Winning Bilbao 2011, 2012 and now 2016!
The second half of the tournament was not as exciting as the first, but in my own games there were quite some interesting moments.
Nakamura ended up drawing the last nine rounds. In our second encounter in round 6 he had the initiative as white, and I needed to defend relatively precisely in the middle game to keep the balance. He did not take any risks, and draw was a reasonably outcome. As white against Wei Yi I had a very pleasant position early in the middle game. Despite my h4 mistake white was always slightly better, but it turned out I didn’t have enough to create any decisive advantage. Against Karjakin I equalized out of the opening. It came as a surprise when he captured my b7-pawn with his queen as it looked potentially very dangerous for him. After Nb5, Nxb5 I captured with the wrong pawn and had to force a draw quickly by “checking” his queen. It was a pity I missed the very promising continuation possible if I had captured with the c-pawn instead.
I chose a quiet opening in the penultimate round against Anish Giri who had suffered losses in round 6 and 8. I found some interesting middle game plans offering to sacrifice my a-pawn and later h-pawn to gain reasonable compensation. He refused both offers and tried to avoid complications. Already his Nxe5 was actually a big mistake, but I did not see the relatively easy combination he allowed with c5! Also my choice cxd5 was pleasant for white. He managed to defend well until close to the time control, but short on time allowed the nice Nxf5 trick and soon went down. My first victory against Giri represented a welcome bonus to having secured Bilbao 2016 victory with one round to go!
After the last round my opponent Wesley So said that he wanted to play a normal game. It did not look that way as he chose a well know drawing line as white against my Ragozin defense. I should add that I was not at all unhappy about the one hour 38-moves draw, being low on energy and having a slight cold since the day before.
I’m grateful for the well-organized tournament in pleasant Bilbao, and I would like to thank the organizer for inviting me and my family back.
I’m satisfied having found interesting plans and possibilities in most of my games, and the plus 3 score (17/30 football score) feels much better than in Stavanger in April where my play was less inspired.
Of course I made several mistakes and also some blunders throughout the tournament, maybe too many. It was partly due to the complexity arising from taking quite a lot of risk in many games. Even better physical and mental preparation before events may contribute to avoid some of the mistakes in the future. It is good to know that there are areas where I can improve both in all the technical aspects of the game and also with regard to preparation and fitness.
Nakamura came second with his +1 score (11/30 football points) while Wei Yi and maybe also Wesley can be reasonably happy with their 50% score. Karjakin scored a winless -1 (9/30) and Giri suffered in the second half to end with a winless -3.
Prior to the World Championship match against Karjakin in November I’ll play the chess Olympiad in Baku for Norway early September and the chess.com Blitz event (semifinal against Grischuk August 18). But first I’m going to enjoy late summer in Oslo!