, only once has it gone in Black's favor! 

Rafael Vaganian may need to update his opening repertoire | Photo: Pascal Simon

However, old habits die hard, and so did the Armenian today playing his French against the Frenchman Etienne Bacrot. He could hardly have been surprised by Bacrot's reaction; the game followed an almost forced line once lost by his GM colleague Lputjan, 13 years ago.


With the rarely played move 17...d4 (instead of 17... Nxf4), Vaganian deviated from his predecessor and sacrificed three pawns for only vague compensation. Bacrot had to find some exact maneuvers with his king stuck in the center, but the experienced GM reached an endgame up an exchange and a pawn and his more experienced opponent finally called it a day on move 33.

Unorthodox against the French Winawer

The French Defence is an aggressive and tough opening. Typically, the second player shows his ambitions as early as on move three in the main, after - 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 - the Winawer Variation. Black’s intentions are clear - pressure in the center, and quick development. Check the new Learn in 60 minutes to find a repertoire based on the move 4.Ng1-e2. The author GM Dejan Bojkov used it to win a crucial game at the Canadian Open Championship 2011, which helped him share victory at this prestigious event.

Moro regains his mojo

Alexander Morozevich was clearly keen on attack in yesterday's loss to Hou Yifan, and came out hard-charging again today against David Navara. The Russian grandmaster, with the black pieces faced the Fianchetto variation against his Benoni and obtained a strong initiative, gradually overpowering his Czech foe.


Alexander Morozevich with Daniel King | Photo: Pascal Simon

Precision scoresHou ½-½ Studer

Hou Yifan showed cool defensive acuity against Morozevich, but today against the young Swiss IM Studer the Chinese was the favorite and hoped for a second victory in a row. After the early exchange of queens, she sacrificed an exchange to gain the bishop pair in an endgame, and a solid edge, but let it slip and indeed was close to losing before finally salvaging a draw.

Only 44% precision today from the former Women's World Champion!


Ponomariov 1-0 Leko

The Italian is becoming known as the new Spanish and was featured today in the game between Ruslan Ponomariov and Peter Leko. After the early piece exchanges the players reached a nearly equal endgame with rook and two minor pieces. White's two knights proved to be more effective than Black's bishop and knight and it took just one oversight from the Hungarian, allowing the strong 33.b4! and Ponomariov won a pawn with a winning advantage.


Leko fought on and ditched a knight sparking a curious looking pawn race, in which he actually queened first! But it was worth no more than a couple spite checks in the end.

Harikrishna ½-½ Georgiadis

Nico Georgiadis was dealt black against Pentala Harikrishna today. Against the Indian's d4 double-fischchetto sideline, the Swiss went for a classical pawn center and built up a fine position. Black was for choice throughout the game, and Harikrishna had to defend careful to earn a half point.

Commentary with Daniel King and Joe Gallagher

Results of Round 2

Br. Title Name Fed. Elo Res. Title Name Fed. Elo
1 GM Etienne Bacrot
2715 1 - 0 GM Rafael A Vaganian
2 GM Penteala Harikrishna
2737 ½ - ½ IM Nico Georgiadis
3 GM David Navara
2737 0 - 1 GM Alexander Morozevich
4 GM Yifan Hou
2666 ½ - ½ IM Noel Studer
5 GM Ruslan Ponomariov
2699 1 - 0 GM Peter Leko

Games from Rounds 1 and 2


Standings after Round 2

Rk. Title Name Fed. Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts. Perf. Wtg.
1 GM Ruslan Ponomariov
2699   ½       1         1.5 / 2 2887 1.75
2 GM Etienne Bacrot
2715 ½                 1 1.5 / 2 2821 1.25
3 GM Yifan Hou
2666             1 ½     1.5 / 2 2774 1.25
4 GM Penteala Harikrishna
2737         ½         ½ 1.0 / 2 2529 0.75
5 IM Nico Georgiadis
2496       ½         ½   1.0 / 2 2737 0.75
6 GM Peter Leko
2678 0             1     1.0 / 2 2596 0.50
7 GM Alexander Morozevich
2675     0           1   1.0 / 2 2701 0.50
8 IM Noel Studer
2493     ½     0         0.5 / 2 2482 0.75
9 GM David Navara
2737         ½   0       0.5 / 2 2395 0.50
10 GM Rafael A Vaganian
2562   0   ½             0.5 / 2 2536 0.50


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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