Wei Yi at Tata Steel Challengers (1)

by Sagar Shah
1/28/2015 – While Magnus Carlsen won the Tata Steel Masters, it was the young talent Wei Yi who won the Challengers section. There was a grim fight for the top spot in the Challengers right until the end, and there were plenty of tough struggles with some thoroughly exciting games to follow. Sagar Shah has selected some prime examples for you in this two-part wrap-up.

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The 2015 Tata Steel Chess Tournament had two main round robin tournaments, both with 14 players each. The time control was 100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for 20 moves, then 15 minutes for the remaining moves with 30 seconds cumulative increment for each move starting from the first move.

Wei Yi at Tata Steel Challengers

After easily drawing his last round game against A.R. Salem, Wei Yi sat comfortably on the top of the results table with 10.5/13. His nearest rival David Navara had won his final round game, but it was not enough to catch him. Navara finished second with a score of 10.0/13.

This might give you an impression that the Chinese player had a pretty easy outing at the Tata Steel Challengers, but nothing can be farther from truth than this. This is how things stood at the end of nine rounds:

With a solid half point lead and having to face one 2600+ player less than Wei Yi
in the last four rounds, David Navara was surely the favourite to win the tournament

But things heated up in the tenth round when Navara could only draw his game against Potkin while Erwin L’Ami self-destructed against Wei Yi.

[Event "77th Tata Steel GpB"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2015.01.21"] [Round "10"] [White "Wei Yi"] [Black "L'Ami, Erwin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2675"] [BlackElo "2613"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2015.01.10"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Nbd2 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. c3 a6 8. h3 Ba7 9. Bb3 Ne7 10. Re1 Ng6 11. Nf1 h6 12. Ng3 Nh7 13. d4 Ng5 14. Nxg5 hxg5 15. Nf5 {Black has a decent position out of the opening. But now Erwin goes for an active move which is excellently refuted by the Chinese player.} Nf4 $6 (15... exd4 16. cxd4 Qf6 $14 {with a normal position.}) 16. g3 $1 {Great move! The speed with which Black's position now goes down hill is extremely surprising.} g6 (16... Nxh3+ 17. Kg2 $18) (16... Ne6 17. Qh5 g6 $2 18. Qh6 gxf5 19. exf5 $18 ) (16... Bxf5 17. exf5 {[%csl Rf4]} Nxh3+ 18. Kg2 Nxf2 19. Qh5 $1 (19. Kxf2 { is also winning.}) 19... Qf6 20. Bxg5 Qxf5 21. Rh1 Nxh1 22. Rxh1 Qe4+ 23. Kf1 Qb1+ 24. Ke2 Qxh1 (24... Qxb2+ 25. Bd2 $18) 25. Qxh1 $18) 17. gxf4 gxf4 (17... gxf5 18. Qh5 {With the open g-file, queen on h5 and the bishop on b3, White's attack is bound to be decisive.} Qf6 19. fxe5 Qh8 (19... dxe5 20. Bxg5 Qg7 21. Kh1 $18 {[%cal Ge1g1]}) 20. Qg6+ Qg7 21. exf5 $18) 18. dxe5 Qg5+ (18... gxf5 19. Qh5 $18) 19. Kh1 Bxf5 (19... gxf5 20. Rg1 $18) 20. exf5 Bxf2 21. Rf1 Bg3 22. exd6 Qxf5 23. Qg4 Qxg4 24. hxg4 g5 25. dxc7 {Black has no compensation at all for the missing piece.} Rac8 26. Bd2 Kg7 27. Kg2 Rfe8 28. Bd1 Rxc7 29. Bf3 Rce7 30. Rad1 Kg6 31. c4 f5 32. Bc3 Re2+ 33. Kg1 1-0

Erwin L’Ami (above) played two reckless games against Wei Yi and Samuel Shankland in rounds ten and twelve respectively. That explains his super solid positional win against Ari Dale in the final round, but it didn’t help him to improve his final standings. He finished eighth in the event.

After ten rounds the scores of the leaders had been levelled. Both of them were on 8.0/10. They were one and half points ahead of their nearest rival, Robin Van Kampen.

20-year-old Robin Van Kampen played an excellent event, scoring 8.5/13 and finishing fourth. Robin is the best junior of Netherlands (after Giri) and he stayed true to his tag of being an excellent attacker by playing some really uncompromising chess. Here is one of his games in which he won with a mating attacking on Potkin’s king but missed a tactic which would have surely made this game very special!

Van Kampen – Potkin, Round 12

White to play and find an amazing combination. Take your time and look deep!

