John Henderson
By John Henderson

The annual Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Germany got underway on Saturday and continues through the coming weekend. Tournaments were held in Dortmund in 1928, 1951 and 1961, but the current series only began in 1973 – in the aftermath of the Bobby Fischer boom when chess had a worldwide explosion – when Heikki Westerinen from Finland won, and it has been contested every year since, making this the 46th edition.

The Dortmund ‘Roll of Honor’ is dominated by one player: Vladimir Kramnik, with the Russian former World Champion establishing an elite-tournament record of winning the tournament ten times, one ahead of his great rival Garry Kasparov, who had won the Linares super-tournament nine times, and also ahead of the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who back in January set the Tata Steel (Wijk aan Zee) tournament record by winning that top title six times.

Dortmund has been a happy hunting ground for Kramnik ever since he first competed – and finished second to Anatoly Karpov – as an 18-year-old in 1993. The Russian took his first Dortmund title at his second attempt, in 1995, and went on to dominate the tournament, winning his record-breaking tenth title in 2011 – after which, though, he’s had a somewhat barren spell.

Kramnik is back again nevertheless this year looking for another title to add to his record haul, and he heads the eight-player field that also includes (in rating order) Anish Giri (Netherlands), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu (Germany), Vladislav Kovalev (Belarus) and Georg Meier (Germany).

The early running though came from a young man looking to make a name for himself, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, 20, who got off to a flying start of 2.5/3 to take the outright lead. Duda is the world’s top-rated U20 player, and with his early Dortmund charge, he also burst into the world’s top-20 on the unofficial live ratings.

But this elevation proved to be short-lived (for now, anyway), as the young Pole crashed back down to earth again as Kramnik reasserted his Dortmund dominance with a very convincing win today in round four.  And with it, the multi-time winner now joins the fray in a four-way tie at the top.

Standings: 1-4. V. Kovalev, JK Duda, I. Nepomniachtchi, V. Kramnik 2.5/4; 5-6. A. Giri, G. Meir 2; 7. R. Wojtaszek 1.5; 8. LD. Nisipeanu 0.5.

Photo: Duda’s run is ended by ‘Dortmund king’ Kramnik | © Georgios Souleidis (Official site)

GM Vladimir Kramnik – GM Jan-Krzyztof Duda
Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting, (4)
English Opening, Bremen
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4 The Smyslov System – championed by the Soviet former World Champion, Vasily Smyslov – is one of the most important and most popular, if not the most popular, variations in the English. Black intends to complete his development and capture on c3, doubling White’s pawns, and weakening his control of e4. 5.Bg2 d6 6.0-0 0-0 7.d3 Bxc3 8.bxc3 e4 9.Nd4 exd3 10.exd3 Nxd4 11.cxd4 White may have the crippled pawns, but he does have excellent compensation with an open position and the bishop-pair. 11…d5 12.Bg5 c6 13.cxd5 cxd5 14.Qb3 Black’s d-pawn is doomed – but White’s doubled, isolated d-pawns will be a handicap going forward. 14…b6 15.Rae1 h6 16.Bxf6 Qxf6 17.Re5 If 17.Bxd5 Bh3! 18.Bxa8 Rxa8! 19.Re3 (No better is 19.Re5 as 19…Rd8! (threatening …Qf3!) just leads to 20.Rd5 Re8! 21.Qd1 Qc6 22.Qf3 Bg4! 23.Qg2 Bh3! 24.Qf3 Bg4 and a repetition.) 19…Bxf1 20.Kxf1 Qxd4 leads to equality. 17…Be6 18.f4 Rac8 19.Rfe1 Rc7 Better was 19…Rfd8!? 20.f5 Bd7 21.Bxd5 Bc6 22.Bxc6 Qxc6 23.Re7 Qf6! and equality again, as White has many problems trying to defend the doubled d-pawns and also the f-pawn. But Duda believes he can hold his game together if he can dominate the c-file and a possible …Rc2. 20.Bxd5 If Kramnik doesn’t capture now, then Duda will play …Rfc8 and indeed will dominate the c-file, with …Rc2 coming anyway. 20…Bxd5 21.Qxd5 Rc2 22.Re8 Rc8?? Duda was holding his own up to this point – but panic sets in with the back-rank threats and pressures, and the young Pole makes a costly – though very human – error. It would take the un-beating heart of a playing engine to find the right continuation with 22…g5! as White suddenly doesn’t have much of an advantage to work with. The point being is that it instantly gives the king an escape square on g7 – but, more crucially, it also weakens White’s own kingside defences, and I can see nothing other than a draw coming soon. 23.Qd7! [see diagram] Kramnik would have been in his element here, and the former World Champion didn’t need to be asked twice to play such good move – and with it, Duda is totally bust now, as his back-rank weakness allows Kramnik to easily liquidate down to an easily won ending. 23…Rd8 The alternative was no better. If 23…Rcxe8 24.Rxe8 g6 25.Kg2 Kg7 26.Rxf8 Kxf8 27.Kf3 White is successfully squeezing out the win, as Black’s queen and king have no scope. If 27…Kg7 the simple win is 28.Qe8! Qxd4 29.Qe5+ Qxe5 30.fxe5 and an easily won king and pawn ending. 24.Rxd8 Qxd8 25.Re7 Qc8 26.Qxc8 Rxc8 The ending is hopelessly lost for Duda – but if there is any slim chance of saving the game, then heading for the rook and pawn ending is the best thing to do, and this is what he has done. 27.Kf2 Kf8 28.Rxa7 Rc2+ 29.Ke3 Rxh2 There’s always chances of saving a game by heading for a rook and pawn ending – and here, ironically, if it wasn’t for the doubled d-pawns, then Black would have excellent saving chances. The big difference with the doubled d-pawns is that that the rear d-pawn makes an ideal shield for the other d-pawn from the rook, as the king and both pawns will steadily work their way up the board without any hindrance. 30.d5 g5 The only hope – if any – is to liquidate as many pawns as possible, otherwise White simply plays d6, Ke4, d4 and Kd5 etc. 31.f5 f6 32.d6 Ke8 33.Kd4 h5 34.Kd5 b5 35.Ke6 Now the f6-pawn falls, and with it, the g-pawn is now vulnerable, not to mention the fact that White has created a second passed pawn now with the f-pawn. 35…Re2+ 36.Kxf6 h4 37.Re7+! 1-0 Duda resigns, as after 37…Rxe7 38.dxe7 h3 39.Ke6, although his h-pawn queens first, there’s no way to stop the push f6-f7 mate.

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