Carlsen Beats Karjakin, Surges To Clear 1st In Bilbao

Carlsen Beats Karjakin, Surges To Clear 1st In Bilbao

| 50 | Chess Event Coverage

He lost the first round, but after winning two games in a row, Magnus Carlsen is suddenly in clear first place at the Bilbao Masters in Bilbao. Today the world champion defeated Sergey Karjakin with a kingside attack that was both quick and devastating.

“I've played this score system before, and it's nice to know that you can always sort of come back,” said Magnus Carlsen to after his win today. In Bilbao, wins are valued more than elsewhere, and the Norwegian profited from it.

He had two reasons to celebrate: not only did he surge to the lead, but he also won the first of two encounters against Sergey Karjakin. It was a big game for the organizers, the fans, and the players obviously. “I wouldn't say it's just another game, but I've played him many times before,” said Carlsen.

The first of the year's many handshakes between these players. | Photo Bilbao Chess.

The tension was further built up by a delay at the start of the round. The players were waiting to begin their games while the organizers and arbiters were talking to each other, but it was soon clear what the delay was.

The organizers had decided to hold a minute of silence because of the terrible incident in Nice last night. The arbiter read out a statement in three languages (Basque, Spanish and English) in which the tournament organizers condemned the attack and paid their respects to the victims and their families.

After this moment of silence, the first of two games between the two participants of the next world title match began. Carlsen hesitated for about half a minute before playing 1.e4. He also took a bit of time for his 3.c3 in the Sicilian. Whereas Karjakin had already announced that he wouldn't be playing his main lines this summer, Carlsen's choice could offer little insight into his match preparation as sidelines are simply the order of the day for Carlsen.

The first of two clashes between Carlsen and Karjakin in Bilbao.

Karjakin traded his light-squared bishop for a knight and chose a Dragon-like setup. Black was quite comfortable. Karjakin had equalized, and thus “won” the first stage of the game; then it was Carlsen's turn. He developed some initiative on the kingside and chopped off Black's best piece, a knight on e5, with his bishop. An instructive moment.

The world champion then showed why his position was better: he could simply start an attack as there was hardly any counterplay for Black. He won surprisingly quickly.

An excellent second win in a row for Carlsen. | Photo Bilbao Chess.

“I underestimated the attack,” said Karjakin. “I could have defended much better. In the end, I blundered, but it doesn't matter. White already has a winning position.” Karjakin didn't seem blown away. He said: “It's not a catastrophe.”

“At least I have bounced back with a couple of wins,” said Carlsen. “I think my play can still be better, but it's going to the right direction. The game in the first round forced me to play more sharply.” spoke to Carlsen about his first three games; here's the video interview.

Anish Giri and Wesley So are now the only players left in Bilbao with exclusively draws to their credit. Nevertheless, their game today was a very interesting on! Giri found an excellent pawn sacrifice for obvious positional compensation. “The pawn sacrifice was very strong. I was worried about my trapped bishop on b8,” said So.

He managed to solve that issue rather quickly, but as soon as he got the bishop back into the game, Giri changed the nature of the game yet again. This time he employed an exchange sacrifice. The pressure on f7 forced So to give back material. That allowed Giri to reach an ending with opposite-colored bishops which he held in textbook style.

A quick chat between Giri and Karjakin, in Russian, before the game. | Photo Bilbao Chess.

Hikaru Nakamura was again involved in the shortest game of the day. Right after the opening, a Semi-Tarrasch, he miscalculated something. He then had to go for a plan B which allowed Wei Yi to create a fortress. From that point on, all the players needed to do was find a good way to repeat the moves so that they could circumvent the Sofia Rule preventing early draws by agreement (but not by repetition!).

A miscalculation by Nakamura, but not a terrible one.

2016 Bilbao Masters | Round 3 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Carlsen, Magnus 2855 2872 0 3 3 6.0/3 2.00
2 Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 2894 3 1 1 5.0/3 3.25
3 So, Wesley 2770 2781 1 1 1 3.0/3 2.25
4 Giri, Anish 2785 2747 1 1 1 3.0/3 1.75
5 Wei Yi 2696 2689 0 1 1 2.0/3 1.75
6 Karjakin, Sergey 2773 2683 0 1 1 2.0/3 1.50

With the normal scoring-system, Carlsen would be tied for first place with Nakamura, but with three points for a win, he is now one point ahead. The fourth round on Saturday will see the games Carlsen vs So, Nakamura vs Giri, and Wei vs Karjakin.

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