Wei Yi Wins Third Consecutive Chinese Championship
ByDennis MonokroussosMay 05 — 5:00 PM
Image by Paul Truong
It was the latest strong result in what has been a good year so far for the prodigy.
With his third straight national title, the latest coming this week, Wei Yi, 17, has demonstrated once again that he is the present and the future of chess in China.
Wei became a grandmaster before 14 and then reached a rating of 2700 three months before his 16th birthday – the youngest player ever to do so. After that, his progress stalled a bit, but 2017 has been a good year so far. Before winning the Chinese Championship, he tied for third in Wijk aan Zee, tied for second in the HD Bank Cup in Vietnam, and scored well in various team events.
At the moment four other Chinese players are rated over 2700 (Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi, Li Chao, and Wang Yue), while three other players (Bu Xiangzhi, Wang Hao, and Ni Hua) are rated 2675 or better. None of them played in the championship, making Wei’s job a little easier, at least on paper. Wei also demonstrated good form, scoring 8½ points out of 11 and going undefeated.
Still, it was still a closely contested tournament. A pair of grandmasters rated over 2600, Lu Shanglei and Wen Yang, entered the last round half a point behind Wei, and they both won, so Wei needed to do the same to claim the title.
Wei is already known for playing sharp lines and for recording speedy victories. He recorded two more early in the tournament against opponents who essayed the Sicilian Defense.
( 5. O-Ois also possible, which often transposes. )
5... Bb7This is unusual. Black wants to keep the position closed, albeit at the cost
of a space disadvantage.
( 5... cxd46. Nxd4Bb7is normal, and now White has
several moves to choose from, including 7.Bf3 and 7.a3. )
6. d5This is
the cost Black must pay. 6... Nf67. Bg5!White is essentially forced to swap
off this bishop to keep his impressive pawn center intact. 7... h68. Bxf6Qxf69. O-Od6
( 9... Bd6isn't beautiful, but it makes sense. It keeps control
over e5, and does so without burying the bishop behind his pawns. )
( 9... e5was played against Wesley So a few years ago, but without success. 10. a4b411. Nb1a512. Nbd2Be713. Nc4Black's position is miserable. The
dark-squared bishop is completely shut in, while if the other bishop tries to
be active it will be exchanged away, after which White will infiltrate on the
light squares. 1-0 (27) So,W (2650)-Jiang,L (2337) Montreal 2012 )
10. dxe6The immediate
( 10. e5!is also strong, as played in a pair of earlier
(email) games. (See below, but they both began with 10.e5.) )
( 10... Qxe611. Nd5 )
11. e5!dxe512. Nd2The startling
( 12. Nxe5!is
possible and strong. 12... Qxe513. Bh5+Ke714. Re1Qg515. g3g616. Bg4Kf717. Rxe6 )
( 12... Qf7!was best. The queen will have to retreat anyway once White puts a
knight on e4, and in this way Black can try to save a tempo with the bishop on
f8, to capture a knight on d6 immediately should White send it there. 13. Bh5g614. Bf3/+/- )
( 13... b414. Nce4Qd815. Bh5+Maybe )
( 13... Be7is best.
Black's position is lousy after 14. Nde4Qf715. axb5axb516. Rxa8+Bxa817. Nd6+Bxd618. Qxd6Qe719. Bh5+Kf820. Qd3, but at least he doesn't yet
have to resign. )
14. axb5axb515. Bxb5Nb416. Qe2In addition to his many
positional problems, Black can add a terminally weak king to his list of woes. 16... Be717. Nde4Qg618. Ra7Rd419. Rfa1Rhd820. Rxb7!Kxb721. Ba6+
( 21. Ba6+Kc722. Nb5+Kd723. Nxd4exd424. Bb5+Kc825. Ra8+Kb726. Rxd8Bxd827. Be8!is a nice touch. The
bishop can't be taken due to Nd6+, while any sane queen move allows Qb5+.
