2010 Bilbao Masters (Bilbao, Spain)

Bilbao Masters Final - Bilbao, Spain

The Olympiad has come and gone. It was a magnificent event where many of today’s stars shined. However, these elite players do not get a break from the action. Four of the top ten will face off in Bilbao, Spain for the Bilbao Masters, a six-round double round-robin event.

World Champion Viswanathan Anand of India headlines the event, but shares billing with world’s top-ranked player in Magnus Carlsen of Norway. The qualifier had been held in Shanghai where Spain’s Alexei Shirov and Russia’s Vladmir Kramnik came in 1st and 2nd. This final stage tournament will last from October 9th to October 15th. The point system will be three points for a win and one for a draw.

Magnus Carlsen
Viswanathan Anand
Vladimir Kramnik
Alexei Shirov

Game start: 4:30 PM local time (2:30 PM GMT – 10:30 AM New York / 7:30 AM Pacific daylight).

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Official Site


  1. Round #1
    Saturday, 9 October 2010

    For a man who may lose three games in an entire year, Magnus Carlsen is in a tailspin that is the befuddlement of the the chess establishment. After three losses in the Olympiad, Carlsen lost to Vladimir Kramnik in the first round of the Bilbao Masters in classic fashion. Kramnik held a slight edge throughout, but capitalized off of a couple of small mistakes and developed a stifling advantage. In the end black could not move any pieces and was effectively in zugzwang.

    Carlsen in trouble against Kramnik (1-0). Photo by bilbaofinalmasters.com.

    Carlsen in trouble against Kramnik (1-0).
    Photo by Luis Manuel Andres at bilbaofinalmasters.com.

    What is wrong with Carlsen? Perhaps he may be experiencing personal distractions, but a dip in his stratospheric rating was bound to happen. Carlsen was not on the level of Kasparov (when the Russian reached 2851) and perhaps it is a bit presumptuous to think the Norwegian would continue his ascent and eclipse that mark. Nevertheless, this is only the first round of six and perhaps Carlsen can string together a couple of wins. The scoring system will certainly make it interesting.

    Shirov-Anand played a rather quiet Berlin Ruy Lopez and white got no substantive advantage. The game waded through tranquil waters and ended in an opposite-color bishop ending and the two got a point for the draw.

    Annotated version of Kramnik-Carlsen by GM Sergey Shipov

  2. Round #2
    Sunday, 10 October 2010

    Kramnik beats Shirov for perfect score…
    …Anand topples Carlsen who is on 0/2!

    Carlsen was unable to find the answers to his slump against the World Champion (0-1). Photo by Luis Manuel Andres.

    Carlsen was unable to find answers against the World Champion (0-1).
    Photo by Luis Manuel Andres.

    Annotated version of Carlsen-Anand by Sergey Shipov!

  3. According to me Kramnik looks like the best bet to qualify for a title match, not Carlsen. Could be wrong though. These young chessplayers can easily do a 180 degree turn.

  4. Round #3
    Monday, 11 October 2010

    ‘Fire on Board’ in Shirov-Carlsen draw…Kramnik holds lead

    The epic 175-move battle of the round (½-½).
    Photo by Nadja Wittmann.

    Both of today’s matches were drawn, but were opposite extremes. Kramnik-Anand’s Catalan lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes while the Shirov-Carlsen affair lasted 5 hours 40 minutes and 175 moves. In the former, Kramnik unveiled home preparation in a topical line and was able to earn a comfortable draw.

    In the latter, the game was an exciting battle from start to finish. Out of a Ruy Lopez, the two locked horns in an ultimate battle as sparks flew from all close combat. The game had an “ebb and flow” and few people knew what was going on. There was tremendous tension on the board and another point making assessment indeed difficult. The main site reported the interesting angle:

    Throughout this transition, no less than four different types of unbalanced exchanges of hardware were produced back and forth, from a rook for two lesser pieces, a rook for a lesser piece, two rooks for three lesser pieces and finally, a queen against three lesser pieces.

    Carlsen tried coordinating his pieces, but in the end he was not able to avoid the harassment of the king. This draw can be viewed as a “moral victory” for the Norwegian given the fact they he will go into the rest day with something to build on. Had there been yet another loss, he certainly would have had chess fans scrambling for an answer.

    Anand, Kramnik discuss Carlsen

    Magnus Carlsen. Photo by Manu de Alba.

