Biel Chess 2007

Magnus Carlsen won the Biel International Chess Festival 2007 in the end, after a five game rapid and blitz playoff win over Alexander Onischuk of the US. Magnus made a truely stunning recovery in round nine to clinch the playoff against Onischuk, after losing the previous two rounds to Pelletier and van Wely respectively.

He had to win against Radjabov and then hope that Onischuk could only draw, or lose, to Motylev. In the end, he crushed Radjabov in a thrilling, spectacular game and Onischuk only drew. Radjabov is no mug himself (he is ranked 9th in the world) and is as tactically astute as any player in the world. But he lost his way pretty quickly once Carlsen turned up the heat. You can read through my notes to the game here.

Here are the final round standings (from the Chessbase news site).

The Biel tournament have an excellent official web site at You can download the games there, or browse through the player’s profiles or look at the pictures.

You can also read great daily reviews at a number of sites, including the New York Times’ chess blog at and Magnus Carlsen’s Dad’s site on


Carlsen-Radjabov, Biel 2007

Magnus Carlsen is justifiably lauded as the brightest prospect in chess. At age 16, he is ranked 17th in the world, an unbelievable achievement. But Radjabov (at the tender age of 20) is equally astonishing, and is ranked 9th.

In Biel today, just when Carlsen looked tired and burnt-out (after two consecutive losses) and Radjabov looked on fire (two wins and a draw from his last three games), Carlsen has produced a spectacular win in 28 explosive moves against his main opponent! This was a hugely complex and tactical game, brilliantly played by Carlsen. Radjabov was leading by half a point (with Onischuk) over Carlsen, Pelletier, and Polgar. He probably figured that a draw was sufficient to secure first place, or a share of first place. Carlsen needed to win. (Thanks to for relaying the games. A highly-recommended email chess site.)

Carlsen, Magnus (2710) vs. Radjabov, Teimor (2746), Biel 2007.

1. e4 d6  Classically called a Pirc, but black avoids playing g6, which is not usual for the Pirc. 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nge2 Nbd7 5. g3 White is instead doing the fianchetto. With his knight on e2, it is the only logical move to develop his bishop. 5 …c6 6. Bg2 b5 Looking for rapid queen-side expansion. 7. a3 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. h3 a5

Position after a5

More expansion. Black’s structure resembles a Ruy Lopez, but White’s structure is completely different to the normal white side found in that opening. Carlsen decides to launch an ambitious king-side attack. Note that the centre is very fluid. Normally, a flank attack is only advised when the centre is solid…but here White envisages a very broad attack, also using the centre, so it isn’t really just a flank attack. 10. g4 Ba6 11. Ng3 b4?! Black’s whole plan looks dubious to me. He opens the b-file, but in the meantime, he forces both the knight on c3 and the rook on a1 over to the central attack for white. Any complications are bound to favour white here. 12. Nce2 bxa3 13. Rxa3 d5 14. Re3 White has managed to centralise his queenside rook to e3, while black is hoping the open b-file will prove useful. Now the complex tactics begin. Black should at least try Bb4.

Position after Re3. White is piling up in the centre.

14 …dxe4 15. Re1! Ignoring the pawn for the moment. It won’t be going anywhere. Still, I always admire the way GMs can calmly develop attacks when down in material. 15 …Qc7 16. Nf5! A knight on f5 is a good attacking piece & square combination. It radiates threats all around the board. Now black’s white-squared bishop looks lost on a6 and it cannot defend f5. His piece coordination is now badly hampered and his rooks are not connected, after the other bishop retreats. White has a huge advantage here. 16 …Bd8 Again, maybe Bb4 should be tried. On d8, it cuts off the rooks and has little or no mobility. I guess Radjabov was nervous about moving it away from the kingside during white’s attack.Position after Bd8.

17. g5 Nd5 18. Rxe4 f6 19. Neg3 White’s pieces continue to gather towards the king. Meanwhile, black is having to defend with weakening moves and his pieces are not coordinated very well. 19 …g6?! I think black’s plan here is dubious. He weakens his kingside in order to get the knight off f5, but I cannot help thinking that it is a double-edged move that only helps white. 20. Nh6+ Kg7 21. dxe5 fxg5 Hoping to snatch the knight on h6. But he has given white a very mobile passed pawn, supported by both rooks. 22. e6 Kxh6? Fritz claims this is the real losing move. Instead, he should have tried N7f6 apparently. But I assume Radjabov was trying to tuck the king into a relatively secure spot, with those two g pawns providing some cover. Carlsen quickly shows that this is illusory.

