Bilbao Masters Ends With 3 Draws

Bilbao Masters Ends With 3 Draws

| 61 | Chess Event Coverage

The final round of the Bilbao Masters ended with three relatively quick draws. On Friday, Magnus Carlsen had already secured tournament victory with a round to spare.

The players at the closing ceremony together with Councillor for Economic Development, Trade and Employment of the City of Bilbao, Xabier Ochandiano. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Yesterday was Magnus Carlsen's day, when he beat Giri for the first time in a classical game and clinched the tournament. But he didn't seem particularly happy with it at the post-mortem. Was he tired? Was he not happy with the way he played?

As it turned out, Carlsen had caught a cold, but he beat Giri despite not feeling very well.  This also meant that, as an exception, he didn't mind the short draw he played with Wesley So today. It was a Ragozin, and in this line White has the option to more or less force a draw — which happened.

"A draw with the world champion is never bad, but before the game I wasn't really thinking about a win, draw or loss. I just wanted to play and see how the game goes," said So.

Carlsen had a similar frame of mind, saying, "I thought I'd see how it goes. I mean, I played a line in which,if he wants, he can always make a draw. I wouldn't have minded a different sort of game, but at the same time, since yesterday especially I haven't been feeling very well, so I'm not too unhappy about playing a short game today."

Carlsen was satisfied about his tournament. "I always think that my play could be better, but I think this is the best tournament that I have played in a while in terms of content and quality of my games. I'm very happy with that. I think I ran a little bit out of energy towards the end, and as I said, yesterday and today I wasn't feeling very good. In general, I think my approach and the way I played was a good one, and of course the result was very decent."

Carlsen holding a trophy similar to the FIFA World Cup Trophy, while wearing
the traditional
txapela given to the winner each year. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

When asked whether he is still motivated, Carlsen replied, "I want to improve. In this tournament, I felt there was definite improvement in my play. That's all I can ask for at this point: to learn, to be better.... It's not a problem, I can tell you!"

Here are some comments from Carlsen to, as he looks back at his first win against Giri the other day, as well as at some other games from this tournament:

Wesley So, who won the tournament last year, had mixed feelings about his 50 percent score. "Fortunately, it's not all draws. With the tournament situation, it's better that you get more decisive results. But it could be better. At the same time, I managed to use the chances that I got. Other than my missed opportunities against Wei Yi in game five, I think in general my result is OK."

The next tournament for So is the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. He feels hopeful about his progress. "I feel I'm getting more experienced, and playing these top-level tournaments are necessary for anybody. It's been a bit difficult for me to climb higher, but at the same time, I am enjoying these top level guys, especially Magnus. That's how you become better. It must be hard for Magnus to improve, because there is no stronger player!"

The round started a bit peculiarly. Carlsen was a bit late, to the point that So, Giri, and Nakamura started to joke about it. Then So suddenly clapped his hands loudly and told the organizers that it was time to start. (But first the organizers did something else before starting the round: they held a minute of silence for the second time this tournament — this time because of the tragedy in Munich.)

While being interviewed on stage, Carlsen volunteered to look at the other two remaining games for a bit. Commenting on Anish Giri vs Hikaru Nakamura after 19.Bd2, he said, "Hikaru likes the knights. At least he used to. But here, the two passive bishops are better than the knights. White has an edge."

Giri called this assessment "not very deep," and, with Nakamura, he emphasized the importance of Black's activity. Because Giri couldn't consolidate and get an ideal setup, he said it actually wasn't much for White.

White's edge was less big than it seemed in Giri-Nakamura.

Despite having had quite a bad tournament, Giri was still in quite a positive mood. "Today, I am very proud that I didn't blunder anything in the whole game!" he said, before telling an anecdote about the driver who took him and his wife to the playing hall each day. "It was a nice driver who wished me luck each time. When I lost, he stopped wishing me luck, but then I lost again. The poor driver doesn't know what to do with me!"

"The poor driver doesn't know what to do with me!" — Giri

The players were also asked if they had any plans for when they would retire from chess. One of Nakamura's dreams sounded pretty good: at some point in his life, he would like to buy land and produce wine in Avellino (in Italy). But he emphasized that he is happy playing chess right now.

Fans don't need to worry about Nakamura's retirement plans just yet. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

The game between Wei Yi and Sergey Karjakin started with great promise. White's king was forced to go to e2 as early as move seven, but that was all theory. Still, Carlsen expected Wei Yi to suffer for a while. It was somewhat surprising how quickly this game also ended in a draw. In this game as well, White's advantage in the endgame wasn't that big.

Karjakin still has some work to do before November.

2016 Bilbao Masters | Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Carlsen, Magnus 2855 2869 01 31 31 31 13 17.0
2 Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 2810 31 11 11 11 11 12.0
3 Wei Yi 2696 2779 01 11 11 11 13 11.0 23.50
4 So, Wesley 2770 2794 01 11 11 11 13 11.0 23.50
5 Karjakin, Sergey 2773 2744 01 11 11 11 11 9.0
6 Giri, Anish 2785 2669 10 11 10 10 11 7.0

Yet another tournament victory for Carlsen! | Photo Maria Emelianova.

The next event for Carlsen is his GM Blitz Battle semifinal against Alexander Grischuk on August 18th, so mark your calendars! Nakamura will first participate in the Sinquefield Cup, before he plays in his own GM Blitz Battle against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on August 24 — read more about that here.

Wei Yi stated that he will be part of the Chinese team at the Olympiad; it's not clear whether he'll play before that. So and Giri will also play in the Sinquefield Cup, whereas Karjakin will probably rest and train for the world championship before joining the Russian team at the Olympiad.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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