    “The Question” was raised about Carlsen’s struggles. The Norwegian has defended himself in post-game interviews and in addition, both Kramnik and Anand dismissed them as part of the evolution of a champion. Anand stated that it was obvious Carlsen would become World Champion, the real question was WHEN.

    ChessBase reported that during the press conference, Kramnik reflected on a time in his career when he reached a peak and even a regression. He stated that this is not the cause for great concern for a young player, but it will force him to make some prorgressive changes.

    As presumptuous as it is to speak of Carlsen as the next World Champion and soaring to 2900, it is just as presumptuous to talk about him peaking. At this point, he may be finding his equilibrium before he continues his improvement. What is clear is that he will make adjustments after this tournament. After winning a string of tournaments, this may be a good learning period for him.

    Carlsen photo by Manu de Alba.

    Annotated version of both games by GM Romain Edouard!

  5. Gata Kamsky is in excellent position to bring the World Championship back to the U.S. , actually it doesnt look difficult at all according to the limits of their play in theses games, ITS CLEAR, the top guys are having trouble with this “NEW” Knight trick , iHALF-STRATEGY, so UM not surprised at all by theses results in their traditional events, even Kramnik has decided to investigate this “NEW” trick. HAPPY NATIONAL CHESS DAY, U.S.A. !!! Peace.

  6. I doubt Kamsky can even crack the top 5 in the ratings. The only guy outside the 2800 elite (Anand, Kram, Carlsen, Topa) who is freaky enough to become world champ is Ivanchuk.

  7. Round #4
    Wednesday, 13 October 2010

    Anands misses against Shirov…Carlsen gets save versus Kramnik

    Anand and Shirov engaged in a slugfest! Kramnik shows intrigue. Photo by Nadja Wittmann.

    Anand and Shirov engaged in a slugfest! Kramnik shows intrigue.
    Photo by Nadja Wittmann.

    All that can be said after today’s games was… “WOW!” With only two rounds left, the Bilbao Masters is shaping up to be one of the best short programs in recent memory. Coming off of a 174-move draw with Magnus Carlsen, Alexei Shirov trotted out the French hoping for a nice strategical battle, but got nothing of the sort. Viswanathan Anand was the first to blink with the unexpected 4.Bg5!? Shirov entered the McCutcheon Variation after 4…Bb4 and the game immediately took on a fiery character. Anand offered two pawns for what would have been a strong attack. Shirov would take one of them.

    Anand missed his chance to play 23.h6!
    in this position.

    The World Champion kept the pressure and battered the centralized king. In the diagrammed position, white had a chance to win outright with 23.h6! but played 23.Ne4+ with a strong attack. After 23…Ke8 24.Nf6+ Ke7 25.Nxg4+ Kd6 26.Ne5 f6 27.Qxf6 Raf8, Anand erred with 28.Qg7 when the simple 28.Nf7+ would have give white a winning initiative. After a few more tense moments, Shirov was able to conjure up complications and the game ended abruptly with a three-fold repetition.

    Carlsen leaving the stage after the press conference. Photo by Fred Lucas.

    Carlsen leaving the stage after the press conference. Photo by Fred Lucas. Check out Lucas Studio… one the best in chess!

    The Carlsen-Kramnik game was also exciting, but the young star dodged a bullet in the end. He trotted out the English, but got nothing out of the opening and ended up falling behind. Kramnik continued to press with his active rooks and got some winning chances with his extra pawn. However, Carlsen set up a fortress and drew. He will play Shirov tomorrow and attempt to get in the winning column.

    Annotated version of both games by GM Romain Edouard!

  8. I have the same sentiments like Mehul, I just dont see Gata taking that at all. Ivanchuck yes maybe just maybe not Gata at the moment.

  9. Gata’s best chance was against Topalov. Only Nakamura has a chance. There will be many vying for the World Crown in coming years and Carlsen is not a guarantee to win in the next couple of cycles.

  10. Round #5
    Thursday, 14 October 2010

    Carlsen rebounds… grinds down Shirov.
    Kramnik-Anand play out interesting home prep.

    FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov makes the ceremonial first-move. Photo by  Nadja Wittmann.

    FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov makes the ceremonial first-move.
    Photo by Nadja Wittmann.

