Wesley’s queen

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Riga FIDE Grand Prix 2019
Riga, Latvia
July 12-25, 2019
(all participants are GMs)


Anish Giri versus Sergey Karjakin 4.0-5.0

Pentala Harikrishna versus Wesley So 1.5-2.5

Jan-Krzysztof Duda versus Peter Svidler 2.5-1.5

Daniil Dubov versus Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 0.5-1.5

Alexander Grischuk versus Nikita Vitiugov 3.0-1.0

Yu Yangyi vs. Levon Aronian 4.5-4.5*

Veselin Topalov versus Hikaru Nakamura 2.5-1.5

David Navara versus Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0.5-1.5

*Match reached Armageddon game which was drawn, and Yu Yangyi advanced to the next round because he was Black (see explanation of tie-break rules below).


Sergey Karjakin vs. Wesley So 3.5-4.5

Jan-Krzysztof Duda vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 1.5-2.5

Alexander Grischuk vs. Yu Yangyi 2.5-1.5

Veselin Topalov versus Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0.5-1.5


Wesley So versus Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 0.5-1.5

Alexander Grischuk vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0.5-1.5


Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 5.0=4.0

In the just-concluded Riga Grand Prix tournament Wesley So eliminated Pentala Harikrishna in the first round 2.5-1.5. They had two draws in the classical games but Wesley won the rapid tiebreaks with one win and one draw.

What is noteworthy about the match which lasted 4 games was that the Bacoor native gave up his queen twice — he gave it up for a rook and two minor pieces to get a winning position in game 1 (classical) but could not coordinate his pieces and allowed Harikrishna to escape. In game three (rapid 25 mins. + 10 sec. increment) he once again exchanged his queen for a rook and two minor pieces but this time got them working together and did not allow any counterplay to win.

His Quarter-Final opponent was the “Minister of Defense,” the former Vice-Champion of the World Sergey Karjakin. Both Wesley So (USA) and Sergey Karjakin (RUS) are the “I will play 40 good moves and if you play 40 good moves then we draw. Otherwise, I will go for the win” kind of player. They also know each other’s opening systems very well and that is why it is not easy for either player to get an advantage.

For the first two games (classical chess) and the rapid chess tie-breaks (two games of 25+10) followed by the fast tie-breaks (two games of 10+10), that’s a total of six games, there was not much action — the games ended in 17, 19, 31, 27, 17 and 18 move draws. However, once blitz chess tiebreaks (5 minutes + 3 second increment after every move) were reached their games exploded into action. As you know in blitz chess activity is more important than the mere counting of pawns — the mistakes will come anyway so you would have a better chance of winning if your pieces have scope for action. Once Wesley saw that material losses were inevitable he … but you should go over the game for yourself!

So, Wesley (2763) — Karjakin, Sergey (2748) [A29]
Riga Grand Prix (3.5), 17.07.2019

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Bg2 0–0 6.Nd5 Bc5

Hardly anyone ever plays 6…Nxd5 because of 7.cxd5 Nd4 8.Nxd4 (8.Nxe5? Re8 9.Nxf7 is a sacrifice which only works if Black accepts it. 9…Qf6! (9…Kxf7? 10.e3 Nf5 11.Qg4 attacking both Black’s knight and bishop) 10.e3 Qxf7 11.0–0 Nf5 Black is much better) 8…exd4 9.0–0 White has a small edge.

7.0–0 d6 8.e3 Re8

The stem game for this line is Tony Miles versus Vassily Smyslov from the 1984 Interpolis Tournament. I will show you later how it sent.

9.d4 Bg4!

Part of Karjakin’s opening preparation, and it is a strong move. [Smyslov played 9…Bb6 10.b3 Nxd5 11.cxd5 Nb4 12.dxe5 dxe5 13.e4 Bg4 14.Bb2 Qf6 15.a3 Na6 16.b4 White has a small advantage because his pieces are better coordinated. Miles, A. (2245)-Smyslov, V. (2600) Tilburg 1984 1–0 71.

10.dxc5 e4 11.Nc3?

This move was labeled as a novelty by some quarters. While it is true 11.Nc3 has never been played before that is because it is a mistake! Correct is 11.h3 exf3 12.hxg4 fxg2 13.Kxg2 dxc5 14.f3 Ne5 15.e4 Nxc4 Nepomniachtchi, I. (2768)-Vitiugov, N. (2730) RUS-ch Satka 2018 1/2 41.

