This year the traditional Dortmund tournament sees a few familiar faces and a couple of new ones.
The home player is of course Vladimir Kramnik. Having won the tournament 10 times, he’s a regular for “26th or 27th time” as even he himself couldn’t remember the exact number of times he’s played there. He is in search for an 11th win in Dortmund, but I doubt he’ll win it – Kramnik is an exciting player to watch, but he allows too many chances in his games and modern players have learned to take them.
Kramnik’s second in Berlin was Anish Giri. He will definitely want to win a supertournament for the first time since Reggio Emilia’s 2011. That’s definitely a long wait for somebody who is attempting to establish himself as a worthy World Championship candidate. He did show glimpses of his potential in Wijk this year as he only lost to Carlsen in the tie-break, but so far his Dortmund play leaves much to be desired. Here’s what he managed to lose to the Aeroflot qualifier and definitely the outsider here, Vladislav Kovalev.
The game shows that even world-class players are not immune to a loss against weaker opposition. The reason is that the “weaker opposition” isn’t weak at all and they are fully capable of taking advantage of the world-class player’s mistakes.
Nepomniachtchi came to Dortmund fresh from winning the strong Gideon Japhen Memorial in Jerusalem. In a double-round robin with a rapid time control that included Svidler, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Meier and Anna Muzychuk he won with 6/10, a full point ahead of the rest. He won a smooth game against Nisipeanu in Round 3.
Leading the tournament is the best U20 player in the world, the Polish GM Duda. It’s interesting to see him win against Nisipeanu in one of the most drawing lines in the 3 Bb5+ line in the Sicilian.
Duda’s aggressive intentions were awarded in this game, but it is this spirit of trying to win a game with Black even against an openly draw-minded opponent that can bring the Polish player far. As for Nisipeanu, he’s clearly out of form in Dortmund and Kramnik can perhaps curse his bad luck that he had to play him in Round 1 while that still wasn’t visible.
The other two players, Meier and Wojtaszek (who again lost to Duda, after their duel in the Polish championship) still need to show something notable. At least Meier drew with Kramnik and Giri.
Dortmund is really a very relaxing tournament – only 7 rounds and 2 rest days. A chess-player’s paradise. Let’s see what the rest of the tournament has to offer.