Asian Continental Championship: An unfortunate start

by Aditya Pai
12/13/2018 – The 17th edition of the Asian Continental Championship did not begin on the right note. A night before the start of the event, GM Vidit Gujrathi took to Facebook to express his dissatisfaction about the conditions provided. He further revealed that he and his colleagues MR Lalith Babu and Abhijit Kunte were attacked by a group of goons, just a few hundred metres away from their hotel! In our first report, we talk about the incident, FIDE's reaction and the happenings of the first three rounds. No photos or video are currently available in the "gallery" of the official site:

The Fashionable Caro-Kann Vol.1 and 2 The Fashionable Caro-Kann Vol.1 and 2

The Caro Kann is a very tricky opening. Black’s play is based on controlling and fighting for key light squares. It is a line which was very fashionable in late 90s and early 2000s due to the successes of greats like Karpov, Anand, Dreev etc. Recently due to strong engines lot of key developments have been made and some new lines have been introduced, while others have been refuted altogether. I have analyzed the new trends carefully and found some new ideas for Black.


"We were cornered and attacked" –Vidit

The Asian Continental Chess Championship kicked off on Monday, December 10th, 2018, in the city of Makati in Manila, Philippines. The nine-round Swiss, besides determining the Asian Champion, also serves as a qualifier to the 2019 FIDE World Cup — the top five finishers will book their seats to the knock out event. Besides, there is a prize fund of $50,000 ($35000 for the Open and $15000 for the Women's leg). The rate of play is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by another 30 minutes for the rest of the game with a 30-second bonus per move starting from move one.

Since it serves as a World Cup qualifier, the tournament attracted the best players from all corners of the continent. Some of the prominent names included Wang Hao (2730), Wei Yi (2728), Le Quang Liem (2714), Vidit Gujrathi (2701) and Baskaran Adhiban (2695). In the Women's group, Chinese WIM Zhu Jiner (2409) is the top seed, followed by Gulishkhan Nakhbayeva (KAZ, 2371) and Guo Qi (CHN, 2368)

Live games of Round 4


Manila is the capital of the Philippines with a population of around 1.8 million and the most densely populated city (43,079 people per km²) in the world

At an event of such stature, it is natural to expect top-notch organisation. However, on the night before the rounds began, Vidit Gujrathi, the fourth seed at the championship, took to Facebook to reveal that the conditions provided to the players were substandard.

“I am at the Asian championship in Makati, Philippines. It's a part of the World Championship cycle by FIDE.

“I had to pay 150 USD for a room which actually costs 35-50 dollars as per the hotel and other websites. After paying 150 dollars, there is no internet in the room. Food provided is awful. There is even no drinking water in the room,” he wrote.

This, however, just turned out to be the start of Vidit’s troubles. When he got out of the hotel with his colleagues Abhijit Kunte and MR Lalith Babu to buy water, the trio was attacked by a gang of weapon-wielding goons!

“We were cornered and then attacked. We tried to flee but we were chased and finally marginally escaped,” he wrote further.

When ChessBase India contacted Emil Sutovsky, Director-General, FIDE, he said, "The event is under the auspices of Asian Continental Federation, however as it is a part of World Championship Cycle, FIDE will not stay aside. I already inquired the organizers, and I look forward to hearing their side of the story. However, no explanation for 300-400% surcharge is valid. And FIDE will look into the measures to remedy the situation ASAP — not limiting ourselves to just agreeing [that] it is not OK. But before making any strong statements, we will need to hear from the organizers."

Later, GM Sutovsky also said that he had received a detailed report which suggested that the conditions were significantly improved in all regards and that the players were satisfied with the situation.

"FIDE was quick to act, and we will do so every time our involvement is needed," he added.

Vidit Gujrathi, MR Lalith Babu and Abhijit Kunte at the Makaty City Police Station

The organizers along with three players Musunuri Lalit Rohit, Abhijit Kunte and Vidit Gujrathi met the Makati Police Chief, Sr. Supt. Rogelio Simon the next morning. The police have assured security for them and other players of the tournament. | Photo: James Infiesto

Round 1

Like his first day in Makati, Gujrathi’s first-round game also did not go very well. He had sacrificed a pawn from the black side of a Gruenfeld Defence in his game against Haridas Pascua (2442) but after the Filipino IM returned his extra pawn, it was Vidit who had to be careful not to lose the game. 


If the white knight is allowed to reach g5, mate would be unavertable. Vidit, therefore, sacrificed the exchange here with 29...Rxe5. There followed 30.Nxe5 Qxe5 31.Rd4 Qc7 and 32.Rcd1, after which, white remained an exchange ahead.


Down on material, Vidit immediately tried to repeat the position with 32...Nb2 33.Rd2 Nc4 and, surprisingly, Pascua chose not to push on and acceded to the repetition.


Vidit wasn't the only top GM to suffer, though. On the top board, Wang Hao opened with a bishop's opening and tried to get an attack going on the kingside. The almost symmetrical pawn structure, however, did not provide much in terms of an advantage and his opponent, FM Taher Yoseph Theolifus (2454), had no problems holding ground.


Meanwhile, the biggest upset of the day was seen on board three where GM Le Quang Liem suffered a catastrophic loss to IM Paulo Bersamina. As Black, Bersamina chose to castle his king long in an Italian Opening. And while the players tried to break through to each other's king, the following position was reached.


Le had just brought his rook to the seventh rank — perhaps assuming that this was the knock-out punch. And he would have been right had the black queen moved. But his opponent found the stunning counter-blow 34...h3!! Now, after 35.Rxc7 hxg2 36.Nh2, Black found 36...Bf3, forcing immediate resignation.

