China’s rising star did not win a tournament that ended Friday in Vietnam, but he played the most exciting chess. World Chess’s columnist annotates his top victories and a shocking loss.

Le Quang Liem, Vietnam’s top player, won the 7th HD Bank Cup in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, which ended Friday. A last-round victory by Le Quang over Stanislav Bogdanovich, a Ukrainian grandmaster, helped provide the margin of victory of half a point over the seven players who tied for second through eighth.

Wei Yi, the 17-year-old Chinese grandmaster, who was also the top seed, was among that group. Wei’s draw in the last round against one of his compatriots, Bu Xiangzhi, cost him a chance at the title. Nevertheless, Wei probably played the most exciting chess in the tournament. Four of his five wins were flashy attacking games involving sacrifices. He also suffered a spectacular upset in Round 2.

His Round 1 victory was over Tu Hoang Thong of Vietnam. Tu made a big mistake that gave Wei an easy path to victory, but he won in style rather than by prosaic means.

Wei, Yi vs. Tu, Hoang Thong
7th HD Bank Cup 2017 | Ho Chi Minh City VIE | Round 1.1 | 12 Mar 2017 | 1-0
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 d6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nf6 6. Bc4 Bd7 7. O-O Rc8 8. Bb3 g6 9. Nxc6 Bxc6 10. Nd5 Bg7 11. Bg5 Bxd5 12. exd5 Ne4 13. Ba4+ Kf8 14. Bc1 h5 15. c3 h4
15... Bf6 16. Be3 Nc5 17. Bc2 h4 18. f4 Nd7 19. Qe2 Qa5 20. Be4 Nb6 21. Rfd1 Qa4 22. Bf3 Qc4 23. Qf2 Qb5 24. Bd4 Bxd4 25. Rxd4 Qc5 26. Re1 Rc7 27. Qe2 Kg7 28. Kh1 Nd7 29. Qd2 Nf6 30. f5 Qb5 31. fxg6 fxg6 32. a4 Qd7 33. Re6 Qe8 34. h3 Nd7 35. Qg5 Nc5 36. Re3 Qf7 37. Rf4 Qe8 38. Bd1 a5 39. b4 axb4 40. cxb4 Na6 41. b5 Nc5 42. b6 Rd7 43. Bg4 e5 44. dxe6 Re7 45. Qf6+ 1-0 (45) Gereben,E-Kottnauer,C Budapest 1952  )
16. Be3 Rh5 17. Bb3 Qa5?? Despite his relatively low rating, Black is a GM. But even GMs blunder.
18. Qg4 f5 19. Qxg6 Nf6 20. Bg5 Rh8 21. Qxf5 Rc7 22. Rfe1 h3 23. Bxf6 Bxf6 24. Rxe7! This is the reason for showing this game. Even when Wei Yi wins routinely, crushing his opponent like the proverbial hot knife going through butter, he is still almost always able to find a way to give the game an aesthetic twist.
24... Rh6
24... Kxe7 25. Qe6+ Kf8 26. Qxf6+ Kg8 Black saves the rook on h8, but after
27. Re1 Qb5 28. Qd8+ costs him the other rook.  )
24... Rxe7 25. Qxf6+ likewise forces Black to surrender one rook or the other.  )
25. Re6 Rf7 26. Qf4 Kg7 27. Qg3+ Rg6 28. Qxh3 Qc5 29. Bc2 Rh6 30. Qg3+ Kf8 31. Rae1

Round 2 featured a big upset as Wei was crushed by Viacheslav Diu, a Russian international master, after trying a very dubious opening experiment.

