China has established itself as a chess superpower in the last few years behind a young generation of talented, disciplined and pragmatic players. In this game, one of that group demonstrates his skill by seamlessly nursing and exploiting a small edge.

I always enjoy Wang Hao’s games. I like to think of him as the bridge between the super positional older Chinese generation and the wildly tactical younger one. In this game, he emerges from the opening with a clear edge: a better pawn structure and the two bishops. His opponent continually seeks exchanges, trying to reduce the pressure, but Wang does not shy away from them. Instead, he skillfully exchanges pieces at the right moment, each time converting his advantage to a new one, until finally his opponent runs out of resources. 

Wang Hao vs. Wang Chen
TCh-CHN 2016 | China CHN | Round 2.4 | 13 Apr 2016 | ECO: B04 | 1-0
1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 dxe5 5. Nxe5 c6 6. a3
6. Be2 I prefer simple development, though Wang's move makes some sense. The b4 square is definitely important in this structure.  )
6... Nd7 7. Nf3 N7f6?! This is too slow. Black wants perfect harmony with Bf5, e6, Be7, 0-0, etc., but it takes too long to achieve.
7... g6! I still prefer White's position, but, objectively, chances are about equal.  )
8. Be2 Bf5 9. O-O e6 10. c4 Nb6 11. Nh4! A very important move. White snags the bishop pair and Black is still underdeveloped. Note the inefficiency of Ng8-f6-d5-b6 and Nb8-d7-f6 instead of Ng8-f6 and Nb8-d7-b6.
11... Be7
11... Bxb1 In light of how the game unfolded, I would seriously consider not allowing the pawn structure to change. Still, it's hard to fault Black for not wanting to exchange his bishop for an undeveloped piece.  )
12. Nc3 O-O 13. Nxf5 exf5 14. Qd3 g6 15. Rd1! White starts preparing to advance his queenside/central majority.
15... Qc7 16. g3! Black cannot stop Bf4, gaining more time
16... Rad8
16... Bd6? 17. c5  )
17. Bf4 Qc8 18. b4! Grabbing more space. Wang makes it look so easy
18... Rfe8 19. Bf3 c5?! I can hardly blame Black for not wanting to sit around and wait to die, but this just loses.
19... Bf8  )
20. bxc5 Bxc5 21. Nb5! a6 22. Qb3! White is not afraid of trading pieces. The closer he gets to a king-and-pawn ending, the more his better structure will count.
22... axb5 23. dxc5 Qxc5
23... Nxc4 Did not help
24. Qxb5  )
24. Rxd8 Rxd8 25. Qxb5 Qxb5 26. cxb5 Nbd5 27. Bg5 Rd7 28. Bxf6! I like it. Wang is not afraid to exchange one advantage for another. I would not be surprised if he had already calculated from this point to nearly the end of the game.
28. Rd1 Ne4 29. Bh6 White is much better here but I prefer the text  )
28... Nxf6 29. a4 b6 30. a5! The outside passed pawn is a monster
30... bxa5 31. b6 Ne4 32. Rxa5 Rb7 33. Rb5 Kf8 34. g4! Another strong move. White takes control of the f5 square before transitioning to the pure rook-and-pawn ending.
34... Rb8 35. Bxe4! fxe4 36. Kf1 And White wins easily as Black cannot take the pawn On b6 because the pawn ending would be hopeless.
36... Ke7 37. Ke2 Kd6 38. Ke3 Kc6 39. Rb2 f5
39... Rxb6 40. Rxb6+ Kxb6 41. Kxe4 Black is one tempo too slow to save the game. He cannot prevent both Ke5 and Kd5.
41... Kc6 42. Ke5  )
40. gxf5 gxf5 41. Kf4 The rest requires no comment
41... Kb7 42. Kxf5 Re8 43. Kf4 Re6 44. h4 Rh6 45. Kxe4 Rxh4+ 46. f4 h5 47. Ke5 Rh1 48. f5 h4 49. f6 Rf1 50. Rh2 Kxb6 51. Rxh4 Kc7 52. Rd4

————————————————————————-

Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.