Radoslaw Wojtaszek Wins Biel 2020

Grandmaster Triathlon combined classical, rapid, and blitz chess between 18 and 29 July. Competing were: Pentala Harikrishna (2719), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2719), David Anton Guijarro (2703), Michael Adams (2701), Romain Edouard (2649), Arkadij Naiditsch (2626), Noel Studer (2580), and Vincent Keymer (2558). In a close finish, Wojtaszek scored 37 combined points to Harikrishna's 36.5.

Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Wijk aan Zee 2017.

Huge congratulations go to Polish Grandmaster, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, who recently won the showcase event at the 53rd Biel Chess Festival, in Switzerland. Held between July 18th and 29th, Biel has been seen as a bit of an over-the-board test case, as chess looks to get back to some level of normality after the disruption of COVID-19 – as does the rest of the world, of course.

Although the horrible pandemic that we are all having to live through obviously made its presence felt, the Biel organising committee still managed to put on a packed event. The open this year was the aptly named Corona Amateur Tournament, which also doubled up as a team tournament, allowing individuals to join forces. There was a 70-player youth tournament and the finals of the Swiss Junior Championships were also held during the festival. Of course, all this took place with social distancing in place, and in certain quarters, anti-virus measures saw a clear screen of Perspex situated in the middle of the board. This served as partition between the players and I am sure this was rather inhibiting for some.

The festival’s showcase event, was the invitational Grandmaster Triathlon. This combined classical chess, rapid chess, and blitz. Competing were: Pentala Harikrishna (2719), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2719), David Anton Guijarro (2703), Michael Adams (2701), Romain Edouard (2649), Arkadij Naiditsch (2626), Noel Studer (2580), and Vincent Keymer (2558). They would all be fighting for a share of the 30’500 Swiss Francs (€28’229 / £25’510) prize fund, 10’000 (€9255 / £8364) of it going to the winner.

The format saw the players opening with 7-rounds of rapid chess, in which they had 15-minutes for the game plus 5-seconds increment per move. Wojtaszek showed his promise right off, with an impressive 5 wins and 2 draws out of the 7 games. Starting as he meant to go on, he opened his score in the very first game, with the black pieces, against Romain Edouard.

This opening result set Wojtaszek up for a great section. He took points from all of his opponents, apart from Michael Adams and Pentala Harikrishna, who held him to draws. The scoring of the tournament awards 2-points for a win and 1-point for a draw in this section, which put Radoslaw on 12-points going into the opening rounds of classical chess. Just behind him, however, were Pentala Harikrishna (+3 =4) and Vincent Keymer (+4 =2 -1), with 10-points each. Michael Adams, was also right up there, with 8-points on the board (+3 =2 -2).

After the Rapid section, the players switched to classical chess. This gave them 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes for the rest of the game. They also had increments of 30 seconds per move starting from move one. A win would net them 4-points and a draw 1.5. All-in-all, the star of this section was India’s Pentala Harikrishna, who won 4 of his seven games and was the only player to not drop a point.

Interestingly, the blitz section of the tournament, was played on July 25th, after four rounds of the classical section. This saw a double round-robin of lightning fast chess (G3 + 2s) played over the day. The day belonged to Wojtaszek and Adams, who were in a league of their own, earning themselves 11-points each, (regular scoring in this section). In the 14-games, Wojtaszek did not drop a single point.

At the end of it, the standings were as shown below. However, with 3 rounds of classical chess to be played – and 12 points still up for grabs – 4 players found themselves within striking distance of the title.

Wojtaszek – 31.5
Adams – 27.5
Harikrishna – 24.5
Keymer – 22.5
Guijarro – 18
Naiditsch – 17
Studer – 15
Edouard — 12

Of course, it all depended on Radoslaw Wojtaszek, who had the tournament all but in his grasp. A full loss ahead of his nearest rivals, the Pole could not exactly relax, but at least did not have to push the boat out too much. By contrast, those within reach who still had their eyes set on the win, had to roll their sleeves up and go for it.

The players had a rest day before resuming the classical section, and I think they needed it after all the chess they had played. When they returned, Wojtaszek found himself up against a very determined Pentala Harirkrishna, who fancied a fight with the Black pieces. There was very little between the players for most of the game, but Radoslaw went awry with his 26th move.