Diu, Viacheslav vs. Wei, Yi
7th HD Bank Cup 2017 | Ho Chi Minh City VIE | Round 2.1 | 12 Mar 2017 | 1-0
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 dxc4 7. e4 g5 8. Bg3 b5 9. Be2 Bb7 10. O-O a6
10... Nbd7 is the main line.  )
11. Ne5 b4? Bad, but also strange - what then was the point of 10...a6?
11... Bg7 12. f4 Nbd7 looks scary for Black, but it seems that he's okay after either 13.fxg5 or 13.Nxf7.  )
12. Na4
12. Bh5 is also strong.  )
12... h5?
12... Nxe4? 13. Bh5  )
12... Nbd7 was probably best, but Black's position is still quite bad after
13. Qc2 . White will regain the pawn and enjoy his extra space and the chance to exploit Black's weaknesses on both sides of the board.  )
13. f4! Black is already completely lost.
13... h4 14. fxg5 Nxe4 15. Bf4 Bg7 16. Bxc4 O-O
16... Nd7 17. Nxf7!  )
16... c5 17. g6  )
17. g6! fxg6 18. Bxe6+ Kh7 19. Qg4! Just like that, the game is over. The threat is Qxg6+ followed by Qh5+ and Qxh6#, and Black has no good defense.
19. Qg4! Bxe5 20. Bxe5 c5 21. Rxf8 Qxf8 22. Qxh4+ Qh6 23. Qe7+ Qg7 24. Qxg7#  )

Wei bounced back in Round 3, winning a very speedy game against Le Huu Thai of Vietnam. The Spanish Four Knights isn’t generally thought of as a dangerous opening for Black, but any player who is careless can lose badly.

Wei, Yi vs. Le, Huu Thai
7th HD Bank Cup 2017 | Ho Chi Minh City VIE | Round 3.19 | 13 Mar 2017 | 1-0
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bc5 Good alternatives include
4... Nd4  )
4... Bd6!? and  )
4... Bb4  )
5. Nxe5 Qe7? A surprising error: if 4.. .Bc5 is a part of Black's repertoire, he should know that 5.Nxe5 is the standard response and be prepared for it.
5... Nxe5 6. d4 Bd6 7. f4 Nc6 8. e5 Bb4 9. exf6 Qxf6  )
6. Nf3 Nxe4 7. O-O Nxc3 8. bxc3 O-O 9. d4 Bb6 10. Re1 Qd8 Perhaps Black assumed that White would make a routine developing move, e.g. Bc1, and then Black could play ...d5 and finish his development in peace. Wei Yi pounces immediately.
11. Ng5! d6
11... h6 12. Qh5! d5 13. Bd3 f5 14. Nh3  )
12. Bd3
12. Qh5? Bf5  )
12... g6
12... h6 13. Qh5 f5 14. Nh3  )
13. Nxh7!
13. Nxh7! Kxh7 14. Qh5+ Kg8 15. Bxg6 fxg6 16. Qxg6+ Kh8 17. Bg5 Qd7 18. Bf6+ Rxf6 19. Qxf6+ Qg7 20. Re8+ Kh7 21. Qh4+ Kg6 22. Rae1  )

Wei won a nice game as Black in Round 4. White was doing well up until he faced the decision about how to meet the threat of 23…f4. Perhaps emboldened by Diu’s success against Wei in Round 2, Wei’s opponent, Vo Thanh Ninh, a Vietnamese international master, may have thought he could tactically outsmart his opponent by playing f4 himself. He was mistaken.