[Event "77th Tata Steel GpB"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2015.01.24"] [Round "12"] [White "Van Kampen, Robin"] [Black "Potkin, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2615"] [BlackElo "2608"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r3k/1pqb2p1/r2bp2p/p4p2/8/1BP2NP1/PP2QP1P/3RR1K1 w - - 0 22"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "2015.01.10"] 22. Ne5 {This looks natural and lets White keep a sizeable advantage. However, he had an extremely strong attacking continuation with} (22. Ng5 $1 {Brilliant! } hxg5 (22... Re8 23. Qh5 $18) 23. Qh5+ Kg8 24. Rxe6 $1 Bxe6 25. Bxe6+ Kf8 {It is quite possible that Robin saw till here but was not able to find the finishing touch.} 26. Rd5 $3 {Bringing the last piece into the attack decides the game.} (26. Qh8+ Ke7 27. Qxg7+ Kxe6 $19) (26. Rxd6 {was also strong.} Raxd6 27. Qh8+ Ke7 28. Qxg7+ Kxe6 29. Qxc7 $18 {White should win this but he needs to put in some effort.}) 26... Re8 27. Rxf5+ Ke7 28. Rf7+ (28. Qf7+ Kd8 $19) 28... Kd8 29. Rxc7 Bxc7 30. Qxg5+ Re7 31. Bg4 $18 {A fantastic variation.}) 22... Bc8 23. Rd4 Kh7 24. Red1 Be7 25. Rxd8 Bxd8 26. Qh5 Bf6 $2 (26... Qxe5 { would have kept Black in the game.} 27. Rxd8 Rc6 28. h4 $14) 27. Qg6+ Kg8 28. Qe8+ Kh7 29. Ng6 Qc6 30. Nf8+ Kg8 31. Nd7+ (31. Nd7+ Kh7 32. Nxf6+ gxf6 33. Qf7+ Kh8 34. Rd8+ Qe8 35. Rxe8#) 1-0

Vladimir Potkin had an average tournament. He demolished the bottom half but didn’t fare well against
the upper players. As a result he finished right in the middle, seventh place, with a score of 7.0/13.

Robin Van Kampen could have been a real challenger to Wei Yi and Navara in fighting for the top spots. But his route was cut short by another dazzling youngster, Salem Saleh from UAE.

Salem goes back with a fine performance. 7.5/13 earned him the fifth place and also three Elo points!
An important victory for him in this tournament was the one against Robin Van Kampen.

[Event "77th Tata Steel GpB"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2015.01.23"] [Round "11"] [White "Salem, AR."] [Black "Van Kampen, R."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B40"] [WhiteElo "2603"] [BlackElo "2615"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2015.01.10"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c3 d5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Be2 Nf6 6. O-O Nc6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Nxd4 9. cxd4 Be7 10. Nc3 Qd6 11. Qb3 O-O 12. Rd1 Rd8 13. Bf3 a6 14. a3 Nd5 15. g3 Nxc3 16. Bf4 Ne2+ 17. Bxe2 Qd5 18. Bc4 Qa5 19. Rac1 b5 20. Be2 Bd6 21. Bg5 f6 22. Bf3 Rb8 {White played an unusual opening but got a nice position out of it. A strong exchange sacrifice follows now.} 23. Rxc8 $1 Rdxc8 24. Qxe6+ Kh8 25. Bxf6 $1 Qc7 (25... gxf6 26. Qxf6+ Kg8 27. Bd5#) 26. Bg5 {Two pawns for an exchange and two powerful bishops. That's excellent compensation.} Rf8 27. Rc1 Rbe8 28. Qd5 Qd7 29. Be3 Rc8 30. Rxc8 Rxc8 31. Kg2 $1 {I really like these moves. Such little improving moves prove that White believes in his position and is not in a hurry to convert his advantage into a full point.} Rd8 32. Be4 Bf8 33. Qg5 Be7 34. Qh5 g6 35. Qe5+ Kg8 36. Bh6 Bh4 $2 (36... Bf8 37. Bxf8 Kxf8 38. Qh8+ Kf7 39. Qxh7+ Kf8 40. Qxg6 Qxd4 41. Qf5+ $16 {This is bad for Black but he is not completely lost.}) 37. f3 $1 $18 {The bishop on h4 is trapped!} (37. gxh4 Qg4+ 38. Kh1 Qd1+ 39. Kg2 Qg4+ $11 {was the little trap!}) 1-0

Wei Yi was able to overtake Navara in the eleventh round when scored a fine victory over Michiels Bart with the black pieces and Navara was held to a draw by Gunina.

Bart Michiels - Wei Yi, Round 11

Black to play. White’s last move was Bg2-f1. Where should Wei Yi move his rook?