Finally, if 27... d3, then White can play 28.cxd3 or 28. Qf3, again with a
crushing advantage. )
ch-CHN 2017 |Xinghua CHN |Round 9.6 |02 May 2017 |1-0
1. e4c52. Nf3e63. Nc3a64. Be2Nc6Black takes a more conventional
approach than Fang Yan did in the preceding game. 5. d4cxd46. Nxd4Nge7
( 6... Qc7transposes to a mainline Taimanov. Wei Yi has some experience here,
and some happy memories. Three massacres ensue, and they help explain why Wang
Chen prefers to try his luck in a different variation. 7. O-ONf68. Be3Bb49. Nxc6bxc610. Qd4c511. Qc4O-O12. Na4d613. a3Bd714. e5Bb515. Qh4dxe516. axb4Bxe217. Rfe1Bb518. Nxc5Nd719. c4Bc620. Nxa6Qb721. Qg3f522. Nc5Qxb423. Nxe6Rf724. Rxa8+Bxa825. Ra1Bc626. Bh6Qxb227. Rf1e428. Nd8Rf829. Nxc6Qf630. Qc7Nc531. Ne7+1-0 (31) Wei,Y (2725)-Karthikeyan,M (2578)
Liaocheng 2017 )
( 7. Be3and )
( 7. O-Oare the traditional options,
( 7. Bf4has received some attention in recent years. )
( 7... Ng6is more common. )
( 8. O-Ois likewise more usual. )
( 8... d5!?9. exd5Nxd510. Nxd5exd511. Qxd5Be6offers Black some
compensation for the pawn. It's not full compensation, but Black is going to
be slightly worse in any case. The question is the sort of disadvantage he
prefers to suffer. )
9. O-OWhite is already clearly better, leading one
to wonder what went wrong in Black's preparation. White's 7th move isn't the
main move, but it's not so unusual either. 9... d6
( 9... d5!? )
10. a4Bd711. a5Nc412. Bxc4Qxc413. Qd2
( 13. f4 )
( 13. Nd2!? )
13... Rc814. f4Ng6
( 14... f5!?is a computer suggestion that's not so easy for a human to play.
Black lags in his development and his king is in the center, so a move that
doesn't help his development and is likely to result in his king being more
exposed after 15. Nd4!seems pretty implausible. But maybe it's a
reasonable trade-off to prevent White from playing f5 himself? The bottom line
is that Black is suffering. )
15. f5Ne516. fxe6fxe6
( 16... Bxe6can be met
by the spectacular 17. Nc5!!, aiming to trap the queen. For example: 17... Rxc5or ...18. Ra4. Black is in big trouble. )
17. Rad1White's position is a dream; he just has to figure out how to win it. 17... h6?This weakens Black's position on the h5-e8 diagonal. Stay tuned. 18. Bd4!Qc7??Now White wins easily.
( 18... Nf719. e5! )
19. Qf2Bc620. Bxe5dxe521. Qg3Threatening mate in two starting with Qg6+. (See the
note to Black's 17th move.) 21... g522. Qg4Again threatening mate in two, this
time starting with Qh5+. 22... Bd723. Qh5+Kd824. Qg6
( 24. Na4is even more
brutal, but it's enough for White to find one winning line and go for it. )
24... Qc625. Rf7
( 25. Qf6+Kc726. Qxh8??Bc5+is the only thing Black can
hope for. )
25... Bd626. Qf6+
( 26. Rxd6!Qxd627. Nd5!!is a spectacular
and wholly unnecessary way to win. )
26... Kc727. Qxe6Now 28.Nd5+ is one
monster threat. 27... Rcd828. Qf6!Rhf8This makes it easy, but
( 28... Rhg829. Rxd6Qxd630. Nd5+Kc631. Qf2!forces Black to surrender the queen just to
delay mate by a few moves. )
It is impossible to become a world-class player without being able to win all sorts of games, and in the last round, Wei showed his positional chops by gradually outplaying his opponent in a queen and bishop ending, taking advantage of his extra space and superior pawn structure.