Position after Kxh6

23. e7! Simply taking the knight is not strong enough. This forks the bishop and rook. 23 … Qb6

Position after 23 …Qb6

Black’s pieces cannot help their King. Taking the pawn by Bxe7, might allow the moves Rxe7, Nxe7, Rxe7, Rad8 (to save the pinned knight), and then Qg4!, with an overwhelming attack. Qxg5++ is in the air and if Rf4 to block, then simply Bxf4 and the house falls in.

Everything from this point onwards is practically forced, but I cannot say if black had a better defence or not. Qb6 might be the key losing move. With some more time, this needs exploration.

24. exf8=Q+ Nxf8 25. c4! A great move: white removes a key defender before moving in with the final attack.  Nf4 26. Qd6 Kg7 If Bc7?, then Nf5+! (using the pin), Kh5, Qd1+!!, g4, Qxg4++. 27. Bxf4 gxf4 28. Re7+!  Black resigns.

White wins 1-0. There is no way to stop mate. After, say, Bxe7, Rxe7+, Kh6, Qxf4+, g5, Qf6++; or Bxe7, Rxe7+, Kg8, Qf6, mate happens on g7 in a couple of moves. A great win for Carlsen! 

Kramnik-Carlsen, Dortmund 2007

Kramnik thrashed Carlsen today. Simply crushed the young pretender. It all hinged around getting his two knights to clamp down on the c6 square, occupy it, and then win the b5 pawn. 18. Na5! was the key move in this sequence, with the rest looking so easy (of course, it wasn’t, but he makes it look easy!).  It is a classic, strategic win from Kramnik, a quite beautiful type of chess, that relies on positional judgement and simplicity rather than brute force or tactics. I make it sound almost automatic, but discovering where Carlsen went wrong is very difficult. A small masterpiece from Kramnik.

Alexejew has drawn with Leko, but the other games are still ongoing…

[Site “Dortmund, Germany”]
[Date “2007.06.27”]
[White “GM_Kramnik”]
[Black “GM_Carlsen”]
[Result “1-0”]
[Opening “Catalan: closed, 5.Nf3”]
[ECO “E06”]
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. d4 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. Qxc4 b5 9. Qc2 Bb7 10. Bd2 Nc6 11. e3 Nb4 12. Bxb4 Bxb4 13. a3 Be7 14. Nbd2 Rc8 15. b4 a5 16. Ne5 Nd5 17. Nb3 axb4 18. Na5 Ba8 19. Nac6 Bxc6 20. Nxc6 Qd7 21. Bxd5 exd5 22. axb4 Rfe8 23. Ra5 Bf8 24. Ne5 Qe6 25. Rxb5 Rb8 26. Rxb8 Rxb8 27. Qxc7 Bd6 28. Qa5 Bxb4 29. Rb1 Qd6 30. Qa4 White wins 1-0

Playoff shootout

Down to eight candidates. Aronian eventually shook off Carlsen,  by winning two blitz games. Blitz is the penalty shoot-out of chess. Not always guaranteed to produce the best chess, but certainly exciting. Carlsen showed great fighting qualities but in the end his black openings let him down. He is going to be a star of the future, but right now Aronian is better.

Shirov beat off Adams in the rapid games. Gelfand beat Kasimdzhanov. I predicted Kasim to win, so that’s a personal surprise.

Results / Games Results and Standings

Name   G1   G2   G3   G4   G5   G6   TB   Total  
Match 1
Carlsen Magnus (NOR)   0   0.5   1   0   1   0.5   2 5  
Aronian Levon (ARM)   1   0.5   0   1   0   0.5   4 7
Match 2
Leko Peter (HUN)   0.5   1   1   1         3.5  
Gurevich Mikhail (TUR)   0.5   0   0   0         0.5  
Match 3
Ponomariov Ruslan (UKR)   0.5   0.5   0   0.5   0.5   0.5     2.5  
Rublevsky Sergei (RUS)   0.5   0.5   1   0.5   0.5   0.5     3.5  
Match 4
Gelfand Boris (ISR)   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5   2.5   5.5 
Kasimdzhanov Rustam (UZB)   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5   3.5  
Match 5
Kamsky Gata (USA)   0.5   1   1   1         3.5  
Bacrot Etienne (FRA)   0.5   0   0   0         0.5  
Match 6
Grischuk Alexander (RUS)   1   0.5   0.5   1   0.5       3.5  
Malakhov Vladimir (RUS)   0   0.5   0.5   0   0.5       1.5  
Match 7
Polgar Judith (HUN)   0.5   0   0.5   0   1   0.5     2.5  
Bareev Evgeny (RUS)   0.5   1   0.5   1   0   0.5     3.5  
Match 8
Adams Michael (ENG)   0.5   0.5   0.5   1   0.5   0   0.5   3.5  
Shirov Alexei (ESP)   0.5   0.5   0.5   0   0.5   1   2.5   5.5 

