Hard fights in Biel
In round 3 against Peter Svidler, he somewhat surprisingly went for the Najdorf Sicilian. I think I surprised him back by choosing the aggressive and sharp Bg5 variation. Optically the position looked promising for white and I calculated furiously ways to sacrifice material. Bb5 was a simple choice. If he captures, I take on e6 etc. Nf5 looked promising as well but he found the only defensive plan available. Still I might have gained an upper hand after Bg5 sacrificing another piece, but I couldn’t calculate it till the end (or to an advantageous position). Long term he had counterplay along the h8-a1 diagonal and none of us found an alternative to a repetition of moves before the first time control.
The local GM Georgiadis had lost his first three games when we played in R4. I played a bit speculatively in the opening and was at least slightly worse when he offered to trade queens. His exchange sacrifice on d4 looked dubious to me, but his pawn on d6 kept the tension. I was an exchange and pawn up, but my pieces were nearly all tied down to stop his d6-pawn. Underestimating my position at this point, I unfortunately went for the game continuation with Bf5, Rh7 and Rg7 as I missed his best counterplay. If he plays Rg3 (with check) after capturing on g7 I get my king to g6 with good winning chances. However, Rg5! picking up both the h5 and h3 pawns left us with a drawish ending. I tried to complicate the position by sacrificing the d4-pawn to create a passed pawn in the f-file. He found the required counterplay – draw.
I had white against co-leader Mamedyarov in round 5 and got a slight edge from the Ruy Lopez opening. White had more maneuvering possibilities but I could not find any clear path to an advantage. The Rc7-Rxc6 plan looked promising as white got a passed b-pawn and queen, bishop and knight against queen and two knights in addition to pawns on the kingside. Mamedyarov defended very well, and the last critical point was when I could play Be7 (Nxe7 Qd8+). To me it looked a bit too drawish, but if I had evaluated the game continuation correctly I should and would have gone for it. My opponent held a draw convincingly despite many potential pitfalls. He is currently ranked no 3 in the world and he recently came 2ndin the Candidates after 2ndranked Caruana. The current mature and disciplined Mamedyarov is simply a significantly better player than the more erratic (while always dangerous) player he was just three years ago.
In the first half of this event all my games where long, hard and complicated games reminding me of Tal Memorial 2011 where I started with the same creative ambition and three crazy games against Aronian, Gelfand and Kramnik.
Yesterday in round 6 against Navara, I didn’t manage to create that much. Rc8 was probably a mistake as it left me with a worse rook and knight ending, which I held without too much difficulty though. Mamedyarov beat Georgiadis and is leading with 4.5 points. I’m second at 4 with Lagrave, Svidler and Navara at 3 points.
Last night a group of chess players played football near the lake in the beautiful warm weather. It was just what I needed.
Biel needed some rain, and unfortunately the weather gods chose the rest day today:(
Sunday I’m white against Vachier-Lagrave at 2pm.