1. e4e52. Nc3My suspicion is that Wei Yi chose the Vienna not primarily
from a belief that it's the most promising way to fight for an opening
advantage, but rather to avoid drawish variations like the Petroff, the Berlin,
and the Marshall Gambit. This is especially so in his must-win situation. 2... Nf63. Nf3Bb4
( 3... Nc6is also very solid. )
4. Nxe5O-O5. Be2
( 5. Nd3is more common now, but it's almost certain to transpose to the game if after 5... Bxc36. dxc3Nxe47. Be2Black plays 7...Re8. But must he? There are other
decent options, including 7...d6. )
5... Re8Lest you think the note
addressing 5.Nd3 proved that 5.Be2 was the more precise move order, note that
Black can also choose
( 5... d6here. So it appears that there is no
meaningful difference between the 5.Be2 and the 5.Nd3 move orders. 6. Nd3Bxc37. dxc3Nxe4 )
6. Nd3Bxc37. dxc3Nxe48. O-Ob6This is quite rare - and
(probably) rightly so. It is much more common for Black to push the d-pawn and
play in an overtly classical way.
( 8... d5 )
( 8... d6 )
surprising move makes excellent sense: White aims to "kill" the bishop before
it even goes to b7. This is an old technique sometimes referred to as the
"Steinitzian Restriction Method": when one has the bishop pair, the first
order of business is often to restrict the opponent's minor pieces. Eventually
the bishops may come into their own, but that's for later; first, take away
the opponent's possibilities. 9... Nd6
( 9... Nf610. Bg5is unpleasant for Black. )
10. Re1Nc611. Bf1Bb712. Rxe8+Qxe8
( 12... Nxe813. b3 )
( 13... Nf5was possible, followed by ...d6. The c-pawn is immune from capture,
as ...d6 traps the bishop, which will soon be lost. )
14. Nb4!Very nice.
If Black doesn't swap, the knight can come to d5; if he does, he's trading his
good knight for what wasn't a very good piece. Moreover, it benefits White to
have the pawn on b4, as it helps cramp Black's queenside without requiring him
to weaken his "original" a-c pawns. 14... Nxb415. cxb4Ne816. Qd2d617. Re1Qd718. Bd3
( 18. Bg5!?was interesting, using the semi-threat of Re7 to
induce a kingside weakness. )
18... Nf619. Bg5!Re8Black exchanges one
disadvantage for another. The good news is that he can swap two pairs of
pieces and eliminate White's bishop pair; the bad news is that doing so forces
him to compromise his kingside structure. It's not that his king is endangered,
but that the pawns become targets. 20. Bxf6gxf621. b5?!
( 21. Rxe8+Qxe822. Kf2may have been better, not rushing to determine the queenside structure. )
21... Rxe1+22. Qxe1h6?!
( 22... Qe6! )
23. Qg3+Kf824. Qf4Kg725. Kf2White is back in business, and now the pawn on b5 is a net benefit. 25... Bd5
( 25... c5!?26. bxc6Qxc6is a reasonable bid for counterplay. He weakens his
structure a little bit more, but the kingside was already enough of a problem
that this is worth it. )
26. c4?!Another inaccuracy. White does want to
play this, but this was the wrong moment.
( 26. Qf5!Qxf527. Bxf5Bxa2?28. b3wins for White, as Black's bishop can't
buy its way out, and there's nothing constructive for Black to do while
White's king runs over to collect the bishop. )
( 26... Be6!was probably Black's last chance to save the game. )
27. b4!Qe628. Qf5!Qxf529. Bxf5The fact that several of White's queenside pawns are or
will be fixed on light squares is of no consequence, because Black's bishop
will never see the light of day and never get to attack any of them. 29... c530. bxc5!dxc531. Kg3h532. Kh4
( 32. Kh3!is more precise, saving up the
spare tempi. Black's king has no good moves, and ...Ba8 allows Bc8. )
37. Kg3!There's no need to give Black's bishop any air; the f5-pawn
will drop soon enough. 37... Kg538. h4+Kg639. Kf4Kf640. Bxf5Bb741. Bh3Another zugzwang. 41... Ke7
( 41... Ba842. Bc8 )
42. Kg5Kd643. Kf6!
( 43. Kxh5wins easily, but White shows good technique. Here White must calculate a tiny
bit. It's not too challenging, but after four hours of play in the last round
of a two-week long tournament, with the national championship on the line,
there is absolutely no reason to do this. )
43... Ba844. Bc8
( 44. Bc8Kc745. Bf5is a trivial win. White threatens Be4, Kxf7, Kg5, Be4 followed by g4...he
can do almost anything he wants to. )
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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