Adams Leads in Bilbao at Half-Way Point
Michael Adams, the winner of this year's super tournament in Dortmund, is leading the Masters Final in Bilbao half-way. After three of the six rounds, the English grandmaster has 5 points according to the "football scoring system" that's traditionally used in the Basque city.
This year the annual tournament in Bilbao, Spain suffered both from the financial crisis and the packed chess calendar. In previous years the first half was held in a different city: Shanghai in 2010, and Sao Paulo in 2011 and 2012. This year a cooperation with Mexico City had to be cancelled at the last minute. And, with the Grand Prix and the upcoming world title match, it was not easy for the organizers to get the players they wanted.
Eventually the tournament was set up as a four-player double round robin. The participants are Levon Aronian (2795, Armenia), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2759, Azerbaijan), Michael Adams (2753, England) and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2742, France).
Other traditions were easier to uphold. As always, the "football scoring system" is in use, where the players get 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 for a loss. Besides, there is the "Sofia Rule", which means that a draw offer can only be done through the arbiter. He is the one to decide whether the position is really drawn, either theoretical or as a result of a three-fold repetition (or even the 50-move rule!).
The first round on Monday saw two fighting draws. Aronian was doing well out of the opening (a Grünfeld), but somehow he let his advantage slip away.
“I had a clear advantage but I have no idea why I let go of the win; I have to analyse it,”
said the world's number 3 player.
Adams-Mamedyarov was a Sicilian with little theory but a very interesting queenless middlegame. White got a nice position with a passer on d6 protected by a knight that was at the same time blocking an isolated c-pawn, but it was hard to make progress. The rook ending was probably always a draw.
In the second round, the game between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Levon Aronian ended in a draw without many new moves. This Nimzo-Indian with 4.Qc2 & 5.e4 has been analysed deeply, and the players couldn't add much to the existing theory.
Adams vs Vachier-Lagrave started the same as Adams' game in the first round, and the Englishman kept a tiny edge into the endgame. That surely should have been a draw, but Vachier-Lagrave made his 40th move a fraction of a second too late, and so the arbiter had to declare the game lost for him, in what was probably a drawn rook ending.
In the third round, Mickey Adams kept his lead in the tournament as he survived his black game against top seed Levon Aronian. The Armenian's knight sortie on move 17 was new, and forced his opponent to play accurately. The middlegame was quite complicated but it seems that the Englishman kept things under control.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave got back to a 50% score (and a second place in the standings, because his loss & win score better than Aronian's two draws in Bilbao). In the third round, the Frenchman beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a Semi-Slav where Black was OK out of the opening. On move 26 the Azerbaijani missed an opportunity to become active and then suffered for the rest of the game.
Masters Final (Bilbao) 2013 | Round 3 Standings
Photos provided by the organizers. Here's the tournament website.