11…Ne5! <D>


GM Wesley now realizes that 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.h3 Nxf3+ 14.Bxf3 Bxh3 15.Re1 Qf6 16.Qe2 dxc5 Black is a pawn up with good attacking prospects. Remember what I said about needing to stay active in fast time control games? This is precisely the type of position you should avoid. So what is he to do now?


Completely unexpected. White gives up his queen for two pieces just to remain active.

12…Bxd1 13.Nxf7 Qe7

Karjakin avoids 13…Kxf7 14.Rxd1 Qe7 15.cxd6 cxd6 16.Rd4 Rad8 17.b3 White has some pressure on the d6 and e4 pawns.

14.Nxd6 cxd6 15.cxd6 Qxd6 16.Rxd1

It turned out that the bishop pair and two pawns are a decent match for the black queen, since White has no real weaknesses. Sergey said White’s position was “playable in blitz,” and it’s arguably even easier to play as White.


White has two bishops and two pawns for Black’s queen. This is of course not enough, but Wesley plays the second phase very well and he manages to bring out the latent power of the two bishops.

17.Bd2 Rad8 18.Be1 b6 19.b3 Rd3 20.Rxd3 exd3 21.Rd1 Rd8 22.Bf1 Qf5

[22…d2 is a nice trick, hoping for 23.Bxd2? Rxd2 24.Rxd2 Qxc3 Black has a decisive advantage. However, after the correct reply 22…d2 23.Rxd2! Rxd2 (23…Qxc3? 24.Rxd8+ Kf7 25.Bxc3) 24.Bxd2 White now has two bishops and three pawns for the queen and his position is solid.

23.Nd5! Nxd5 24.Rxd3

It turns out that Black cannot move his knight because of the pin along the d-file.


Karjakin takes his King out of the a2–g8 diagonal so that after 25.cxd5 Rxd5 26.Rxd5 Qxd5 27.Bc4 is not possible.


Wesley is really a very tricky guy, even with only seconds on his clock. It turns out that Black still cannot play 25…Rxd5 because of 26.Bb4+ Ke8 27.e4! Qxe4 28.Re3.

25…a5! 26.Rd4

With the idea of Rf4.

26…Qb1 27.Bc3 Qxa2 28.Bc4 Qc2 29.Rf4+ Ke7 30.Bxg7

Now the threat is Bf4+


If Karjakin had more time he would probably have seen 30…Rxd5! 31.Bxd5 Qd1+ 32.Kg2 Qxd5+ with a probable draw.


Not only winning the exchange but also the queen.

31…Kd7 32.Bb5+ Kc7 33.Rc4+ 1–0

After 33.Rc4+ Qxc4 34.Bxd6+ Kxd6 35.bxc4 even I can win this position against Karjakin.

I am afraid this story does not have a happy ending. After showing very creative play Wesley was eliminated by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the Semifinals. He was surprised by an opening novelty and could not hold it together.

Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar (2765) — So, Wesley (2763) [E05]
Grand Prix Riga 2019 Riga (3.1), 18.07.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 0–0 6.0–0 dxc4 7.Ne5 Nc6 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.Na3 Bxa3 10.bxa3 Ba6 11.Qd2 Rb8 12.Qa5 Rb6 13.a4! Qd6 14.a3!

A nice novelty. White usually continues 14.e4 and Black would equalize after 14…Qb4. The prophylactic 14.a3 robs Black of that possibility.

14…Rfb8 15.e4 c3?

After the game Mamedyarov reveals that the correct way to proceed is 15…Nxe4! 16.Bxe4 Qxd4 17.Be3 Qxe4 18.Bxb6 Rxb6 19.Rfe1 Qg6 and Black can probably hold (Take note that the obvious 19…Qd5 is a mistake, for now White can play 20.Rad1).

16.e5 Qd8

Black had originally intended 16…Qxd4 17.exf6 Bxf1 18.Bxf1 Qxf6 with chances to hold, but now realized that 16…Qxd4 is refuted by 17.Be3.

17.exf6 Bxf1 18.Bxf1 c2 19.Ra2 Qd5 20.Qxd5 cxd5 21.Rxc2

The two bishops is more than a match for the Black rook.

21…gxf6 22.Rxc7 R8b7 23.Rc5 Kg7 24.Kg2 Rb1 25.Bb5 Ra1 26.Rc3 Rb6 27.Bf4 Rb7 28.Kf3 Rd1 29.Be3 Rb1 30.Kg4 Rh1 31.h4 Kg6 32.Bd3+ f5+ 33.Kf3 Rd1 34.g4 1–0

But what can we say? Mamedyarov was a better player on this day. We just have to move on.


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.