Wang, one of China’s top players, won the Sharjah Masters on tiebreaks over a world-class field.
Only a month after Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, played host to the first Grand Prix of 2017, many of the world’s best players were there for another world-class tournament: the Sharjah Masters.
At the end, Wang Hao, one of China’s top players, took first on tiebreak over Baskaran Adhiban and S.P. Sethuraman, both of India; Martyn Kravtsiv and Yuriy Kryvoruchko, both from Ukraine; and Saleh Salem, who is from the host country. All finished with 7 points out of 9, leading a strong field that included a number of past and present 2700-rated players, among them Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland, Arkadij Naiditsch of Azerbaijan, and Laurent Fressinet of France.
Wang Hao, left, and Baskaran Adhiban during Round 7.
Given their 1-2 finish on tiebreaks, the battle on Round 7 between Adhiban and Wang was clearly one of the key games of the tournament. Going into the round Adhiban and Kravtsiv were tied for first with 5½ out of 6, with Wang and several others half a point behind. Adhiban had White against Wang, but things went badly from the start. His choice of 11. g4 was not an inspired one, and after 19. b4 he was probably lost. Black failed to make the most of his chances, however, and before White’s 28th move, all three results were still possible. Unfortunately for Adhiban, he uncorked a blunder. The game continued for another 27 moves, but it could have ended after Black’s reply.
1. Nf3d52. e3Nf63. c4c64. Nc3e65. Qc2Bd66. d4Nbd7By a small
transposition the game has reached the Anti-Meran variation of the Semi-Slav.
White has many options here. 7. b3
( 7. Bd3, )
( 7. Be2and the now
somewhat less popular )
( 7. g4are the main alternatives. )
7... O-O8. Bb2
( 8. Be2is also common. The main idea is that now White can meet 8... e5with 9. cxd5cxd510. Nb5Bb4+11. Bd2. Even so, Black is not experiencing any real
problems after 11... Bxd2+12. Nxd2a613. dxe5Nxe514. Nd4Bg415. Bxg4Nfxg416. O-ORc8, though every once in a while White is able to achieve something
against the isolated d-pawn, either by exploiting it directly or by taking
advantage of other opportunities that arise by Black's being tied down to its
8... e59. Be2Here
( 9. cxd5has been far less successful than
in the 8.Be2 line. 9... cxd510. dxe5Nxe511. Nxe5Bxe512. Bd3Bg413. h3Bh514. f4d4!15. fxe5dxc316. Qxc3Nd5 )
9... e410. Nd2Re811. g4?!This sort of
attacking approach is well-known - note again the option on move 7 - but it
seems unlikely to succeed here, with Black's central pawn wedge restricting
almost White's entire army.
( 11. cxd5cxd512. Nb5Nf813. Nxd6Qxd6White's possession of the bishop
pair is fully balanced by Black's extra space, and all seven games to reach
this position finished in a draw. )
11... Nf8!12. Rg1
( 12. g5Ng413. h4Be6 )
( 12. h3h6 )
12... Bxh2!Prove it! 13. Rg2Bd614. g5Bh3!15. Rg1N6d716. O-O-OWhite can regain the pawn with
( 16. cxd5cxd517. Nxd5, but after 17... Rc818. Nc3Bb4he'll have too many problems with his own
king to be able to scare anything up on the kingside. )
( 19... a5!20. a3Ra821. f3axb422. axb4exf323. Bxf3Nb8followed by ...Na6. )
( 20. a4! )
20... exf321. Qxf5fxe222. e4dxe4
( 22... a5! )
( 23. Rxe2g6! )
23... a5!24. a3axb425. axb4Ne626. Nxe2Ndf827. Rd1
( 27. Rgf1Qd728. N2c3!sets up a beautiful idea. 28... Nxd429. Qxd7Nxd730. Rd1Be531. Nd6Bxd632. Rxd4Bxc533. Rxd7Re734. Rfd1Bxb435. Rd8+Re836. Rxc8Rxc837. Rd7Black has four pawns for the piece, but White's
extra piece and superior activity let him maintain the balance. )
27... Qd7After fighting back from a poor position, Adhiban blunders a
critical second pawn.
