Ponomariov was the only winner in Round 2 and now is a co-leader

Round 2 of the Sparkassen Chess Meeeting in Dortmund was not quite as exciting as Round 1 as it only produced one decisive result — a victory by Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine over Evgeny Najer of Russia. With the win, Ponomariov moved into a tie for first place with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France, who drew with Vladimir Kramnik of Russia. Each player has 1.5 points.

Najer, who won in Round 1, is now at an even score with 1 point, along with Kramnik, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu of Germany, and Leinier Dominguez Perez of Cuba. Fabiano Caruana of the United States and Rainer Buhmann are in last, each with 0.5 point.

The most interesting games of the round were Ponomariov vs. Najer and Buhmann vs. Dominguez. Ponomariov gained an early edge after Najer made an ill-advised pawn advance that he had not sufficiently prepared:

Ponomariov, Ruslan vs. Najer, Evgeny
Sparkassen Chess Meeting | Dortmund | Round 2 | 10 Jul 2016 | 1-0
15. Rac1 c5?! This is quite a poor move - the advance d5 is now easy to do and strong, and Black is left with numerous weaknesses.
15... e5! This central advance is preferable after which Black looks fine to me.  )
16. d5! Bxc3 17. Bxc3 Qxb3 18. Bxb3 Nxd5 19. Bxd5 exd5 20. Rxd5 after all of these forced exchanges, Black is in some trouble. White is threatening Rcd1, which forces Black to move the knight and allow Rxc5.
20... Nb6 21. Rxc5 Nxa4 22. Rc7 Nxc3 23. R1xc3
23. bxc3 Would be my choice.  )
23... Rd1+ 24. Kh2 Rd2 25. Rxb7 Rxf2 26. Kg3 Rf6 27. Rxa7 And White is a pawn up in the rook ending.

While Black’s position was now difficult, it was still defensible. Najer buckled down and fought back,  playing very accurately. But just as it looked as if he might be a able to hold a draw, he drifted again and found himself in a textbook lost rook ending.

Ponomariov, Ruslan vs. Najer, Evgeny
Sparkassen Chess Meeting | Dortmund | Round 2 | 10 Jul 2016 | 1-0
37. Ra2 Kf6? This allows a decisive breakthrough
37... Rc6! I don't see how White can make progress after this because e5 can always be met with a check along the fourth rank.
38. Ke5 Rb6 Black should hold  )
38. e5+! Ke6 The White king now gains entry, but Black was already losing.
38... Kg6 39. Ra4 Since g4 is going to played soon, White should win.
39... Rb2 40. Ra6+ Kf7 41. g4  )
39. Ra7! Rb4+ 40. Kg5! Rb5 41. g4! Kxe5 42. Rxg7 And White has an easily won rook ending as the Black king cannot get in front of the pawn.
42... Ke4+ 43. Kh6 Kf4 44. g5 Kg4 45. Ra7

In the game between Buhmann and Dominguez, Dominguez surprised me by playing the King’s Indian Defense. He is a lifelong Grunfeld advocate and I can’t recall a single game of his as Black in the other main g6 line against 1. d4. It seemed like a poor choice and that he was not well prepared for the sidelines, as Buhmann chose the toothless Exchange Variation, often played with the intention of making an early draw. But Dominguez didn’t have it properly prepared and burned a lot of time playing less than ideal moves.

Buhman, Rainer vs. Dominguez Perez, Leinier
Sparkassen Chess Meeting | Dortmund | Round 2 | 10 Jul 2016 | 1/2-1/2
Nc6 8. dxe5 dxe5 9. Bg5 Qxd1 10. Rfxd1 Be6?
10... Bg4! This move, which prepares Nd4, equalizes easily  )
11. Nd5! Nxe4 12. Nxc7 Bg4?
12... Rac8 Something like this was objectively a better move, but it's obviously miserable.
13. Nxe6 fxe6 14. Be3  )
13. Nxa8 Nxg5 14. Nc7 e4 15. Nxg5 Bxe2 White is up an exchange and Black has basically no compensation for it.
16. Re1
16. Rd2! This was even stronger.
16... Bd3 17. Re1 Bh6 18. f4! An important move.  )
16... Bxc4 17. Rxe4 Bd3 18. Re8 Rxe8 19. Nxe8 Bxb2 20. Rd1 With a pair of rooks traded and Black's pawns weakened, he does not have nearly enough compensation for being down an exchange.

As good as White’s position was, it still required accurate play to win and Buhmann was not up to the task. In some ways, I thought that was Karmic justice as I think anyone who plays exchange variations in chess is not taking enough risks and does not deserve a full point. 

The other games were not as interesting. Kramnik, who had Black, easily drew with Vachier-Lagrave using the Berlin Defense. It was Kramnik’s second consecutive game as Black. In the other game, Nisipeanu also rather easily drew with Caruana, who has now had two Whites to start the tournament.

Monday is a rest day and then the tournament resumes on Tuesday. 


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.