2015 Al Ain Classic: Wang Hao wins in style

by Prathamesh Mokal
1/2/2016 – Wang Hao of China dominated the Al Ain Chess Classic and achieved the remarkable feat of winning it with a round to spare! He beat Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta in the eighth round to take his tally to 7.5/8, one and a half points over his nearest rivals, thus guaranteeing sole first. A draw with the top-seed and he finished with a 2944 performance. Report with commented games.

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Al Ain Classic – Wang Hao wins in style

By IM Prathamesh Mokal

All photos by WGM Emkhtuul Altan Ulzii (unless otherwise stated)

He completed the last round formalites by drawing with top seed Yuriy Kryvoruchko from Black and winning the tournament by the same margin as his lead in the previous round. Wang Hao took home a shining trophy and the first prize of 13000 dollars!

The winner of the Al Ain Chess Classic 2015…Wang Hao!

The last round

Wang Hao had already won the tournament with an unassailable 1.5 point lead but his clash against the top seed seemed worth following.

Top seed Yuriy Kryvoruchko, completely focused against Wang Hao in the final round

Yuriy Kryvoruchko - Wang Hao

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.30"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Kryvoruchko, Yuriy"] [Black "Wang, Hao"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B31"] [WhiteElo "2711"] [BlackElo "2707"] [Annotator "Mokal,Prathamesh"] [PlyCount "60"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. Nc3 Nf6 6. e5 Ng4 7. Bxc6 dxc6 8. Re1 Nh6 9. h3 Nf5 10. d3 Nd4 11. Bf4 O-O 12. Ne4 {Black has got the two Bishops but his pawn structure is spoiled. White's e5-pawn gives him some space advantage and tries to disturb the co-ordination between the Black forces. But still the black bishops have their eyes open and so the position can be deemed as unclear/equal.} b6 13. a4 a5 14. Nfd2 $146 {White has previously played 14.Ned2 or 14.b3 in this position.} Ra7 15. Nc4 {Visually the Knights seem to be on good posts but they can be pushed away from there soon. White's intention therefore was rather the provocation of ...b5 in order to find accessible targets on the Queenside.} Bf5 ({The immediate} 15... b5 { would be answered by} 16. Ncd2 {and then White has got his target on c5. For example} Ne6 (16... Qb6 17. c3 Ne6 18. Be3 Bxe5 19. Nxc5 Nxc5 20. Ne4 $14) 17. Be3 Bxe5 18. Nxc5 $14) 16. Bg3 Ne6 17. Bh2 {Black's last two moves have taken care of the potential target on c5 and so he now begins his counterplay with energetic moves.} b5 $1 18. Ncd2 c4 19. dxc4 Rd7 20. Qe2 Bh6 ({Another energetic move possible is} 20... Nd4 $5) 21. Nf3 Nd4 22. Nxd4 Rxd4 23. Ng3 Rd2 24. Qf3 Bxc2 25. axb5 cxb5 26. cxb5 Rd3 ({The alternative,} 26... Rd5 $5 { also seems good, as there is no good way for White to support the b5-pawn.}) 27. Qc6 Bb3 28. Ne4 Bd5 29. Qc2 Bxe4 30. Rxe4 Qd5 {Black takes the b5-pawn and holds comfortably. A fantastic tournament for Wang Hao, who won by a big margin.} 1/2-1/2

Alexander Areshchenko beat Abhijeet Gupta to end the Indian hopes of a good finish

Alexander Areshchenko - Abhijeet Gupta

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.28"] [Round "7.4"] [White "Gupta, Abhijeet"] [Black "Lalith, Babu M.R"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E46"] [WhiteElo "2613"] [BlackElo "2553"] [Annotator "Mokal,Prathamesh"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Bd6 7. Ng3 c5 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. b4 Be7 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Bd3 a5 12. b5 Re8 13. O-O Nbd7 14. Bb2 Nc5 15. Nce2 Be6 16. Nf4 Bf8 17. Bc2 Rc8 18. Rc1 g6 {Interestingly Black has the isolated pawn and White is attacking. All White's minor pieces seem to be either aiming at or gathering around the black monarch, so sooner or later an attacking sacrifice is likely to be in the offing.} 19. Ngh5 $5 {Gupta decides that it is sooner rather than later. But this decision is very unclear. Maybe he could manoeuvre a bit more?} Nxh5 20. Nxh5 gxh5 21. Qxh5 f5 ({Worth considering was} 21... Ne4 22. f3 Qg5 23. Qxg5+ Nxg5 24. h4 {White wins back the piece but Black has} Bc5 {creating problems on e3.}) 22. Bxf5 Bxf5 23. Qxf5 {White has 2 pawns for the piece but the Black King is exposed making things a bit tense.} Qd7 24. Qh5 Bg7 25. Bxg7 Kxg7 26. Rcd1 Rcd8 27. Rd4 Ne4 28. f3 Nf6 $6 {This allows White to keep the Black King in the middle of the board.} ({ Better was} 28... Nc3 $5 {so that} 29. Qg5+ {could be answered by} Kh8 $15) 29. Qg5+ Kf7 30. Rf4 Qe6 31. e4 d4 32. Qh6 {Idea Qh7.} Ke7 33. Qh4 {Idea e5} Qe5 34. Rf5 Qe6 35. Rf4 Qe5 36. Rf5 {A repetition to get closer to the 40-move mark.} Qe6 37. f4 $16 {And now Back cannot stop Re5 without losing some material.} d3 38. Re5 d2 39. Rd1 h5 40. Rxe6+ Kxe6 41. Qh3+ Kf7 42. e5 1-0

As many as nine players finished on 6.5/9 to share second place. While Alexei Shirov,Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Mykhaylo Oleksiyenko, and Arman Pashikian got there with final round draws, Alexander Areshchenko, Zahar Efimenko, Levan Pantsulaia, Robert Hovhannisyan and Kravtsiv Martyn scored crucial last round victories to finish on a good note.

