Bilbao: Chess drama on the theatre stage

by André Schulz
10/29/2015 – In the Chess Masters Final in Bilbao a draw counts as 1-1. That was the result of both games in round three, So against Anand and Ding against Giri. However, one could not help to feel that Ding and Giri deserved more than a mere point for their impressive and dramatic performance. It lasted no less than 172 moves and developed into a drama in five acts.

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The VIII Grand Slam Masters Final in Bilbao is played from 25. October to 1. November. Viswanathan Anand, Anish Giri, Ding Liren and Wesley So play a double round-robin event, in which the 3-points rule applies. A player receives 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss.

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None of the four players could win in the third round of the Chess Masters Final in Bilbao but they offered the spectators exciting chess.

Wesley So and Viswanathan Anand played a pretty solid game. They went for a line of a Semi-Slav but soon after the opening White realized that he had not much and subsequently tried to exchange pieces to safely reach a draw. He reached this goal with a perpetual in a queen endgame.

Wesley So and Viswanathan Anand

Analysis after the game

 Spanish chess journalist Leontxo Garcia (right) and Wesley So watch Anand analysing the game.

But Ding Liren and Anish Giri brought drama to the stage of the "Campos Elíseos" theatre of Bilbao, where the tournament is played. Spectators who wanted to follow the game to its very end needed patience. Spectators who wanted to understand the main motifs of this chess drama either were well advised to keep a good engine running. But the players on stage were on their own.

A short overview of a long game:

Act I

In a balanced and closed position White is too ambitious and finds himself in an endgame in which both sides have two rooks, two minor pieces and three pawns on the same side. However, Black is better because he has the pair of bishops and wins a pawn by force.

Act II

Black increases his advantage step by step and obtains a winning position.


White puts up a stubborn defense and even gives his bishop to offer maximum resistance. Faced with the question how best to save his loot from the enemy Black fails to find the best way and loses his last pawn. There are only a few pieces left on the board but the situation is messy.

Act IV

In a pawnless endgame with two rooks and bishop against two rooks White (who has just the rooks to play with) misses several clear ways to draw while Black misses several clear ways to win - all of them extremely difficult to calculate.

Act V

This finally results in an endgame rook and bishop against rook. A theoretical draw but Black plays to the bitter end to see whether White knows how to draw this endgame.

Curtains and a draw after 172 moves. Both players receive thundering applause but seem too exhausted to appreciate it.



Thus Wesley So remains the only player who could win a game and keeps his lead.




Vídeo from the day before


After four rounds only two players lead the field with 4.0/4: Julio Granda Zuniga and Lazaro Bruzon Batista. Co-favorite Francisco Vallejo Pons drew in round four against Alexander Fier - before the round both players had 3.0/3.

Vallejo Pons during his game against Alexander Fier

Standings after four rounds

1 m Granda Zuniga, Julio E PER 4,0 9.0 11.5 6.0 10.0 2667
2 m Bruzon Batista, Lazaro CUB 4,0 9.0 11.5 6.0 10.0 2659
3 m Fier, Alexandr BRA 3,5 9.0 11.5 5.5 9.5 2624
4 m Vallejo Pons, Francisco ESP 3,5 8.5 10.5 5.0 9.5 2684
5 m Santos Latasa, Jaime ESP 3,5 7.5 9.5 5.0 9.0 2518
6 m Pichot, Alan ARG 3,5 7.5 9.5 5.0 8.5 2523
7 m Bachmann, Axel PAR 3,5 7.0 8.5 4.5 9.0 2593
8 m Martinez Duany, Lelys Stanley CUB 3,5 6.5 8.5 4.0 8.5 2470
9 m Del Rio De Angelis, Salvador G. ESP 3,0 9.0 10.5 5.0 9.0 2512
10 m Martinez Romero, Martin COL 3,0 8.5 9.5 4.5 9.0 2402
11 m Perez Mitjans, Orelvis ESP 3,0 8.0 10.0 4.0 8.0 2457
12 m Astasio Lopez, David ESP 3,0 8.0 9.0 4.0 8.0 2424
13 m Trigo Urquijo, Sergio ESP 3,0 8.0 9.0 4.0 7.0 2362
14 m Gonzalez Acosta, Bernal CRC 3,0 7.5 9.5 4.0 8.0 2497
15 m Peralta, Fernando ARG 3,0 7.5 9.0 4.5 8.0 2563
16 m Roselli Mailhe, Bernardo URU 3,0 7.5 9.0 4.0 8.0 2411
17 f Matnadze, Ana ESP 3,0 7.5 8.5 3.5 7.0 2353
18 m De La Riva Aguado, Oscar AND 3,0 6.5 8.0 4.0 7.0 2497
19 m Fernandez Borrego, Pablo ESP 3,0 6.5 8.0 3.5 8.0 2410
20 m Suarez Pousa, Diego ESP 3,0 5.5 6.5 3.5 7.0 2432
21 m Marchena Hurtado, Javier ESP 3,0 3.0 3.0 1.0 8.0 2294

... 93 players




Photos: Organiser

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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