50th Biel: Round 4 and four winners

by André Schulz
7/28/2017 – In today's fourth round there were four decisive games in the GM tournament of the Biel chess festival. In three games, the white knights took were the key factor. In the fourth Black's passed pawn made all the difference. Etienne Bacrot now leads the field with Pentala Harikrishna and others a half point behind. | Photos: Pascal Simon

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50th Biel International Festival

Round 4

After yesterday's game, Peter Leko and Yifan Hou made their first visit to Daniel King's mobile ChessBase studio, where the Chinese showed how she held the black side of a Petroff Defense without much trouble. Perhaps Ruslan Ponomariov caught the replay and was sufficiently impressed by her evident preparation not to test her in the same opening. Or, perhaps instead the former FIDE World Champion wasn't in the mood for a staid Petroff anyway. In any case, he confronted Hou with the more offbeat 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3, which soon transposed into the venerable Vienna Game. The pair followed a recent predecessor albeit a blitz game...a high-powered blitz game, no less than Kasparov-Caruana from last year's "Ultimate Blitz" in St. Louis, only deviating on move 8 into virgin territory. After an early queen trade, there emerged double-rook endgame with a pair of knight, given a bit of character by the wrecked pawn structure for both sides. Pono managed to give Hou double-isolated f-pawns, but not to be outdone, was sadled himself by triple-isos on the c-file. After further trades into a rook ending, the Ukrainian made the surprising decision to transition to a pure king and pawn ending at the cost of a pawn, but correctly evaluated that there was no way for Hou to make progress.


Noel Studer took on Harikrishna with one of his own weapons, the classical French Defense. Harikrishna, in one of the main lines played 9.Nd1 followed by 10.c3 a modern way to stabilize the white pawn center and then followed a game played against Studer by IM Sean Winshand Cuhendi at the Zalakaros Open earlier this year.

Pentala Harikrishna | Photo: Pascal Simon

With 13...Qxa6 instead of 13...Rxa6, the Swiss deviated first. It may have made little difference, for Harikrishna had prepared a very energetic plan, initiated by the pawn thrust f4-f5, which gave him a strong initiative:


The Classical French - Main Line

After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3, the author takes a detailed look at a daring line with 7... cxd4 8. Nd4 Qb6, as well as the quieter plans with 7...cxd4 8. Nd4 Bc5, and the main line with 7... a6 and b5.


Etienne Bacrot fought Alexander Morozevich's Sicilian Defense with the Moscow variation (2...d6 3.Bb5), after which a few moves later a position with a typical Maroczy structure arose. With e7-e6 and d6-d5, the Russian Grandmaster tried to free his position, but soon his king got into hot water, with White's knights running rampant on the kingside.


In the game between David Navara and Peter Leko the viewers saw the Ragozin variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. The Czech last had this line at the 2016 Corus Tournament against Wesley So. With 9.Rc1 instead of 9.Be2, Navara took a different path against Leko and after the opening built up a comfortable edge thanks to his strong pawn center. Here, too, it was a pair of white knights, wrecking havoc in Black's position.

David Navara | Photo: Pascal Simon


Rafael Vaganjan had no interest at all in a theory duel and chose the Torre Attack against Nico Georgiadis with 1.d4 2.Nf3 and 3.Bg5 against Black Fianchetto king position. The Swiss, however, soon achieved a very comfortable game against the ambitious white opening and was finally the boss in the ring. The decisive difference was made by Black's passed a-pawn which scored a touchdown, costing White the game.


Games and Commentary:

Round 4 - Part 1


Round 4 - Part 2

Live commentary by Daniel King, Joe Gallagher and guests from 14:15 CEST

Results of Round 4

Br. Title Name Fed. Elo Res. Title Name Fed. Elo
1 GM Penteala Harikrishna
2737 1-0 IM Noel Studer
2 GM David Navara
2737 1-0 GM Peter Leko
3 GM Etienne Bacrot
2715 1-0 GM Alexander Morozevich
4 GM Ruslan Ponomariov
2699 ½-½ GM Yifan Hou
5 GM Rafael A Vaganian
2562 0-1 IM Nico Georgiadis

All games round 1 to 4


Standings after four rounds

Rk. Title Name Fed. Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts. Perf. Wtg.
1 GM Etienne Bacrot
2715      ½  ½              3.0 / 4 2798 5.50
2 GM Penteala Harikrishna
2737      ½        ½       ½  2.5 / 4 2651 4.75
3 IM Nico Georgiadis
2496 ½  ½             ½        2.5 / 4 2776 5.00
4 GM Ruslan Ponomariov
2699 ½          ½        ½     2.5 / 4 2743 4.75
5 GM Yifan Hou
2666          ½       ½     ½  2.5 / 4 2724 4.50
6 GM David Navara
2737       ½             ½  2.0 / 4 2586 3.25
7 GM Alexander Morozevich
2675 0 ½     0   1       1.5 / 4 2648 5.00
8 GM Peter Leko
2678          ½          1.5 / 4 2561 2.25
9 GM Rafael A Vaganian
2562 ½  ½                   1.0 / 4 2471 2.75
10 IM Noel Studer
2493          ½     ½       1.0 / 4 2513 2.25

Correction July 28, 10:50 CEST:
An earlier version of this post misrepresented Harikrishna as sharing the lead in the introduction. In fact he's second.


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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macauley macauley 7/28/2017 10:52
@digupagal - Indeed! I've posted a correction. The standings table was correct, but the introduction wrongly stated that Harikrishna and Bacrot were tied, due to an earlier result being inadvertently duplicated on our live.chessbase.com server.
offpister offpister 7/28/2017 10:33
@North to Infinity-and so no doubt you think Bobby Fischer should have simply been forfeited from the world championship match and banned for a year from playing for "Childish[ly]" forfeiting game 2? Or your analysis only applies to women you don't like?
potozapa potozapa 7/28/2017 09:42
I'm not sure that everything went correctly in Gibraltar. They can easily intervene to the pairings, I am also an arbiter, I know how to do it as well, though I'm not practising it. Mathematically theres was a very little chance of such a "female streak" for Yifan, and this is not the first case of suspicious things in Gibraltar. Let us remember when Judit Polgar entered the tournament in 2012. She never wanted to play with women, but here also Yifan and Humpy Koneru were present. At the first possible situation when pairing rules permitted, Judit was paired with Yifan, and then with Koneru. Many other pairings would have been possible then, too. And right after rumours came up that there should be a match between Yifan and Judit. So business is business. But then Judit retired, thus possible showmaking was in vain. Now Yifan is the one who doesn't want to play woth women. And she was immediately "punished" by the pairings. OK, there is a narrow margin of chance that it was Caissa. Deus ex machina. However, as our beloved sport gets more and more popular, money starts talking. Just ask Ilyumzhinov! :-)
ashperov ashperov 7/28/2017 08:32
Number one woman in the world. Pretty smart nice smile and good game. She is an asset for chess and any tournament she participates in. Seems she is doing decent here too! Best of luck!
digupagal digupagal 7/28/2017 06:48
Bacrot on 3 points and Harikrishna on 2.5 points now share the lead together.:)
North to Infinity North to Infinity 7/28/2017 03:36
Hou Yifan is lucky to keep getting slots at prestigious closed tournaments despite her childish game-throwing stunt at Gibraltar (where she also made unfounded allegations of match-up manipulations). I think anyone who abandons a game for an immature reason deserves to be punished in some way, including no tournament invitation for at least a year.