2015 Al Ain Classic: Wang Hao takes lead with 5.0/5

by Prathamesh Mokal
12/27/2015 – Chinese Grandmaster and second seed Wang Hao has taken sole lead at the Al Ain Chess Classic after five rounds with a perfect score. He is followed closely by Alexei Shirov who seems to be finding his form with every passing round. What’s more, they both will face off in round six in what could be the match of the tournament! Here is the report with commented games.

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Wang Hao takes the lead with 5.0/5

Report from Al Ain by IM Prathamesh Mokal

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

After playing two queen pawn opening games in rounds one and three, Wang Hao suddenly switched to 1.e4 in the crucial fifth round. This probably caught Lalith Babu off guard who confessed to have tried too hard to be exact in the Caro Kann Advance. The result was more or less a cakewalk for White.

Wang Hao to Lalith Babu – You were expecting 1.d4 weren’t you?

Wang Hao - Lalith Babu

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.12.26"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Wang, Hao"] [Black "Lalith, Babu"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2707"] [BlackElo "2553"] [PlyCount "49"] [EventDate "2015.12.24"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 Nd7 6. O-O h6 7. Nbd2 Ne7 8. Nb3 Bg6 {Generally White wants to take advantage of Black's crampness in this variation. Black pieces often fight for the same squares} 9. a4 Nf5 10. g4 { Wang Hao brings out his novelty in the crucial round.} ({So far White has played} 10. a5 {in this position, with games by many top players as well.}) 10... Nh4 11. Nxh4 Qxh4 12. f4 f5 (12... h5 $5 {may be worth a try but after} 13. g5 {it at least looks dangerous, with the Black Queen cut off.}) 13. Bd3 Be7 14. Bd2 h5 15. gxf5 Bxf5 16. Bxf5 exf5 17. Rf3 Qg4+ 18. Kh1 Qg6 (18... h4 $14 {with a slight edge for White.}) 19. Rg3 Qf7 $2 {The decisive error. This gives White a chance to sacrifice e5-e6 at the right moment.} ({Better was} 19... Qh6 {or Qh7 but again Black's position is unenviable.}) 20. Qg1 Nf8 { Almost a surrender, but there was hardly any way out.} (20... Rg8 21. e6 Qxe6 22. Re1 Qf6 23. Rge3 $18) (20... Rh7 21. e6 Qxe6 22. Re1 $18) ({Black's best bet was} 20... Kf8 {but after} 21. Rg6 $16 {he is totally cramped.}) 21. Rxg7 Qe6 22. Qg2 O-O-O 23. Rg1 Re8 24. Qh3 Rh6 25. R1g5 {A nice shot to end the game.} (25. R1g5 Bxg5 26. Nc5 {traps the Queen.}) 1-0

Shirov played very precisely against Gupta. He kept putting pressure until the latter cracked.

Shirov waits for Gupta to arrive as the top table encounter begins in the background

