Three Draws In Bilbao; Giri Still Undefeated Vs Carlsen

Three Draws In Bilbao; Giri Still Undefeated Vs Carlsen

| 52 | Chess Event Coverage

The fifth round of the Bilbao Masters in Bilbao saw three draws. Magnus Carlsen was better in the endgame, but he still hasn't managed to beat Anish Giri in any of their 15 classical games, ever since Giri won their first encounter in Wijk aan Zee in 2011.

This round also saw the shortest game of the tournament so far. Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura played 12 moves of theory in a 5.Bf4 Queen's Gambit Declined, before the Russian played a novelty, but it was one that allowed an instant draw.

Carlsen watching the position between Karjakin and Nakamura. | Photo Bilbao Masters.

Nakamura surprised his opponent with 10...Re8 (where previously he played the more common 10...Be7 against Carlsen at the 2015 Sinquefield Cup). He called it “something new.” However, the American later confirmed to that he was well aware of the game Korchnoi vs Karpov from 1978, in which the 12th world champion did the same.

Karjakin had a key decision to make on move 13: continue fighting with the sharper 13.Qb1 or “chicken out” with the safer 13.Qa4. He chose the latter, admitting: “I didn't prepare this line for the game. It was very hard to remember the correct moves. When he played Nd4 immediately, it's very hard to fight over the board against a well-prepared opponent.”

With such quick draws it's usually the white player who gets criticized, but Nakamura sympathized with his opponent. “I would probably have done the same thing if I was in Sergey's situation. Considering the situation, 13.Qa4 was obviously the best move.”

To draw or not to draw? That was Nakamura's question. | Photo Yerazik Khachatourian.

Nakamura took about half an hour to make the decision to enter the drawing line, shaking his head all the while. “I had only looked at 13.Qb1, not at 13.Qa4. I was thinking either Sergey blundered, or it's a draw, as in the game,” Nakamura said in the post-mortem.

He later told that he also felt some disappointment. “I had this idea before the Candidates', and I chose not to use it in that tournament where I should have used it. I'm not very happy about that, but that's life, what can you do.”

Here's a video about this game, with comments from Nakamura:

The next game to finish was the one between Wesley So and Wei Yi. The latter chose to play the Petroff, the opening that put fans of attacking chess to sleep before the Berlin took over. But, like the Berlin, the Petroff depends as much on White as on Black whether the game will become interesting or not!

On the board came the 5.Nc3 line with both sides castling queenside, which is a system that has led to many quiet games. However, things started to become more exciting when Wei started pushing pawns on the kingside. Tactics started to appear, and it seems that the players didn't fully grasp the intricacies of the position, depicted below, which can serve as a training puzzle. But beware: it's very high level. This diagram could easily appear in Mark Dvoretsky's next book.

The players thought this position was bad for Black
because of 31...Bxf7 32.Rxe7!. Why were they wrong?

You will find the solution in the annotations to the game starting from 27.h4. As it went, all pawns disappeared from the kingside, and soon enough all minor pieces were gone as well. That sounds like 4 pawns vs 4 pawns, with only heavy pieces on the board, right? Wouldn't that be a draw? Well, So was more active, trying to press his opponent and even going so far as to win a pawn. However, the resulting rook ending was easy to draw for a close-to-2700 GM.

And then there was Anish Giri vs Magnus Carlsen, which is always a special pairing because of Giri's unbeaten status against the world champion. Carlsen surprised everyone today by playing the Queen's Gambit Accepted. To avoid even more preparation, he played it with ...Bg4 and ...Nc6, a setup normally not considered very promising for Black.

But it worked! Giri couldn't keep his theoretical advantage. The position was equal after 16...c6, and a few moves later Black was already better. The Dutchman admitted that he was outplayed. “The endgame is very bad for me.”

Carlsen playing the Queen's Gambit Accepted against Giri. | Photo Bilbao Masters.

However, Giri once again proved to be a very tough nut to crack. He refused to make any more mistakes, and despite significant pressure, he managed to hold the endgame. Both players weren't sure if there was a win anywhere for Black.

The post-mortem with commentator/journalist Leontxo Garcia ended a bit awkwardly. He asked Carlsen, “What is thank you in Norwegian?” with the intention to use the answer to finish things off. However, making a very tired expression, Carlsen said, “I don't know.” Garcia laughingly responded, “You don't know?” Carlsen replied shortly, “No.”

Carlsen and Giri at the post-mortem. | Photo Yerazik Khachatourian.

Garcia then asked Giri, who first tried to clarify, “In Norwegian?” and then simply stated, “In Dutch it's dankjewel!" The players then left the stage, leaving the spectators somewhat bewildered. But now we know what Giri's tweet later that evening was about!

The first half of the tournament is now over, and Monday is a rest day. So far, Carlsen has been involved in all of the decisive games, and Giri is the only player with five draws behind his name. Meanwhile, So, Wei and Karjakin all lost to Carlsen and drew the rest, while Nakamura beat Carlsen and drew the rest. With a draw percentage of 73.4, it seems the football score hasn't done very much to prevent draws, as pointed out by Using-Name in the comments.

2016 Bilbao Masters | Round 5 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2855 2909 0 1 3 3 3 10.0/5
2 Nakamura,Hikaru 2787 2846 3 1 1 1 1 7.0/5
3 Giri,Anish 2785 2777 1 1 1 1 1 5.0/5
4 So,Wesley 2770 2709 0 1 1 1 1 4.0/5 4.75
5 Wei,Yi 2696 2709 0 1 1 1 1 4.0/5 4.75
6 Karjakin,Sergey 2773 2723 0 1 1 1 1 4.0/5 4.75

Though Monday is a rest day, the players still have to show up at the playing hall. At noon, there will be a “Europe vs Rest of the World” team match, with Carlsen, Karjakin and Giri playing against Nakamura, So and Wei. The game will be played on a giant 8 meter by 8 meter board, with two human chess armies made up of boys and girls from several schools in Bilbao and Santurtzi.

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

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