Biel: Naiditsch to replace Salem, Harikrishna wins Chess960 event

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/19/2020 – The Biel Chess Festival kicked off on Saturday with the ACCENTUS Chess960 tournament, but not without setbacks, as grandmaster Salem Saleh could not make it to Switzerland from the UAE. The organizers reacted quickly and got late replacements Alexander Donchenko and Arkadij Naiditsch. Donchenko arrived in Biel for the Chess960 event, while Naiditsch will be playing the ‘triathlon’ that starts on Sunday. Pentala Harikrishna won the Chess960 single round-robin tournament. | Photos: Official site

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Late replacements

As stated on the official website, “the organizers of the Biel International Chess Festival are pleased to offer the world of chess a glimpse of normalcy by holding the 53rd edition of the tournament”. Following the format used in the last few years, the eight invited grandmasters will play a ‘triathlon’ of classical, rapid and blitz chess, with a Chess960 tournament serving as tiebreaker.

It was a brave decision to host the festival given the current crisis, and the first mishap related to the pandemic was GM Saleh Salem not being able to arrive in Switzerland from the United Arab Emirates “despite earlier confirmations”. An efficient handling of the situation by the organizers, however, resulted in Alexander Donchenko and Arkadij Naiditsch jumping in as late replacements. Donchenko was called for to play the Chess960 opener, while Naiditsch will be playing the classical, rapid and blitz sections.

Biel Chess Festival 2020

Group photo in times of covid-19

Harikrishna with best TB score for the triathlon

Many times it has been suggested for the World Championship matches to play the rapid tiebreakers before the start of the event. The idea is for players to know in advance whether they need to go all-in under given circumstances during the classical games. In Biel, this idea has been implemented, with the added bonus of using a format that has gained a second wind lately — Chess960.

Saturday’s single round-robin event saw the safety measures being applied for the first time: a Plexiglass shield is placed on each board, all pieces, boards and chess clocks are cleaned after each game, and spectators are not allowed into the playing hall, etc. Participants that do not abide to the rules will be sanctioned and may be even excluded from the tournament.

Biel Chess Festival 2020

The players being presented with the safety measures

Pentala Harikrishna won the tournament with a 5½ out of 7 score. He had reached the final round tied in first place with Radoslaw Wojtaszek. The Indian star had white against David Anton, while Wojtaszek had black against tail-ender Noël Studer. Studer stunned the Polish grandmaster while ‘Hari’ got to beat his Spanish colleague, thus getting clear first place.

Penultimate seed Vincent Keymer, aged 15, had a great performance and finished in sole second place, winning four games and only losing to Donchenko in round 3. The young German grandmaster was a half point behind the leaders after six rounds and managed to beat Romain Édouard in his final game.

Replay all games from the Chess960 tournament here.


Commentary webcast

Australian GM Ian Rogers provided commentary for the official website


Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Harikrishna Pentala 5,5 0,0
2 Keymer Vincent 5,0 0,0
3 Wojtaszek Radoslaw 4,5 0,0
4 Adams Michael 3,5 1,0
5 Donchenko Alexander 3,5 0,0
6 Anton Guijarro David 3,0 0,0
7 Edouard Romain 2,0 0,0
8 Studer Noel 1,0 0,0

See more details on Chess-Results


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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.

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