Strong chess in Bilbao

by André Schulz
10/28/2015 – On 26. October the VIII Grand Slam Masters Final began in Bilbao. Viswanathan Anand, Anish Giri, Ding Liren and Wesley So compete in a six-round all-play-all tournament. Parallel to this small but strong tournament the Ibero-American Championship takes place in Bilbao. The first days brought interesting chess including a surprising queen sacrifice.

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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.

Watch it live on Playchess!

Some people may wonder about the name of the tournament: why "Chess Masters Final"? What happened to the preliminaries of this tournament? Were they ever played? And if yes, when? In fact, there were no preliminaries. A couple of years ago there was a tournament series called "Grand Slam", in which the winners of the preliminary tournaments were invited to the "Grand Slam Final". However, the Grand Slam series is no more. Some tournaments, such as the M-Tel Master in Sofia or the tournament in Linares or the Pearl Spring tournament in Nanjing that were part of this series are no longer played, other tournaments did no longer want to be part of the series. The only tournament left is the one in Bilbao and the name is a reminder of the series.

Opening ceremony with local dances

The newly elected mayor of Bilbao, Juan Maria Aburto, opens the tournament by playing
the first move in the game between Vishy Anand and Anish Giri.
The city of Bilbao is the main sponsor of the tournament which is an important event in Bilbao.

Anand und Giri agree to a draw

Anish Giri came directly from the European Club Cup in Skopje to Bilbao. In Skopje he had played for the SOCAR team from Azerbaijan which finished second behind the Russian team Siberia. Apparently not enough for the SOCAR players.

In his first round game against Vishy Anand Giri went for the Berlin Defense, but the Indian declined this invitation. Later Anand obtained a space advantage on the kingside but found no way to convert this into something tangible. In the end the position was too blocked to give the pieces room to maneuver and the game ended in a draw.

Vishy Anand

Things were more exciting in the game between Wesley So and Ding Liren, a not only theoretically interesting King's Indian. Ding Liren loves the King's Indian and has won many fine and instructive games with it. Wesley So, however, just suffered a bitter defeat in the Classical Variation of the King's Indian when playing with White against Hikaru Nakamura in the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis at the end of August.

But despite this bitter loss So went again for this "make-or-break" approach against the King's Indian. In this line White attacks on the queenside and his attack usually is faster than Black's. Black attacks on the kingside and his attack is usually more dangerous than White's. Apparently So did his homework - and more - after the loss against Nakamura and this time he fared much better. He played a nice game which culminated in a fine defensive queen sacrifice.

Wesley So

King's Indian battles


The stage of the "Campos Elíseos" theatre

Wesley So at the start of round two

In round two against Anish Giri So opted for a quieter approach by playing the Berlin Defense. With 6.Nxe5 Giri avoided the main lines of the Berlin but this led to a symmetrical pawn structure in which both sides had some difficulties to get their pieces going. Thus, the game proceeded rather quietly until it was finally drawn in an ending with opposite-colored bishops.

Ding Liren and Vishy Anand also played a Spanish Opening. Here the Chinese tried hard to get something but Anand had no trouble to keep things under control and all tension soon petered out and the game ended in a draw.

As mentioned above, in the Masters tournament each win is rewarded with three points. Thus, after two rounds Wesley So leads with 4.0/6, followed by Anish Giri and Vishy Anand, who both have 2.0/6, and Ding Liren who has 1.0/6.




Parallel to the Masters Final the Ibero-American Championship is played in Bilbao. 93 players from 17 countries play a nine-round Swiss but in contrast to the Masters Tournament players in this tournament still receive only one point for a win. A number of strong grandmasters found their way to Bilbao but favorites to win tournament and title are Francisco Vallejo Pons from Spain, Lazaro Bruzon Batista from Cuba, and Julio Granda Zuniga from Peru. All three of them had a good start and after three rounds they are part of a group of six players with 3.0/3 each.

Francisco Vallejo Pons

Standings after three rounds

1 m Granda Zuniga, Julio E PER 3,0 2667
2 m Bruzon Batista, Lazaro CUB 3,0 2659
3 m Del Rio De Angelis, Salvador G. ESP 3,0 2512
4 m Vallejo Pons, Francisco ESP 3,0 2684
5 m Fier, Alexandr BRA 3,0 2624
6 m Martinez Romero, Martin COL 3,0 2402
7 m Barria Zuniga, Daniel CHI 2,5 2413
8 m Bachmann, Axel PAR 2,5 2593
9 m Gonzalez Trigal, Jose Luis ESP 2,5 2268
10 m Pichot, Alan ARG 2,5 2523
11 m Martinez Duany, Lelys Stanley CUB 2,5 2470
12 m Santos Latasa, Jaime ESP 2,5 2518
13 m Rodriguez Fontecha, Marcos ESP 2,5 2309
14 m Marchena Hurtado, Javier ESP 2,5 2294
15 m Villalta Bustillo, Igor ESP 2,5 2241

... 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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