Abhijeet Gupta - Alexei Shirov

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.12.26"] [Round "5.2"] [White "Gupta, Abhijeet"] [Black "Shirov, Alexei"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E04"] [WhiteElo "2613"] [BlackElo "2676"] [Annotator "Mokal,Prathamesh"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2015.12.24"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. g3 dxc4 6. Bg2 b5 7. Ne5 a6 8. O-O Bb7 9. b3 b4 10. Na4 c3 11. Nc4 a5 12. a3 Ba6 13. axb4 axb4 14. Nc5 Bxc5 15. dxc5 Qxd1 16. Rxd1 O-O 17. Bf4 Nd5 {Shirov's novelty.} ({Previously Black had played} 17... Nbd7 18. Bxc6 {and the erred with} Bxc4 $2 {giving White an easy win after} 19. Rxa8 Rxa8 20. Bxa8 Bxb3 21. Rd4 $18 g5 22. Rxb4 Nxc5 23. Bxg5 Kg7 24. Kf1 Nfd7 25. Ke1 f5 26. Be3 c2 27. Kd2 Ba4 28. Bxc5 Nxc5 29. Rc4 { 1-0 Gleizerov,E (2546)-Solodovnichenko,Y (2543)/Koge 2013/CBM 154 Extra}) 18. Bxd5 (18. Bd6 {is a decent alternative.}) 18... cxd5 (18... exd5 {also looks as Black keeps his pawn mass without allowing White a passed pawn in the c-file.}) 19. Nb6 Nc6 (19... Bxe2 {involved complex calculations, ideal for the engines, but probably a bit too much for mortals.} 20. Rxa8 (20. Nxa8 Bxd1 21. Rxd1 Na6 22. Nb6 Nxc5) 20... Bxd1 21. Rxb8 Rxb8 22. Bxb8 f6 23. c6 (23. Nxd5 exd5 24. c6 Kf7 25. Bd6 Ke6 26. Bxb4 d4) (23. Bf4 e5 24. Bc1 Bxb3 25. c6 d4) 23... e5 (23... c2 24. Bf4) 24. f3 (24. c7 Bg4 $19) 24... c2 (24... Bxf3 25. Kf2 c2 26. Kxf3 c1=Q 27. c7 $13) 25. c7 c1=Q 26. c8=Q+ Qxc8 27. Nxc8 Bxb3 28. Bd6 Bd1 29. Bxb4 Bxf3 $11) 20. Nxa8 Rxa8 21. Ra2 Bb7 22. Rxa8+ Bxa8 23. Bc7 (23. Ra1 Bb7 {and the Rook does not get an entry.}) 23... e5 $1 {As Rxd5 does not work, it is time to get the pawns rolling.} 24. Kf1 (24. Rxd5 c2 $19) 24... f6 25. Ke1 d4 ({The problem with} 25... Nd4 {is the opposite coloured Bishop endgame.} 26. Rxd4 exd4 27. Ba5 $11) 26. Ra1 Bb7 27. Ba5 e4 28. Ra4 Nxa5 29. Rxa5 d3 30. c6 {White covers d5.} (30. Ra7 d2+ 31. Kd1 Bd5 $19) 30... Bxc6 31. Rc5 Bd7 32. Rc4 Bb5 33. Rc5 (33. Rxb4 c2 34. Kd2 e3+ $1 35. fxe3 dxe2 $19) (33. Rxe4 dxe2 {keeps the White pieces tied down for a while as} 34. Rxb4 $2 { loses to} c2) 33... Ba6 34. Rc6 Bb7 35. Rc4 $2 {Decisive mistake. The d5-square had to be covered.} (35. Rd6 {was better}) (35. Rc5 {was also possible.}) 35... Bd5 $1 36. Rxb4 Kf7 {Black now thretens ...c2, Kd2 de2 and even if that threat is stopped White will soon end up in zugzwang as the Black King makes his presence felt.} 37. e3 (37. Rd4 $2 c2 38. Kd2 dxe2 $19) (37. Rb8 Ke6 {will be somewhat similar to the ga,e.} (37... c2 38. Rc8)) 37... Ke6 38. h3 h5 39. Kd1 Kd6 40. Kc1 Kc5 41. Rb8 Be6 (41... Be6 42. Rb7 Kc6 43. Rb4 g6 $22 {Zugzwang} 44. h4 {leaves the g4-square for the Bishop.} (44. Kd1 {drops the h3-pawn and then again Black Bishop will use the g4-square.} Kc5 45. Rb7 Bxh3 $19) 44... Kc5 45. Rb7 d2+) 0-1

Results of top four boards in round five

Bd
No
Name
FED
Rtg
Pts
Result
Pts
Name
FED
Rtg
No
1 2 Wang Hao CHN
2707
4
1-0
4
Lalith Babu M.R. IND 2553 32
2 18 Gupta Abhijeet IND
2613
0-1
Shirov Alexei LAT 2676 5
3 24 Pantsulaia Levan GEO
2598
½-½
Mchedlishvili Mikheil GEO 2635 13
4 1 Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR
2711
3
1-0
Vaibhav Suri IND 2552 33

Highlights of rounds two to four

Round 2 - Bajarani beats Kryvoruchko

Azeri Grandmaster Ulvi Bajarani caused a flutter in round two by beating the top seed with Black pieces. In a complex position, Kryvoruchko underestimated Bajarani’s rook and knight combination and landed his own king into trouble. While Wang Hao and Alexei Shirov won their games comfortably, Indian IM Swayams Mishra (2477) scored an upset win over Mykhaylo Oleksiyenko (2616). Mishra playing white kept up the pressure from the opening to win an exchange but the win came after a few ups and downs.

