One great summer chess tradition had a somewhat strange feeling to it this year: the Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Germany. The retirement announcement in late January of Vladimir Kramnik, aka “Mr Dortmund” – being the world record-breaking 10-time past winner – meant that the Russian ex-world champion was missing from the lineup for the marquee eight-player invitational grandmaster event. But it still proved to be a strong tournament – and one that celebrated a debutant US winner!
Cuban Grandmaster Leinier Domínguez, who now plays for the USA – and after recently completing two-years of inactivity from international classical tournaments due to his federation switch – looked hungry for success as he turned in one of the best performances of his career as he claimed outright victory ahead of the defending champion Ian Nepomniachtchi, the 2017 champion Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Richard Rapport and Teimour Radjabov.
Domínguez was undefeated, scoring 4.5/7 to take the title by a half-point margin ahead of the chasing pack. The tournament dramatically turned his way after what proved to be crucial round 3 win, as the Russian top seed and favourite Nepomniachtchi blundered in a critical position (see game below). Domínguez then held off a surging Nepomniachtchi in the final rounds to clinch his first tournament victory playing under the Stars ’n’ Stripes – and in winning, he’s also now set to rise up the world rankings to once again enter the Top 10, as he moves up to #10 on the live ratings!
The overjoyed US #3 celebrated with a message to his fans and supporters on Facebook that he was “very happy to have won such a strong and prestigious event in the world of chess.” The federation switch has certainly not been an easy one for Domínguez and his family, and he was also gracious enough to point out that the victory was not his alone by thanking his family and wife for being “the pillars of his life.”
1. Leinier Domínguez (USA) 4.5/7; 2-5. Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Richard Rapport (Hungary), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) 4; 6-8. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu (Germany), Kaldo Kulaots (Estonia), Daniel Fridman (Germany) 2.5
Photo: Leinier Domínguez celebrates his first major victory under the Stars ‘n’ Stripes | © Georgios Souleidis / Sparkassen Chess Meeting
GM Leinier Dominguez – GM Ian Nepomniachtchi
47th Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting, (3)
Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Few lines are as assertive and aggressive as the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann. 3…c5 4.dxc5 e6 5.Bd3 Bxc5 6.Qg4 Ne7 7.b4 It is risky to take the hot pawns on offer: After 7.Qxg7 Rg8 8.Qxh7 Nbc6 9.Nf3 Qc7 and with e5 and g2 hanging, Black will win back a pawn and will have active play for his pieces. And also note that after 10.Bf4 Rxg2 11.Bg3 Qb6 12.Nbd2 Bxf2+ 13.Kf1 Rxg3! 14.hxg3 Bxg3 Black has excellent compensation for the material; especially as the game now becomes double-edged with the White king exposed and in danger. 7…h5 8.Qf4 Bb6 9.Nf3 Nbc6 10.Nbd2 a5 11.b5 Nb4 12.Ba3 Nxd3+ 13.cxd3 If White can safely get in d4, he will have a big advantage – so Black needs to prevent this from happening. 13…Bd7 14.Qa4 Nf5 15.Rc1 The only move Dominguez had. After 15.d4?! Rc8! Black has the advantage with his active pieces for the pawn, and even although White can get his king to safety with 16.0-0, Black has 16…g5!? and there’s no good way to defend d4, as now 17.Bb2 0-0! and Black is ready to rip the game open for his bishop-pair with …g4 and …f6. 15…g5 Also equally good was 15…Rh6 with the idea of …Rg6. 16.h3 Rc8 17.Rxc8 Qxc8 18.Ke2! Dominguez makes the correct call that his king is much safer in the middle of the board, as from e2 it can play an active part in the game by defending the d3-pawn, and also it allows his rook to quickly get to the open c-file. And in any case, if 18.0-0? Qc3 White either has to abandon the undefended d-pawn or allow 19.Qb3 Qxb3 20.Nxb3 g4 21.Nfd2 gxh3 22.gxh3 Bxb5 23.Rc1 Kd7 and a bad endgame. 18…Qb8? It’s a case now of how to open the game up and get the Black queen active. Nepo thinks he has come up with a very creative way to do so, by threatening …Qa7 and heavy pressure on f2 – but his plan has a fatal flaw in it that is not so obvious. The correct try was 18…Qd8 with the idea of 19.Rc1 f6! 20.Nb3 fxe5 21.Nxe5 Qf6 22.Nxd7 Kxd7 and despite both kings looking a little loose sitting in the middle of the board, both are reasonably secure and the engines assess this position to be nothing but equal. 19.Nb3 Qa7 20.Rc1! Dominguez is quick to spot the flaw in Nepo’s plan. If he hadn’t and played 20.d4 then 20…Bd8! 21.Nc5 b6 22.Nd3 Rh6! means there’s no way to stop the coming …g4 and equality. 20…g4? Only around now does Nepo begin to realise there’s a sting in the tail if he takes on f2, as 20…Bxf2? 21.Rc8+! Bxc8 22.b6+ Bd7 23.bxa7 is easily winning for White with his big material advantage. Of course, the Russian sees his mistake and doesn’t take on f2 – but rather than accept it is a mistake and his queen effectively out of the game on a7, he compounds his error by trying to make the capture on f2 work, only for that to spectacularly backfire. The Russian just had to admit he was wrong, and go into full grovel mode with 20…Qb8 21.Nc5 Rg8 22.g4! hxg4 23.hxg4 Nh6 24.Nxd7 Kxd7 25.Bc5! and try his best to hang on. 21.hxg4 hxg4 22.Qxg4 Bxf2 23.Nc5! If it wasn’t for this, Black would be safe – but now he’s doomed! 23…Bg3 If 23…Bxc5? 24.Bxc5 b6 (There’s no escape. If 24…Qb8 there’s what’s set to be a recurring mating theme with 25.Rh1!! that wins on the spot.) 25.Rh1!! and Black can resign. And even if 23…Be3 our old friend 24.Rh1!! wins, as now 24…Bh6 25.Qg5!! Bxb5 26.Rxh6! sensationally crashes through in all lines. 24.Rh1!! [see diagram] Now it is a double whammy for Nepo, as just about everything loses to Rh1!! 25.Rh5 1-0 And with that, Nepo throws the towel in early, as the …Bg3 is somewhat bereft of squares and will be left hanging after Rxf5.