Image by Max Avdeev for World Chess by Agon Limited
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. c3O-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... Nc5This is the main line. A lot of games have continued: 11. Bc2d412. Nb3d313. Bb1Nxb314. axb3Bf5 )
11. Bc2f512. Nb3White tries to make use of the weakened d4 square, but Black is ready for it:
( 12. exf6Nxf6And Black is fine. )
12... Qd7!Excellent prophylaxis. Black can now play c5 because the bishop on e6 is defended. 13. Nbd4Nxd414. Nxd4
( 14. cxd4c5With counterplay. )
14... c5!This would not be a good idea if the queen were not on d7. 15. Nxe6
( 15. Ne2In my opinion this is a more challenging move for Black, though I'm sure Giri was ready for it. )
15... Qxe616. f3Ng517. a4Rad8This position is still reasonably well known. Black is hoping his extra central space balances White's bishop pair and passed pawn on e5. 18. axb5axb519. Bxg5With opposite-colored bishops on the board, there is not chance that either player can win.
( 19. Qe2This is more common, though I'm sure Giri was ready for it. )
19... Bxg520. f4Be721. Kh1d4!A classy pawn sacrifice 22. cxd4c4!White is up a pawn, but the pawn on d4 is doomed to fall, leading to total equality.
( 22... Rxd4?23. Bb3And White would would have a decisive edge. )
23. b3Bc524. bxc4Rxd425. Qf3bxc4The rest of the game did not change anything. 26. Rfd1g627. Rxd4Bxd428. Ra8Rxa829. Qxa8+Kg730. Qb7+Qf731. 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
Qb610. Qc1!?This is an interesting alternative to Qb3.
( 10. Qb3Ne4This can be considered the main line, and has been written about by Boris Avrukh, an Israeli grandmaster, in his books on grandmaster repertoire. )
10... cxd411. Nxd4Nc6
( 11... Bd7Wei Yi tried this against me, which also is fine for Black. )
12. Nxc6bxc613. Nd2Bf514. Nb3Rfd8This 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. Bc3This 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. c5Not a happy move for White to make. He really would have liked to have occupied this square with a piece.
( 16. Qa3a417. Nc5?Ra5!This is the point. As nice as White's position looks, he is losing a piece. )
16... Qa617. Qb2Qb718. Qa3Be4This begins a series of exchanges. After the pieces promptly come off the board, there remains little reason to fight. 19. Rfd1Rxd1+20. Rxd1Bxg221. Kxg2Qb422. Qxb4axb423. Nd4Ne4Svidler has always preferred active play. This temporarily loses a pawn, but precise calculation proves it is the easiest way to hold the balance. 24. Bxg7Kxg725. Nxc6Rxa226. Nxb4Rb2And White cannot hold on to the pawn on c5. 27. Na6
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. Kxg2White 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. N2f3Rc817. Bf4Ke8Black is fine, and Yu started to err, perhaps frustrated that he did not manage to make anything of his slight lead in development. 18. Rac1Nbd719. Nb5?!This looks too ambitious.
( 19. Rfd1If White just develops his last piece, he should be okay. )
19... Nd5!Black has stopped Nc7 and is threatening Nxf4 and Bxb2. 20. Rfd1Nxf4+21. gxf4Nc5
( 21... Bxb2!?Black actually could have gotten away with this. 22. Rc7Nc5!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. Nc3Rd8!White's pieces are being driven back. 24. Nf3A sad necessity for White. The maneuver Nf3-d4-f3 was not impressive. 24... Rac825. Rxd8+Rxd8Black now has a slight edge because of his better pawn structure and strong bishop. 26. Nd1Ne627. e3Rd528. Kf1Ra5
( 28... h6I prefer this move, which prepares g5 and gains space on the kingside. )
29. a3Rc530. Rxc5Nxc531. Ke2Kd732. Ng5f633. Nf3f534. b4Ne435. Kd3Bf636. a4Kd6White has defended well and looks fine, but his next move allows Black a chance to change the course of the game. 37. Nd4?!
( 37. Ne1This 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. exd4Leaves White with an embarrassing pawn structure. )
38... Nd2!The pawn on h2 cannot be saved. 39. Kd3!Nf340. Ke2!Nxh241. f3White 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... Kd542. Nb2b6!Black prepares a5, which will clear the c5 square to let him invade. 43. Kf2a544. bxa5!bxa545. Kg2Kc5This position is very difficult for White, but it can be defended with accurate play. Yu was up to the task. 46. Nd3+Kc447. Ne5+Kb448. Kxh2Kxa449. 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... Kb550. Nxe7a451. Nd5!Otherwise a3 would decide the game. 51... a3
( 51... Kc452. Nb6+!The point. White is able to win the pawn. 52... Kb353. Nxa4Kxa454. e4Leading to a draw. )
52. Nc3+!Kc453. Na2!The knight is toast, but it gets in the way of the a-pawn, slowing it down. 53... Kb354. e4!
( 54. Nc1+?Kb255. Nd3+Kc356. Nc1Kd2!And Black is winning. 57. Na2Kxe358. Kg3Kd2With the e-pawn eliminated, Black can simply trade the pawn for the knight and win. )
54... Kxa255. e5Kb156. e6a257. e7a1=Q58. e8=QBlack 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... Qd459. Kg3h560. Qe1+Kc261. Qe2+Qd262. Qc4+Kd163. Qb3+Ke164. Qb1+Qd165. Qb6h4+66. Kxh4Qxf367. Qg1+Ke268. Kg5Qh5+69. Kf6Kf370. Qf1+Kg371. Qc1Qg472. Ke5Qf373. Qg1+Qg274. Qe1+Qf275. Qc1Kg476. Qd1+Kh377. Qh1+Kg378. Qc1Qb679. Qe1+Kg280. Qc1Kh281. Qd2+Kh382. Qc1Qb5+83. Kf6Kg484. Kxg6Qb6+85. Kf7Qd486. Ke6Qxf487. Qg1+Kh488. 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.
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