The Du Te Cup in Shenzhen, China, which ended last Sunday, was a significant victory for Ding Liren on his home turf. Though he has won three national championships, he had not broken through against an international field.
Heading into the final round of the six-player, double round-robin tournament, the standings were:
Ding Liren 5½
Anish Giri 5
Peter Svidler, Pentala Harikrishna 4½
Yu Yangyi 4
Michael Adams 3½
The last round pairings were Harikrishna vs. Ding, Giri vs. Yu, and Adams vs. Svidler. With White against Ding, Harikrishna had a great opportunity to catch the leader, though that would not guarantee a tie for first, as a Giri win would put him ahead of the pack.
Giri did not win. Yu played the Petroff and any edge Giri might have enjoyed was gone after Yu’s accurate 23…Qb3. The game quickly ended in a perpetual check, leaving Giri temporarily tied with Ding.
Svidler joined the group with 5½ points by defeating Adams with the Black pieces. Adams sacrificed a pawn in an Advance Caro-Kann, and while the sac was sound, Adams couldn’t figure out how to keep up the pressure. He sacrificed a second pawn, but when he played 24.Qg5? (rather than 24.Rg3) his counterplay disappeared, and Svidler wound up with both extra material and a better position. The game ended soon afterward.
At this point, if Harikrishna won, there be a four-way tie for first with 2/3 of the field finishing with 5½ out of 10. For a while this seemed a very real possibility because of Ding’s poorly placed bishop on h7. The key moment came on move 24, when instead of 24.Kg2 or 24.Kf1, unpinning the f-pawn for the sake of the e- and g-pawns and the bishop on h4, White played 24.Qf3? This walked into the very nice move 24…g5!, when Black’s bad bishop was able to extricate itself while White’s bishop on h4 (and then on g3) became a liability. In a single move White went from having excellent winning chances to practically a lost position, and Black demonstrated good technique in converting his advantage. With the win Ding not only took first, but gained more than 14 rating points to rise to No. 11 in the world in the live ratings.
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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