''…..why on earth I was included in there….''
Anish on Biel Tournament 2012


Fortunately, in our small chess world, there are few major traditional events that form a backbone of a top-player's chess calendar. Biel Chess Festival is one such event and I was lucky to be a part of it for the second time. Being the 45th edition, the organizers collected a remarkable line-up of players, leaving me to wonder happily, why on earth I was included in there, next to stars like Carlsen, Morozevich, Nakamura, Wang Hao, Bacrot and later also Bologan.

Luckily enough, my convincing (6 out of 7) Dutch championship victory served a purpose of a wing-giver for me, something that certainly was an important element for my success in Biel, where I had to compete with the world's very top.



From the very start I was put under pressure with 2 black games against Morozevich and Nakamura (following my black against Smeets in Dutch championship, making it 3 blacks in a row). Yet, I came out perfectly out of that, scoring 1.5/2, with some adventures here and there, the most exciting and surprising being the following one:



Morozevich - Giri (click arrows to follow the game)




It was time to get the white pieces. Playing Etienne I was shocked to find out his recent, sudden and very unexpected passion for KID. I couldn't believe my eyes, but just in case, I prepared a small trick in a long forced line that Etienne encountered a couple of months before, in his game with our Dutch guru Loek van Wely in the French league. The small trick brought large dividends and after that beautiful game, I took an unexpected role of the leader already after 3 rounds.

Intending to develop my success in solid fashion against Wang Hao turned out to be a mistake, as after entering the critical line of Saemisch I suddenly started to doubt and mistrust my preparation and memory. Having some vague recollections that the setup with g3 should be solid, I surprisingly found myself lost pretty much in a couple of more moves. The game was very painful and unpleasant, the way it went, but in such tournament one can't afford to focus too much on the disappointments and fortunately I came back with a perfect mood to give Carlsen hard times with black.

Facing my good old Petroff, the desperate World number 1 tried to get a playable position. Generally, as long as I know what I am doing I don't mind such scenario and soon after the opening I was already thinking of more than just holding. Magnus came up with few nasty moves- a4!?, Re4!?, but then blundered my Nf6! and my advantage took some shape. Being too happy with what I had I quickly blundered it back with Nd2? missing the simple Qg4!. After that I decided to kill my ambitions and just hold and eventually I managed to do that.

One would expect a rest-day, but no, the tournament had a strange format, in sense that the rest-day divided the tournament into 6 games and 4. That was done to coincide with the open tournament that had 11 games.

Playing the substitute Bologan (after 2 rounds Morozevich dropped out due to health problems and was fortunately very smoothly replaced by Bologan), I couldn't have hoped for a better position out of the opening. My Nd2 may seem modest, but I was quite proud of my setup with Nd2 and Nc2.

After around 13 moves I was already thinking I am on my way to win the game. I couldn't hold my smile when Houdini frowned and showed 0.00 at this point, showing me, how much understanding I still lack, even in my favorite Bg2 positions. Nevertheless, in a couple of moves I got a pawn, and even though my opponent definitely did have some compensation, it was never exactly enough to keep the balance. In his time trouble I was unwinding with my pieces, but to my surprise black managed to hold the first wave. My Rb1? was ugly and illogical, but can be explained by the fact that I missed that if I hunt down the a7 pawn (Nb6 Na5 Rd6! Nc6 Rd2!), after Rd2-xa2 my knight on a7 will be under attack as well as his knight on b6. This was an unpleasant surprise and eventually I almost lost control of my position. Luckily I found a very strong Nd2! on move 41, right after the time control. This knight switch secured my advantage again. Yet, it was very hard to convert the pawn, but thanks to a few inaccuracies by my opponent and a few accuracies by me, I managed to win the game after 7 hours and more than 90 moves.

Rest-day it was and it was definitely needed. A warm evening in a restaurant on a hill with a view on the beautiful lake of Biel, made it pass by quickly and before I knew it, I had to face Hikaru with white.

With some smart move orders I managed to trick Hikaru into the line I could (rather immodestly) consider myself to be an expert in which turned out to be the one he knew nothing about. My play was pretty good, with some clever and well timed taking on d4, b4 and a8. My Rc1! I was especially proud about, but it all came down to whether Nc5 was working after Bb7 or not. After calculating it for a while I decided to trust Hikaru, and as I noticed a curious idea in Qc4 move, I played the queen move. To my disappointment, when Hikaru took I noticed that the intended Bxc4 fails to Nxe4! Re1 Kf8! f3 Ra5! and so I had to satisfy myself with a draw. Nc5 instead was very strong, as after Rxc5 Qxd3 I failed to realize that e5! would win some material. Pity it was, but as I said before, in such tough tournament, one must not look back and shake his head.

When my next opponent, Etienne Bacrot played 1.e4 (a move he hardly plays these days), I frowned with a feeling of delight, yet I pretty soon regretted my opening choice. Being in an aggressive mood I decided to have fun in Najdorf, but found myself wondering what to do in an unfamiliar position. My bxa3?? could be considered a fruit of misunderstanding and disgust, yet I was rewarded (though not clear for what exactly) with a blunder by my opponent. I finished the game in a computer style, leaving my opponent no time to breath, but it could have been way more difficult had he not been in a harsh time trouble.

Being in a fight for the first place (especially with a 3-1-0 scoring system), I was ready to face Carlsen with White. The tricky Norwegian found yet another lazy way to get out of theory and we ended up on an unknown territory pretty quickly. My Ne5 was a little premature and my advantage (if any) evaporated pretty quickly. The tactics with Nf5! were fun, but just led to a draw.

There is not much to say about my last game, besides admitting that I committed some sort of a double suicide against Wang Hao. The game turned out to be as one sided as our previous one, with my whole idea of inserting Bh6 not working due to some tactics. This left me with a shared 3rd place with Nakamura (I didn't want to be witty and clever, mentioning that I actually had a lower berger tiebreak than Hikaru, as I have beaten Morozevich with just 0 point, while he beat Bologan with more), letting both Hao and Carlsen pass ahead of me.

My lucky (and by the way very friendly) Chinese nemesis Wang Hao managed to even win the tournament, thanks to his aggressive chess combined with the football scoring system achieving perhaps the biggest success in his career.



As for myself, after forgetting the last game, I was glad to find valuable 19 Elo points in my Elo-account, and after a good dinner I left Biel with a feeling of satisfaction and a will to come back there the next time.