Carlsen Finally Beats Giri, Clinches Bilbao Masters With Round To Spare

Carlsen Finally Beats Giri, Clinches Bilbao Masters With Round To Spare

Jul 22, 2016, 10:31 AM |
82 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen finally managed to beat Anish Giri in a classical game. The victory also secured the Norwegian victory in the Bilbao Masters with a round to spare since the other two games were drawn.

After losing his first ever classical game to Nakamura, Carlsen must have thought: let's set that other record straight as well. He lost his first encounter with Giri in 2011 in Wijk aan Zee. Then he drew the next 14 games, but today the Norwegian finally defeated Giri in a classical game.

Carlsen won the game in the same way that he has beaten so may other players. He got nothing special out of the opening, found ways to keep the game going, increased the pressure, chose moves that may not be the best but were the most difficult to answer, and finally profited from mistakes.

Yes, Giri was absolutely fine out of the opening. His no-nonsense reply to 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 was 2...Bf5, and after move 15, some experts even believed that Black had an edge. However, the aggressive 17.h4 (“At this point, I started to gamble a bit.” - Carlsen) had its effect. Giri did not respond well, and soon he was a bit worse. He was lucky that not only he, but also his opponent, completely missed the move 23.c5.

Here Carlsen played 23.cxd5. Instead 23.c5! is very strong, with the idea
23...bxc5 (forced) 24.Ra6!, and there's no good defense against 25.Rxd6.

The reaction of the players when they were told about 23.c5.

“Actually it makes me feel good because I was not the only one who was missing everything today,” said Giri about the oversight.

As it went, Black's position remained holdable. “I believe Anish is the only grandmaster who has never lost to Magnus, so he is not gonna lose this!” said Karjakin. Black remained OK, and that was still true even after White won two pieces for the rook.

“I think the logical outcome should still be a draw if I don't blunder,” said Giri. But that's what happened: the Dutchman got into time trouble, and just when he was getting really close to the draw, he missed an important tactic.

“Someone who is in bad shape, at some point he will blunder something, given that the opponent puts pressure the whole game,” said Giri, who did most of the talking afterward.

After the round, briefly spoke to GM Ruslan Ponomariov, a commentator for the tournament's second half. The Ukrainian player was pretty impressed with how Carlsen has dealt with his first-round loss, and how he is playing in general.

The rest of this report will sound familiar: two rather uneventful draws. Carlsen has now scored more wins than all the other participants combined. Together with the football-scoring system, it's no wonder that he has already won the tournament.

Of the three games, the position out of the opening in Hikaru Nakamura vs Sergey Karjakin looked the most interesting, but alas, this game was the first to finish. It lasted 34 moves, and exactly half of those were theory. Karjakin improved upon the game Nakamura vs Carlsen from Paris last month — the one where the American was much better but lost in the end.

Karjakin: “I just want to say that I was repeating Hikaru's game against Magnus. Magnus didn't play 17...a6 and got a very bad position. After 17...a6, Black is basically very solid. Maybe White can try to get a very small plus.” However, Nakamura couldn't avoid a trade of all minor pieces, and then all that was left was a completely drawn rook endgame.

Improving upon Carlsen saved the day for Karjakin.

Wei Yi vs Wesley So was a bit more interesting. We saw the same line in the Catalan the other day, and although he wasn't prepared as well as his opponent, So remembered enough of his analysis to reach a satisfactory position. He needed to remain accurate in the endgame with queen versus rooks, which he did. “At the end, it's equal because Black has a lot of counterplay,” said Wei.

So was accurate from start to finish.

2016 Bilbao Masters | Round 9 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Carlsen, Magnus 2855 2881 01 31 3 31 13 16.0
2 Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 2813 31 11 11 1 11 11.0
3 Wei Yi 2696 2796 01 11 11 1 13 10.0 15.25
4 So, Wesley 2770 2770 0 11 11 11 13 10.0 14.50
5 Karjakin, Sergey 2773 2750 01 11 1 11 11 8.0
6 Giri, Anish 2785 2655 10 1 10 10 11 6.0

The final round on Saturday will start an hour earlier (3 p.m. local time) and will see the games So-Carlsen, Giri-Nakamura, and Karjakin-Wei.

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