Bilbao Masters: So Pushes Giri Further Down

Bilbao Masters: So Pushes Giri Further Down

| 48 | Chess Event Coverage

Wesley So defeated Anish Giri in the eighth round of the Bilbao Masters and in doing so he pushed the Dutch GM to last place. Wei-Nakamura and Karjakin-Carlsen were drawn; the world champion missed a good chance (the unnatural looking 15...cxb5).

The brief heat wave earlier this week, which resulted in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius here in Bilbao, is over. The thermometer was showing numbers back in the 20s on Wednesday and Thursday, and since then the games haven't been very “hot” either. Like yesterday, two of today's games ended in draws rather quickly and with little excitement.

Especially the second clash between Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen was a big anti-climax. The Russian fans were hoping for their man to level the score in this “mini-match” before the big match, and all other fans would have liked to see, well, a game. But, like in his White game against Nakamura, Karjakin allowed a threefold repetition before move 20.

More photographers than usual showed up today for the second game between these two contestants. | Photo Bilbao Masters.

The game started as a Ragozin, and it was easy for Carlsen to improve upon his previous game in the same line. Last month, in Leuven, he blundered a piece against Nakamura. This time the world champion followed Levon Aronian's approach, and then found an excellent knight maneuver, which allowed him to strengthen his center. He did sacrifice his b-pawn there, but that would lead to a draw, both players thought.

Karjakin took the pawn anyway, figuring that he had already lost his opening advantage.

“The problem is that Nb5 is coming. I underestimated this 12...Na7, which is very strong. I don't think White is fighting for an advantage,” he said.

A bird's eye view of the playing hall. | Photo Bilbao Masters.

What followed was a kind of repetition like in Karjakin-Nakamura in round five. Like the American, Carlsen spent about half an hour on his next few moves, failed to see a decent way to play for a win and then accepted the silent draw offer. 

“I tried to calculate many variations, but I didn't find anything,” he said. “As often in such situations, if I wanted to continue I had to do it immediately. In the end if I don't see anything and I don't have time, it doesn't make sense to continue playing.”

The players didn't discuss 15...cxb5, an ugly but strong move suggested by the engines. Karjakin would have been in some trouble there.

Wei Yi vs Hikaru Nakamura was a longer and more interesting game, but in reality the fight was over around move 22, when complete equality was reached. It was a Catalan with Ne5 and Bxc6, known since the 1978 Kortchnoi-Karpov match. It's supposed to be OK for Black, but not today.

“I must have mixed up some moves,” said Nakamura.

Black still needed to solve some problems after 19.Na4. 

After 21...f6 the critical position was reached. There Wei could have pushed his a-pawn, a promising move that Nakamura was a bit worried about. Since he was wearing the Fitbit Blaze again, he was able to tell that around that moment his heart rate rose to 105. But Wei played more modestly, and Nakamura's pulse went back to his normal 90 for the remainder.

Wei could have been more aggressive today, but every draw is a good result for him. | Photo Bilbao Masters.

After today, the drawing percentage is 75 percent. Nakamura tried to explain: “In chess normally it takes two to play. If both players don't want to play aggressive, tactical chess, and play solid chess instead, it's difficult to win without any blunders. There's nothing you can do about that.”

Oleg Skvortsov, the man behind the annual Zurich Chess Challenge, hates draws like the ones from today and yesterday. He has experimented with a way to please the audience more: letting the players play a rapid game with reversed colors. asked three players whether they would like to see this idea at other tournaments too:

Carlsen: “Yes, especially with a relatively short time control like this it makes sense. If you draw after seven hours it wouldn't be a good idea, but for this tournament it would be fine.”
Karjakin: “I have nothing against this but I would prefer to play blitz instead of rapid!”
Nakamura: “If there's no Sofia Rule then it's a good idea, otherwise not.”

Returning to today's round, there was also Wesley So vs Anish Giri, and this one didn't end in a draw. Giri was better out of the opening, but lost in the end.

“I don't understand this game at all,” said Nakamura during his post-mortem. “In the opening I thought Wesley was much worse, and now he is clearly better.”

Giri went from better to equal to worse to lost.

“His preparation is excellent, but somehow he is missing something to win games,” said Ruslan Ponomariov, again commentator today, about Giri. Maybe the Dutchman ought to try and channel his inner Simon Williams a bit more, because today the way to increase his advantage was to blindly go for an attack: Qe8-g6, Qh6 and even g7-g5-g4. 

So said he was worried about this 14...Qg6, and the variations in the post-mortem favored Black. “I must have missed something here,” said Giri. He was still doing fine for most of the game, but from move 33 onwards things went downhill. 

It was the second loss for Giri, besides six draws. His wife Sopiko Guramishvili is playing in the open and also lost twice, on the same days as her husband. That's pretty strong solidarity within this young couple's marriage!

(There's much better news to mention about them: the two are expecting to have a baby later this year. Congratulations on behalf of the team!)

Wesley So moved up to shared third place today.

2016 Bilbao Masters | Round 8 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2855 2848 01 31 3 31 1 13.0
2 Nakamura,Hikaru 2787 2818 31 11 11 1 1 10.0
3 Wei Yi 2696 2799 01 11 1 1 13 9.0 15.25
4 So,Wesley 2770 2780 0 11 1 11 13 9.0 14.50
5 Karjakin,Sergey 2773 2745 01 1 1 11 11 7.0
6 Giri,Anish 2785 2677 1 1 10 10 11 6.0

The ninth round on Friday will see the games Wei-So, Nakamura-Karjakin, and Carlsen-Giri.

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