In Round-1 of Bilbao Chess Masters Tournament, World Champion Magnus Carlsen was jolted by USA’s Hikaru Nakamura before scoring a win in Round-2 against Chinese teenager Yi Wei. Except the two matches involving Carlsen on July 13 and 14, all other Round 1 & 2 games ended as draws. On Friday, Carlsen takes on Russia’s Sergey Karjakin and it is the first of the two encounters that everyone is waiting for. The champion and challenger are slated to play 12 rounds in New York City during November 11-30, 2016 in World Chess Championship and therefore their two matches at Bilbao have drawn global attention. While the Bilbao event will continue for several more days, there was some heartening news from China for Indian chess lovers. 25-year old Indian Harika Dronavalli emerged as the winner of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix chess tournament, which concluded at Chengdu in China on Thursday. Harika needed a draw against her Russian counterpart Olga Girya and she achieved her goal after 62 moves.
The 9th Bilbao Chess Masters opened with a major upset on Wednesday, when reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen was laid low by FIDE’s world no.6 Hikaru Nakamura of USA. Until the American defeated Carlsen in the Round-1 match, he had played 30 games against the world champion in the last 11 years. He lost 12 times while 18 matches had ended as draws. With Wednesday’s victory Nakamura has finally ended his nightmare. The two other matches on opening day between Sergey Krajakin & Wesley So and Anish Giri & Yi Wei were drawn.
In the match that caused the turmoil, Carlsen played white and in a Sicilian defense, moved into the Dragon variation. This is same as castling the kingside and it was a comfortable and advantageous position against Nakamura in opening moves. Later on, Carlsen probably wanted a quick finish and chose a wrong plan. Instead of focusing on the central pawn push in 14th move, the Norwegian decided to play the pawns on the adequately castled kingside. This was a tactical error, from where the world champion couldn’t pull back. With Carlsen weakening his own position, Nakamura went for the kill beginning with move no.21. The American won a pawn and unlike past battles, where he became careless in end games, this time he preserved the advantage and won an excellent game. Nakamura’s victory was the main story on opening day as other two games were drawn. Sergey Karjakin and Wesley So played a 4.d3 Berlin and found themselves locked in an inevitable draw. The match between Dutch GM Anish Giri and China’s Yi Wei was the longest game of the day lasting nearly 5 hours. Giri was frustrated by Wei’s closing Numantian defense after the Dutchman began with the Italian opening. That offered Giri some advantage early on, but Wei neutralized it by sacrificing his black bishops. It was a very risky play since it weakened the youngster’s king but he held on before a draw was declared.
Despite his unprecedented loss to Nakamura in Round-1, Carlsen bounced back in Round-2 and defeated Chinese youngster Yi Wei. It was a very complicated game in which both queens left the board in the middle game but the two players hung on. On move 35 Wei committed his first major error and Carlsen got the upper hand. The Chinese had another chance to draw but he fell to a neat trick devised by Carlsen. With this win, Carlsen has taken the second place in tournament standings behind Nakamura, who drew his Round-2 match with compatriot Wesley So. The other Round-2 match between Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin also ended as a draw.
While the action in Bilbao will continue for several more days, India’s Harika Dronavalli has brought honors to the nation by winning the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix Tournament in the Chinese city of Chengdu. The tournament featured world’s top 12 women players locked in round-robin contests. In the end, two Indians; Harika Dronavalli and Koneru Humpy topped the standings with 7 points apiece. However, Harika was declared the winner on account of her better tie-break play. In the last game on Thursday, Harika played against Russia’s Olga Girya and just needed a draw. Though the stubborn Russian didn’t yield, Harika dug deep before the draw became inevitable. In double glory for India, Koneru Humpy also scored 7 points by defeating Stefanova, Antoaneta of Bulgaria. Humpy was also the FIDE’s highest ranked player in the tournament with 2575 points. She, however, had to concede the first place to Harika as per tournament’s rules.