    This is what everyone was waiting for. Carlsen jumps on the board with an impressive win over Alexei Shirov in the Bilbao Masters. The Norwegian is coming off the roughest stretch of games in his career after dominating affairs the past years. Coming off of a marathon match against Shirov earlier, he was still trying to get in the win column and this game is perhaps on of the most impressive.

    Carlsen built up a nice attacking formation and Shirov was helpless to contain the initiative. In the end, Shirov had two pieces for a queen, but could not establish a fortress. In the final position, Shirov is in zugzwang and Carlsen will play Qg7+!

    Anand and Kramnik essentially played out home preparation and reached a comfortable draw. Kramnik only needs to draw with Shirov to clinch first place. Meanwhile Carlsen and Anand will play an epic battle in what will be a match widely watched.

    Annotated version of both games by GM Romain Edouard!

  11. Gata has a great chance in April…he gets Topalov again — this time NOT in Bulgaria. For all he has accomplished since returning to chess (Chess World Cup 2007 win, clear first at the World Rapid championship this year beating Aronian and Karjakin among others), Kamsky gets virtually no respect. And, oh by the way, he is the reigning US Champion…the title people made such a big deal about when Hikaru won it the year before.

    Kamsky has shown that in match play he is still in the super-elite, and he is arguably better now than when he won the Chess World Cup in 07. To write him off as a contender for winning the Candidates Tournament in April is very, very foolish.

  12. Nice to see Carlsen win and get back over 2800…so many haters have come out of the woodwork since he lost a few games (i.e. “he was never in the league with Kasparov”). Please…he hadn’t lost with black in over a year, then loses 4 games with black against super-GMs and he’s now peaked? Whatever.

    Everyone goes through rough patches, but Carlsen is still VERY special — name the last time a player won clear first in four super-GM tournaments within a 12 month span (2009 Pearl Spring, 2009 London Chess Classic, 2010 Corus, 2010 Bazna Kings)? Hint, its been a LONG time :). He doesn’t want to show his prep for the Candidates Matches…I’m looking forward to when he unleashes it in April. My favorites to win that tournament and challenge Anand in London in 2012: Carlsen, Kramnik, Aronian with Kamsky as my darkhorse.

  13. Woody,

    No… he is not in the league of Kasparov. You’re speaking of a chess legend who dominated for 20 years as the top player and World Champion. Carlsen has yet to build a career at 19 years old. That is like putting LeBron James in Michael Jordan’s category right NOW. Give him a chance. When Kasparov made 2851 he had dominated for a long time. I believe people are so excited that we have a bright young star that all kinds of predictions are going up about him making 2900 within a year and such.

    He has actually lost five games in his last eleven (Sjugirov is not a super-GM). That is an uncharacteristic stretch and it will not last long, but who knows what is happening with him. He is too young to be written off, but the chess world will begin to watch him as he matures. Nevertheless, he won a very nice game today. Yes… he is a special talent and is a world contender, but let’s not put him with with Kasparov, Fischer (or even Anand) yet. They put in the work over many decades.

    On Kamsky… we’ll see. I don’t think you’re a gambling man and neither am I, but I doubt if you’d get good odds on Kamsky winning a World Championship at this point. Unfortunately, he’s not even getting regular invites at top tournaments and is at #35 in the world. I didn’t like the Topalov-Kamsky match in Bulgaria either, but Anand played in Bulgaria too (as the World Champion)… and won the match after 40 hours on a bus and only one day rest! Anand proved to be better prepared than Topalov. Kamsky was said to have poor preparation against Topalov and fell into time pressure a few times.

    Lev Aronian is definitely a player and depending on which Ivanchuk shows up, he can definitely be a contender. There are also many other young players who are rapidly rising in strength. (FIDE List)

  14. Oh… I agree on Kamsky. He doesn’t get the respect he deserves. I like him as a player and he is personable. To have laid off for so long and to return at 2700-level is quite a feat. However, I believe sponsors and tournament organizers are going with the “youth movement” and inviting the younger 2700s. You have so many now… many more than a decade younger than Kamsky. In the 1990s Kamsky was the hottest young star in the world. His father Rustam helped add to his intrigue in a strange way, but those days are gone and Kamsky has had to climb the ladder practically alone. The path to the top is crowded. It will be tougher this time around.

  15. “No… he is not in the league of Kasparov.”

    At his current age, you’re right — he’s light years ahead of Kasparov when he was 19

    “He has actually lost five games in his last eleven (Sjugirov is not a super-GM).”