Vo, Thanh Ninh vs. Wei, Yi
7th HD Bank Cup 2017 | Ho Chi Minh City VIE | Round 4.9 | 14 Mar 2017 | 0-1
1. g3 g6 2. Bg2 Bg7 3. c4 c5 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. d3 d6 6. Nf3 e5 7. Nd5 Nge7 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bxe7 Nxe7 10. Nd2 O-O 11. Nxe7+ Qxe7 12. Ne4 Rb8 13. Nc3 Be6 14. O-O Kh7 15. Rb1 a6 16. Nd5 Qd7 The position is equal. Black's bishop pair and kingside potential is matched by White's light-squared control (especially as exemplified by the knight on d5) and queenside prospects. To White's misfortune, it doesn't stay equal for long.
17. Nb6
17. b4 is more logical, but perhaps White didn't want to allow
17... b5 in reply.  )
17... Qd8 18. Qb3 White has prevented Black from expanding on the queenside, but how will White make progress on that wing with his queen in front of the b-pawn?
18... h5 19. a4 h4 20. a5 This is White's answer: cement the knight on b6, then move the queen and play b4.
20... Qg5 21. Nd5 hxg3 22. hxg3 f5 Meanwhile, here comes Black on the kingside. The coming ...f4 is worrisome for White, so he decides to prevent it in the most direct way.
23. f4?
23. e3 was better, with a very complicated position. One possible line runs
23... f4 24. exf4 exf4 25. Nxf4 Rxf4 26. gxf4 Qxf4 27. Rbe1 Trying to clear the f1 square with
...  Be5 28. Rxe5 Qxe5  )
23... exf4! White had undoubtedly taken
23... Qxg3?? into account, correctly assessing it as bad due to
24. Rf3 Qg4 25. Ne3 Qh4 26. Rh3 but he clearly underestimated the line chosen by Wei in the game.  )
24. gxf4
24. Nxf4? Bd4+ 25. Kh2 Qh6+ 26. Bh3 g5 27. Nxe6 Qxe6 White has no good answer to the coming ...g4, as Bg2 Qh6+ is mating.  )
24... Qg4! 25. Rf3
25. e3 is logical, but Black keeps a decisive advantage by continuing
25... Bxd5! 26. cxd5 Rbe8 27. Rf3 Rxe3! 28. Rxe3 Bd4 29. Qxb7+ Kg8! 30. Qe7 Qe2 31. Kh1 Bxe3 32. Qh4 Rf7 33. Re1 Qd2  )
25... Bxd5! 26. cxd5 Rfe8 27. Qc2 After
27. e3 White suffers a similar fate to the one seen in the note to White's 25th move:
27... Rxe3 28. Rxe3 Bd4 29. Re1 Qxf4  )
27... Re3!? There's no particular reason not to start with
27... Bd4+ and only play ...Re3 next, at least in case of 28.Kf1.  )
28. Rbf1
28. Kf2 was White's best try.  )
28... Bd4 29. Kh2 Rh8 30. Rh3+ Rxh3+ 31. Bxh3 Kg7
31... Kg7 White can only prevent ...Rxh3 from mating next move by playing
32. Rf3 walking into a different mate in one.
32... Qg1#  )

After a win in Round 5 and an easy draw with Black in Round 6 against Wang Hao, another of China’s top grandmasters, Wei beat Xu Yinglun, yet another one of his compatriots, in a beautiful and theoretically significant game.

