Bilbao Masters 2016 – Carlsen Wins (Who Else?)

My tournament in Paleochora finished today and it turned out to be the worst result in my professional career. In spite of feeling great and playing well I ended up with a hefty rating loss. Something is definitely amiss!

In the meantime the Bilbao Masters finished with the expected victory of the World Champion. It always amazes me how the other players fade away in his presence and limit themselves to the roles of bystanders.

In the last post I criticised the players for their cynical play but things continued unchanged. Except for Carlsen, who was trying and playing his games, the other players were just happy to make draws. The only exception was Giri, who, in his own words, was in a bad shape – he also wanted to make draws, but due to his bad shape his level was dropping when the tension was rising. Here’s what he managed to lose to So in Round 8:

In Round 8 we had the second game of the mini-match Carlsen-Karjakin. One would think that in view of the resounding loss in the first game Karjakin would at least try to pose some problems playing white. But one would think that only if one doesn’t know Karjakin. No, he was just happy to make a draw with white, yet even that turned out to be problematic, had Carlsen been more vigilant! There are easier ways to make a draw with white – my guess is that Karjakin went to the game with the intention to play, but once the game got under way he changed his mind and started to look for ways to draw. Both players miscalculated, admittedly the lines when black traps white’s queen weren’t that simple:

So what can this mini-match tell us about the upcoming match later this year? Not much I’m afraid. While Carlsen is his usual self Karjakin is hopelessly lost in his own idea of
“the challenger” and thinks only about the match, the preparation, which lines to hide etc. while at the same time forgetting that the game of chess is won by playing. If you don’t play and only want to draw you cannot win. In older times, after the results of the Bilbao Masters the public would have lost interest in the upcoming match (think Alekhine finishing on a minus score in New York 1927 while Capablanca winning in dominant fashion – even though he had already secured the match Alekhine knew he had to come at least second in order the match to take place! And so he did.). I still expect Karjakin to put up a good fight in the match, yet his play and behaviour after the Candidates has been disappointing.

There was another “first” in Bilbao, the first one being Nakamura’s maiden victory against Carlsen. The second “first” was Carlsen’s maiden victory against Giri. It secured his victory in the tournament with a round to spare and spared us of the unending Twitter feeds of Giri’s “dominance” over the World Champion. The game itself was a determined Carlsen performance against an out-of-form Giri – he again faltered under pressure in time trouble.

Carlsen won all his matches 1.5-0.5 and lost one with the same score to Nakamura. Nakamura seemed content to cruise after his first round win over Carlsen and that’s what he did. He finished second without a worry in the world. He was the only other player, together with Carlsen, on a plus score.

So and Wei Yi finished on 50%. Both beat Giri to compensate for their losses to Carlsen. So is already well-established in the elite, while this is an encouraging result for the young Chinese who showed no inferiority in any of his games.

Karjakin and Giri finished on a minus score. I already said what I think of Karjakin’s play and attitude, but I think he will not change it any time soon. He has the Olympiad to play for the Russian team and there I also expect him to be extremely solid. Giri finished last. A rare occurrence, but when in bad form anything you do will only come back to hurt you (I should know!). He will be back, just how and when it remains to be seen.

The Olympiad is a month away and I will use the month of August to prepare and get ready for this difficult yet exciting event. Some repertoire work and new ideas are needed for both white and black. Time to work!

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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  • Jul 28,2016 at 8:55 am

    Haha, cool!

  • Jul 27,2016 at 7:54 pm

    Today on internet I've seen comercial for movie "Magnus" with the very same main character as this article 🙂

  • Jul 27,2016 at 7:46 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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