    Note that I said 4 games with BLACK (the 5th loss was his loss to Vishy with W, his first loss with white since January 2010)…prior to the Olympiad, he hadn’t lost with Black in more than a year.

    “On Kamsky… we’ll see. I don’t think you’re a gambling man and neither am I, but I doubt if you’d get good odds on Kamsky winning a World Championship at this point.”

    I said he’s the darkhorse to win the Candidates Tournament…that’s a lot different than winning the World Championship. I don’t gamble, but I’ll bet the odds on Kamsky in April are better than they were prior to the 2007 Chess World Cup, when everyone was drooling over Radjabov, Aronian, Ivanchuk, Shirov and Carlsen — and we all know how that turned out.

    “Unfortunately, he’s not even getting regular invites at top tournaments and is at #35 in the world.”

    That is unfortunate, but when the rating difference between world #35 and #6 is smaller than that between world #6 and world #1, it says a lot more about the tournament organizers than it does about Kamsky’s ability.

    “I didn’t like the Topalov-Kamsky match in Bulgaria either, but Anand played in Bulgaria too (as the World Champion)… and won the match after 40 hours on a bus and only one day rest! Anand proved to be better prepared than Topalov. Kamsky was said to have poor preparation against Topalov and fell into time pressure a few times.”

    That’s because Anand is clearly better than Kamsky, which he has proven in match play in the past. In the Candidates Tournament, however, only Topalov has previously beaten Kamsky in a match (that includes Kramnik, who Kamsky crushed in matchplay in the 90s less than 2 years before Kramnik became world #1 for the first time in 1996).

    “Lev Aronian is definitely a player and depending on which Ivanchuk shows up, he can definitely be a contender. There are also many other young players who are rapidly rising in strength. (FIDE List)”

    Aronian is another player who doesn’t get nearly the respect he deserves…I think part of it was his poor showing at the 2007 World Championship, but besides Carlsen and Kramnik, he is the only other person I believe is capable of beating Anand in a World Championship match…but he has to get there first.

  16. I think the only two players in Kasparov’s league (relative to their times) are Bobby Fischer (of course) and Paul Morphy. Carlsen has a LOOOONNNGGG way to go before he can claim to be anywhere near spitting distance of Kasparov’s aura. That said, what about Vishy Anand? We are talking 21st century chess where it may be impossible for a single player to remain World champ for more than two cycles…I say if Vishy manages to hold on to his crown for another 4 years in the extreme-computer era he should be considered among the greatest.

    For the upcoming candidates contests my money is on Kramnik and Ivanchuk (If this strange man can keep his sanity intact for a month or so). Carlsen still needs to mature I think, but I would not write off a young genius like him…In 1981, not many were confident that Kasparov would be world champ in a mere 4 years though they did recognise him as the biggest talent around. Let’s see. It’s going to be very exciting. Buckle up!!

  17. Vladmir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand at the Bilbao Masters! It’s refreshing to see the goodwill and fellowship and not all the rancor and mean-spirited politics. Anand has helped to create a very amiable environment. Photo by Fred Lucas.

    Exciting indeed gentlemen. We finally have a stable cycle without fighting and without uncertainty. It is so refreshing to see Kramnik and Anand so friendly in this tournament.

    There are so many side stories in chess now and I’m excited to be writing about them now. Players like Aronian, Pavel Eljanov, Hikaru Nakamura, Anish Giri, Wang Hao and many others. It will be so much different from the usual suspects. In addition, Anand, Topalov and Kramnik are still at a high level. Ivanchuk, Radjabov and Kamsky are still fighting.

    I’m not sure if Carlsen was light years ahead, but we can given him the benefit of the doubt since the Norwegian has been able to study all the games of Kasparov and learn from them. I would say the field is stronger now than then. Kasparov was World Champion at age 22. So if we are looking at those markers, then we can make these comparisons. However, we know that growth and development is not linear. Things are much different now and Carlsen will have a much harder time dominating.

  18. That’s why Anand being World Champion is the best thing to happen for chess in a long time — it has helped to reverse the damage Kasparov did to the game when he broke away from FIDE in 1993 and then consistently proved that he couldn’t secure funding for his own organization, and also prevented someone like Danilov from attaining extreme power (if Topalov had won).

    Kramnik was never this nice or engaging when he was champion, BTW — lets not forget that (he would have never agreed to play Topalov in Bulgaria and instead would have left the Championship cycle in chaos had he been in Anand’s position). When the Champion is a man of integrity (i.e. Anand), everything else follows suit.

