02 Nov

A So So Victory


If you think the final scores given for the players looks wrong, that’s because we are more used to the convention in tournament praxis - first started at the great Dundee International of 1867, of a draw counting for the first time as a legitimate score - of the modern-day scoring system of a full point for a win, a draw counting for a half-point, and nothing for a loss.

But to “encourage” players to play all-out for wins and thus reduce the number of those infamous “grandmaster draws”, the M-Tel Masters in Sofia experimented with a different scoring system that was adopted by Bilbao as the hosts of the Grand Slam Masters Final. The “Sofia Rules” was specifically designed to promote “fighting chess”: a winner receiving 3 points; players who draw getting 1 point; with losers still getting o points. So, if you win were to win one game and lose one (3 points), you will outpoint a competitor who draws twice (2 points).

However, looking at the games in Bilbao, where there was just two wins and 10 draws (albeit, most of them were hard-fought - one even going to 172-moves!), perhaps a rethink is now needed to the system when you have a small field of just four players of near equal playing strength and rating.


Despite So winning (thanks to his sparkling first round win over Ding Liren), Giri also had much to be pleased about, as the young Dutch star looks all but certain to now join Veselin Topalov as the two top rating qualifiers into next year’s Candidates Tournament that will determine Magnus Carlsen’s next title challenger.  The cut-off date for the calendar-year average of rating battle for the two spots will be 1 December 2015.  

Topalov’s position is virtually unassailable; and Giri now only has to avoid a total disaster at the upcoming European Team Championship in Iceland to also go forward ahead of ex-world champion Vladimir Kramnik. In order to overcome the gap, Kramnik - who isn’t due to play this month; though I wouldn't rule out the possibility he could be a late edition to the Russian team at the Euro Team Ch - would have to gain 48 net rating points (either gaining as a whole, Giri losing that amount, or a combination of both) within the next four weeks.

Giri also got the conciliation boost in Bilbao of also beating Anand for the first time - a game that the five-time former world champion was lost by move 11, going on to say it was“probably the worst game of my life.”

Anish Giri - Vishy Anand
8th Grand Slam Masters, (4)
English Opening
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 Bb4 4.Bg2 0-0 5.e4 Bxc3 6.bxc3 c6 7.Nf3 Normally 7.Ne2 is played here; so this is a novelty. And with it coming so early in the game, the ensuing complications confuses Anand. 7...Nxe4 8.0-0 d6 9.Nxe5 dxe5 There's no way for Black to get equality through tactics: 9...Nxf2 10.Nxc6 Nxd1 11.Nxd8 Rxd8 12.Bd5! Nxc3 13.dxc3! (Much stronger than taking on f7 immediately) 13...Rd7 14.Ba3 Nc6 15.Rae1 with a winning advantage. 10.Bxe4 Be6? It looks right, it's wrong. Black first had to go for 10...Nd7 with the idea of putting the knight on f6 to challenge the bishop on e4 and to protect first b7 and h7. Black is slightly worse after 10...Nd7; but it wouldn't have turned into the disaster it does now for Anand. 11.Ba3 Re8 12.Qb1! "Not many players have got a winning position against Anand in only 11 moves," commented a jubilant Giri after the game, who had never beaten the former five-time world champion before. And all because of 10...Be6. Now, after 12.Qb1, Giri is simultaneously hitting h7 and - more importantly - b7. 12...Qxd2?! When you are in a rut, you are in a rut. Anand's position is bad, but his best chance of saving this was perhaps to let h7 go with 12...Qd7 13.Bxh7+ Kh8 where here at least his two pawn islands on the kingside and queenside are solid with no weaknesses. 13.Qxb7 Nd7 14.Bxc6 Reb8 There's no respite. After 14...Qxc3? 15.Bd6 and Black is all tied up and will most likely lose material here. 15.Qa6 Rb6 16.Qa4 Rc8 17.Rad1 Qxd1 18.Rxd1 Rbxc6 19.Qxa7 R6c7 20.Qe3 Rxc4 21.Bb4 h6 22.a4 The bottom line is that Black's position is going to be extremely compromised in an effort to stop the very strong a-pawn. 22...Nf6 23.Qxe5 Re4 24.Qa5 Stronger was 24.Qd6 with the idea of 24...Bb3 25.Ra1 and pushing the a-pawn. 24...Kh7 25.f3 Re2 26.Qb5 Ra2 27.g4 Also logical was 27.a5 followed by g4. 27...Re8 28.Bc5! Giri's bishop is heading for a more active outpost. 28...Kg8 29.Re1 Ra8 30.Bd4 R2xa4 31.h4 Anand may have solved the problem of the passed a-pawn, but now Giri is threatening to smash through on the kingside. 31...Ra2 32.Qb1 Bd5 33.Qf5 More clinical was 33.Bxf6 gxf6 34.Qf5! - but Giri is winning clearly by now anyway. 33...Be6 34.Qf4 Nd7 35.Rf1 Nf8 36.Rf2 R2a5 37.Qg3 Bc4 1-0 Anand resigns, as Giri has a clear winning plan here with Rf2-b2-b8 with the forced idea of exchanging off a set of rooks, after which White's task of converting his big advantage is easy.

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