The Wei Way: Danzhou dominated by teen sensation

by Elshan Moradiabadi
7/16/2017 – Wei Yi is having a stellar performance in the super-GM tournament in Danzhou, China. With an impressive +4 score, he looks unstoppable, as he rockets up the FIDE rating list to crack the Top 15 for the first time. GM Elshan Moradiabadi looks at two of Wei's key wins.

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Nowadays super tournaments are not exactly a rarity. We have seen a string of new events cropping up alongside long-running traditional tournaments like Dortmund, even to the point where scheduling conflicts force players to decline major invitations. Kramnik, for instance skipped out on the Grand Chess Tour due to the proximity to Dortmund and the World Cup. While another leg of the FIDE Grand Prix just wrapped up in Geneva, China is in the midst of the 8th edition of the Danzhou grandmaster tournament.

Danzhou group

Players and staff of the 8th Danzhou GM tournament | Photo: China chess network

Set on the island of Hainan, the tournament features ten 2700 level grandmasters from five countries competing in a round-robin. In addition to the Chinese top players Wei Yi, Wang Hao, Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi and Lu Shanglei, there are five international guests: Le Quang Liem, Ruslan Ponomariov, Vladimir Malakhov, Vassily Ivanchuk and Arkadij Naiditsch.

Hainan is located far in the south of China, east of Vietnam. Dhanzou itself consists of 19 individual communities and has about 1 million inhabitants, practically a village by Chinese standards.

Hainan

As we enter the homestretch, the hero of the event is unquestionably the eighteen year old sensation Wei Yi. Arguably China's main hope to claim the chess throne, Wei Yi’s spectacular dynamic play has netted him four wins as he leads the tournament by an almost insurmountable 1.5 points.

Rk.   Name   Rtg. Nt. Pts. n
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
TB Perf.
1
GM
 
2738
5.0
6
 
     
11.50
2993
2
GM
 
2726
3.5
6
 
 
   
9.75
2853
3
GM
 
2729
3.5
6
 
 
   
10.75
2782
4
GM
 
2781
3.5
6
 
     
9.00
2762
5
GM
 
2698
3.0
6
 
 
   
9.50
2737
6
GM
 
2712
3.0
6
   
 
 
8.50
2711
7
GM
 
2753
3.0
6
   
 
 
7.25
2702
8
GM
 
2722
2.0
6
   
 
 
5.50
2582
9
GM
 
2699
2.0
6
     
 
4.00
2535
10
GM
 
2638
1.5
6
     
 
3.25
2541

With a 1½ point lead, only a serious meltdown can stop Wei | Photo: China chess network

The youngster used his tactical skill, phenomenal opening preparation and creative play to defeat his strong compatriot Yu Yangyi on the White side of a Petroff Defence where things were anything but smooth. In what was supposed to be an archaic line, Wei Yi came up with a novel idea where he went after the Black king rapidly.

A World champion's guide to the Petroff

The great popularity of the Petroff Defence at the highest level has attracted general attention lately. Many strong players employ this opening with great success and with both colours. Unfortunately the opinion of the Petroff Defence as a sterile drawish opening seems to be firmly implanted in many minds. The author tries to dispel these myths and presents his understanding of the matter. He examines the most popular lines and provides a large number of ideas that will enable you to play Petroff successfully, with either colour.

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Yu Yangyi's reaction was far from adequate and he soon found himself in troubled waters where it was hard to find a safe spot for his king. Soon after it was Wei Yi who became too 'creative' and ended up 'only' up queen for rook and knight in a position in which Yu Yangyi could actually put up formidable resistance for a long time. However, a mistimed exchange eventually led to his defeat.

 

Wei Yi is likely to create considerable excitement in the chess world over the coming years, but even with his lead in Danzhou things were not as easy as they look. Fierce competition from his countryman and defending champion Ding Liren, whose grinding style gave him a healthy +2 score on the rest day.

Ding Liren

Ding Liren is still the Chinese number one, but Wei may be challenging him soon Photo: China chess network

His win in round five against ex-FIDE champion, Ruslan Ponomariov was in fact rather exceptional. The Chinese played a very enterprising and ambitious Nimzo-Indian Rubinstein system from the Black side. In a somewhat symmetrical pawn structure Ding sacrificed his e-pawn for activity. Ponomariov's reaction, however, was passive which soon led to a difficult position in which Black invaded white squares in the center (notably d3) and the kingside. Ding on the other hand, either got too relaxed or missed his chance to increase his advantage. Soon thereafter forced exchanges resulted in a complex endgame where Ponomariov had a strong d6 pawn for a sacrificed exchange. It seemed that Ponomariov should be able to hold this endgame with a few accurate moves. Unfortunately for the Ukrainian, things got out of hand right before the time control and Ding confidently converted his material advantage.

 

On Saturday, however, Ding stumbled, against Vassily Ivanchuk, fatally weakening his king position with 24…g6.

 

Black understandably would like to bring his king off the back rank, but allowed Ivanchuk to push c4, as en passant is prevented by the hidden pin along the fourth rank.

Soon after, 31…Rf6? was swiftly punished:

 

32.Re8+ Kg7 33.Qe7! and Black is in a mating net.

Meanwhile Wei keeps on winning, this time with Black against the veteran Russian Vladimir Malakhov, who by move 30 was rendered helpless against Yi’s raking bishop pair.

Vladimir Malakhov

Vladimir Malakhov is one of the handful of 2700+ Russian grandmasters who rarely get elite invitations Photo: China chess network

After maneuvering to make time control, Wei finally pounced with the breakthrough f7-f5-f4:

 

White’s position quickly collapsed.

On Sunday, Wei faces German GM Arkadij Naiditsch (who plays for Azerbaijan), and with White in two out of his remaining three games, the young star will be very hard to catch.

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Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.
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