Storms in Dortmund fail to shake up the scoreboard

by Macauley Peterson
7/21/2017 – Amid a tumultuous summer thunderstorm in Dortmund, the standings of the 45th Sparkassen Chess Meeting remain the same through four rounds. With both rest days behind them, the players head for a tense final weekend, with Wojtaszek and Bluebaum clinging to a half point lead.

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The longest day ends in draws

As thunder and lightning rang out around the city of Dortmund, safe inside in the Orchesterzentrum NRW Wednesday's round 4 could not alter the standings. The young underdog Matthias Bluebaum remains in first tied with Radoslaw Wojtaszek on the strength of one win each. But their opponents each had to weather 100+ move games and over 7 hours of play before the final handshakes.

Bluebaum

Bluebaum inches closer to a career best result | Photo: Macauley Peterson

Bluebaum ½-½ Andreikin

Mathias Bluebaum had to deal with Dmitry Andreikin's somewhat unorthodox version of the Bogo-Indian Defence, which saw the Russian initially delaying the development of the g8 knight. The game was steered into a position reminicent of an English hedgehog set-up, and in the middle game it was Black with a bit more space and a slight initiative to work with. But as the players blitzed out the last moves to reach time control at move 40, Bluebaum was given a chance to turn the tables:

 

You can play out variations on this diagram!

Here Andreikin pushed his rook one square too far with 39...Rd2? (Rd3 would keep the balance), after which White's b-pawn becomes a serious problem for Black 40.Bc3 Rd3 41.b6 Rb8 and here Bluebaum missed a chance to force the win of an exchange with 42.Rc6! when the threat of Be5 would have left Andreikin with little choice but to give up one of his rooks with either Rxb6 or Rxc3. Instead 42.Rc7+ lets the black king hide on h5, blunting the effect of any subsequent Be5.

But Bluebaum soon got another chance as he was able to queen the b-pawn and go up almost a full rook. Even still, the technical task proved to be more difficult than it appeared. Only on move 87.Re6 did he finally let the win slip:

 

After 87...g2! amazingly Black is OK! After 33 more moves, Blübaum had to settle for a draw. At the end, Andreikin forced the matter with a cute trick:

 

Black to play and draw. Can you find it?

Nisipeanu ½-½ Kramnik

Vladimir Kramnik's chances for an eleventh Dortmund win are rapidly dwindling. With Black against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, he went for a sharp line in the Nimzo-Indian where both sides were familar with the theoretical terrain.

14.Bxc3 came as a surprise for Nisipeanu, who explained of his novelty on move 17, "Rfb1, I like very much. I was very proud of myself."

 

17...Rae8 18.gxf4 (18.Rxb7 is a bit of a trap as f5! with the idea of 19.Nxe6 fxe4=) 18...Qg4+ 19.Kh1 Qxf4 and the position is balanced.

Nisipeanu, Kramnik, Souleidis

"I wanted a game!" | Photo: Frederic Friedel

Asked in the press room by official site annotator IM Georgios Souleidis what he wanted from the opening, Kramnik replied "I wanted a game!" eliciting laughter.

After 22.Bd5 Nisipeanu was very optimistic about his position, but so was Kramnik, who said he was actually searching for an advantage! A key turning point in the game came a moment later:

 

Kramnik thought for 13 minutes ("I would spend 30 if I would have it", he said) and played 23...Ng4! 24.Bxe6 Qxe6 25.Qg2 Rg8 and after 26.Rb2, Kramnik though for a moment, then picked up a pawn from among the captured pieces on the side of the board and dropped his chin to his chest to analyse blind for a while. He had a fantastic idea to try Nxh2, but couldn't make it work: Indeed 27.Qxh2 is simply possible, as White meets Rg6 with 28.Rd1! and Black has no time for 28...Rh6 due to 29.Rd8+ Kg7 30.Rg2+ and wins, as the players spotted in post-game analysis.

Instead, after simplifications the queen versus two rooks ending was soon agreed drawn.

Never too late for the Nimzo-Indian

Bologan's way to the Nimzo-Indian was very long and difficult. Which he now regrets a lot: “I would better start it when I was young. First I played only the King’s Indian against 1.d4, later I learned Black’s Knights Tango, which already had some elements of the Nimzo-Indian and only in the new millennium I included the Nimzo Indian into my repertoire.” This period coincided with winning the Dortmund 2003 tournament, when he managed to hold with Black in a Nimzo with 4.Qc2 against none other than Vladimir Kramnik in the decisive last round. The Moldavian grandmaster recommends the Nimzo-Indian to players of all levels, because it’s complex and simple at the same time.

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Wojtaszek ½-½ Fedoseev

The Polish GM came up against Vladimir Fedoseev, whom we learned has been joined in Dortmund by his coach and former FIDE World Championship GM Alexander Khalifman. The young Russian uncorked a novelty as early as move 7 in a Slav Defence, gambiting a pawn with an early b5-b4 advance. Wojtaszek said 'thank you very much' and clung to a slight edge as pieces started coming off. For a moment, the audience waited with bated breath after Radek's 43.e6:

 

Neither player saw the dramatic 43...Re5! The point being that 44.Rxe5 Bxe5 leads only to mass exchanges 45.e7 Nxc6 46.e8(Q) Bxe8 47.Nxe8 and a drawn knight ending. After this mutual blindness (revealed only after the game), Fedoseev actually got away with one himself as his 43...Kf4? might have been punished by the fantastic line 44.e7 Rb1+ 45.Ke2 Nc1+ 46.Ke1! when just to illustrate a problem for Black: 46...Nb3+ (not the best, but the prettiest geometry) loses to 47.Kf2 Nxd4 48.Nd5+ followed by Rxg6 and soon e8(Q).

Wojtaszek

A missed chance to grab the sole lead | Photo: Macauley Peterson

"Later on I felt I was winning but I didnt manage to calculate everything," in what he said was definitely one of the longest games of his career so far at 102 moves. Ultimately he only managed to reach a king, rook and knight versus king and rook ending, which is a fairly easy draw at this level.

Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Wang

For many professionals tired of the Berlin defence, the Petroff is once again a go-to solid defensive weapon frequently seen in the elite tournaments. Wang Yue has both in his repertoire. With 6...Bf5, Wang had prepared a side-line, rarely employed by top players. Vachier-Lagrave's 8.Ne5 quickly lead the game into uncharted territory. After early exchanges, an end game with rook and two minor pieces arose. "MVL" was pushing with a bit more space to maneuver, but Wang defended comfortably.

Vachier-Lagrave

The defending Dortmund Champ is among the chasing pack | Photo: Macauley Peterson

Replay all games from rounds 1 to 4 with computer analysis:

 

Artwork

Artwork by Christiane Koehne and Ralf Schoenenberg welcomes spectators in the lobby | Photo: Macauley Peterson

Standings after Round 4:

Rk.   Name   Rtg. Nt. Pts. n
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
TB Perf.
1
GM
 
2642
2.5
4
 
     
5.00
2823
2
GM
 
2736
2.5
4
 
 
   
4.25
2852
3
GM
 
2791
2.0
4
 
     
4.25
2690
4
GM
 
2712
2.0
4
   
 
 
3.75
2720
4
GM
 
2726
2.0
4
 
 
   
3.75
2726
4
GM
 
2683
2.0
4
     
 
3.75
2736
7
WCH
 
2812
1.5
4
   
 
 
3.25
2627
8
GM
 
2699
1.5
4
     
 
3.00
2644
TBs: Sonneborn-Berger

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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