Half of the 2015 Bilbao Masters is over and only one game in six has finished decisively, but it’s hard to fault the players’ will to win. Anish Giri spent six hours and 172 moves attempting to punish Ding Liren for a middlegame mistake, but short on time he failed to find a killer blow. Wesley So got nothing with White against Vishy Anand, but a draw saw him remain in the lead with three rounds to go.
Replay all the games so far from the 2015 Bilbao Masters:
For much of Round 3 there was little going on in the Bilbao Masters. Jan Gustafsson described the line Vishy Anand chose against Wesley So as “Berlinising the Semi Slav”, and afterwards Vishy explained that he’d prepared it for his 2012 World Championship match against Boris Gelfand. No explosive action seemed likely, Ding Liren-Giri was balanced as well and the official website went down for half an hour. That left our live commentary team with little choice but to switch to other topics (ok, perhaps they don’t need too much of an excuse!).
One such topic was World Champion Magnus Carlsen taking part in the Qatar Masters Open. The clip below starts there, but then quickly switches to Lawrence Trent giving the inside story of how he managed to lose four games he started with an extra rook against Magnus… marvel as Lawrence switches from embarrassment, to self-disgust, to self-justification, to desperate clutching at straws - "how many other players can say they have a +1 score against the World Champion?":
You can watch the full commentary on Round 3 here.
When the chess broadcast resumed it turned out that Wesley So’s attempt to deviate from the main lines simply allowed Vishy Anand to demonstrate the full depth of his opening knowledge. Black made a draw from a position of strength, though Wesley wasn’t too disappointed, later commenting:
These days, with the advance of computers, it’s possible to prepare almost all the way to the end, and I didn’t get anything from the opening today. I think a draw is a normal result with White and it’s a good result against Vishy.
Vishy appears to be in Bilbao with his regular second Grzegorz Gajewski, and commented on the difficulty of keeping who you’re working with secret (Vishy speaks fluent Spanish in the post-game press conferences, so our translations might not be 100% accurate!):
It’s very hard to keep a secret if your wife or girlfriend is a chess player. Your wife plays the wife of another player and it all comes to light. There’s no way to keep it secret – the women’s network is very up-to-date!
Wesley So talked about the difficulty of switching chess federation:
Yes, it’s been hard, because I only starting playing chess full time this year. I used to go to a university as a full-time student. Living in the United States and moving there requires a lot of change and I think not only for me but for anyone. Also, for example, Fabiano Caruana. He recently switched to the United States from Italy and I think moving from one country to another has also been difficult for him.
Vishy couldn’t resist a swipe at Garry Kasparov when asked about how chess skills transfer to other disciplines:
Chess doesn’t have a reputation for developing social qualities, so maybe politics isn’t the best area for transferable skills!
While the players were talking dramatic developments took place on the other board, with a slip by Ding Liren on move 27 leaving him in trouble after the nice 30…Bb6!
That not only defends the e6-bishop and attacks the d2-knight but also sets up the threat of Bc4, forking the two white rooks. Ding Liren quickly switched to damage control mode and after 31.Re1 Bxf2+ 32.Kxf2 Rxd2+ 33.Kg1 Bf7 was down a pawn.
Wesley and Vishy were united in the verdict that we were in for a long game ahead:
It’s the first time Anish has been a pawn up in the tournament. He’ll probably play for 100 moves. Also in this tournament you get three points for a win rather than a draw, so you’re three times as motivated!
They couldn’t have predicted quite how long the game would be, though, or that it would involve quite so much drama. The following are only a few brief snapshots:
44.gxf4 Rxf4+ 45.Kg3 Rfxf1 46.Rxf1 Rxf1 47.Kxg4 would have left Ding Liren with the awkward task of defending the theoretically drawn Rook vs. Rook + Bishop ending. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but as the game would prove it would have dramatically reduced his suffering. Instead the Chinese no. 1 threatened mate-in-1 with 44.Rc1? – a losing move, but Black needed to walk a tightrope to prove it.
Anish fell from the rope here with his goal in sight. 49…Bg2! was still winning, but 48…Kf8? gave up the g4-pawn after the simple 49.Ree1!, when Black has to take immediate measures to save the bishop. We were back in a drawish position, but how treacherous it was became evident when Ding Liren allowed - and Giri missed - numerous wins. The last one pointed out by the computer came on move 102.
Black needed to play 102…Rg2+! 103.Kf3 Kg6! and here if White tries the move that saved him in the game, 104.Rfe4, then Giri needed to find the brilliant 104…Rh2!! 105.Rxe6 Kf5!! and the threat of mate-in-1 means Black picks up a rook.
If Giri found that on move 104 he’d deserve all the plaudits you could shower on him. Instead Giri exchanged off a pair of rooks just before Ding Liren could claim a draw by the 50-move rule and 56 moves later (who's counting?) Ding Liren had survived his ordeal with no more mishaps.
An epic encounter, which didn’t leave Anish Giri entirely satisfied with his play:
Today’s rest day hasn’t been all about rest, since the Bilbao Chess players faced a battle against local schoolchildren...
...while many of the players in the Iberoamerican Championship, like GMs Julio Granda and Paco Vallejo, took to the football field:
Meanwhile two of our commentators, Jan Gustafsson and Pepe Cuenca, seem unlikely to escape playing 72 hours of Banter Blitz. The Facebook post requiring 500 likes to confirm they’ll take on the challenge can be found below - why not like it? Perhaps if they get to 1000 likes they'll do the challenge blindfold while suspended upside down
They’ve both been getting in some practice. Pepe played Banter Blitz in Spanish yesterday, while Jan played today – watch all the action on our Live Shows page.
Meanwhile on Friday it’s back to the action from Bilbao, with Wesley So currently out in front:
In Round 4 Wesley has Black against Ding Liren, while Anish Giri is White against Vishy Anand. Follow all the action from Bilbao on Friday, where the live show starts at 16:00 CEST. You can also follow the games on our free mobile apps:
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