Round 1 of the Shenzhen Masters, featuring six of the world’s top players, produced no decisive results.

A new, elite tournament, called the Shenzen Masters, kicked off on Thursday in China. It features an elite field: Anish Giri of the Netherlands, Michael Adams of England, Pentala Harikrishna of India, Peter Svidler of Russia, and Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi from the host country. All the players are in the top 20 in the world and the average rating is in the mid-2700s. It is a double round robin, so there will be 10 games.

With such an elite field, decisive results will be hard to come by. Indeed, Round 1 produced only draws. Giri showed some impressive preparation playing Black against Adams and barely used any time on his clock.

Adams, Michael vs. Giri, Anish
Shenzhen Masters | China | Round 1 | 23 Mar 2017 | 1/2-1/2
10. c3 O-O!? This move has been dwarfed in popularity by Nc5, but I never really understood why. White seems to have a slight edge at most and Black usually holds a draw without trouble.
10... Nc5 This is the main line. A lot of games have continued:
11. Bc2 d4 12. Nb3 d3 13. Bb1 Nxb3 14. axb3 Bf5  )
11. Bc2 f5 12. Nb3 White tries to make use of the weakened d4 square, but Black is ready for it:
12. exf6 Nxf6 And Black is fine.  )
12... Qd7! Excellent prophylaxis. Black can now play c5 because the bishop on e6 is defended.
13. Nbd4 Nxd4 14. Nxd4
14. cxd4 c5 With counterplay.  )
14... c5! This would not be a good idea if the queen were not on d7.
15. Nxe6
15. Ne2 In my opinion this is a more challenging move for Black, though I'm sure Giri was ready for it.  )
15... Qxe6 16. f3 Ng5 17. a4 Rad8 This position is still reasonably well known. Black is hoping his extra central space balances White's bishop pair and passed pawn on e5.
18. axb5 axb5 19. Bxg5 With opposite-colored bishops on the board, there is not chance that either player can win.
19. Qe2 This is more common, though I'm sure Giri was ready for it.  )
19... Bxg5 20. f4 Be7 21. Kh1 d4! A classy pawn sacrifice
22. cxd4 c4! White is up a pawn, but the pawn on d4 is doomed to fall, leading to total equality.
22... Rxd4? 23. Bb3 And White would would have a decisive edge.  )
23. b3 Bc5 24. bxc4 Rxd4 25. Qf3 bxc4 The rest of the game did not change anything.
26. Rfd1 g6 27. Rxd4 Bxd4 28. Ra8 Rxa8 29. Qxa8+ Kg7 30. Qb7+ Qf7 31. Qxf7+

The game between Harikrishna and Svidler was also not too eventful, at least judging by how much time they used. Harikrishna clearly achieved the position he had prepared for before the game, but he was unable to make much progress as he only had a marginal edge.

Harikrishna, Pentala vs. Svidler, Peter
Shenzhen Masters | China | Round 1 | 23 Mar 2017 | 1/2-1/2
Qb6 10. Qc1!? This is an interesting alternative to Qb3.
10. Qb3 Ne4 This can be considered the main line, and has been written about by Boris Avrukh, an Israeli grandmaster, in his books on grandmaster repertoire.  )
10... cxd4 11. Nxd4 Nc6
11... Bd7 Wei Yi tried this against me, which also is fine for Black.  )
12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Nd2 Bf5 14. Nb3 Rfd8 This is where Harikrishna finally started thinking. He has a little pressure against the pawn on c6 and the c5 square but it's not too impressive.
15. Be5
15. Bc3 This looks a little more natural to me. White would follow with Qa3. Still it's not enough to tip the balance.  )
15... a5! I like it. Black is ready for a4, dislodging the strongly placed knight on b3.
16. c5 Not a happy move for White to make. He really would have liked to have occupied this square with a piece.
16. Qa3 a4 17. Nc5? Ra5! This is the point. As nice as White's position looks, he is losing a piece.  )
16... Qa6 17. Qb2 Qb7 18. Qa3 Be4 This begins a series of exchanges. After the pieces promptly come off the board, there remains little reason to fight.
19. Rfd1 Rxd1+ 20. Rxd1 Bxg2 21. Kxg2 Qb4 22. Qxb4 axb4 23. Nd4 Ne4 Svidler has always preferred active play. This temporarily loses a pawn, but precise calculation proves it is the easiest way to hold the balance.
24. Bxg7 Kxg7 25. Nxc6 Rxa2 26. Nxb4 Rb2 And White cannot hold on to the pawn on c5.
27. Na6
27. Rd4 Nxc5  )
27... Ra2 28. Nb4
28. Rd4 f5!  )
28... Rb2 29. Na6
29. Nd3 Rc2  )
29... Ra2 30. Nb4 Rb2

The longest and most exciting game was the all-Chinese battle between Yu and Ding. Ding played a fine game and had winning chances with Black, but stout defense from Yu held the fort.

