Carlsen Recovers, Beats Wei Yi In Bilbao

Carlsen Recovers, Beats Wei Yi In Bilbao

| 43 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen had a good sleep, recovered well from his first-round loss and today defeated Wei Yi. The world champion is now in clear second place behind Hikaru Nakamura thanks to the “football” score system at the Bilbao Masters.

It has happened before, in fact many times: Magnus Carlsen starting a tournament badly. However, this time it only took him one day to get back into it. Whereas his play against Nakamura was below par, today he did much better in what was an incredibly complicated game against Wei Yi. Despite the fact that the queens left the board early, this battle was full of tactics right until the end.

So how did Carlsen deal with his first loss ever to Nakamura in classical chess?  

“I'm sort of used to playing poorly in the first round, and for once I got punished,” he said. “I had a good night['s] sleep and tried to play an interesting game.”

Carlsen wanted an interesting game, and certainly got it.

To get an interesting game, it helps to leave the deepest theoretical waters at an early stage. Carlsen chose the Modern, and played it like the Swedish GM Tiger Hillarp Persson has been advocating for many years. (As it turned out, the first 18 moves were still theory!)

The players quickly reached a queenless middlegame where a protected passer on c7 for White kept a lot of dynamics in the position. After a long tactical sequence, even the RN vs RN endgame was not easy to play. On move 35 Wei Yi made the first big error (35.b4 was called for) and Carlsen got the upper hand.

Wei got another chance to draw the game, but just when he thought he could maybe play for a win he fell for a neat trick, well spotted by the Norwegian after many hours of play. 

Wei Yi admitted that he missed 48...Nc5.

Both Sergey Karjakin and Anish Giri started with a draw, and they also split the point against each other but not before they had put up a fantastic fight that resulted in a stalemate on move 82. But whereas the fans love these kinds of games, the players themselves simply dismissed it as “a game with many mistakes.”

The opening was a Giuoco Piano, which was played so many times at the Grand Chess Tour events in Paris and Leuven. With a slightly different interpretation of the position than Levon Aronian, who answered a2-a4 with ...a7-a5 three times, Giri pushed his a-pawn more modestly, with the point a4-a5, b7-b5.

Karjakin took the pawn on a6, and from that point the online game transmission got stuck for a while. The Spanish organizers are not using the standard DGT software but an old system of their own, and the exact notation of this en passant move did not correspond with how a PGN file prefers it.

More problems with the transmission would follow, most notably in the game Wei-Carlsen, where a series of six nonsense moves were added. This wrong version was also published here on for a short while, unfortunately. It's hard to understand that, after so many years, the transmission of only three games in a super tournament can still be problematic.

Anyway, back to the game, where things got exciting when Karjakin pushed g2-g4 in front of his king, and then sacrificed his h-pawn. He got attacking chances and perhaps didn't find the best move, but certainly something that confused his opponent.

“The thing was when the position became critical, there was little time,” said Giri. “The sacrifice was very extravagant and I was so confused that I spent all my time thinking how extravagant it is. When I started to calculate variations I realized I already have too little time left.”

Giri: “I spent all my time thinking how extravagant it is.”

It was the quiet move 28.Rg6 that Giri had missed, and he said he was “completely perplexed.” But there was still a decent way to liquidate, and after some minor suffering he held the draw rather comfortably.

Imaginative play by Karjakin today!

The all-American clash between Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura reached a rook endgame and went beyond move 40, but nonetheless finished after about two hours of play. Nakamura's Nimzo-Indian, probably inspired by some recent Vladimir Kramnik games, was extremely solid. So called it “interesting from a theoretical point of view.”

In the double-rook endgame, Black's doubled pawn hardly mattered.

“My advantage is not very much, to do anything," said So. The trick on move 34 was nice: by sacrificing a pawn Black could liquidate to a position that was easy to draw.

Starting with two black games, Nakamura made an excellent impression so far.

Afterward Nakamura made an interesting comment. He said that he can see his disappointing result at the Candidates' Tournament as a positive thing: “I am much more motivated and inspired now. I seem to be enjoying chess quite a bit more since the Candidates'.”

2016 Bilbao Masters | Round 2 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Nakamura,Hikaru 2787 3003 4
2 Carlsen,Magnus 2855 2742 3
3 So,Wesley 2770 2780 2 1.25
4 Karjakin,Sergey 2773 2777 2 1.00
5 Giri,Anish 2785 2735 2 0.75
6 Wei,Yi 2696 2630 1

With the normal scoring system Carlsen would have tied for second place, but with three points for a win he is now one point behind Nakamura, and one point ahead of So, Karjakin and Giri. The third round on Friday will see the games Giri vs So, Carlsen vs Karjakin, and Nakamura vs Wei.

Tomorrow we'll see the first of two clashes between Carlsen and Karjakin. | Photo Bilbao Chess.

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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