Biel: Shak catches Magnus

by André Schulz
7/24/2018 – For the third day in a row, two players left Biel's Congress Centre with a win in their pockets. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov inflicted Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's second consecutive loss and now shares the lead with Magnus Carlsen. The other winner was David Navara, who increased Nico Georgiadis' woes with a Black win in 39 moves. Peter Svidler and Carlsen signed a three-fold repetition draw after exploring a complex line of the Najdorf | Photos: Lennart Ootes / Simon Bohnenblust / Biel International Chess Festival

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Shak is sharp

Last year, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov rose to the very top of the chess elite after modifying his style — he started playing quieter openings and going for simplifications when the position called for it. Chess fans never forgot, however, of Shak's "previous version", the one that did not shy away from complications and turned evaluations around whenever he had the chance. So far, in Biel, we have seen some snippets of the old not-as-sophisticated version.

Against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round three, Shak did not hesitate to launch his kingside pawns forward early in the game:


A fight for the central squares followed and White ended up a pawn for the good in a rook and bishop endgame. On move 23, Mamedyarov fixed his opponent's h-pawn on a light square in order to attack it later:


After 23.h4, White had all the trumps in the position and only needed to be careful, as the presence of the rooks gives Black a slim hope to survive. A few moves later, however, Shak snatched the h-pawn and Vachier-Lagrave decided it was time to stop the clocks and accept his loss.

Their demeanors illustrate how they are doing in Biel | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Biel International Chess Festival

No country for young men

Things did not improve for local player Nico Georgiadis on Tuesday. He lost against David Navara with the white pieces and is yet to score half a point in the tournament. Navara, on the other hand, has had a good performance so far, losing against Carlsen after being slightly better and failing to beat Mamedyarov after getting some chances in the opening.

In the game, Nico followed Magnus' example from round one and gave up his queen for David's rook and bishop. The big difference though is that Carlsen did it voluntarily while Georgiadis did it out of necessity. The white queen was surrounded by enemy pieces and numerous threats, so Nico decided that it was better to give it up in the following position:


White went for 18.Rxd4, but perhaps 18.Qh4 Nxe2 19.Kf1 Nd6 20.Be3 was a better way to continue. However, Georgiadis still had good practical chances to hold in the complicated struggle that ensued. In the end, Navara's queenside pawns — supported by the queen — were stronger than White's bundle of pieces. 


Georgiadis resigned after 39...b3.

Navara respectfully accepts his opponent's resignation | Photo: Simon Bohnenblust / Biel International Chess Festival

Looking for a hat-trick

Magnus Carlsen seems to be in good spirits in Biel. After winning his first two games, he delved into a complicated Najdorf position against Peter Svidler. Evidently, Svidler also was up for a fight, as he usually plays the Kan variation of the Sicilian. 

The World Champion used the principled 6.Bg5 and Svidler answered — as he had done last year against Jobava — with the "modern" 6...Nbd7. Soon afterwards, the player from Saint Petersburg improvised with 9...Qc7, instead of e5, and the players already were in unexplored territory.


The position proves that Carlsen was ready to fight for his hat-trick. A few moves later, he offered a bishop sacrifice on b5, which Black did not accept as it gave White a direct attack against the king still in the centre.


In case of 15...axb5, White had a nice combination that finished in checkmate: 16.Ncxb5 Qa5 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.Nxd6#. After this sacrifice was correctly rejected, Carlsen tried another one with his knight on f5, but once again Svidler kept his cool and returned the piece quickly to keep the balance. The excitement was over on move 26, when the players repeated the position three times. It was a short but flashy struggle.

Head-scratching was called for after such a complicated game | Photo: Simon Bohnenblust / Biel International Chess Festival

Live coverage with commentary by Daniel King and Anna Rudolf

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Translation from German and additional reporting: Antonio Pereira


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


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