Yuriy Kryvoruchko vs Ulvi Bajarani in round two

Yuriy Kryvoruchko - Ulvi Bajarani

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.24"] [Round "2.1"] [White "Kryvoruchko, Yuriy"] [Black "Bajarani, Ulvi"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C19"] [WhiteElo "2711"] [BlackElo "2551"] [PlyCount "94"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. Nf3 Qc7 8. a4 b6 9. Bb5+ Bd7 10. O-O h6 11. c4 dxc4 12. dxc5 Bxb5 13. axb5 bxc5 14. Nd2 c3 15. Ne4 O-O 16. Qd6 Qxd6 17. exd6 Nd5 18. Nxc5 Rd8 19. Be3 Rxd6 20. Rfd1 Rd8 21. Ne4 Nd7 22. Bxa7 f5 23. Ng3 N7b6 24. Ne2 Nc4 25. g3 e5 26. Rdb1 Rd7 27. Bc5 Rxa1 28. Rxa1 Rc7 29. Ra8+ Kh7 30. Bf8 f4 31. gxf4 exf4 32. Rd8 f3 33. Nd4 Nf4 34. Nxf3 Rb7 35. Nd4 Ra7 {Kryvoruchko had been maintaining a very tiny edge in most part of the game but at this juncture he went wrong with} 36. f3 $6 ({ He had to play} 36. h4 Ra1+ 37. Kh2 Rd1 38. Bc5 $16 {with good winning chances. }) 36... Ra1+ 37. Kf2 Rd1 {A not so common combination of Rook and two Knights try to strangle the White King.} 38. Rd7 (38. Bc5 Rd2+ 39. Kg1 Ne3 $19 { Idea Nh3,Rd1.}) 38... Rd2+ 39. Kg3 (39. Kg1 Nh3+ 40. Kh1 Ne3 41. Rxg7+ Kh8 { and Rd1# is unstoppable.}) 39... Nh5+ 40. Kh3 Ne5 41. Re7 (41. Rd8 Nf4+ 42. Kg3 Neg6 $19) ({Better was} 41. Rc7 Rxd4 42. b6 {wth some fighting chances.}) 41... Ng6 42. Ne6 (42. Re4 Nhf4+ 43. Kg4 Rg2+ 44. Kf5 Rg5#) 42... Nxe7 43. Bxe7 Re2 44. Nf8+ Kg8 45. Bd6 Rxc2 46. Nd7 Rb2 47. Be5 Rb3 0-1

Dr.Saif Salem Lekhraibani Alnuaimi,the Secretary General of the Al Ain Chess and Culture Club
makes the customary opening move on Alexei Shirov’s board to inaugurate a round with chief
Arbiter Ashot Vardapetyan on his right and tournament director – International Organizer
Tarik Al Taher on his left.

Round three – Four share lead with 3.0/3

While Wang Hao beat Zaven Andriasian comfortably on board one, Arman Pashikian held Alexei Shirov to a draw. Lalith Babu scored over Yuriy Kuzubov on board five in an interesting tactical skirmish. Four players Wang Hao, Lalith Babu, Vladimir Onischuk and Robert Hovhannisyan shared lead with a score of 3.0/3.

Lalith Babu - Yuriy Kuzubov

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.25"] [Round "3.5"] [White "Lalith, Babu M.R"] [Black "Kuzubov, Yuriy"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A40"] [WhiteElo "2553"] [BlackElo "2640"] [PlyCount "133"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. d4 d6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 c5 5. d5 e5 6. dxe6 Bxe6 7. e4 Ne7 8. Be2 O-O 9. Bf4 Qb6 10. Qd2 Nbc6 11. O-O Ne5 12. Nxe5 dxe5 13. Be3 Rfd8 14. Qc2 Qa5 15. Nd5 Nc6 16. Bd2 Qa6 17. Be3 Qa5 18. Bd3 Rd7 19. a3 Nd4 20. Qc3 Qd8 21. b4 Rc8 22. bxc5 Rxc5 23. Qb4 b6 24. Qb2 Rc8 25. Rab1 Nc6 26. Rfc1 Bf8 27. Bc2 Na5 28. Ba4 Nxc4 29. Bxd7 Bxd7 (29... Bxd5 30. Qb5 (30. exd5 Nxb2 31. Bxc8 Nd3) 30... Rc7 31. Qxd5 Nxe3 32. fxe3 Rxd7 33. Qxe5 Bxa3) (29... Nxb2 30. Rxc8 Qxd7 (30... Qh4 31. Nf6+ Qxf6 32. Bh6 $18) 31. Nf6+) 30. Qb3 b5 31. Qd3 Bc6 32. Bxa7 Ra8 33. Bb6 Qd6 34. Bc7 Qe6 35. Rc3 f5 36. Rxc4 bxc4 37. Qxc4 Rxa3 {Converting an advantage.} 38. Ne7+ $1 Kf7 39. Nxc6 Qxc4 40. Nxe5+ Kg8 41. Nxc4 Rc3 42. Ne3 Rxc7 43. exf5 $18 {The rest is a matter of technique.} Ra7 44. g3 Bc5 45. fxg6 hxg6 46. Rb3 Ra2 47. Kg2 Kf7 48. Rc3 Bd4 49. Rc2 Ra6 50. Ng4 Ra4 51. Re2 Ba7 52. Ne5+ Kf6 53. h3 Ra6 54. h4 Bd4 55. Nf3 Ba7 56. Ng5 Kg7 57. Re7+ Kh8 58. f3 Ra2+ 59. Kh3 Ra3 60. Kg4 Bf2 61. Rd7 Ra4+ 62. f4 Ra3 63. Ne4 Be1 64. Kg5 Bxg3 65. Kxg6 Bxh4 66. Rh7+ Kg8 67. Rxh4 1-0

Round 3 took place on 25th December. As the World celebrated Christmas, the Hotel Hili Raayhan by Rotana did not lag behind with its treats, decorations and celebrations.

