2015 Al Ain Classic Rd6-7: Wang Hao is unstoppable

by Prathamesh Mokal
12/29/2015 – Wang Hao scored another victory, this time against Micheil Mchedishvili of Georgia to take his tally to 6.5/7 and extend his lead by a full point at the end of the seventh round. Four players share second on 5.5/7, Alexei Shirov, Arman Pashikian, Abhijeet Gupta and Yuriy Kryvoruchko. In this report you will find fine portraits and commented games.

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Al Ain Classic round seven – Wang Hao leads by a full point

By IM Prathamesh Mokal

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

After winning with 1.d4 (first and third round), 1.e4 (fifth round) 1.c4 was the flavor of the day to bring Wang Hao the victory in the seventh round. Although this win was not an easy one, to be able to play three mainstream moves in the same tournament speaks volumes of the strength and preparation of this prodigy.

Wang Hao of China

Wang Hao - M. Mchedishvili

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.28"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Wang, Hao"] [Black "Mchedlishvili, Mikheil"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A22"] [WhiteElo "2707"] [BlackElo "2635"] [Annotator "Mokal,Prathamesh"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 Bb4 4. Bg2 O-O 5. e4 Bxc3 6. bxc3 c6 7. Nf3 Nxe4 8. O-O d6 9. Nxe5 Ng5 10. Ng4 f5 11. f4 Ne4 12. Ne3 Nf6 13. Qc2 g6 14. Ba3 Na6 15. d4 Rb8 16. Rfe1 Re8 17. Re2 Be6 18. Rae1 Bf7 19. Qd3 Nc7 20. d5 c5 21. Bc1 Qd7 22. Qc2 Kf8 23. h3 h5 24. Bf3 a6 25. a4 b5 26. cxb5 axb5 27. c4 bxc4 28. Bb2 Ne4 29. Bxe4 Rxe4 30. Nxc4 Nxd5 31. Nxd6 {For the first time in the tournament Wang Hao seemed a bit vulnerable.} Rxb2 $6 {Most probably the result of time pressure.} ({Black should have played} 31... Rxe2 32. Rxe2 (32. Qxe2 Qxd6 33. Be5 Qd8 34. Bxb8 Qxb8 $17 {Black is better.}) 32... Rxb2 33. Qxb2 Qxd6 34. a5 c4 (34... Nf6 $5) 35. Qh8+ Bg8 $15 {Black is sl ightly better, although as is well known, when fighting against 2 minor pieces, Rook with a passed pawn is dangerous.}) 32. Qxb2 Qxd6 33. Rxe4 fxe4 34. Rxe4 Nf6 35. Re3 Kg7 36. a5 h4 ( 36... Qd1+ 37. Kf2 (37. Kh2 $4 Bd5 $19) (37. Kg2 Bc4 $5 38. Re7+ Kh6 $19 { with Bd5+ coming.}) 37... Qh1 38. Qe5 Qxh3 39. a6 $11 {It is likely to result in perpetual check.}) 37. g4 Qxf4 $2 {This natural capture turned out to be a blunder.} (37... Qd1+ 38. Kf2 Qh1 $11 {is most likely a draw.}) 38. Qe5 $1 { Suddenly White is winning. Black cannot avoid the queen exchange as g5 will win the pinned knight, while whenever Black exchanges the queens, the a-pawn play the decisive role.} g5 39. a6 Bd5 40. Qxf4 gxf4 41. Re5 Bf3 42. Rxc5 Ne4 43. Rf5 Ng3 44. Rxf4 1-0

Levan Pantsulaia tried hard to make something out of his slight advantage in a double bishop versus bishop-knight endgame, but Shirov held his fort and secured the draw after 66 moves. Top seed Yuriy Kryvoruchko of Ukraine came back into reckoning as he took advantage right out of the opening against Chinese GM Zeng Chongsheng, to score the full point. In a battle among Indians, the 2013 Al Ain Classic winner Abhijeet Gupta beat Lalith Babu to reach 5.5/7 points. It has been an unfortunate fall from grace for Lalith after starting with a perfect 4.0/4.

Abhijeet Gupta of India (photo by Amruta Mokal)

Abhijeet Gupta - Lalith Babu

[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

After messing a great position in the sixth round, Arman Pashikian got his due in the seventh as he beat Fabien Libiszewski with the Black pieces.

Aremenian GM Arman Pashikian

The sixth round

Round six saw draws on the top eleven boards although many of those involved long fights and missed opportunities. On the top board, Shirov versus Wang Hao did not give the fans what was expected as Wang Hao’s Berlin stood solid against the guy who can start a fire out of thin air.

