Reports Oct 27, 2015 | 12:10 AMby Colin McGourty

Bilbao Masters, Round 1: So wins stunner

Wesley So and Ding Liren both played their part in an extraordinary first round encounter in the 2015 Bilbao Masters. Jan Gustafsson analyses a game of bold sacrifices that ended with Wesley So’s three minor pieces triumphing against a queen. The day’s other game saw Vishy Anand achieve a position Anish Giri described as “too good”, but which fizzled out into a draw.

After his win in Round 1 in Bilbao, Wesley So is 10th in the world, less than 3 points behind Ding Liren in 9th and exactly 6 points behind Anish Giri in 8th position - a lot could change during this short event! | photo: Bilbao Masters

The Campos Eliseos Theatre in Bilbao is the setting as four players from the live Top 10 rating list lock swords in the six-round Bilbao Masters. You can watch the opening moments below:

Anand 1/2-1/2 Giri: “Too good”

Anish Giri had a tough time in the European Club Cup and faced the unenviable ordeal of having to race to Bilbao only to sit down opposite former World Champion Vishy Anand with the black pieces. 

Vishy Anand thinks at the board while Anish Giri joins Paco Vallejo in observing So-Ding Liren | photo: Bilbao Masters

Things went from bad to worse when Vishy played the Anti-Berlin and had prepared an improvement on his final round game against Yuriy Kryvoruchko in the World Rapid Championship in Berlin. Soon Giri took a decision he later told Spanish commentator IM Santiago González he immediately regretted – 14…a3?!


15.b3 allowed Vishy to fix the queenside pawns, and he quickly had complete freedom to prepare a kingside assault (Anish was equally critical of his 15…Bc5?!). Giri commented:

I think the problem for my opponent was that his position was too good. He could afford to make absolutely any move, and he abused this fact.

23.Ng4!? came in for criticism:


The problem was that after 23…R6e7 it turned out Giri had won a tempo to counter on the queenside, since Vishy wasn’t willing to see his knight exchanged:

After 24.Ne3 b5! 25.Rag1 b4 the white bishop went all the way back to a1:


Both players felt d2 might have been a better square, and soon the position was completely closed. A repetition was found to avoid the problem that draw offers are simply not allowed in Bilbao.

A draw was agreed with all the pawns still on the board | photo: Bilbao Masters

So 1-0 Ding Liren: Wesley learned his lesson

Wesley So recently suffered a brutal King’s Indian Defence defeat at the hands of Hikaru Nakamura in the Sinquefield Cup, but if that had shaken his confidence he wasn’t showing it in his game against Ding Liren in Bilbao.

Wesley So shows what he meant to do against Hikaru Nakamura | photo: Bilbao Masters

Grandmaster Jan Gustafsson takes us through an encounter that developed into a thrilling and hugely complex fight:

That victory gives Wesley the sole lead on 3 points (the football system is used in Bilbao), Anand and Giri have 1 point, while Ding Liren is currently bottom with no points after the first round. 

You can watch all the games and see the pairings for the next five rounds using the selector below:

By popular demand Round 2 will have commentary in English here on chess24, with Jan Gustafsson joined by Pepe Cuenca to keep us informed and entertained. Don’t miss the live show, that starts at 16:00 CEST.

The players turned spectators at the opening ceremony | photo: Bilbao Masters

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