The eighth round

The eighth round actually saw the victory of the tournament sealed as Wang Hao scored over Gupta on the top board. Shirov had to be content with a draw as Kryvoruchko did not allow him to make any inroads.

Oh no…the Berlin again (Shirov). Kryvoruchko held Shirov to a draw with Black pieces in the
eighth round. Wang Hao versus Gupta in the background as the arbiter watches Shirov’s game.

Meanwhile, a curious position arose in the game Mchedishvili vs Malakhatko in round eight.

White to play and win


[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.29"] [Round "8.12"] [White "Mchedlishvili, Mikheil"] [Black "Malakhatko, Vadim"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E11"] [WhiteElo "2635"] [BlackElo "2531"] [Annotator "Mokal,Prathamesh"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5rk1/3r2q1/2p1ppp1/1p2PP2/1P1P2P1/3R3R/5Q1K/8 w - - 0 47"] [PlyCount "1"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 47. g5 $1 {Irrespective of which pawn Black captures, a White pawn will end up on f6...} ({For example,} 47. g5 fxe5 48. f6 {and after the Queen moves White makes decisive inroads on the h-file.} Qf7 49. Rh6 $18) 1-0

Players and personalities

One could not help but notice a little kid moving around, holding his own against (and even beating) seasoned masters in the tournament.

It is none other than 10-year-old Uzbek CM Javokhir Sindarov. He had a
great tournament and stands to gain 81 Elo points! One of his victories
came against yours truly. From personal experience, I think we are likely
to see Sindarov achieve the IM and GM titles within a couple of years.

Arbiter Ilgar Bajarani at his workstation

GM Ivan Sokolov, who coaches talented players in the U.A.E was often
seen visiting the tournament hall to follow the games of his protégés.
You can read Sagar Shah’s excellent interview of Sokolov by clicking here.

The Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony was held at the poolside of the Hotel Hili Raayhan by Rotana.

The traditional dance at the closing ceremony

Alexei Shirov, after receiving his (second) prize volunteered to say a few words and praised
the organisation of the Al Ain Chess Classic, “Al Ain has established itself as an important tournament in the calendar”. Behind him on the stage is the tournament director Tarek Al Taher, happy to find out that his efforts have been appreciated.

WCM Narmin Mammadova of Azerbaijan took the best female player prize

The Amateur section was won by India’s Sasikumar Anusweud

Final standings

1 2 GM Wang Hao CHN 2707 8,0 41,5 21,8
2 5 GM Shirov Alexei LAT 2676 6,5 44,5 10,9
3 21 GM Pashikian Arman ARM 2606 6,5 42,5 15,2
4 24 GM Pantsulaia Levan GEO 2598 6,5 41,5 15,2
5 1 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2711 6,5 40,5 0,4
6 4 GM Areshchenko Alexander UKR 2677 6,5 39,5 4,3
7 17 GM Oleksiyenko Mykhaylo UKR 2616 6,5 38,0 1,8
8 16 GM Kravtsiv Martyn UKR 2623 6,5 37,5 3,8
9 15 GM Hovhannisyan Robert ARM 2624 6,5 37,0 5,6
10 9 GM Efimenko Zahar UKR 2647 6,5 37,0 6,7
11 13 GM Mchedlishvili Mikheil GEO 2635 6,0 42,5 4,4
12 19 GM Onischuk Vladimir UKR 2612 6,0 40,5 1,6
13 12 GM Rakhmanov Aleksandr RUS 2640 6,0 39,5 2,3
14 26 GM Andriasian Zaven ARM 2594 6,0 39,0 5,4
15 8 GM Motylev Alexander RUS 2653 6,0 38,0 -1,2
16 7 GM Zhigalko Sergei BLR 2655 6,0 38,0 0,3
17 25 GM Azarov Sergei BLR 2595 6,0 37,0 0,5
18 30 GM Kulaots Kaido EST 2574 6,0 35,5 3,0
19 10 GM Anton Guijarro David ESP 2640 6,0 33,5 -8,3
20 37 GM Zeng Chongsheng CHN 2530 5,5 44,5 15,7

Click for complete standings

Prathamesh Mokal is an International Master and FIDE Trainer from India. He won bronze in the Commonwealth Junior Championships 2003 and was joint Asian Junior Champion in the same year. He got his first Grandmaster norm in 2009 and scored an unprecedented 100% in the FIDE Trainer’s exam in 2012. He is a renowned coach based in Pune, India and he is also a Martial Arts enthusiast with a Black Belt 1st Dan in Isshinryu Karate as well as Matayoshi Kobudo.
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ex0 ex0 1/3/2016 08:12
Congrats to Wang Hao for finally gaining some ratings and getting 2700+ again.. oh yeah, congrats also for winning the Al Ain Classic 2015 :P