Wei Yi and Danzhou

Chess Piece
Bobby Ang

Posted on August 10, 2017

Hainan Danzhou SuperGM Tournament
Danzhou, China
July 9-18, 2017

Final Standings (GM all)
1. Wei Yi CHN 2738, 6.5/9

2-3. Le Quang Liem VIE 2726, Ding Liren CHN 2781, 5.5/9

4-6. Arkadij Naiditsch AZE 2712, Wang Hao CHN 2698, Yu Yangyi CHN 2753, 5.0/9

7. Vassily Ivanchuk UKR 2729, 4.5/9

8. Ruslan Ponomariov UKR 2699, 3.5/9

9. Lu Shanglei CHN 2638, 2.5/9

10. Vladimir Malakhov RUS 2722, 2.0/9

Average ELO 2719 Category 19

Time Control: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes play-to-finish with 30 seconds added after every move starting move 1

The 8th edition of the SuperGM tournament in Danzhou took place last July 2017. This place is on the island of Hainan in the South China Sea, very close to the Philippines. Here is something you may not know -- this island used to be part of Vietnam but a volcanic eruption broke it away and Hainan then drifted to its current location. This, of course, took place millions of years ago.

Every year the city of Danzhou sponsors a super GM tournament. It started out being an all-Chinese affair but nowadays they pit the five top Chinese players against five foreign GMs. The previous winners are:

2016 GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia)

2015 GM Wang Yue (China)

2014 GM Ding Liren (China)

2013 GM Ding Liren (China)

2012 GM Bu Xiangzhi (China)

2011 GM Yu Yangyi (China)

2010 GM Bu Xiangzhi (China)

Last Tuesday, I wrote about GM Baadur Jobava and his prospects in the upcoming FIDE World Cup to be held in Tbilisi, Georgia, starting Sept. 2. Another one who is gearing up for a good performance in Tbilisi is China’s 18-year-old super GM Wei Yi.

He has long been hailed as a chess prodigy -- in fact Wei Yi made his debut in the 2013 Tromso World Cup at the age of 14 and defeated Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi and Latvia’s Alexei Shirov in the 1st two knock-out matches before losing to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the 3rd round. Later that year, he reached a rating of 2604, becoming the youngest ever in history to cross 2600. The previous record holder was Wesley So.

In 2014, at the age of 15, he was already a member of the Chinese Olympiad squad -- he scored 4/5 and was a major contributor to the Chinese team’s gold-medal winning effort.

He has since won the Chinese national championship three straight times (2015-2017) and last July took his first super GM tournament at the Hainan Danzhou tournament.

Look at his power. Ruslan Ponomariov, as all of you know, was the 2002 FIDE World Champion. Not easy to beat at all.

* * *
Wei, Yi (2738) -- Ponomariov, Ruslan (2699) [A13]
8th Danzhou Super GM 2017 Danzhou CHN (3.5), 11.07.2017

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 dxc4 5.0 -- 0 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Nb6 7.a4

White plays this move so that he can recapture with the rook after Na3, Bxa3.

7...a5 8.Na3 Bxa3 9.Rxa3 0 -- 0 <D>


Would you believe that Wei Yi will be shifting his rook to the kingside with d2 -- d4, e2 -- e4, f2 -- f4 and g3 -- g4?]

10.e4 e5 11.Nxe5 Qd4 12.Qc3

[12.Nf3 Qxe4]

12...Qxc3 13.Rxc3 Be6 14.d4 Nxa4

[14...cxd3 15.b3 followed by taking Black’s d-pawn]

15.Ra3 b5 16.f4 Nb6 17.g4!?

Giving up a pawn “for no reason”.

17...Nxg4 18.f5 Nxe5 19.dxe5 Bd7 20.Rg3 Bc6 21.Bh6 g6 22.Rg5!

One of those moves an ordinary GM wouldn’t play. Why didn’t he take the f8 -- rook? What the heck is the white rook doing on g5?

22...c3 23.bxc3 Nc4 24.fxg6 fxg6 25.Bxf8 Rxf8 26.e6 Be8 27.Rd1 Rf6 28.Rd8 Kf8

[28...Rxe6 29.Rxb5 Nd6 30.Rd5 Nxe4 31.R5d7 c6 32.Ra7 Black is in a bind]


Now we see the value of having white’s rook on g5.

29...Ke7 30.Rbb8 Bc6 31.Rdc8 Rxe6 32.Rxc7+ Kd6 33.Rxh7 a4 34.Ra7 Kc5 35.e5!

Taking the bishops off the board will undermine the defense of Black’s a-pawn.

35...Bxg2 36.Kxg2 a3 37.Rc7+ Rc6

[37...Kd5? 38.Rb5+ wins the knight]

38.Rxc6+ Kxc6 39.Rc8+ Kd5 40.e6 1 -- 0

[40.e6 a2 41.Ra8 Kxe6 42.Rxa2 is an easily won endgame]

And you know what’s even scarier? Capablanca and Adams had great talent but perhaps relied on it too much. Wei Yi has talent and works hard at his opening preparation. The following game will illustrate that nicely.