Mr. Fire-on-the-Board Alexei Shirov was unable to burn down Wang Hao's Berlin Wall

Alexei Shirov - Wang Hao

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.27"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Shirov, Alexei"] [Black "Wang, Hao"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2676"] [BlackElo "2707"] [Annotator "Mokal,Prathamesh"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] {With Wang Hao on 5.0/5 and Shirov half a point down, this game was expected to display some fireworks. However, as has been the custom since the year 2000, Black used the Berlin Wall to douse any fire before one was even started.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 {For now, Shirov chooses one of the many possible ways to avoid the queen exchanges.} ({He declines the offer of debating the Berlin endgame with} 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8) 5... Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nxe5 8. Rxe5 O-O 9. Nc3 (9. d4 { is a much more popular, grabbing some space and central control, although Black has good chances of equalising here too.}) 9... Bf6 10. Re1 Re8 11. Nd5 { An off-beat choice which has been used as a one-time surprise by a couple of top players.} (11. Rxe8+ Nxe8 (11... Qxe8 12. d4 {gives White space in favorable conditions.}) 12. Nd5 {has been the choice of many strong players.}) 11... Rxe1 12. Qxe1 b6 13. d3 ({Here Adams had tried} 13. g3 {but failed to get any advantage after} Bb7 14. Bg2 c6 15. Ne3 Qe7 16. d3 Nf5 17. c3 d5 18. Bd2 Nxe3 19. Qxe3 Qxe3 20. Bxe3 $11 {1/2-1/2 Adams,M (2710)-Kramnik,V (2795)/ London 2012 (38)}) ({Aronian chose} 13. Nxf6+ Qxf6 14. f3 {to beat Anand in Zurich in February 2015, but since it was a blitz game, one cannot make too much out of it.} Bb7 15. Qf2 Re8 ({It would probably make sense to stop d4 with } 15... Nf5 16. c3 c5) 16. d4 h6 17. Bd2 Nf5 18. c3 Nh4 19. Bd3 Ng6 20. Re1 Rxe1+ 21. Qxe1 Qe6 22. Qxe6 dxe6 23. c4 Kf8 24. Kf2 Ke8 25. Bc2 Ne7 26. g4 Ba6 27. Bd3 f6 28. h4 c6 29. Bb4 b5 30. cxb5 Bxb5 31. Bc2 Kf7 32. Bc5 Nc8 33. b3 g5 34. h5 Ba6 35. Bg6+ Kg7 36. a4 Nb6 37. Be4 Nd5 38. Bxa7 Bc8 39. Bd3 f5 40. Bb8 Kf7 41. Be5 Nf6 42. Be2 Nd5 43. Ke1 {1-0 Aronian,L (2777)-Anand,V (2797)/ Zurich 2015.}) 13... Bb7 14. Nxf6+ Qxf6 15. Qc3 ({Previously White tried but failed to get any advantage with} 15. Qb4 Nf5 16. c3 Re8 17. Bd2 c5 18. Qf4 h6 19. Re1 Rxe1 20. Bxe1 d6 21. h4 g6 22. Bd2 h5 {This combination of Bb7 and Nf5 keeps things under perfect control.} 23. Qa4 a6 24. Qd7 Qe7 25. Qxe7 Nxe7 26. Bf4 Nf5 27. f3 f6 28. Kf2 Kf7 29. g4 Nxh4 30. Bxd6 Nxf3 31. gxh5 Ng5 32. hxg6+ Kxg6 33. Ke3 Ne6 34. d4 cxd4+ 35. cxd4 b5 36. Bd3+ f5 37. Bc2 Kg5 38. Bb3 f4+ 39. Kd3 Kf5 40. d5 Ng5 41. Kd4 {1/2-1/2 Vachier Lagrave,M (2744)-So,W (2773)/ Baku 2015}) 15... Qxc3 16. bxc3 {It seems really tough to find an ambitious plan for White over here. Black's position is really very solid structure-wise and all his pieces have good jobs to do. Meanwhile, White does not have a good way to utilise his bishop pair.} Nf5 {If attacked with g4 the black knight will go to h4 and create problems for White on the f3-square.} 17. f3 Re8 18. Kf2 Bc6 19. Bf4 d6 20. d4 f6 {White cannot play c4 with the d4-pawn hanging and trying to dislodge Black's pieces from good posts will require some structural concessions.} 21. Bd3 ({It does not help to play} 21. g4 g5 (21... Nh4 22. Bg3 (22. Be2 g5) 22... g5 {is also possible.}) 22. Bxg5 (22. Bd2 Nh4 $11) 22... fxg5 23. gxf5 Kg7 24. Bd3 Kf6 $11 {as White's weaknesses give Black easy equality. He threatens to just take back the pawn with ...Bd7-Bf5.}) (21. Bc4+ Kh8 (21... d5 22. Ba6 Re7 23. Bd3 g6 24. Bxf5 gxf5 25. Re1 Kf7 26. Rxe7+ Kxe7 27. Bxc7 Ba4 {also looks equal.}) (21... Kf8 {may be avoided as it allows a check in one sequence.} 22. Bd3 (22. d5 Bd7) 22... g6 23. g4 Nh4 24. Bh6+ Kg8 25. Bc4+ Kh8 26. Be2) 22. Bd3 g6 {is similar to the game.}) 21... g6 22. a4 a5 23. Bxf5 gxf5 {= Opposite Bishops with one structural weakness for both sides. There is nothing left in the game now.} 24. c4 Rb8 25. c3 Kf7 26. c5 bxc5 27. dxc5 Rb2+ 28. Kg3 Rc2 29. cxd6 cxd6 30. Bxd6 Rxc3 31. Re1 Rd3 32. Re7+ Kg6 33. Bc5 Bxa4 34. Ra7 Bd7 35. Rxa5 Rd5 1/2-1/2

