Biel: Carlsen with the early lead

by André Schulz
7/24/2018 – On Sunday, the Accentus GM tournament started in Biel with a few super GMs, including none other than the World Champion himself. Magnus Carlsen had an exciting duel with David Navara, in which Carlsen proved that the queen may be overrated. So far, the World Champion has shown himself in excellent form. On Monday he scored again, this time with Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Peter Svidler celebrated his first victory, against Nico Georgiadis, and is tied with Mamedyarov for second place. | Photos: Lennart Ootes / Simon Bohnenblust / Biel International Chess Festival

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Biel is back!

The chess festival Biel 2018 in western Switzerland is one of the great traditional chess tournaments in Europe and dates back to 1968. The organizers have always focused on creating a vibrant chess environment for players and fans on-site, but also have added free online commentary for several years in cooperation with ChessBase.

Rudolf and KingThis year GM Daniel King and IM Anna Rudolf share the anchoring duties and you can replay every minute of their webcast below.

The Biel chess festival is also inextricably linked with the rise of Magnus Carlsen: In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, the future World Champion took part here as a teenager. The Swiss landscape reminds the winter sports fan of his home in Norway. After a break, he returned in 2011 and 2012, as World Number one, and now the best player in the world is in Biel for the first time as World Champion.

The festival consists not only of the main event of international interest — the  Accentus GM Tournament — but also a strong Open with many grandmasters and a slew of side events. On Saturday, events kicked off with a Chess960 Rapid tournament, and the full program includes a rapid tournament, blitz tournaments, youth tournaments and more.

playing hall

The playing hall at the start of round 1 | Photo: Simon Bohnenblust

Round 1

The night before the first round, the Czech number one David Navara eschewed a glass of wine at dinner, explaining to the hostess at restaurant Le Pavé in Biel's old quarter, "no thank you — tomorrow I am playing the World Champion with Black!"

A tall order for anyone, although Navara's score against Carlsen is equal over seven classical games, most recently a draw in Shamkir 2018


After 14...e5 White pulled the knight back to c2 and after 15...Rd8 Carlsen gave the queen for rook and knight with 16.Nxb4. The strategically interesting game remained in dynamic equilibrium for a long time, but in the endgame, Carlsen reached a position in which his rook, knight and pawns are superior to a queen.


There is no solution to the advance of the e-pawn. White later converted to a winning pawn ending.

GM Daniel King analyses Magnus Carlsen's win | PowerPlay Chess

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov also garnered a full point against the Swiss representative GM Nico Georgiadis.


With 22.Bxd5, followed by 23.dxc5, White gained a decisive advantage.

The game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Peter Svidler in a Ruy Lopez anti-Marshall variation ended drawn.

Live commentary of Round 1

Replay the full 5+ hour show below, including post-mortem analysis with all players:

  • 2:38:15 - Svidler and Vachier-Lagrave
  • 2:57:30 - Mamedyarov and Georgiadis
  • 4:56:55 - Navara and Carlsen

Commentary by IM Anna Rudolf and GM Daniel King

Preparation for the World Championship

When Magnus Carlsen was in Hamburg last fall, he admitted in an interview with the time journalist Ullrich Stock that he was a bit far from his best form, since before becoming world champion. He also said he had to get back into better. Long tournament breaks would not do him any good, Carlsen judged self-critically. If he wants to survive the upcoming match this November better than his 2016 match against Sergey Karjakin, he would have to play more to stay in rhythm. At the time, it was not clear who Carlsen's challenger would be. By now it is known that it is Fabiano Caruana. Carlsen in profile

If Carlsen plays against Caruana as he does against Karjakin, then he will have serious problems, said GM Mihail Marin said last Friday on the TV ChessBase show (in German). Carlsen knew that he was close to losing his world championship title to Karjakin last time, so he could confidently see his participation in the tournament in Biel as part of his preparation, in a way [although he didn't see it that way in remarks before the tournament -Ed.].

At Biel, Magnus Carlsen sure has many good memories. The tournament and the organisation exude an almost family atmosphere. Biel is a "watch" city, the center of the Swatch consortium, and parts of the chess festival are as perfect as Swiss watches. And this is no coincidence; the team is experienced — many have been there for years. Carlsen played regularly in Biel between 2005 and 2008, at a time when he had already passed prodigy status and was about to become number one. He returned in 2011 and 2012, and soon after became world champion.

Round 2

"All rook endings are a draw", is the expression, but not for everyone. On Monday, Carlsen played with Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and confronted the French theoretician with the Pirc Defense, not a typical weapon for the World Champion, or one MVL faces often. After 4.Bf4 the game quickly left well-known paths, which was just fine for Magnus.

After an early queen swap, Black had no problems. As soon as the remaining minor pieces were exchanged, a double rook endgame stood on the board. The slightly ironic statement that all rook-endings are drawn is not one that counts Carlsen as an adherent, and when Vachier-Lagrave opened the door to his position just a crack, the World Champion penetrated and rolled up his sleeves.


White played 32.Rgh4, after which Carlsen seized the opportunity to reach the white second rank via the g-file with 32...Rg8.

Carlsen watches Vachier-Lagrave

A marathon game | Photo: Lennart Ootes

A few moves later, this position emerged:


Carlsen played 55...d1=Q and grabbed both the b-pawn and the a-pawn. Whit's effort to steal the e-pawn in return is not enough, because the Black's outside passer and White's distant king tips the game in Black's favour when a pair of rooks are exchanged. Good to know your rook endgames!

Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave check the critical moments with Anna Rudolf

Karpov and Korchnoi send greetings

David Navara and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov fought their duel on the terrain of the Open Variation of the Ruy Lopez, a variation familiar to the older chess fans from the Karpov-Korchnoi World Championship match of 1981. For the two young protagonists in Biel, this is ancient history. Both, born in 1985, were not around at the time of that match.

The stage

Mamedyarov in Korchnoi's footsteps

On move 15 the game deviated from its predecessors and Black had to say goodbye to his castling rights, but with reduced material White could not exploit this weakness despite the queens remaining on the board. 


This was followed by 22...g5, after which "the machine" pounces with 23.Nf5+, leading to a win for White. Mamedyarov instead played but 23.Qb4+, with far less oomph to the attack.

Mamedyarov and Navara discuss the game with Anna Rudolf

Peter Svidler scored his first win and dealt Nico Giorgiadis a second consecutive loss. In what's sometimes know as the Russian variation of the Sicilian defence (with 3.Bb5), the young Swiss kept the position close, but Svidler skillfully demonstrated the frequent superiority of the queen and knight over the queen and bishop. 


With a bang 39.Nxh6, White capitalised on his advantage here. Black cannot take the knight because then White would get an unstoppable mating attack with the queen and rook. Black continued defending himself tenaciously, but could not avert defeat.

Svidler and Georgiadis look at the highlights with Daniel King

Current standings


All games


Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson


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


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