Candidates, Round 6

Carlsen drew in a worse ending by sacrificing his rook to enable a perpetual check. He seems to survive off excitement! Honestly, even if he loses the chance to enter the World Championship final this time around, surely he will be the top player before long. What I admire about his chess is his willingness to take risks, his extremely good tactical vision, and his wide range of openings. Of course, Aronian is no slouch either, nor is he that much older. They now go head to head tomorrow (Sunday) in rapid matches to decide the result.

Bareev got the draw he needed to deny Polgar a comeback. Purely in terms of rating difference, that looks on the surface to be the biggest upset. But in fairness to Judit, she has played very little top level chess over the past five years. She is still the greatest woman player in the history of chess and I personally think it is a pity she cannot go further in the competition.

Shirov pulled off a victory to tie his match with Adams. Adams has a history of performing well in World championship chess, but failing at the last hurdle (e.g. his match against Kasimdzhanov where he lost a won game near the end a few years back…). Still, this was a great win for Shirov just when he needed it.

Talking of Kasimdzhanov, he got his sixth draw in a row against Gelfand and they enter the playoffs tomorrow too. Both these players look like yesterday’s men (perhaps harsh, but they do look uninspiring beside some of the others). Kamsky is due to meet one of them in the next round. I’d put my money on him to win out there.

WCh Candidates s/f Elista RUS (RUS), 27 v-3 vi 2007

Aronian, Levon  g ARM 2759 1 = 0 1 0 = 3.0  2693
Carlsen, Magnus g NOR 2693 0 = 1 0 1 = 3.0  2759

Leko, Peter     g HUN 2738 = 1 1 1 . . 3.5  2971
Gurevich, M     g TUR 2635 = 0 0 0 . . 0.5  2416

Rublevsky, S    g RUS 2680 = = 1 = = = 3.5  2774
Ponomariov, R   g UKR 2717 = = 0 = = = 2.5  2623

Gelfand, Boris  g ISR 2733 = = = = = = 3.0  2677
Kasimdzhanov,R  g UZB 2677 = = = = = = 3.0  2733

Kamsky, Gata    g USA 2705 = 1 1 1 . . 3.5  3045
Bacrot, E       g FRA 2709 = 0 0 0 . . 0.5  2383

Grischuk, A     g RUS 2717 1 = = 1 = . 3.5  2828
Malakhov, V     g RUS 2679 0 = = 0 = . 1.5  2568

Bareev, Evgeny  g RUS 2643 = 1 = 1 0 = 3.5  2784
Polgar, Judit   g HUN 2727 = 0 = 0 1 = 2.5  2586

Adams, Michael  g ENG 2734 = = = 1 = 0 3.0  2699
Shirov, Alexei  g ESP 2699 = = = 0 = 1 3.0  2734

Round 2 Pairings Wednesday June 6th 2007
Aronian/Carlsen – Shirov/Adams
Leko – Bareev
Rublevsky – Grischuk
Gelfand/Kasimdzhanov – Kamsky

Round 5, Candidates

The big news is that Carlsen has won again, this time leveling the match at 2.5 all. Actually, the ending was eerily similar to his other win, because his rook was on g7 menancing the black king in the corner, and he had a major pawn on f6 too. Funny.

The other major news is that Judit Polgar won a game against Bareev, putting her slightly back in the frame. She still needs another win in the last to save the match however, as does Shirov after he and Adams drew.

Name G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 TB Total
Match 1
Carlsen Magnus (NOR) 0 0.5 1 0 1 2.5
Aronian Levon (ARM) 1 0.5 0 1 0 2.5
Match 2
Leko Peter (HUN) 0.5   1   1   1       3.5
Gurevich Mikhail (TUR) 0.5   0   0   0         0.5 
Match 3
Ponomariov Ruslan (UKR)   0.5   0.5   0   0.5   0.5      
Rublevsky Sergei (RUS)   0.5   0.5   1   0.5   0.5      
Match 4
Gelfand Boris (ISR)   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5       2 .5 
Kasimdzhanov Rustam (UZB)   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5   0.5       2.5  
Match 5
Kamsky Gata (USA)   0.5   1   1   1         3.5  
Bacrot Etienne (FRA)   0.5   0   0   0         0.5  
Match 6
Grischuk Alexander (RUS)   1   0.5   0.5   1   0.5       3.5  
Malakhov Vladimir (RUS)   0   0.5   0.5   0   0.5       1.5  
Match 7
Polgar Judith (HUN)   0.5   0   0.5   0   1       2  
Bareev Evgeny (RUS)   0.5   1   0.5   1   0       3  
Match 8
Adams Michael (ENG)   0.5   0.5   0.5   1   0.5      
Shirov Alexei (ESP)   0.5   0.5   0.5   0   0.5      