Lalith Babu drew with Kryvoruchko on board two while Mchedishvili drew with Libiszewski in a long and complex opening line.

Micheil Mchedishvili of Georgia versus Fabien Libiszewski of France

On the fourth board, Arman Pashikian got a great position against Levan Pantsulaia, but could not convert it and had to settle for a draw after a 71-move battle.

Players and personalities – Woman power

The Al Ain Classic has attracted a lot of strong woman players, titled and untitled, who have come with a variety of ambitions whether norms, prizes or practice. Photographer Emkhtuul Altan Ulzi, herself a WGM, captured some nice portraits.

IM Anna Zozulia from Belgium

WGM Gunay Mammadzada of Azerbaijan

WGM Abdulla Khayala hails from Azerbaijan

WIM Narmin Khalafova of Azerbaijan

Uzbeki WIM Sarvinoz Kurbonboeva

Indian WIM Parnali Dharia deep in thought

Afshar Niusha of Iran

Turan Asgarova comes from Azerbaijan

Ms Fatima, aribiter

Basma Irtahi, chief general coordinator

With two rounds to go Wang Hao seems to be set to claim the top spot, but it remains to be seen if anyone has other ideas. Here is the pairing for round eight for those with 5 points or above.

Results of top five boards in round seven

Bd
No
Name
FED
Rtg
Pts
Result
Pts
Name
FED
Rtg
No
1 2 Wang Hao CHN 2707 1 - 0 Mchedlishvili Mikheil GEO 2635 13
2 24 Pantsulaia Levan GEO 2598 ½ - ½ 5 Shirov Alexei LAT 2676 5
3 1 Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2711 1 - 0 Zeng Chongsheng CHN 2530 37
4 18 Gupta Abhijeet IND 2613 1 - 0 Lalith Babu M.R. IND 2553 32
5 40 Libiszewski Fabien FRA 2515 0 - 1 Pashikian Arman ARM 2606 21

Standings after seven rounds

Rk
SNo
Ti.
Name
FED
Rtg
Pts
 TB 
rtg+/-
1 2 GM Wang Hao CHN 2707 6,5 23,5 21,7
2 5 GM Shirov Alexei LAT 2676 5,5 27,5 11,2
3 21 GM Pashikian Arman ARM 2606 5,5 24,0 15,1
4 18 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2613 5,5 22,0 3,7
5 1 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2711 5,5 21,0 0,5
6 24 GM Pantsulaia Levan GEO 2598 5,0 24,5 9,6
7 4 GM Areshchenko Alexander UKR 2677 5,0 22,5 0,2
8 12 GM Rakhmanov Aleksandr RUS 2640 5,0 22,5 2,9
9 23 GM Adly Ahmed EGY 2598 5,0 22,0 7,3
10 11 GM Kuzubov Yuriy UKR 2640 5,0 20,5 0,7
11 20 GM Volkov Sergey RUS 2612 5,0 20,5 0,8
12 8 GM Motylev Alexander RUS 2653 5,0 20,0 -0,6
13 45 GM Arencibia Rodriguez Walter CUB 2501 5,0 20,0 2,8
14 17 GM Oleksiyenko Mykhaylo UKR 2616 5,0 19,5 1,9
15 32 GM Lalith Babu M.R. IND 2553 4,5 27,0 7,9
16 37 GM Zeng Chongsheng CHN 2530 4,5 25,5 11,8
17 13 GM Mchedlishvili Mikheil GEO 2635 4,5 25,0 5,0
18 56 GM Babujian Levon ARM 2465 4,5 23,5 13,4
19 19 GM Onischuk Vladimir UKR 2612 4,5 23,5 1,0
20 3 GM Kovalenko Igor LAT 2680 4,5 23,0 -10,5

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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Emil Cabagay Emil Cabagay 12/30/2015 10:56
Beautiful inspiring players in the tourney!
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