Bilbao Masters 2015

This year’s edition of the Bilbao Masters showed two things: 1. Inviting young and exciting players does not guarantee an exciting tournament, and 2. The scoring system of 3-1-0 does not guarantee an exciting tournament. I don’t know if the Sofia rules were in effect, but experience has shown that even they do not guarantee an exciting tournament.

The games were either well-fought or drawn from heavily analysed lines. There were only 2 wins from 12 games and if So’s win in the KID against Ding Liren was quite a good game, Anand’s loss to Giri was a game that happens to Anand from time to time – he probably didn’t expect the opening, messed it up quickly and then lost interest in putting up decent resistance. He even lost on time on move 37! It was the case of the sport’s most famous unwritten rule – if you don’t score, your opponent will: Anand had a great attacking position against Giri in the first round but failed to exploit it.

This set up the tone of the tournament for Anand. He seems particularly influenced by the start of the tournament – if it starts well then things go well, but if it doesn’t he switches to drawing mode, using his incredible preparation to get safe and drawish positions. But when he played Giri he was surprised in the opening and he erred quickly.

Another typical episode of a dispirited Anand is the following situation from the last round:

There were several examples of solid theoretical draws:

Giri-So, Round 2

Arising from the Berlin with 5 Re1, So had analysed this to a draw.

Both Anand and Giri used the same line in the Semi-Slav to draw against So without problems:

8…e5! the best way to equalise

An interesting endgame happened in the game Ding Liren-Giri:

this is move 67, the game ended in a draw on move 172.

Giri was winning on a few occasions, but playing in eternal time-trouble it’s impossible to calculate precisely.

The tournament was won by So who beat Giri in the tie-break. It’s worth noting that in order to avoid the position above So played the Exchange Slav in the first game of the tie-break. He was worse and probably losing but won the game thanks to a horrible 1-move blunder by Giri. That’s blitz tie-breaks.

The chess caravan now moves to Iceland for the European Team Championship. Unfortunately Macedonia will not play there, for the first time in history, lack of funds being the reason. So yours truly will play for Cheddleton in the first two rounds of the new season in the 4NCL, hoping to continue in the same vein as in the ECC. I’ll also be following the action in Reykjavik, so it should be good!

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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