    Mehul…Ivanchuk didn’t qualify for the Candidates tournament. He is very gifted, but his nerves tend to let him down when it matters most (i.e. 2002 FIDE title match against Ponomariov).

    BTW, Anand is already among the greatest…undisputed champion for at least 5 years (2007-2012), plus FIDE champion from 2000-2002, plus world title contender since 1991. If he retains the title in 2012, then you’d have to think seriously about placing him ahead of Karpov in the GOAT debate — still behind Kasparov, but not very far behind.

    Looking forward to seeing Carlsen, Anand and Topalov play in China next week…should be interesting :).

  19. Woody,

    For all the good Kasparov did for chess, he really loused things up for a long time. Now he is fighting to become relevant once again. I do believe however that we have to put Fischer in the GOAT debate. I don’t believe Karpov was ahead of Fischer, but as we can always say, the successor will always benefit from the history and games of the predecessor.

    I like what Fischer did for the professionalism and intrique of the game. Kasparov’s intrigue came at the dubious distinction of losing to Deep Blue. Outside of chess, that what he is known for. Everybody has heard of Bobby Fischer whether they are chess players or not.

    BTW, look at Kacheishvili’s game with Justus Williams at the other thread. I thought Justus was much better, but he seemed to collapse under pressure.

  20. Daaim,
    I agree about Kasparov, and I would put Fischer at #2 all-time behind him. Right now, to me, Anand is anywhere between 5th and 7th all-time, but if he wins in 2012, he could move all the way up to #2 all time IMO. Longevity should not be underestimated, and is the major knock against Fischer being GOAT.

    Kasparov brought much to the game, and his willingness to advance the sport at the cost of his own personal reputation (i.e. risk of losing) aided the game a great degree. Just his willingness to play Deep Blue bolstered chess in the headlines in 1996 and 1997, but came a a great cost — Intel was jealous about the 1996 match and in retaliation revoked its sponsorship of the PCA, and Kasparov lost the 1997 match.

    I’m sure Justus will learn from these experiences…it happens to every young master-level player against GMs….I missed a win against Kamsky in 1993 and went on to lose — it happens :).

  21. Round #6
    Friday, 15 October 2010


    Vladimir Kramnik, winner of 2010 Bilbao.
    Photo by Nadja Wittmann.

    Vladimir Kramnik won the 3rd Bilbao Masters tournament by drawing with Alexei Shirov in the final round. Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen also drew which meant that Kramnik could not be caught in the event of a win by Anand. Kramnik-Shirov was not a very enterprising game. Here was the call from the main site:

    The game followed the same course as the one they played in the preliminary round in Shanghai, a quick f3 variation of the Nizmo-Indian defence. On this occasion, Kramnik departed from the previous game, opting for a calmer variation. The game developed around the weakness of the c5 black pawn, which Kramnik decided to resolve by sacrificing it in exchange for some counterplay in the open files on the queen’s side. This counterplay resulted in the recovery of the pawn after a tactical sequence, leading to an endgame very limited in material. In the end a draw was inevitable, especially for black, as confirmed by Vladimir after the game.

    However, the Anand-Carlsen game was a seesaw battle that saw the young star building up a strong attacking position. After Anand had fortified his king, he raided the queenside with 36.b5! and was threatening to break through. There were chances for both sides to go wrong, but in the end Anand’s slight chances were neutralized. Carlsen end the game with perpetual check and Kramnik was declared the winner.


    + =
    Vladimir Krámnik
    2 4 0
    Viswanathan Anand
    1 5 0
    Magnus Carlsen
    1 3 2
    Alexei Shirov
    0 4 2

    Bilbao rule: 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for losing

    Annotated version of Anand-Carlsen by GM Sergey Shipov!

  22. I would still take Kasparov’s games over anybody elses. The depth, drama and imagination of his play is as yet unmatched. That said, Anand perhaps has more potential than kasparov or maybe even Fischer to pull off big sponsorship…all those billionaires in his backyard and the fact that he is a pretty big national celeb in India.

  23. I agree on Anand, but Fischer was, by far, the largest chess celebrity we’ve ever seen. Even people who don’t play chess know of him. As far as the non-chess-playing world, Anand is not known outside of India, or perhaps Asia. Kasparov is known as the champion who lost to the computer.

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