GM Le Quang Liem during the first round of Asian Continental Championship

GM Le Quang Liem | Photo: Ronaldo P Banaag


Round 2

After the first round, three out of the four 2700+ rated GMs had slipped due to opening round upsets – only Wei Yi had managed to pull out a convincing victory. In the second round, too, the Chinese teenager continued playing sharply and won after a tactical error by his opponent, Xu Yi.


Wei had just snapped the a6 pawn in this position. Now after 23...Bxg3 24.hxg3, it looks like Black has a repetition or at least a decent position after 24...Qxg3 25.Qg2 Qxe3+ 26.Kh1 Qh6+. If White goes 27.Qh2, Black can simply exchange queens and then regain his piece thanks to the double attack of the rook.

Instead, Xu Yi went for 24...Rxd1 25.Rxd1 Rxe3? after which White managed to retain his extra piece and win eventually.

Wei Yi at the Asian Continental Championship 2018

Wei Yi, the only 2700+ GM to score 2/2 | Photo: Ronaldo P Banaag


While Wei continued his strong run, his compatriot, GM Wang Hao suffered a second upset in round two — this time a loss against Indonesian FM Ervan Mohamed. Once again, a tactical oversight happened to be the reason for the downfall of a super GM.


Black was virtually forced to exchange queens here with 32...Qg6. But Wang simply defended his rook with 32...Rfd8 and allowed the stunning 33.Bxg7+! There followed 33.Kxg7 34.Rg2+ Qg6 and Black resigned soon afterwards.

Wang Hao during the Asian Continental Chess Championship 2018

Wang Hao suffered his second consecutive upset in round 2 | Photo: Ronaldo P Banaag


In another all-Chinese encounter, GM Tan Zhongyi was outplayed by Ni Hua in a French Advanced. After an opening fumble with white, Tan Zhongyi had ended up being down an exchange. But the former Women's World Champion fought hard and came very close to a draw before going down in the 69-move marathon.


Round 3

Going into the third round, nine players shared the lead with a perfect 2/2 score but none of the nine seemed to be in the mood to score a hat-trick. Most games ended in short, sedate draws. In fact, the top board encounter between Wei Yi and Surya Ganguly concluded in merely 14 moves.

The game between Ni Hua and Lu Shanglei also seemed to be drifting in the same direction when the latter shed a pawn on his 23rd turn. 


Had Black captured on c3 here, a draw would have been inevitable. Instead, Lu Shanglei pushed 19...c5. After 20.c4 21.Rb8 Rc6, could not avoid the loss of a pawn but did manage to save the game after a 72 move grind. 


Vidit Gujrathi also saved his game by a miracle against the much lower rated Lye Lik Zang (2321). Similar to his first-round game, the Indian number three had to give up an exchange in order to avoid checkmate.


Black is well advised to take on d6 here and maintain equality but Vidit had other plans. He tried 21...Rad8 in the game and was forced to give up an exchange after 22.Be5+. Soon, white was clearly better — if not winning — but chose to sue for peace and let his opponent slip away with a half point.


Standings after Round 3 (top 20)

Rk. SNo     Name FED RtgI Bdld Pts. Rp
1 21
GM LALITH Babu M R IND 2529   2,5 2792
2 51
FM LYE Lik Zang MAS 2321   2,5 2867
3 2
GM WEI Yi CHN 2728   2,5 2809
4 8
GM SETHURAMAN S.P. IND 2664   2,5 2769
5 7
GM NI Hua CHN 2683   2,5 2799
6 10
GM LU Shanglei CHN 2636   2,5 2812
7 9
GM NGUYEN Ngoc Truong Son VIE 2641   2,5 2784
8 12
GM FIROUZJA Alireza IRI 2607   2,5 2782
9 6
GM MAGHSOODLOO Parham IRI 2688   2,5 2755
10 11
GM GANGULY Surya Shekhar IND 2621   2,5 2818
11 14
GM JUMABAYEV Rinat KAZ 2602   2,5 2709
12 17
GM ABDUSATTOROV Nodirbek UZB 2546   2,5 2756
13 44
IM NAVA Roderick PHI 2392   2,0 2565
14 20
IM XU Yi CHN 2536   2,0 2617
15 23
GM MEGARANTO Susanto INA 2512   2,0 2588
16 3
GM LE Quang Liem VIE 2714   2,0 2506
17 27
IM LIU Yan CHN 2495   2,0 2508
18 22
GM TRAN Tuan Minh VIE 2524   2,0 2660
19 32
GM KUNTE Abhijit IND 2469   2,0 2489
20 13
GM WEN Yang CHN 2604   2,0 2581

All available games (Rounds 1-3)


Standings after Round 3 (women's tournament)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 MUNKHZUL Turmunkh 3,0
2 PHAM Le Thao Nguyen 3,0
3 ZHU Jiner 2,5
4 PADMINI Rout 2,5
5 VO Thi Kim Phung 2,5
6 BACH Ngoc Thuy Duong 2,0
7 HOANG Thi Bao Tram 2,0
8 GONG Qianyun 2,0
9 NING Kaiyu 2,0
10 CITRA Dewi Ardhiani Anastasia 2,0
11 ALINASAB Mobina 2,0
12 AULIA Medina Warda 2,0
14 GUO Qi 2,0
15 NGUYEN Thi Thanh An 2,0
16 GU Tianlu 1,5
17 NAKHBAYEVA Guliskhan 1,5
18 DOROY Allaney Jia G 1,5
19 LI Xueyi 1,5

All available games (Rounds 1-3)



Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He holds a Master's in English Literature and used to work as an advertising copywriter before joining the ChessBase India team.


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