Reports Oct 31, 2015 | 2:41 PMby Colin McGourty

Bilbao Masters, Round 4: Vishy’s worst game

Anish Giri has joined Wesley So in the Bilbao Masters lead after winning an extraordinary game against Vishy Anand. An opening surprise left Vishy in deep trouble by move 12, but just when he’d fought back and had chances to survive he lost on time, describing it as perhaps the worst game of his life. In our live commentary Peter Svidler hit back at criticism of the former World Champion, pointing out just how good Anand is, while on the other board Ding Liren survived an unconvincing opening experiment against Wesley So.

Where did it all go wrong? | photo: Bilbao Masters

Peter Svidler picked the perfect day to join our live commentary on the 2015 Bilbao Masters, since after three largely quiet rounds both games in Round 4 got off to an explosive start. You can rewatch almost 90 minutes of Peter commentating with Jan Gustafsson below:

Giri 1-0 Anand: A bad day at the office

Remarkably, when Peter joined just over an hour into play, Anand was already objectively lost against Giri. First Anish had sprung a near novelty with 7.Nf3. That got Vishy thinking, but he clearly decided it was better to move relatively fast than to dwell too much on the new position. That was most evident after 9.Nxe5:


Amazingly all four potential kamikaze pawn captures by the knight give Black a decent position. Anand spent only a few minutes before instead taking the white knight with his pawn. Svidler explained that speed:

It might take you half an hour to go through all of them to some reasonable standard of accuracy, and you might not like any of them anyway. After 9…dxe5 it doesn’t look like you will be in a lot of trouble, though you will be slightly worse as two bishops are a nice thing to have.

Here that logic was fine, but after 10.Bxe4 it was already one fast and seemingly sensible move too far to play 10...Be6? since 11.Ba3! Re8 12.Qb1! left one of the greatest players in chess history in the uncomfortable situation of having blundered a pawn. You can't defend both b7 and h7:


Here, after some bitter reflection, Vishy opted for 12…Qxd2?!, which left Svidler very surprised:

It’s possible to miss 12.Qb1. You don’t really expect Vishy to, but it’s possible, because it’s a sneaky little move. Even when you started saying he missed something – I was watching the stream live – even after you mentioned 11.Ba3 Re8, I still had to wait for you to say 12.Qb1 before I realised what was happening. This is not outrageous, but the move he chose after 12.Qb1 to me indicates that he’s been shaken a little bit by missing 12.Qb1, because giving up both b7 and c6 seems to me a very, very harsh decision. Something like 12…b6 or maybe 12…Nd7 straightaway looked to me like a more sensible option… Playing something like 12…b6 and allowing 13.Bxh7+ just feels so wrong, that I can sort of understand why he went for something which seemed like complications of some sort, but those complications are not going to favour him at all.

Vishy went on to give up his queen on move 17, and although for a long time his prospects looked bleak, when his opponent dropped the a-pawn the chances of establishing a famous Anand fortress began to look very real, with Svidler ending his live commentary with a prediction of a 60% chance of a Giri win and a 40% chance of a draw. That verdict still looked correct when Anand played 37…Bc4:


Or rather, when Anand tried to play it! It never rains but it pours, and the former World Champion and renowned speed chess specialist actually managed to lose on time – remember, there’s no increment before move 40 in Bilbao.

Anish Giri enjoying the position from Vishy's point of view as well | photo: Bilbao Masters

To his credit Vishy made it to the post-game press conference, but it was a brief appearance limited to a single quote:

Today was perhaps the worst game of my life. I’ve never made so many ridiculous moves.

It clearly was a very bad day at the office for Anand, but when people in the chat started to question Anand, Peter Svidler felt compelled to speak out:

I will probably go off on a slight rant right now, but I think it’s relevant. People already are asking in this kind of form what chance Vishy has in the Candidates, but it’s curious that people have incredibly short even short-term memories, because we had this exact same kind of talk before Khanty (the 2014 Candidates Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk), which Vishy won convincingly. Vishy will be the first to admit he had a very , very mediocre World Rapid and Blitz in Berlin, and as it was going on people on Facebook – and I know after “people on Facebook” I should probably stop there and no more needs to be said – but still, people on Facebook were remarking that he’s been  struggling against 2580ish-rated Russian grandmasters, and how good is he, really? It always absolutely stuns me that people don’t really understand how good Vishy is. Yes, he can have slumps in form and he will occasionally have poor tournaments, but writing Vishy off is a dangerous pastime and people have been proven wrong before doing that. I don’t really see how this tournament has any relevance to the Candidates.

It wasn’t all about one man, though, since 21-year-old Anish Giri had just claimed his first win against Vishy Anand in classical chess. In the Sinquefield Cup a couple of months ago Anish had casually remarked during an interview after his draw with World Champion Magnus Carlsen:

Today I was hoping for some theoretical debate, because usually I should win those against him.

After the victory over Anand, perhaps the best prepared player in world chess, Giri was asked if he thought he had good chances in the Candidates Tournament:

When you ask me the day that I beat Vishy Anand I’m inclined to give a positive answer! But of course there are many strong players... If you look at some qualities players like Carlsen and Caruana are ahead of me, but if you look at some others I might be ahead of them as well.

When asked to specify which qualities Anish added:

I think I can’t recall them getting a winning position against Anand on move 11!


Ding Liren ½-½ Wesley So: Tempting fate

Local resident Ruslan Ponomariov takes a sneak look at Ding Liren - Wesley So | photo: Bilbao Masters

If that was a duel between two of the best theoretically prepared players in world chess, the day’s other game seemed to be all about some over-the-board improvisation, with Wesley So in the driver’s seat. Ding Liren was already taking risks when 17.Be3!? was described as “tempting fate” by Svidler:


In particular, it was tempting 17…f4, which Wesley couldn't resist. A murky battle followed in which Black’s kingside attack never quite materialised – it’s perhaps symptomatic that …Ng3 was possible as early as move 18, but only actually happened on move 39, in somewhat less dramatic circumstances.


Still, the prevailing opinion was that Ding Liren was hanging on by the slenderest of tactical threads. 48…Ne3 looks, for instance, as though it wins by picking up the g2-bishop. It doesn’t, but only because of 49.Rb8+! Kh7 50.Rxh4+ Kg6 51.Rb6+ Kg5 52.Rh8! and the threat of h4 mate forces 52…Nxg2, when White will in turn force a perpetual check.

Both Ding Liren and Wesley So clearly calculated that White could hang on

Wesley So therefore failed to extend his advantage and in fact has been caught by Anish Giri with only two rounds to go:

Meanwhile Paco Vallejo was sensationally beaten by IM Jaime Santos Latas, leaving the Spanish no. 1 a point behind Julio Granda and Lazaro Bruzon in the Iberoamerican Championship | photo: Bilbao Masters

In Round 5 Anand has White as he tries to bounce straight back, while Giri also has White as he pushes for tournament victory. Once again the live show with Jan Gustafsson starts at 16:00 CEST

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