Wei Yi is Asian champ

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

17th Asian Continental Chess Championship
(2nd Manny Pacquiao Cup)
Open Division
Tiara Oriental Hotel, Makati City, Philippines
Dec. 10-18, 2018

Final Standings

1-3 Grandmaster (GM) Wei Yi CHN 2728, GM M. Amin Tabatabaei IRI 2587, GM Le Quang Liem VIE 2714, 6.5/9

4-11 GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly IND 2621, GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son VIE 2641, GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov UZB 2546, GM Parham Maghsoodloo IRI 2688, GM Lalith Babu MR IND 2529, GM SP Sethuraman IND 2664, GM Baskaran Adhiban IND 2695, GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2701, 6.0/9

12-19 GM Susanto Megaranto INA 2512, GM Ni Hua CHN 2683, GM Abhijit Kunte IND 2469, GM Rinat Jumabayev KAZ 2602, GM Alireza Firouzja IRI 2607, GM Wang Hao CHN 2730, IM Nguyen Anh Khoi VIE 2480, GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami IRI 2537, 5.5/9

Total of 64 participants

Time Control: 90 minutes for the 1st 40 moves, then 30 minutes for the rest of the game with 30 seconds added after every move starting move 1.

The 19-year old GM Wei Yi from Yancheng, Jiangsu, China, won the 17th Asian Continental Chess Championships with a steady performance of four wins and five draws. He actually tied for 1st with Iranian GM Seyyed Mohammad Amin Tabatabaei and the top-ranked GM from Vietnam Le Quang Liem, but having faced much stronger opposition, was awarded the gold medal.

The three who tied for 1st plus GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly (India) and GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (Vietnam) will be the five players to be seeded to the 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk World Cup.

Previous Asian Champions

1998 Rustam Kasimdzhanov UZB

2000 Xu Jun CHN

2001 Xu Jun CHN

2003 Krishnan Sasikiran IND

2005 Zhang Zhong CHN

2007 Zhang Pengxiang CHN

2009 Surya Shekhar Ganguly IND

2010 Ni Hua CHN

2011 Pentala Harikrishna IND

2012 Parimarjan Negi IND

2013 Li Chao CHN

2014 Yu Yangyi CHN

2015 Salem AR Saleh UAE

2016 SP Sethuraman IND

2017 Wang Hao CHN

Wei Yi has been on a mini-slump lately which saw his rating dip from 2753 last August 2017 to 2728 this December, but here in the Continental Championship he zeroed in on the goal of qualifying for the World Cup and steadily and efficiently went about the task. Given the chance though for a quick tactical strike he did not fail to make the most of his chances.

His opponent in the following game is the 15-year-old Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja who in 2012, at the age of 12 (!), won the Iranian national Championship a full point ahead of his nearest competitors, the youngest ever to win Iran’s national title. He is an attacking master and also a speed chess specialist. GM Firouzja won the Asian Continental Blitz Chess Championship which was held on the last day of this competition. Even more impressive was that he outpaced Le Quang Liem (Vietnam), who in 2013 was the World Blitz Chess Champion.

Wei Yi (2728) — Firouzja,Alireza (2607) [B70]
17th Asian Continental Chess Championship
Makati City (4.1), 13.12.2018

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.Nge2 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.g3 g6 7.Nxc6

The most common way to play this fianchetto system in the Sicilian is to withdraw the d4–knight to e2 to avoid exchanges, and then 7.Nde2 Bg7 8.Bg2 0–0 9.0–0 Rb8 10.a4 a6 11.Nd5 b5 12.axb5 axb5 13.h3 b4 14.Be3 Nd7 15.Qc1 e6 16.Ndf4 White’s forces are ready for action in the center and kingside. Malakhov, V-Svidler, P/RUS-ch m1–2 Elista 1997 0–1 28.

7…bxc6 8.Bg2

White is now threatening 9.e4–e5. The Chicago Master Andrew Karklins, in the ‘70s one of the USA’s top players, used to play it right away and in fact it is also an interesting idea: 8.e5!? dxe5 9.Qxd8+ Kxd8 10.Bg2 White has interesting play. He will be going for castling queenside and then f2–f4 to open his dark-squared bishops diagonal.

8…Bb7 9.b3 Bg7 10.Bb2 0–0 11.0–0 Qc8 12.Qd2 Rd8 13.Rad1 c5 14.Rfe1 e6 15.e5 Ng4

[15…dxe5? 16.Qxd8+ Qxd8 17.Rxd8+ Rxd8 18.Bxb7 wins a piece]

16.exd6 Bd4 17.Bxb7 Qxb7 <D>



But isn’t the b2–bishop en prise?

18…Bxb2 19.c3

Black’s dark-squared bishop now becomes inutile.