[Event "77th Tata Steel GpB"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2015.01.23"] [Round "11"] [White "Michiels, Bart"] [Black "Wei Yi"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E32"] [WhiteElo "2563"] [BlackElo "2675"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r2k1/ppp2pp1/4b3/4q3/1PP1p1pP/P2rP1P1/2Q2P2/R2R1BK1 b - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "27"] [EventDate "2015.01.10"] {[%cal Gg2f1] Of course Wei Yi doesn't even think for a moment to save his rook on d3. The bishop on f1 is way too precious.} 24... R8d6 $1 25. a4 $1 { Bart's reaction is excellent. He keeps the tension on the board.} b6 {Staying calm.} 26. Rac1 {The tension mounts.} Bf5 27. Be2 $2 {Bart goes wrong but Wei Yi fails to take the oppotunity, athough in his defence it must be said that the combination was extremely difficult to spot.} (27. c5 {was better.}) 27... c5 $6 (27... Rxe3 $1 28. fxe3 (28. Rxd6 cxd6 29. fxe3 Qxg3+ 30. Kf1 Qxe3 31. Qc3 (31. Kg2 Qh3+ 32. Kg1 Qg3+ 33. Kf1 Qf4+ 34. Ke1 g3 $19 {[%csl Ge4,Gf4,Gf5, Gg3] The combination of Black pieces is too much for White to deal against.}) 31... Qf4+ 32. Kg1 g3 $1 $19) 28... Qxg3+ 29. Kh1 (29. Kf1 Qh3+ 30. Kg1 Qxe3+ 31. Kh1 Qh3+ 32. Kg1 Qg3+ 33. Kf1 (33. Kh1 Rh6 $19) 33... e3 34. Qxf5 g6 $1 $19 ) 29... Rh6 $19) 28. bxc5 Qxc5 29. Bxd3 $2 {Finally Michiels cracks and Black gets the advantage.} (29. Rb1 {was better.}) 29... exd3 30. Qb2 Be4 31. Rd2 Qf5 {The light squares are just too weak!} 32. f4 gxf3 33. Qb5 Qg4 34. Kh2 Bf5 35. Qe5 Qh3+ 36. Kg1 Rg6 37. Rh2 f2+ {The main difference between Wei Yi and his opponent in this game was that the young Chinese GM was patient and didn't rush the issue while Bart finally lost his cool and took the rook on d3 which lead to a loss.} 0-1

Bart’s constant companion in this tournament was the book “Tactical Targets in Chess”.
But it didn’t help him much as he lost 20 Elo points in the event

With just two rounds left, the tables had been turned. Wei Yi was on 9.0/11 while Navara was on 8.5. It was now Czech player’s turn to do the catching. But he was unsuccessful at it when in the twelfth round he once again had to split the point against Samuel Sevian. Wei Yi took this opportunity to extend his lead with a crushing victory over Anne Haast.

Wei Yi - Anne Haast, Round 12

White to play. It’s time to find one blow after another and finish off the game!

[Event "77th Tata Steel GpB"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2015.01.24"] [Round "12"] [White "Wei Yi"] [Black "Haast, Anne"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B48"] [WhiteElo "2675"] [BlackElo "2352"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r1kbnr/1bqp1pp1/p7/1p2pP2/4P2p/1NN1B2Q/PPP3PP/1K1R1R2 w k - 0 17"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "2015.01.10"] {White to play and finish off the game.} 17. f6 $1 {The d7 pawn turns out to be the Achilles heel.} Nxf6 18. Rxf6 $1 gxf6 19. Bb6 {Simple deflection.} Qc6 20. Na5 Qe6 {The only way to keep in touch with the d7 pawn.} 21. Nxb7 Rb8 ( 21... Qxh3 22. gxh3 Rb8 23. Nd6+ Bxd6 24. Rxd6 Ke7 25. Bc7 Rbc8 26. Nd5+ $18) 22. Nd5 $1 {Wei Yi finds the most accurate way to end the game.} Rxb7 (22... Qxh3 23. Nc7+ Ke7 24. Bc5+ d6 25. Rxd6 $1 {Not such an easy move to see. There is no defense against the mate.} Qxg2 26. Rd5#) 23. Qc3 $1 {Qc8 cannot be stopped because Rb8 is met with Nc7 winning the queen.} Qc6 24. Nxf6+ Ke7 ( 24... Qxf6 25. Qc8+ Ke7 26. Bc5+ d6 27. Qxb7+ $18) 25. Bd8+ $1 Ke6 (25... Kxd8 26. Qxc6 $18) 26. Qh3# {Ten powerpacked moves by Wei Yi ends with mate on the black king! A combination that will be replayed many times in many books!} 1-0

It’s a scary feeling when you play against this young Chinese talent.
One mistake and he is completely unforgiving!

It was a bad day at the office for Anne Haast against Wei Yi, but overall
she fared well in the tournament by scoring 4.0/13 and gaining ten Elo points

– Part two of the Challengers wrapup will follow soon –


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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