Chess candidates, round 4 results

Leko and Kramnik both won again, meaning they qualify for the last eight. Carlsen, after his tremendous win yesterday, lost to Aronian today, putting him in extreme difficulties with only two games remaining. Adams won a tense and sharp game over Shirov, with black, which makes him favourite to emerge from that match. Bareev and Grischuk look almost certain to win their matches against Polgar and Malakhov respectively, after both winning again today. Indeed, today saw 6 decisive games from 8 matches, a fairly unusual happening at this very high level of chess.

I must confess, I am boggled at times by how top players play. Genuinely, I cannot understand a lot of their games! And I am an average club player, rating 1786. I am not a beginner by any means, but certainly have a lot still to learn.

To illustrate what I mean, look at the Aronian-Carlsen game, and look at the four moves Carlsen makes with his rook from 21….Rd8-d5, 22…Rd5-c5, 23…Rc5-c8, and finally, to cap a remarkably deep (!?) series of moves, the sweet 24…Rc8-d8. After four moves of the rook, it is back to where it started. If this is good chess…well, I am confused. Surely if the rook belonged on d8, then it should have been left there? Of course, white did some moves while black was moving his rook aimlessly about. I respect totally these players and if there is a problem here it is undoubtedly my amateur lack of understanding. I’ll try and study it later today to see if I can figure it out!

 Aronian-Carlsen, Rnd 4 Candidates Match

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 Bb4+ 4. Nbd2 b6 5. a3 Bxd2+ 6. Qxd2 Bb7 7. e3 O-O 8. b4 d5 9. Bb2 Nbd7 10. Bd3 dxc4 11. Bxc4 c5 12. O-O Rc8 13. Qe2 Qe7 14. Rfc1 cxd4 15. Nxd4 h6 16. Ba6 Bxa6 17. Qxa6 Rxc1+ 18. Rxc1 Nb8 19. Qc4 Rd8 20. h3 Ne8 21. b5 Rd5 22. Qe2 Rc5 23. Rd1 Rc8 24. Qf3 Rd8 25. Rc1 Nd6 26. a4 e5 27. Nf5 Nxf5 28. Qxf5 f6 29. Qe4 Qf7 30. Ba3 Kh8 31. Kh2 Kg8 32. Bd6 Qd7 33. Bc7 Rf8 34. Rc2 Re8 35. Rc4 Qf7 36. Bd6 Rd8 37. Rc7 Nd7 38. Qc6 Qe6 39. Rxa7 Kf7 40. Qxb6 1-0

Carlsen beats Aronian

[Event “FIDE candidates Matches”][Site “Elista, Kalmykia Russia”][Date “2007.05.29”][Round “?”][White “GM_Carlsen”][Black “GM_Aronian”][Result “1-0”][WhiteElo “2693”][BlackElo “2759”][Opening “English: symmetrical, hedgehog system”][ECO “A05”][NIC “EO.40”][Time “06:30:47”][TimeControl “7200+0”] 

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 b6 3. g3 c5 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. O-O e6 6. Nc3 Be7 7. Re1 d5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. d4 Nxc3 10. bxc3 Be4 11. Ne5 Bxg2 12. Kxg2 O-O 13. e4 Qc8 14. Qg4 Bf6 15. Nf3 Kh8 16. h4 Nc6 17. Bg5 cxd4 18. Bxf6 gxf6 19. cxd4 e5 20. Qxc8 Raxc8 21. d5 Na5 22. h5 Nc4 23. Nh4 Nd6 24. h6 Rc3 25. Rac1 Rfc8 26. Rxc3 Rxc3 27. Nf5 Nxf5 28. exf5 Kg8 29. Re4 Kf8 30. Rg4 Rc7 31. Rg7 b5 32. Rxh7 Kg8 33. Rg7+ Kh8 34. d6 Rd7 35. Kf3 b4 36. Ke4 Rxd6 37. Rxf7 Ra6 38. g4 Kg8 39. h7+ Kh8 40. g5 fxg5 41. f6 White wins 1-0