Reports Oct 28, 2015 | 10:28 AMby Colin McGourty

9 things we learned from Bilbao Masters Round 2

There’s no getting away from it. Round 2 of the 2015 Bilbao Masters wasn’t the most exciting day’s chess we’ve ever witnessed. Anish Giri failed to exploit the slightest of advantages against Wesley So in a 5.Re1 Berlin, while Ding Liren’s dynamic defence quickly defused Vishy Anand’s attempt to improve on a fashionable line of the 6.d3 Ruy Lopez. Nevertheless, we learned that Wesley So wants to be US (Vice) President, Ding Liren’s favourite player is Paco Vallejo and much more!

Vishy Anand was frustrated for a second time with the white pieces | photo: Bilbao Masters

Two draws in Round 2 of the 2015 Bilbao Masters saw the standings essentially unchanged, with Wesley So still out in front after his spectacular win in the first round. You can replay all the games so far and see the future pairings below:

So what did we learn from the day’s action? Well, in no particular order, here’s our summary:

1. The Berlin is still the hardest nut to crack

Anish Giri and Wesley So battled for 48 moves on Tuesday, but the likely outcome was known by move 5 – first Wesley had chosen the dreaded Berlin Defence and then Anish went for 5.Re1. Jan Gustafsson and Paco Vallejo recently produced a series on the Berlin Wall and covered that option in the introduction (which everyone can watch here).

Paco: When I started to play 5.Re1 here, which is not the main move, it was a very side line, but now it’s become so popular already because it's so solid - it's like saying, ok, you want to play solid? I want to play more solid than you!

Jan: The same reason why people go 4.d3 - they're just sick of the endgame as they can't find anything there, so they're going for 5.Re1, trying to find a micro-advantage here, but in general Black is fine [...] this is not a refutation of the Berlin.

In the game after exchanging off queens Giri had the slightest of advantages, but it came to nothing.

Wesley So looks up at the screen and wonders how his opponent is going to try and beat him | photo: David Llada

Anish explained:

I had the bishop pair from early on and I was trying to open the position, but when I opened the position I created myself a couple of weaknesses… This kind of position is nice to play because on every move you have four nice moves, but there’s only one game.

2. Ding Liren’s favourite player is Paco Vallejo

In the post-game interviews the players were asked to name their favourite players. Ding Liren commented:

In the past I followed Paco Vallejo’s games and Topalov’s. I like his attacking style.

The first part of that statement might not have been news to some, since a few years ago the Chinese no. 1 answered the same question from Zhang Jilin:

Vallejo. I think his play is very interesting. Unfortunately he is already retired.

Thankfully Paco’s retirement hasn’t overly hindered his chess career and he’s now playing on the same stage in Bilbao, where the Iberoamericano Championship pits some of the top players from the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world against each other. 

He’s currently among the leaders on 3/3 (follow all the top games here).

Vishy Anand named Bobby Fischer and Mikhail Tal as his top players, Wesley So also named Fischer, while Anish Giri went for “all the World Champions” while adding a special note about Vassily Ivanchuk, Ruslan Ponomariov and Magnus Carlsen, who popularised playing on in positions where players would previously have taken draws.  

3. Caruana was late to the Game of Thrones party

Fabiano Caruana’s manager Lawrence Trent was reunited with Jan Gustafsson for our live broadcast, and of course the topic switched to TV shows. It turns out Lawrence only introduced Caruana to Game of Thrones during the recent World Cup in Baku. Fabiano is now hooked – “90 hours less work on the Berlin!”, as Jan quipped.

Jan’s hot TV watching tip was the curiously named British historical gangster series, Peaky Blinders. You can find more tips and even some chess during yesterday’s live commentary:

4. “Sinquefield” has only two syllables

Rex Sinquefield and his Cup is pronounced “sink – field”, not “sin – ku – field”, as many of us (ahem) thought. That was another titbit of wisdom from Lawrence, who talked about the upcoming Showdown in Saint Louis. 

That 4-day event, from 12-15 November, will pit Hikaru Nakamura against Fabiano Caruana in Basque (playing on two boards at the same time), Fischer Random, Rapid and Blitz chess for a $100,000 prize fund (split 60:40 between the winner and loser). At the same time Hou Yifan will take on Parimajan Negi for $50,000. Read all about that event here.