Yu Yangyi vs. Ding Liren
Shenzhen Masters | China | Round 1 | 23 Mar 2017 | 1/2-1/2
15. Kxg2 White has a slight initiative in this symmetrical endgame because of the awkward position of Black's king, but Ding finds a way to solve his problems.
15... Kd7! A very strong idea. The king will be fine on e8, but the rook on h8 will be passive, so he moves the rook to c8 before running back.
16. N2f3 Rc8 17. Bf4 Ke8 Black is fine, and Yu started to err, perhaps frustrated that he did not manage to make anything of his slight lead in development.
18. Rac1 Nbd7 19. Nb5?! This looks too ambitious.
19. Rfd1 If White just develops his last piece, he should be okay.  )
19... Nd5! Black has stopped Nc7 and is threatening Nxf4 and Bxb2.
20. Rfd1 Nxf4+ 21. gxf4 Nc5
21... Bxb2!? Black actually could have gotten away with this.
22. Rc7 Nc5! And Black is a little passive, but he is up a pawn and has a solid position. Eventually, the pawn might count.  )
22. Nfd4? I don't understand this move. Yu must have overlooked something, though I'm not sure what exactly.
22... a6! 23. Nc3 Rd8! White's pieces are being driven back.
24. Nf3 A sad necessity for White. The maneuver Nf3-d4-f3 was not impressive.
24... Rac8 25. Rxd8+ Rxd8 Black now has a slight edge because of his better pawn structure and strong bishop.
26. Nd1 Ne6 27. e3 Rd5 28. Kf1 Ra5
28... h6 I prefer this move, which prepares g5 and gains space on the kingside.  )
29. a3 Rc5 30. Rxc5 Nxc5 31. Ke2 Kd7 32. Ng5 f6 33. Nf3 f5 34. b4 Ne4 35. Kd3 Bf6 36. a4 Kd6 White has defended well and looks fine, but his next move allows Black a chance to change the course of the game.
37. Nd4?!
37. Ne1 This was safer. With f3 coming next, White should be okay.  )
37... Bxd4! Black gives up his strong bishop, but the knight gains some room to work.
38. Kxd4
38. exd4 Leaves White with an embarrassing pawn structure.  )
38... Nd2! The pawn on h2 cannot be saved.
39. Kd3! Nf3 40. Ke2! Nxh2 41. f3 White found the best defense. The knight is now trapped on h2 and will be lost, but it takes White a long time to win it and then the king will be in no man's land. In the meantime, Black can try to bust open the queenside with his king.
41... Kd5 42. Nb2 b6! Black prepares a5, which will clear the c5 square to let him invade.
43. Kf2 a5 44. bxa5! bxa5 45. Kg2 Kc5 This position is very difficult for White, but it can be defended with accurate play. Yu was up to the task.
46. Nd3+ Kc4 47. Ne5+ Kb4 48. Kxh2 Kxa4 49. Nc6! Active defense at its finest. The pawn on e7 is not useless - White wants to take it, and then queen his own e-pawn.
49... Kb5 50. Nxe7 a4 51. Nd5! Otherwise a3 would decide the game.
51... a3
51... Kc4 52. Nb6+! The point. White is able to win the pawn.
52... Kb3 53. Nxa4 Kxa4 54. e4 Leading to a draw.  )
52. Nc3+! Kc4 53. Na2! The knight is toast, but it gets in the way of the a-pawn, slowing it down.
53... Kb3 54. e4!
54. Nc1+? Kb2 55. Nd3+ Kc3 56. Nc1 Kd2! And Black is winning.
57. Na2 Kxe3 58. Kg3 Kd2 With the e-pawn eliminated, Black can simply trade the pawn for the knight and win.  )
54... Kxa2 55. e5 Kb1 56. e6 a2 57. e7 a1=Q 58. e8=Q Black is a pawn up in this queen ending, but his pawns are weak and his king is both wide open and far away from the action. Yu was easily able to hold.
58... Qd4 59. Kg3 h5 60. Qe1+ Kc2 61. Qe2+ Qd2 62. Qc4+ Kd1 63. Qb3+ Ke1 64. Qb1+ Qd1 65. Qb6 h4+ 66. Kxh4 Qxf3 67. Qg1+ Ke2 68. Kg5 Qh5+ 69. Kf6 Kf3 70. Qf1+ Kg3 71. Qc1 Qg4 72. Ke5 Qf3 73. Qg1+ Qg2 74. Qe1+ Qf2 75. Qc1 Kg4 76. Qd1+ Kh3 77. Qh1+ Kg3 78. Qc1 Qb6 79. Qe1+ Kg2 80. Qc1 Kh2 81. Qd2+ Kh3 82. Qc1 Qb5+ 83. Kf6 Kg4 84. Kxg6 Qb6+ 85. Kf7 Qd4 86. Ke6 Qxf4 87. Qg1+ Kh4 88. Qg6


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 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 was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.