Dortmund 2014 (& ACP Bergamo)
The real shocker was the Kramnik-Meier game. Kramnik won all their 4 previous encounters and there was nothing to suspect that this won’t continue. But Kramnik’s opening choice was rather odd and it all went from bad to worse from there. If I saw the position after move 10, without knowing the names of the players, I would have thought that white was a die-hard King’s Indian player who’s playing a stronger opponent and tries to steer the game to positions he knows. And as it usually happens in these cases, when a weaker player tries to play a closed position against a stronger one, the weaker player got utterly outplayed. Just that in this case the “weaker” player was a former world champion, none other than Kramnik himself, while the “stronger” player had 145 rating points less than the “weaker” one. I cannot recall a case when Kramnik was outplayed so thoroughly! Meier didn’t have to do anything special, he used the standard methods of playing in these KID positions and he won. Something’s happening to Big Vlad and I’m just hoping this is not the beginning of the end of his playing career.
Two of the other three games saw the Leningrad Dutch. It has been popular lately, even I faced it several times in the last year (for an instructive play from white’s perspective I refer you to Colovic-Sowray,4NCL 2014). Leko-Ponomariov saw a repeat of the recent games Gelfand-Caruana, Zurich 2014 and Tomashevsky-Anton, Gibraltar 2014 (and also the Radjabov-Ringoir from the world blitz championship 2014) and Ponomariov introduced the rare 10…Qd1. I had the impression the endgame was better for white, but soon enough it was Ponomariov who was pressing. Luckily for Leko, the opposite-coloured bishops helped him secure the draw.
The other Leningrad Dutch was Baramidze-Caruana. I played Baramidze in 2007, at the European Team Championship in Crete. I caught him in a long theoretical line in the Rauzer and obtained a winning position, but with typical German tenacity he saved the draw. Today he played a rare line and by move 10 they were on the outskirts of modern theory. The game seemed to be heading to an uneventful draw as pieces were traded en masse, but then with some imprecisions before the time control white lost a pawn. The game is still in progress at the time of writing, but the chances Caruana has are at their highest from the beginning of the game!
Naiditsch-Adams was a Berlin and white introduced the computer move 11 c4 as a novelty (11 Nc3 was Anand-Carlsen, game 4 from their match and 11 g4 was Karjakin-Carlsen from Stavanger 2014). Black reacted in solid Berlin fashion and was never in trouble. He even won a pawn later on, but white managed to keep things under control and draw.
Today was also Round 1 at the Bergamo tournament, organised by the ACP and the only tournament that I know of that still has adjournments after move 40 and has the time control of 2.5 hours for 40 moves. This strikes a nostalgic note for the “good old times,” even though I never played with 2.5 hours for 40 moves. I did have adjournments in my early career and I usually had good results in those games! The tournaments started with 3 draws but I didn’t have the time to take a closer look. I’m curious to see if these old rules will have impact on the quality of play and the results.
A few words about the upcoming Macedonian Team Championship. It should serve as a good preparation for the Olympiad, in a sense of getting into playing mode, after almost two months without a serious tournament game. Usually it’s complicated to write about tournaments while playing my own, but I’ll try to keep an eye on the Dortmund event.