( 29. Qxc5leaves White's queen trapped after 29... Bd630. Qb6Rb831. Qa6Ra832. Qb6Reb8It's an easy line to calculate; the problem was almost certainly that Adhiban assumed without checking that ...Nxc5 Qxc5 was the end of the story. Sometimes the key is suspecting that a tactic might be there. )
29... Na6White's problems mount up, and the rest of the game poses no particular
problems for Black. 30. Qb3Bd631. Rgf1Nxb432. Rf3Nd533. Rdf1Re734. Kb1Qe635. Nxd5cxd536. Nc1Nd737. Nd3Nb638. Bc1Nc439. Qa2Qe440. Qf2Rce841. Re1Qg6
( 41... Qxd3+and )
( 41... Qxe1were both strong options, but Black's position is so good that he need not create or allow any imbalances that might give White the tiniest of practical chances. )
Going into the last round, the key pairings were these:
Wang Hao (6½) – Kryvoruchko (6½)
Wojtaszek (6) – Adhiban (6½)
Naiditsch (6) – Kravtsiv (6½)
Salem and Sethuraman both had 6 and both won. Had any of the 6½ pointers managed to win, however, neither Salem nor Sethuraman would have tied for first. Wang Hao-Kryvoruchko was a low-risk affair drawn in just 28 moves, while only Wojtaszek had chances to win in his game with Adhiban, though it eventually ended in a draw.
In contrast to the other two games, Naiditsch-Kravtsiv, was a see-saw battle. Kravtsiv had the game, and tournament victory, in his grasp, but then it slipped away.
1. d4Nf62. Nf3e63. Bf4d54. e3c55. c3Nc66. Nbd2cxd47. exd4Nh58. Be3Bd69. Ne5g610. Ndf3Qc711. Be2O-O12. Bh6Re813. Ng5Bxe514. dxe5Nf415. Nf3Nxe516. Qa4Nxg2+17. Kf1Bd718. Qd4f619. Kxg2Nf720. Be3e521. Qxd5Bc622. Qb3f523. Bc4f424. Bc5b625. Bd6Qb726. Bxf7+Qxf727. Qxf7+Kxf728. h4Rad829. Rad1h630. b4Re631. Bc7Rc832. Bd6Ba833. c4Rxc434. Bb8Rc335. Rh3Re736. Rd8Be437. Bd6Re638. b5Rxf339. Rxf3g540. Bb8Re741. Rc8g442. Rc7Bxf3+43. Kg1Rxc744. Bxc7Up to now both
sides have had their chances in this up-and-down game, but now Black is
clearly winning thanks to his 4-2 kingside majority. With a win Kravtsiv would
take clear first, and if he can solve one last, key problem he will achieve
his aim. 44... Ke645. Bb8Be246. Bxa7Bxb547. Bxb6Opportunity #1: Black to
move and win. 47... Kf5?48. a3?Opportunity #2: Same task. 48... g3??
( 48... h5!was simplest and best. Perhaps it wasn't necessary right away, but it is
necessary for Black to do this before playing ...g3. Black's opportunities to
advance his kingside pawns aren't going to run away, so he can and should
ensure the survival of his h-pawn - especially since it will promote on a
square of the same color as his bishop. This means - crucially! - that it
won't be enough for White to give up his bishop (and of his pawns, if
necessary) for Black's e-, f-, and g-pawns, but it *will* be enough if Black
loses his h-pawn. 49. Kg2Bc6+50. Kh2e451. Bc5e3!52. fxe3g3+53. Kh3Ke4!Threatening ...Kf3 and ...Bd7#! 54. Kg2Kd3+55. Kf1fxe356. Bb4Kc257. Bd6Kd158. Bxg3e2+59. Kg1e1=Q+60. Bxe1Kxe1And Black wins
because the h-pawn has survived. )
49. fxg3fxg350. h5!The critical move.
White will win either Black's g- or h-pawn, after which it's an easy draw. 50... Kf451. Bc5Kg452. Be3Kxh553. Kg2Kg454. Bxh6Bc6+55. Kf1Kf356. Bd2e457. Be1Ba458. Kg1Bb559. Bb4e360. Bd6Bc661. Bc7g262. Ba5Ke263. Bb4Kd164. a4e265. Kf2Bxa466. Kxg2White can even ignore the g-pawn:
( 66. Ba5Bc667. Bb4and Black will have nothing better than 67... g1=Q+68. Kxg1e1=Q+69. Bxe1Kxe1, essentially as in the game. Black needed the h-pawn! )
It was a missed opportunity, but a fine performance by the Ukranian star.
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.
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