The first round of the Riga Grand Prix began last July 12th. Sixteen players competed in a knockout tournament. Each round consists of two games of classical chess, with a time control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves then 30 minutes to the end of the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1. If the match is tied two 25+10 rapid games are played. If still tied, there are two slow rapid (10+10) games, then two 5-minute blitz games with three seconds increment. Finally, if the two players are still tied, a single Armageddon game is played, where White has five minutes to Black’s four (with a two-second increment from move 61) but Black wins the match with a draw.
In his last tournament (Croatia Grand Chess Tour) Wesley So had won his first round game versus Ding Liren by giving up his queen then forcefully getting his pieces to work together and overwhelm the enemy position. I also annotated this for you a few columns back so here is the bare score.
So, Wesley (2754) — Ding Liren (2805) [A20]
Croatia GCT 2019 Zagreb CRO (1.3), 26.06.2019
1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Bc5 4.Nc3 c6 5.e3 0–0 6.Nge2 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.d4 exd4 9.Nxd5 cxd5 10.exd4 Bb6 11.Nc3 Nc6 12.Be3 Be6 13.0–0 Qd7 14.Na4 Rfd8 15.Nxb6 axb6 16.Qb3 Ra6 17.Rfc1 Bh3 18.Bf3 Bg4 19.Bg2 Bh3 20.Bf3 Bg4 21.Bh1 h5 22.h4 Be2 23.Kh2 Qf5 24.Bg2 Na5 25.Qc3 Nc6 26.b3 b5 27.Qd2 Bf3 28.Bf1 Rb6 29.Bf4 Rc8 30.Rc3 Bg4 31.f3 b4 32.Rd3 Bxf3 33.Rxf3 Ne5 34.dxe5 Rc2 35.Rf2 Rxd2 36.Rxd2 Rc6 37.Bh3 Qg6 38.Rad1 Ra6 39.Bg2 d4 40.Bxb7 Ra5 41.Rxd4 Rxa2+ 42.R1d2 Qb6 43.Rxa2 Qxd4 44.Rd2 Qc3 45.Bd5 Kf8 46.Bc4 Ke7 47.Bg5+ f6 48.exf6+ gxf6 49.Re2+ Kd7 50.Bd2 1–0
Here in the Riga Grand Prix Wesley was matched against India’s Pentala Harikrishna in the first round, a very tough customer. Wesley once again gave up his queen and got a won game but Harikrishna created enough threats to hold the draw.
So, Wesley (2763) — Harikrishna, Pentala (2734) [C54]
Riga FIDE Grand Prix 2019
Riga LAT (1.1), 12.07.2019
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.0–0 a6 7.Re1 Ba7 8.a4 0–0 9.h3 h6 10.Nbd2 Re8 11.b4 Be6 12.Bxe6 Rxe6 13.Qc2 Qd7 14.Nf1 d5 15.Be3 Bxe3 16.Nxe3 Rd8
With this rook on a8 White cannot play b4–b5. Now that it has moved White can proceed with his queenside plans.
17.b5 Ne7 18.c4 d4 19.Nd5 Ng6 20.Rab1 axb5
Now most people would have recaptured with 21.axb5 without hesitation, but Wesley paused for 15 minutes here with played …
21.Rxb5!? c6 22.Nb6 Qe7 23.Rbb1 Nh5 24.g3 Rf6
Hari can play 24…Ngf4 right away. If Wesley accepts the sacrifice then he loses: 25.gxf4 Nxf4 26.Kh2 Rg6 27.Rg1 Qe6! the coming …Qxh3+ is devastating. Therefore the proffered knight should be refused. 24…Ngf4 25.Kh2 Rf6 26.gxf4 Rxf4 (26…Nxf4 27.Rg1 Nxh3 28.Rg3 Nf4 29.c5! followed by Nc4 to either d6 or e5) 27.Qd1 Qf6 28.Kg2 Qg6+ Black has at least a draw.
25.Qd1 Ngf4?! 26.gxf4 Nxf4 27.Kh2 Rg6 28.Rg1 Rxg1
[28…Qe6 as in the previous line no longer works because of 29.Qf1]
29.Nxg1 Rd6 30.Nc8!
Wesley invested 12 minutes before playing this move.
[31.Nxd6 Qxf2+ followed by mate]
31…Rg6 32.Rxb7 Rg2+ 33.Qxg2 Nxg2 34.Kxg2
With rook and two minor pieces for his queen Wesley should be winning, but the immediate problem now is to coordinate all his pieces. Harikrishna immediately goes Qh4–g5–d2 to attack the white pawns from behind.
34…Qg5+ 35.Kh1 Qd2 36.a5
On the one hand this move does not throw away the win, but on the other hand there was a much simpler way: 36.Nd6! Qxd3 37.Kg2 Qc2 38.a5 d3 39.Nf3 d2 40.Nxd2 Qxd2 41.a6 Qg5+ 42.Kf1 Qc1+ 43.Ke2 Qa3 (43…Qc2+ 44.Kf3 Qd3+ 45.Kg2 there are no more checks, and 45…Qxd6 46.a7 queens the pawn) 44.a7 White wins.
The correct follow–0up is 37.Nf3! Qa3 38.Kg2 Qxd3 39.Nd6 c5 40.Rb8+ (40.Nxe5 Qe2) 40…Kh7 41.Nxf7 Qxe4 42.Rh8+ Kg6 43.N7xe5+ Kf6 44.Rc8 d3 45.Re8 d2 46.Nd7+ Kf7 47.Rxe4 d1Q 48.Nxc5 precision is still needed, but White should win this.