Yu Yangyi was the star of the gold-winning Chinese squad to the 2014 Tromso Olympiad. He played in all 11 rounds, won 8 drew 3 and not a single loss for a performance rating of 2912, the best of the entire Olympiad.

* * *
Wei,Yi (2738) -- Yu,Yangyi (2753) [C42]
Danzhou Super GM (5), 13.07.2017

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Be7 7.c4!?

The former candidate GM Artur Jussupow wrote The Petroff Defense back in 1999 and this 450-page tome was considered the Bible on this opening. He writes: “Although the black knight is centrally place and protected by the pawn, its position is still vulnerable. White can exercise both the undermining of the center by c2 -- c4 and the direct attack on the knight by Bd3 and Re1 or Qe2.” He then proceeds to enumerate the various possibilities but then dismisses the text move by “The attempt by White to undermine the center before castling by 7.c4 is somewhat untimely because of 7...Bb4+.”

Let us see what new idea Wei Yi has in mind.

7...Bb4+ 8.Kf1!?

Oh, ok, Wei Yi tries to keep his pieces on the board and exploit Black’s wasted tempi with the knight and bishop.

8...0 -- 0 9.a3 Be7 10.cxd5 Nf6

Now we are starting to see Wei Yi’s idea. He is getting an attack after 10...Qxd5 11.Qc2:

11...f5?? 12.Bc4);

11...Bf5? 12.Nc3 Nxc3 13.Bxf5 g6 14.Bd3 Nb5 15.Be4 Nxd4 16.Qd3 Black is losing material;

11...Nf6 12.Nc3 Qd8 13.h4 and storm clouds are beginning to gather around Black’s king position.

11.Nc3 Nbd7 12.h4! Nb6 13.Bg5 Nfxd5 14.Qc2 h6 15.Re1 Re8

Of course not 15...hxg5? 16.Bh7+ Kh8 17.hxg5 the end is near.

16.Ne5 Bxg5 17.hxg5 Qxg5 18.Bh7+ Kf8

[18...Kh8?? 19.Nxf7#]

19.Nxd5 Nxd5 20.Qc5+ Ne7 21.Re3 Bf5 22.Rh5?!

A nice idea but perhaps even stronger is to exchange on f5 first. After 22.Bxf5 Qxf5 23.Rh5 Qe6 (23...Qxh5?? 24.Nd7+ Kg8 25.Qxh5) 24.Nxf7 Qa6+ 25.Kg1 Kxf7 26.Rhe5 Kg8 27.Rxe7 Rxe7 28.Rxe7 Material is equal for now but White is close to victory because of his rook on the 7th rank.

22...Qxh5 23.Nd7+ Bxd7 24.Qxh5 Rad8

Black has rook, knight and pawn for the queen but he still has to untangle. The ending is not an easy win but Wei Yi collects the point efficiently.

25.Qc5 Bc6 26.Bc2

Repositions the bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal.

26...a6 27.Bb3 Rd6 28.Qh5 Nd5 29.Rxe8+ Kxe8 30.Qg4

Nice. Wins either the g7 or the c7 pawn.

30...g6 31.Bxd5! Rxd5 32.Qc8+ Ke7 33.Qxc7+ Kf6 34.Qf4+ Kg7 35.f3 a5 36.b3 h5 37.Kf2 Rb5 38.Qe3 Rd5 39.Ke1 Rf5 40.Qe7 Rd5 41.Qc7 Rf5 42.Qh2! Bd7 43.Kd2 Be6 44.Kc3 Bd5 45.b4 Bc6 46.Kb3 Bd5+ 47.Kc3 Bc6 48.Qh4 axb4+ 49.Kxb4 Rd5 50.Kc4 Rf5 51.Qd8 Bb5+ 52.Kb4 Bf1 53.g4 Rb5+ 54.Kc3 hxg4 55.a4 Rf5 56.fxg4 Rf3+ 57.Kb4 Rf4 58.Kc5

Now White goes after the h7-pawn.

58...Bg2 59.Qg5 Re4 60.d5 Rxa4 61.Qe5+ Kf8 62.Qh8+ Ke7 63.d6+ Kd7 64.Qb8 1 -- 0

Wei Yi has another big advantage going in his favor -- he does not blunder. This prodigy may make a mistake here or there but overall can be counted on not to make big errors. He has a gift for instinctively knowing where the pieces should be stationed. It has been said of former world champion Jose Raul Capablanca (champion from 1921-1927) that he “can throw the pieces up in the air and they land on the correct squares” -- such as the awe he inspired with his feel for the pieces and position. Another one who had that gift is England’s Michael Adams, who in the late ’90s and early 2000s was a perennial candidate for the world title.

In a tournament like the forthcoming World Cup where there are few rest days stamina and a strong nervous system can be just as important as opening preparation and tactical skill.

I remember during the 2015 Baku World Cup Wei Yi made a brilliant move by putting his queen in a seemingly innocuous square which later turned out to be fatal for his opponent. The online commentator Susan Polgar was deeply impressed and in the post-game interview asked him what factors weighed in on the decision to put the queen on that square. Wei Yi thought about it for a moment, shook his head, and said “I just knew.”

This is the talent who will be playing soon in the Tbilisi World Cup. I think he will reach at least the last round-of-8. At least.

Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.