5. Dynamic defence is a match for deep strategy

Vishy Anand has had White in his first two games in Bilbao, but his attempts to strategically outplay his opponents have been thwarted by well-timed counterthrusts from Black. Against Ding Liren he played the fashionable 6.d3 line of the Ruy Lopez (check out Peter Svidler’s video series on that opening here).

Blow-for-blow chess from the Indian and Chinese no. 1s | photo: Bilbao Chess

Anand then deviated with 11.Bg5 compared to the 11.Bxe6 that Topalov used against Svidler in the World Cup (Svidler was winning when he accepted a draw, though the opening had little to do with it) and that Wei Yi played against Ding Liren the very next day. Ding Liren seized his chance to play aggressively with 11…c4:

Play revolved around the d5-square, with Vishy noting he wanted to get in b4 and leave the black knight on a5 out of the game... but it never worked. Ding Liren took his next opportunity to strike with 15…e4!

And the dynamic play just continued: 16.Rb1 exd3 17.cxd3 c3! Vishy was able to pick up a pawn with 23.Rxb5...

...but Ding Liren confidently simplified again with 23…Nxe4! 24.dxe4 Qf6! when it soon became clear that Black’s pressure on the dark squares, and especially f2, meant White's extra pawn was irrelevant and he even had to display some caution.

Ding Liren with absolutely everything under control | photo: David Llada

Vishy now has three games with Black in his remaining four encounters, while Ding Liren will have the luxury of three Whites.

6. How to become a grandmaster/gentleman

Ding Liren noted Alexander Kotov’s How to Become a Grandmaster (in English there’s a trilogy, Think/Play/Train Like a Grandmaster) was his favourite chess book, surprising Vishy Anand, who thought it was more a book for his generation. Vishy loved the book, but noted the logical thinking and step-by-step working through candidate moves had little to do with the chaos of actually playing chess.

Anish Giri said he’d read How to Become a Gentleman, which had a chapter on playing chess. His other recommendations were Garry Kasparov’s Great Predecessors series: “People shouldn’t be scared away by the amount of variations, because I’m also not able to follow them”, and Jan Timman’s autobiography: “One of the most honest biographies I’ve read, and the variations are ones I can follow".  

Wesley So revealed his preparation for Bilbao had included reading two best games books by Anish Giri!

7. Wesley So wants to be US (Vice) President

Wesley was asked to reveal his dreams, chess or otherwise:

President of the United States would be good, but I wasn’t born there… I’d be satisfied with Vice President, but that’s in my old age! In chess, of course, to reach the top.

The campaign photos are ready... | photo: Bilbao Chess

That latter dream might be of some interest to Giri as well, who simply added:

Yes, I have absolutely no ambitions of becoming the president of any country!

8. The problem of cheating in chess is exaggerated

IM Santiago González also asked the players about “electronic doping”, or computer cheating as it’s more often called in English. The response was that the issue is somewhat exaggerated. Vishy warned of paranoia and added:

If we talk about this all the time the public will start to think everyone is doing this, but it’s not the case.

Wesley So was surprised there were no metal detectors in Bilbao, but felt the seriousness of the punishment would deter offenders:

The punishment is very harsh and if a player is proven cheating with electronic means then I think FIDE bans them for three years.

Anish Giri added:

Also after three years I don’t think they can play like they did before. Basically, you ban yourself for life.

Is Anish receiving alien assistance during his games? | photo: David Llada

Giri also had another reason for not resorting to computer help during games:

I use computer doping when preparing for the games – if I used it during the games as well it would be too boring!

9. Jan Gustafsson and Pepe Cuenca will play 72 hours of Banter Blitz

Spanish IMs David Martínez and Ernesto Fernández recently managed to play 72 hours of non-stop Banter Blitz here on chess24. Jan and Pepe are “threatening” to do the same from Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th November. Check out the plan below:

Make sure to follow us on Facebook and like their challenge post when it appears so they can’t escape on a technicality!

And of course keep on watching the action in Bilbao, where the live show starts at 16:00 CEST. You can also follow the games on our free mobile apps:


See also:

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