Wei, Yi vs. Xu, Yinglun
7th HD Bank Cup 2017 | Ho Chi Minh City VIE | Round 7.2 | 16 Mar 2017 | 1-0
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 The classic main line, and probably the sharpest of White's 6th move options. Wei has been faithful to this move in his career, and it has brought him dividends.
6... Nbd7 7. Bc4 Qb6 8. O-O Qxb2
8... Qc5 is perhaps the main line here, and was chosen by van Wely in the Tata Steel tournament against Wei earlier this year - without success.
9. Bd5 e6 10. Re1 Be7 11. Be3 Qa5 12. Bxe6 fxe6 13. Nxe6 Nc5 14. b4 Qxb4 15. Nc7+ Kd8 16. N3d5 Nxd5 17. Nxd5 Qa3 18. Nb6 Rb8 19. Nc4 Qb4 20. Nxd6 Nd3 21. Qxd3 Qxd6 22. Qxd6+ Bxd6 23. Rad1 Kc7 24. Rxd6 Kxd6 25. Bf4+ Ke6 26. Bxb8 Bd7 27. Ba7 Rc8 28. Rc1 Rc4 29. f3 Ra4 30. Ra1 Rc4 31. c3 b5 32. a3 a5 33. Bb6 Ra4 34. Bd4 g6 35. Kf2 g5 36. Ke3 Bc6 37. Kd2 h5 38. Kc2 b4 39. cxb4 axb4 40. axb4 Rxb4 41. Kc3 Ra4 42. Rxa4 Bxa4 43. g3 h4 44. f4 gxf4 45. gxf4 h3 46. Kd2 Kd6 47. Ke3 Bc2 48. f5 Kc6 49. Kf4 Bd3 50. Bb2 Bc2 51. e5 Kd5 52. Kg5 Bd3 53. e6 1-0 (53) Wei,Y (2706)-Van Wely,L (2695) Wijk aan Zee 2017  )
9. Nd5 Nxd5 10. Rb1 Qc3 11. Bxd5 Qc7 12. f4 e6 13. Re1 Nc5? A new move, but is it a good one? In all the preceding games to reach the position after 13. Re1 Black played 13...Nf6 and scored 2.5 out of 3.
13... Nf6 14. Bxf6 gxf6 occurred in the three earlier games. Here
15. f5! looks promising. In the one game in which 15.f5 was played Black played 15...e5 and held on to draw, but White is certainly better there. The principled move is
15... exd5 , and after
16. exd5+ Kd8 17. Qh5! h6 18. Rb3 White has at least enough for the piece.  )
14. f5! Be7? It seems to be a mistake, but it's hard to find any decent defensive option for Black.
14... exd5? is much worse here than in the analogous position after 13...Nf6 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.f5.
15. exd5+ Kd7 16. Qh5 g6 17. fxg6 Qa5 White threatened to mate starting with Qg4+, so Black's clears c7 for the king.
18. g7 Bxg7 Going down a queen and a rook is better in name only.
19. Qxf7#  )
14... e5 15. Qh5! g6 16. fxg6 fxg6 17. Qf3 Be7 18. Qf7+ Kd8 19. Nf3 Bxg5 20. Nxg5 Qe7 21. Qxe7+ Kxe7 22. Rf1 /+- Despite the reduced material, White's very active pieces and Black's exposed king give White a serious advantage.  )
14... h6 15. Bh4 g5 16. fxg6 fxg6 17. Qg4 h5 18. Qg5 Qe7 19. Qg3 Qg7 20. e5!! g5 21. Nf5!! exf5 22. exd6+ Kd7 23. Qe3 Kxd6 24. Qd2 Kc7 25. Bxg5 White's pieces are swarming: the bishop will go to f4, the rook may go to e8, the queen may go to a5 or - if Black's queen leaves the long diagonal - to d4, and so on. Black's extra piece will not make itself felt. Was all of this on Wei Yi's computer before the game?  )
15. Bxe7 Qxe7 16. fxe6 fxe6 17. Nf5! Qc7
17... exf5? 18. exf5 only helps White, who will immediately regain his material with interest and a continuing attack.  )
18. Bc6+!! 17.Nf5 is a typical idea, but this beauty is unusual.
18... Qxc6
18... bxc6 19. Nxd6+ Ke7 20. Qg4 is no better, and if Black tries defending g7 things go from bad to worse:
20... Rg8 21. Qg5+ Kd7 22. Red1 The Black queen is lost, and the king will soon follow her to the afterlife.  )
19. Nxd6+ Ke7 20. Qg4 Nd7
20... Qxd6 21. Qxg7+ Ke8 22. Qxh8+ Qf8 23. Qe5  )
21. e5!
21. e5! Nxe5 22. Qxg7+ Kxd6 23. Qxe5+ Ke7 24. Qg7+ Kd8 25. Red1+ Bd7 26. Qxh8+ Kc7 27. Qxa8  )

Though Wei came up a bit short in the score table, as long as he plays like he did in this tournament, he will be a champion in the court of public opinion.


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 Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.