No Heart-Pounding Games In Bilbao Round 7

No Heart-Pounding Games In Bilbao Round 7

| 22 | Chess Event Coverage

All three games in round seven ended in draws at the Bilbao MastersHikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, who allowed their heart rate and energy use to be measured during play, were the first to split the point.

Today's seventh round wasn't particularly exciting — let's not deny it. For everyone trying to make chess a bigger, more popular sport, it's days like these when the motivation to look for improvements is high.

It was unfortunate that the Basque organizers selected this day to try out an experiment with two of the participants. Both Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So wore a fitness smartwatch today that measured their heart rate and energy usage. This information was shown on the official website, below the regular commentary video feed.

Both Nakamura and So wore a Fitbit Blaze today. | Photo Bilbao Masters.

The players themselves were also able to see their heart rate during the game, which begs the question, "Were they using “external information” and thereby breaking the rules?".  If they wanted to make use of the data, the could have followed this method:

  1. Take your heart rate when you are in rest (e.g. after you just woke up).
  2. Add 50 percent to this number.
  3. The resulting number is the desired heart rate at the start of the game, and throughout.
  4. The more time you spend with a higher heart rate than this, the more lactic acid and such you will create, and the more tired you will get.

Measuring heart rates has only been tried a few times thus far in international chess. A recent example was a two-game rapid match between Sam Sevian and Nils Grandelius, mentioned here.

The information coming from So (left) and Nakamura's Fitbits.

The information presented today from Nakamura and So wasn't worth that much. Their heart rates didn't change a lot, as it was a rather quiet game. You can also argue that other numbers (percentage of maximum heart rate?) or other metrics (amount of sweat, eye movement?) might be more interesting.

However, it is a development that deserves further investigation because anything that can attract more people to the game has some value. The players got to keep their gadget (a Fitbit Blaze), and after the game they shared their thoughts with

As said, the game itself wasn't very exciting. The players quickly bashed out the first 13 moves or so and reached the critical position one move later, according to Nakamura. He found an active plan that involved bringing his knights to f5 and b5, but it didn't lead to a big advantage because So found all the right moves.

Nakamura is the only player left  who is still undefeated. | Photo Bilbao Masters.

Only a minute or two later, Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin also drew their game. In fact, they were trying to finish before the Americans but failed. Therefore, they had to wait for Nakamura and So to finish their post-mortem.

Their Closed Catalan was about to get interesting when Giri blundered 22...bxa5, which allowed Karjakin to solve all his problems instantly. If anyone was better there it was Black, but it was really just dead equal.

The longest and most interesting of the three draws was Magnus Carlsen vs Wei Yi. In the first half of the tournament, Carlsen won as Black, but this time he couldn't get through the Chinese GM's stubborn defense. “It was a tough game. I had to be very careful,” said Wei Yi.

Via 1.Nf3, a Fianchetto Grünfeld was reached where White had more space and the bishop pair. “I think I had a very comfortable advantage out of the opening,” said Carlsen. “I mean Black is solid but not very active. I think my play could certainly have been improved upon. I lost the thread at some point.”

Carlsen: “I lost the thread at some point.” | Photo Bilbao Masters.

The world champion didn't like his 23.h4 move and pointed out that the game would have ended quicker if Black had played 32...Nxe5. The endgame that was reached, which resembled the classic Fischer vs Taimanov (4th match game, 1971), was also a draw. Carlsen: “After the time control, it's just drawn because I can never put him in zugzwang.”

Carlsen said about his young opponent: “He plays very well, and he is showing so far that he belongs in the tournament. I hope he can have a successful end of the tournament as well.”

He also gave a nice answer to a question from the audience about how chess players can improve their mental strength. “Confidence is very important in chess, so I think winning is a good idea to improve your mental strength!”

2016 Bilbao Masters | Round 7 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Carlsen, Magnus 2855 2858 01 31 1 3 3 12.0/7
2 Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 2836 31 1 1 1 11 9.0/7
3 Wei Yi 2696 2801 01 1 13 1 1 8.0/7
4 Giri, Anish 2785 2715 1 1 10 11 1 6.0/7 7.75
5 Karjakin, Sergey 2773 2730 0 1 1 11 11 6.0/7 7.00
6 So, Wesley 2770 2729 0 11 1 1 11 6.0/7 7.00

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

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.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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