19…Ba3 20.Qf4 f5 21.Ng5 c4

[21…e5? 22.Qc4+ Kh8 23.f3 Nf6 24.Rxe5 Rd7 25.Rde1 the coming Re5–e7 is fatal for Black]


[22.Qxc4? Qc8! forces the exchange of queens and the worse is over for the second player]

22…Bb2 23.Nxe6 Bxc3 24.Nxd8 Qb5

[24…Rxd8 25.Qxc4+ wins the bishop with an overwhelming position]


The Black queen is keeping an eye on e8 to prevent a rook check and also defending the c4 pawn to prevent Qxc4+. Now it has to give up one of those.

25…Nxf2 26.axb5 Nh3+ 27.Kf1 1–0

After 27.Kf1 Nxf4 28.Re8+ Kg7 29.gxf4 White is clearly winning.

GM Le Quang Liem came from the Vietnamese National Championship and was exhausted when he arrived in the Philippines, which caused him to lose a brilliancy game to Paulo Bersamina (I showed you this game last Tuesday). To his great credit he fought back and tied for the lead at the very last round. This is his decisive game.

Le, Quang Liem (2714) — Ganguly, Surya Shekhar (2621) [A29]
17th Asian Continental Championship Open 2018
Makati City (9), 18.12.2018

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nb6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0–0 Be7 8.b3 0–0 9.Bb2

Openings like the double-fianchetto are a good idea for those must-win games as there is no immediate clash in the center and no pieces are exchanged right away.

9…Bg4 10.d3 Re8 11.Rc1 Bf8 12.Ne4 Nd4 13.e3 Nxf3+ 14.Bxf3 Bh3 15.Re1 c6 16.Qc2N Qe7 17.a3 Rad8 18.b4 Nd7 19.Red1 Bf5 20.Qe2 Qe6 21.h4 Be7 22.Nd2 Qg6

With the benefit of hindsight 22…h5 is better. White cannot take it because of 23.Bxh5 Nf6 with an attack on d3.If White tries to defend the pawn with 24.e4 then 24…Nxh5 25.exf5 (25.Qxh5?? Bg4) 25…Qxf5 Black is at least equal.

23.h5 Qg5 24.Nc4 h6 25.Na5 Rb8 26.Rc2 a6 27.Bc1 Be6!

[27…Qf6?! 28.Nxb7 Rxb7 29.Rxc6 Bd6 30.Rxd6! wins material]

28.e4 Qf6 29.Be3 Bd8 30.Bg4 Nf8 31.Nc4 Bc7 32.d4 exd4 33.Bxd4 Qg5 34.Bxe6 Nxe6 35.Be3 Qe7 36.Qg4 Kf8 37.Rcd2

Black must now prevent f4.

37…Rbd8 38.Qf5 Kg8 39.Kg2 Rxd2 40.Rxd2 Rd8 41.Bc5 Nxc5 42.bxc5 Rxd2 43.Nxd2

I was standing behind GM Le at around this time. I thought that he had frittered away his advantage.

43…Qd8 44.Nf3 b5?

GM Gamguly didn’t like the backward pawn on b7, but the weaknesses on a6 and c6 this move creates are even worse.

45.cxb6! Bxb6 46.g4 Bd4 47.g5 hxg5 48.Nxg5 Qe8 49.f4!

An inspiration. All of White’s forces, including his king, will join in the attack.

49…g6 50.hxg6 fxg6 51.Qh3!

From which square the queen will swing to b3 to attack the enemy king.

51…Bf6 52.Qb3+!

Better than 52.Qh7+ Kf8 53.Qh6+ Kg8 and Black has survived (53…Ke7 54.Nf3 followed by e4–e5 and Black’s king is still in a dangerous situation).


[52…Kf8 53.Ne6+ Ke7 54.e5 Bh4 55.Nc5 Kf8 (55…Qc8 56.Qh3!) 56.Qh3 Qe7 57.Ne4 Kg8 58.Nd6 Black is barely holding on]

53.Ne6 Qf7 54.a4 Qe8 55.Kg3!

Here comes the King!

55…Qc8 56.a5 Kh7 57.Nc5 Qc7 58.Kg4 Qc8+ 59.Ne6! Qd7 60.e5 Be7 61.f5 gxf5+ 62.Kxf5 Bf8? 63.Qh3+ Bh6 64.Kf6 Qd2 65.Qf5+ Kh8 66.Kg6 1–0

The ending will be 66.Kg6 Qg2+ 67.Kxh6 Qh2+ 68.Kg5 Qg3+ 69.Kf6 Qg8 70.Qh5+ Qh7 71.Qxh7+ Kxh7 72.Nf4 the e5–pawn will queen.

The newly appointed Secretary of the FIDE Trainer’s Commission will be writing on his impressions of the Asian Continental Championship. I will share it with BW readers as soon as I receive them.


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 for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.