Premature Relaxation in Bilbao

by Alejandro Ramirez
9/26/2014 – Two of the top tournaments of this year have finished in Bilbao. There are many lessons to be learned for everybody, and one of the recurring ones is a problem that affects all chess players, no matter what strength they are: Premature Relaxation! Guest commentator Cristian Chirila brings us his insights in two key games of the ECC and pictures from the closing ceremony.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


2014 European Club Cup

This mega swiss tournament brings together the top teams from the top leagues in Europe to compete for the European Club Champion title. Most teams have reinforcementes specifically for this event, while others send their local players that have served them throughout the seasons.

Many 2700+ players are participating in the event. The tournament is a seven round swiss system that coincides with the Bilbao Grand Slam Finals, for which we will have separate reports.

Tha matches in the Open section will be six-on-six, while on the Women's section will be four-on-four.

Closing Ceremony

Mamedyarov (above) had a great tournament and was one of the reasons SOCAR won the tournament so comfortably. His rating performance of 2802 was also good for an individual bronze medal on board one, Caruana took the gold medal on that board with another amazing result: 2892 performance.

In the women's section, Nona's crushing performance netted them the win even before the last round started

The participants of the Bilbao Grand Slam Masters final...

An even convincingly won by Vishy Anand

Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo won second place at the last minute

Best players by board (from four to one): Marina Guseva,
Anastasia Savina, Alexandra Kosteniuk and Hou Yifan

Topalov was easily the best board two in the event with a massive 2922 performance

The best boards in the open section: Mateusz Bartel, Teimour Radjabov, Anish Giri, Pentala Harikrishna and Veselin Topalov. Not picture is board one winner Fabiano Caruana.

Spanish chess journalist Leontxo Garcia gave the closing words

Premature Relaxation in Bilbao

by GM Cristian Chirila

There are quite a few moments during a disputed game of chess in which we are prone to fall prey to premature relaxation, these are the moments in which if given the possibility we would bet our houses on a particular result in the blink of an eye. The game result seems so obvious that we are simply trying to anticipate when our opponent will accept the situation so that we can sign the score sheets and go home. These are usually the moments after a tense battle, strategic or tactical, has ended leaving the position on the board utterly simplified. While most of the times our assessment proves to be correct, there are also those unforgettable games which remind us why chess is such an unforgivable and brutal game. While more experienced players usually don’t allow such moments to happen, and keep full concentration until the last move, even strong grandmasters are sometimes victimized by this ruthless enemy.

The recent European Club Cup offered the spectators some very interesting fights, one of them being the battle between Russia’s strongest teams, Malakhite and SPB. While both teams are sporting an average rating over 2700, there was a slight rating advantage for Malakhite. The match proved to be extremely balanced and only two decisive results were registered. Surprisingly, both of them were in favor of black, and both wins came after incredible endgame misplay by super grandmasters. Even though it is impossible to accuse such players of unprofessionalism, I am sure some sort of premature relaxation intervened in both games, dramatically influencing the end result.

Psychological factor

The biggest executioner of players that prematurely relax is the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen. Often times people are wondering how he can be so lucky, how come world class players succumb in extremely easy looking positions. The answer is quite simple, Carlsen wants that win more than the others and is extremely confident that he will get it. While I am sure that right now his reputation precedes him and nobody relaxes against him until the hand shake, a few years back players probably even considered him rude for playing completely equal positions.

Grischuk (right) ground down Dominguez in a Carlsen fashion

Premature relaxation will usually happen to the player with less motivation. And while most games he will get away with it, there will be times when the opponent will make everything possible to find the crack and break through. When the unmotivated player’s position starts to deteriorate, or simply the character of the position changes, the player will receive a great psychological blow which is hard to overcome. He will suddenly be faced with a few extra hours of work to get that sought result, this can easily cause great damage to one’s confidence. Here are the two games from Bilbao which exemplify how easy is to lose the thread if you let relaxation come your way, even if you are a 2700 grandmaster.

Select from the dropdown menu to replay the games

Cristian Chirila

Former World u-16 Champion and currently a grandmaster who recently finished his studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, Cristian is an ambitious chess player. Find out more about Cristian, including his chess lesson services, biography and games here.

Photos by Manu de Alba from Bilbao's Facebook site


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register