The Biel Classic was expected to be tight. It pits six top players in a double-round robin under Bilbao (soccer scoring) rules with no draw offers before move 30. In the event, it turned out to be even tighter than expectations.
The tournament was somewhat unbalanced by the withdrawal of Morozevich due to illness after two rounds (and losses which counted). The replacement was Viorel Bologan. Bologan was out of the running from the beginning, playing just for rating and appearance fees.
Wang Hao started brilliantly and soon led. But he lost to Carlsen twice and also to Bologan. That gave the Norwegian a chance to pullback. The last round started with Carlsen, Giri and Wang all having chances to win. This is a typical outcome of soccer scoring. Wang clinched his last game versus Giri by playing with great tactical precision after a small error by the Dutch prodigy. Carlsen couldn’t breakthrough against Etienne Bacrot and drew.
That left Wang (+6,-3,=1) with 19 points in front of Carlsen (+4,=6) with 18 under Bilbao scoring. Carlsen would of course, have won with traditional scoring. Giri and Nakamura shared 3-4 (both +4,-2,=4) while Bacrot and Bologan lagged.
Carlsen managed a TPR of 2878, which will pull his rating to 2842. A plus six score would have pushed Carlsen up above 2851, breaking Kasparov’s long-standing record. It was an amazingly combative tournament with 20 out of 30 games being decisive.
Although Wang has been in the elite for a long time, this is his first big win. He came well prepared for Biel and showed that he was willing to risk everything in mind-bending complications. The strategy paid off, despite the losses. He conceded just one draw.
The diagram, WHITE TO PLAY (Wang, hao Vs Nakamura, Biel 2012) illustrates the risks Wang was prepared to take and his calculating skills. In a Sicilian Najdorf, Polugaevsky Variation, black has gone wrong with 26. … Nc4-d6 where Nxb2 is good.
White played 27.Rxd5! Qxd5 28.Bxe6 fxe6 29.f7+ Kd8?! Best is 29. - Ke7 30. Qxh6! Rdd8 31. f8=Q+ Rdxf8 32. Qg7+ Kd8 33. Rxf8+ Rxf8 34. Qxf8+ Kc7 35. Qxd6+ Qxd6 36. Nxd6 Kxd6 when black has defensive chances with an active minor piece and king.
Play continued 30.Nxe6+ Kc8 31.f8Q+ Rxf8 32.Rxf8+ Bd8 33.Nxd6+ Kb8. The alternative 33.— Qxd6 34. Rxd8+ Rxd8 35. Nxe6+ Kxe6 36. Qd3 forces a won pawn ending. The game concluded with Nakamura trying in vain to conjure up backrank tricks. 34.Rf1 Rxd6 35.Nxd8 Qc4 36.Rg1 Rxd8 37.Qg3+ Kb7 38.Qxg6 Rd2 39.Qxh6 Rxc2 40.Qg7+ Kb6. More than the material, king exposure is the key factor. 41.b4 Qd3 42.Re1 Qe3 43.Qf6+ Kc7 44.Qf1 Rf2 45.Qg1 Qf4 46.h3 Qg3 47.Qh2 (1-0). The passers roll.
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player