Bilbao, Round 3: Kramnik Continues to Lead (Updated)
Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:06PM
Dennis Monokroussos in Bilbao 2010

The Anand-Kramnik clash was a typical "professional" draw. White played solidly, enjoyed a small edge, but Black successfully defended and drew. The battleground was a Catalan and I'm sure both players were in their home preparation to at least move 18. On move 19 Anand eschewed the option chosen in three 2010 OTB games for one chosen in a 2006 email game, and it looked like the right choice. Still, Kramnik found (or knew) the elegant defensive idea Black chose in that game, and they continued in the earlier game's footsteps until move 24. The difference wasn't enough to change the basic evaluation, and after long thought on move 25 Anand decided to call it a day - not that they drew on that move, but he chose a continuation which allowed the game to be drawn even under Sofia rules as quickly as possible.

Shirov-Carlsen was a completely different story. The players whipped out 15 and a half moves of Breyer Ruy Lopez theory, and then Carlsen surprised Shirov by playing 15...cxb5 rather than 15...axb5. Carlsen had played the latter move against Anand earlier this year, but 15...cxb5 wasn't unknown: Shirov faced it earlier this year against Baramidze. Nevertheless, Shirov thought for more than half an hour after this move, and varied from the Baramidze game on move 18. The game soon became a tactical morass, but somehow the players negotiated their way through with remarkable (but not quite perfect) accuracy. The complications came to a conclusion when Carlsen chose 40...Qxa8, resulting in a queen vs. three minor piece ending where neither side could undertake anything constructive.

Unfortunately, this didn't dissuade Carlsen in any way, as he spent the next 134 moves trying to draw blood from a stone - or perhaps trying to flag. Charming. Happily, Shirov won the last two psychological battles of the game. First, Carlsen missed an opportunity to play ...e3, which would have continued the idiocy for another 50 moves. Second, Shirov made the perfect final move to accompany his successful 50-move draw claim: he deliberately allowed his queen to be forked on the final move. [DM: According to Shirov himself, this did not happen. Shirov went to get the arbiter after his 174th move, and Carlsen agreed to the draw without forcing Shirov to go through the whole business of proving the 50-move claim. Relayers should not make stupid jokes like this.]

So at the end of the first cycle, going into the one and only rest day, the standings look like this:

1. Kramnik 7 (+2 =1)

2. Anand 5 (+1 =2)

3. Shirov 2 (=2 -1)

4. Carlsen 1 (=1 -2)


The pairings for Wednesday's round 4 are Carlsen-Kramnik and Anand-Shirov; obviously this round is pregnant with possibilities: Carlsen will have White in a game that's crucial for his tournament success; for Kramnik, this is probably the last game where losing is a very real possibility. Likewise, Anand will have what is on paper his best hope for a win in the second cycle, with White against the tournament's lowest-rated player.

Meanwhile, the tournament website is here, and the games (with my comments) are here.

[UPDATE: As noted in the next above, Shirov's alleged 175th move wasn't actually played. The game file will be fixed presently.]

Article originally appeared on The Chess Mind (
See website for complete article licensing information.