It is too late for 38.Nf3 because then Black goes for the d3 pawn and White’s pieces are not coordinated. 38…Qa3 It’s too late to consolidate with a Nf3 and Qg2 setup. Black goes after the pawn on d3, and when it falls, White’s king is still exposed, and the pieces are disorganized.
38…Qa6 39.Nd8 Qa3 40.Nxf7 Qxd3 41.Nd6 Qc2 42.Rd7 Qa4 43.Re7 d3 44.Nf3 d2 45.Nxd2 Qd1+ ½–½
Wesley was not able to win this because of lack of piece coordination. The second classical game was also drawn so they went into tiebreaks. The first game (25 minutes play-to-finish with 10 second increment) was decisive, and Wesley shows that he has learned his lesson.
So, Wesley (2763) — Harikrishna, Pentala (2734) [C54]
Riga FIDE Grand Prix Riga (1.3), 14.07.2019
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.0–0 a6 7.Re1 Ba7 8.Bb3 h6 9.Nbd2 0–0 10.h3 Re8 11.Nf1 Be6 12.Bc2 d5 13.Qe2 b5 14.Rd1 Qe7 15.Ng3 Rad8 16.exd5 Nxd5?! 17.Qe4
Did Hari just blunder his knight? No — he was hoping to trap the enemy queen.
18…Bb6 19.d4 e4
[19…Bd5 does not do the trick as White has 20.Nf5!]
20.Ne5! Rd6 21.Qb7 Bc8 22.Qa8 Bd7 23.Qb7 Bc8 24.Qa8 Bd7 25.Qxa6! Bxd4 <D>
POSITION AFTER 25…BXD4
This was the idea, discovering an attack on the queen. But Mr. Wesley is up to it.
26.Qxd6! Bxf2+ 27.Kxf2 cxd6 28.Nxd7 e3+ 29.Kg1 Qxd7 30.Re1 Qa7 31.Nf5! Nd5 32.Bb3? e2+ 33.Nd4 Nb4 34.Bf4 Nd3 35.Bg3 Qc5
The rook is not going away.
36.Kh2 Qh5 37.Bc2 Nxe1 38.Rxe1 b4 39.Bf5! bxc3 40.bxc3 Re3 41.Bg4 Qa5 42.Rxe2 Rxg3?
Harikrishna misjudges the position. He did not like 42…Rxe2 43.Nxe2 when White gets a passed pawn, either on the a-file or c-file. He figures that by giving up his rook for the dark-squared bishop he can win both of white’s queenside pawns but he did not count on Wesley’s excellent regrouping.
43.Kxg3 Qxc3+ 44.Nf3 d5
Same story as in the previous game, R+2 minor pieces versus Q, Showing that he has learned his lesson Wesley now concentrates on the coordination of his pieces: each should be defended by the other.
45.Bf5! g6 46.Bc2
Trying to save the pawn with 46.Bb1? in fact loses to 46…Qc7+ 47.Kf2 Qb6+ and the bishop falls.
46…Qc7+ 47.Kf2 Qa7+ 48.Kf1 Qxa2
Now that White’s pieces are coordinated he has to try and win the d5–pawn.
49.Rd2 Qa6+ 50.Bd3 Qa1+ 51.Ke2 Kg7 52.Rd1 Qb2+ 53.Kf1 Qb3 54.Be2 h5 55.Nd4
Fixing the pawn on d5, where it is on the same color square as White’s bishop, is important. The next step is to zero in on it with his bishop and rook, starting Bf3.
55…Qa4 56.h4 Kf6 57.g3 Kg7 58.Rd3 Qa1+ 59.Kg2 Qb2 60.Kf2 Qb6 61.Bf3 Qc5 62.Kg2 Qc4 63.Rd2
Better was to put this rook on d1, where it is protected by his bishop. Anyway later on he circles back to this idea.
63…Qb4 64.Rd3 Qc4 65.Be2 Qa2 66.Kf2 Qa7 67.Bf3 Qc5 68.Rd1! Qa5 69.Ne2
Successful! The d5–pawn falls.
69…Qb6+ 70.Kg2 Qb2 71.Rxd5
What is the next step for Wesley? He has to attack the weakest part of Black’s position. As of the moment it is f7.
71…Qc2 72.Rd7 Qb2 73.Rc7 Qa2 74.Rb7 Qc2 75.Re7 Kf8 76.Re4 Kg7 77.Kh2 Qb2 78.Bg2 Qd2 79.Nf4 Kf8 80.Ra4 Qc2 81.Ra7 Ke8 82.Ra8+ Ke7 83.Nd5+! Kd6 84.Ra7 Qf2 85.Ra6+ Ke5
The King has to move up the board as 85…Kd7? 86.Rf6 the f7–pawn falls.
We get a theoretical draw after 86.Rf6? Qxf6 87.Nxf6 Kxf6.
A royal fork with Nd3+ was threatened.
87.Nh3 Qd2 88.Ng5
There is no defense for the f7–pawn. Hari doesn’t see the tactical trick why the pawn cannot save itself by moving to f6.
88…f6? 89.Rxf6+! 1–0
Hari resigns because of 89.Rxf6+ Kg4 (89…Ke5 90.Nf3+; 89…Kxf6 90.Ne4+) 90.Rf4+! Qxf4 91.Bh3#. Wesley ended with 2 minutes 49 seconds on his clock while Harikrishna was down to last 56 seconds.
In less than a month Wesley had given away three queens! Would you believe that three days later he would give up his queen again? Against no less than the “Minister of Defense” Sergey Karjakin? I will tell you about it on Tuesday next week.
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.