So Beats Giri In Blitz Tiebreak, Wins Bilbao Masters Final

So Beats Giri In Blitz Tiebreak, Wins Bilbao Masters Final

| 53 | Chess Event Coverage

Wesley So won the eighth Bilbao Masters Final after beating Anish Giri in a blitz playoff. The two had drawn their last-round game and finished on equal game points.

It's over before you know it. With only four players, even a double round robin only lasts a week, and at the end of this week Wesley So emerged as the winner.

The American grandmaster won a spectactular game in the first round, and five draws later that win turned out to be enough. In a blitz playoff So defeated Anish Giri, the only other player who won a game.

A tournament that is designed to stimulate fighting chess, with the Sofia Rule and 3 points for a win, saw 16 of the total 18 games ending peacefully.

This report covers the last two rounds, and by now you'll have calculated that there were four more draws. But fighting draws they were!

Anand vs So saw the five-time world champion and last year's winner trying to get his first win in his last white game. He soon had to lower his expectations.

Anand was basically outprepared by So, and was looking at a dangerous position for White as early as move 15.

Definitely one of the most interesting games of the tournament. | Photo Manu de Alba.

16.Nd1 is not a move you like to play, but it was the best solution. A few moves later he could put it back on c3 (where it landed for the third time), and castle queenside.

So kept the initiative, and reached a rook ending with an extra pawn. It turned into a pawn ending, a queen ending, another pawn ending and another queen ending before it finally ended in a draw.

Unlike picture seems to suggest, it was So who
was dealing the cards.
 | Photo Manu de Alba.

Giri decided to test Ding's Ruy Lopez repertoire in the main line (as in: not 6.d3) and the Chinese's choice was the Zaitsev.

Like against Leinier Dominguez in Skopje, Giri played the “modest” 12.a3 variation which may have been invented by someone who tried to play 12.a4 but let go of his pawn too early.

Usually white tries to keep control of the d5 square in these type of positions. Giri seemed to say: OK, that didn't work, but at least I managed to spoil your structure. However, Ding was more active, and the one with the (slightly) better chances.

The game Giri-Ding is about to end in a draw. | Photo Manu de Alba.

And so the organizers got a dream pairing on the last day, with the two leaders facing each other. Giri said:

“Wesley has better chances before the tiebreak, as he has the white pieces. In the tiebreak chances are equal, as we are both not very famous for being great blitz players, but aren't too bad either.”

Giri was hoping for a difficult and tiring game. | Photo Manu de Alba.

So had the white pieces, and deviated from a game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Giri from the Norway Chess tournament this year. 

The fun started when Giri answered So's 17.h3 with the remarkable 17...b5!? — a move most amateurs wouldn't even consider. (You either take on f3 or remove the bishop, right?)

So's last chance for an advantage was on move 22, when moving the knight to f5 (and eating d4 along the way) might have posed some problems.

If we don't count the 174-move draw Ding-Giri, which was hard to beat, Ding-Anand was the longest game of the tournament. In an English game, this time it was Anand to get a very promising position.

15.Qd4 and 16.Rad1 was an unfortunate miniplan where Ding must have forgotten about the weak c4-square. And then he should definitely have returned to d4 with his queen on move 18, even though it allows a move repetition.

Ding's fighting spirit was “punished” by 18...e3! which paralyzed white's position for a while and made the d5-pawn terribly weak. However, after the trade of queens Anand played some inaccurate moves and lost all his advantage.

Suddenly it was Ding who was playing for a win, but Anand didn't make any big mistakes in the remainder.

While Ding and Anand were playing their ending, the organizers decided not to wait, and started the playoff for first place: two blitz games between So and Giri. The time control was 4 minutes plus 3 seconds increment.

The games seemed to confirm what Giri had said the other day: a playoff of low quality, as if the players were really exhausted.

Game one was decided by a blunder.

You can watch the game on video here:

In the second game Giri definitely got his chances to level the score. In two positions there was quite a nice tactic, but he failed to see them:

Here's the second game on video:

2015 Bilbao Masters Final | Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 Pts SB
1 Giri,Anish 2798 2828 phpfCo1l0.png 11 13 11 8 13.50
2 So,Wesley 2760 2844 11 phpfCo1l0.png 11 31 8 13.50
3 Anand,Viswanathan 2803 2731 10 11 phpfCo1l0.png 11 5 10.50
4 Ding,Liren 2782 2740 11 01 11 phpfCo1l0.png 5 10.50
So receiving the traditional winner's txapela, a typical Basque-style beret... | Photo Manu de Alba.
...and wearing it with a big smile! | Photo Manu de Alba.


Update 5 November 2015: An earlier version of this report had an incorrect quote from Giri: “I think Wesley is better than me in fast chess, but I'm confident that the first game will be difficult and tiring, so that we will both be exhausted for the playoff, in which case the final result could be unpredictable.”

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