In the position, above, Harikrishna has just gone for the exchange of dark-squared bishops, with 25…Bxe1. And here, Wojtaszek is probably guilty of over-complicating unnecessarily. Instead of playing the straight forward and perfectly good 26.Rdxe1, he got a bit excited and went for 26.h6. This loses a tempo. Of course, the idea behind 26.h6 is sound in that White is threatening hxg7 and then Qh7, which in this case would be mate.

However, after Harikrishna’s 26…Rfc8, we see that after any 27.hxg7 Black has 27…Bh4, closing the h-file that White has taken the trouble to open. Then, if 28.g3 Qb6 White is in a lot of trouble on the Queenside and there is of course the immediate threat of a discovery by Black’s Nc6 to watch out for. This is really not good.

So, one must conclude that there is nothing better than 27.Rdxe1, here, and this is what Radoslaw played. But now, (due to having got …Rfc8 in), Harikrishna has the initiative on the Queenside, and this he demonstrated with 27…Nb4. Had Wojtaszek played 26.Rdxe1 and Black had played the logical 26…Rfc8 still, then White would have 27.Rc1 (with Bf3 looming next) to keep his edge.

As it was, after 27…Nb4, 28.Qxc7 was an acknowledgement that White had come undone a little. There followed: 28…Rxc7 29.hxg7 Nc2+ 30.Kxa2 Nxe1 31.Rh8+ Kxg7 32.Rxa8 Nxg2 33.Rxa6 Nxe3 and Black was better. 34.Ra3 Nf5 35.Rd3 Rd7 36.d5 Rxd5 37.Rxd5 exd5 saw further deterioration when it became clear that Black had White’s passed b-pawn under control the point (or points as it was in this case) for Harikrishna looked inevitable. And this it was, with Wojtaszek resigning on move 50, with his King and bishop facing the impossible task of defending against Harikrishna’s King, knight and 3 passed pawns.

This win took Harikrishna to within 3-points of Wojtaszek, who will no doubt have been kicking himself as a win, even a draw for that matter, would have really taken him close to sealing the tournament. Also keeping things spicey, was Vincent Keymer, who beat Noel Studer. Also frozen in place, was Michael Adams, who lost to David Anton Guijarro. This meant that only 4-points separated the leader from the 3 players chasing him – it was still very much game on.

Wojtaszek – 31.5
Harikrishna – 28.5
Adams – 27.5
Keymer – 26.5
Guijarro – 22
Naiditsch – 18.5
Studer – 15
Edouard – 13.5

And in the following round, which was the penultimate round 6, Harikrishna edged even closer to Wojtaszek by defeating Romain Edouard. Wojtaszek’s draw against Vincent Keymer, (who unfortunately needed to win to stay in contention), meant that his lead over Harikrishna would be just a half point going into the final round. Not only this, but if Radoslaw’s game against Noel Studer would go wrong, he could still be pipped by Michael Adams also. Adams himself won his 6th-round game against Studer and would have the white pieces against Arkadij Naiditsch in round 7.

Wojtaszek – 33
Harikrishna – 32.5
Adams – 31.5
Keymer – 28
Naiditsch – 22.5
Guijarro – 22
Studer – 15
Edouard – 13.5

The final round was extremely bloody and saw every game decided. It saw Pentala Harikrishna earn himself 4-points by beating David Anton Guijarro, which meant that Radoslaw Wojtaszek was being kept honest right up to the last. If the Pole wanted to take the title, he would have to win his game against Noel Studer. And this he did, to achieve a final score of 37-points, which was insurmountable.

Grandmaster Triathlon Final Standings:

Wojtaszek – 37
Harikrishna – 36.5
Adams – 35.5
Keymer – 28
Naiditsch – 22.5
Guijarro – 22
Edouard – 17.5
Studer — 15

The other wins of the round went to Michael Adams against Arkadij Naiditsch. The clear veteran of this tournament, Adams showed in the clearest manner possible, that he is as sharp as ever at the grand old age of 48. Romain Edouard also got some consolation points, winning with white against Vincent Keymer. The young German still finished in 4th place, however, and should be very proud of his performance.

Congratulations once again to Radoslaw Wojtaszek for his victory, then, and to all competitors and organisers for pulling off a nice tournament under the most trying of circumstances. I should also mention, that as far as I know there have been no COVID-19 troubles connected with the tournament, which is the best news of all!

About John Lee Shaw 291 Articles
Total chess nut! I enjoy following the chess world and giving my two-penneth. I don't pretend to be an expert, I'm more a knowledgeable enthusiast. My chess writing can also be seen at www.chessimprover.com.