Numerous desserts on offer. Armenia’s Tigran Petrosyan gives a thumbs up to Marshmallows
dippend in the chocolate sauce fountain! (collage by author)

Christmas tree in the lobby of the Hotel! (photo by author)

Round 4 – Wang Hao and Lalith Babu win in contrasting styles

While Wang Hao comfortably disposed off Onischuk’s rare sideline against the French Defense, Lalith Babu fought from a difficult position to turn the tables on Robert Hovhannisyan. Shirov beat Adly Ahmed of Egypt in an endgame that started as a rook and minor piece one but soon turned into a queen and minor piece ending as both sides managed to promote their pawns.

Round four games have just started but interestingly the body language of the players flowed
into their positions soon. While Wang Hao’s position became as comfortable as his above pose,
Lalith Babu landed in a tense position only to wriggle out later.

Vaibhav Suri brought down higher rated Kravtsiv Martyn in an interesting game.

Suri Vaibhav - Martyn Kravtsiv

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.26"] [Round "4.9"] [White "Vaibhav, Suri"] [Black "Kravtsiv, Martyn"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E15"] [WhiteElo "2552"] [BlackElo "2623"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Nc3 d5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Bg2 O-O 10. O-O Re8 11. Ne5 Bb7 12. Rc1 Nbd7 13. Nb5 c5 14. Bf4 Nf8 15. Bh3 a6 16. Nc3 cxd4 17. Na4 b5 $6 {How to continue with White?} 18. Nc6 $1 (18. Nc5 $2 Bxc5 19. Rxc5 Ne4) (18. Nxf7 $5 Qa5 (18... Kxf7 19. Bc7 $16)) 18... Bxc6 19. Rxc6 Bb4 $6 ({The point is that} 19... bxa4 20. Bc7 $16 {traps the Queen.}) ({Better was} 19... Ba3 20. Nb6 Ra7 {although White keeps a significant advantage.}) 20. Nb6 Bc3 (20... Ra7 21. Qxd4 $16 {White will soon win some material as Black's pieces are very awkwardly placed.}) 21. Bc7 Qe7 22. Nxa8 Rxa8 23. Bb6 $16 {winning} Qe5 24. Qd3 N8d7 25. f4 Qh5 26. Bxd7 Nxd7 27. Bxd4 Bxd4+ 28. Qxd4 Re8 29. e4 Nf6 30. exd5 h6 31. Rc2 Nxd5 32. Qc5 Kh7 33. Rd2 Nxf4 34. Qxh5 Nxh5 35. Rxf7 Nf6 36. Rc2 Ng4 37. Rcc7 Re1+ 38. Kg2 1-0

Players and personalities

The Al Ain Chess Classic has attracted many different personalities.

The mature…(Vasanta Wettasinha of Sri Lanka)

The young…(Ashid Tsetsegulzii of Mongolia)

And the youngest! (The ultra-talented 10-year-old Uzbek CM Javokhir Sindarov)

Trendy hairstyle!

That’s the spirit!

As Shirov and Wang Hao face off in round six, we keep our fingers crossed for the top stars of the tournament to make it as exciting as expected. Stay tuned for further updates.

Standings after five rounds

Rk
SNo
Name
FED
Rtg
Pts
 TB 
rtg+/-
1 2 Wang Hao CHN 2707 5,0 15,5 14,0
2 5 Shirov Alexei LAT 2676 4,5 16,5 11,8
3 32 Lalith Babu M.R. IND 2553 4,0 17,5 15,8
4 21 Pashikian Arman ARM 2606 4,0 15,5 10,3
5 24 Pantsulaia Levan GEO 2598 4,0 15,0 7,9
6 1 Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2711 4,0 14,5 -1,6
7 13 Mchedlishvili Mikheil GEO 2635 4,0 14,5 5,4
8 40 Libiszewski Fabien FRA 2515 4,0 12,0 9,6
9 4 Areshchenko Alexander UKR 2677 3,5 16,5 -2,6
10 9 Efimenko Zahar UKR 2647 3,5 16,5 0,3


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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huzar huzar 12/28/2015 09:39
Exellent game Wang in white in my favourite Caro- Kann Defense. Move g2-g4 break a black position on Kingside!
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