Asian Continental Championship: Two at the top

by Aditya Pai
12/16/2018 – Recovering from their early upsets, Wang Hao, Vidit Gujrathi and Le Quang Liem made their way back to the top of the leaderboard at the 17th Asian Continental Championship in Manila, Philippines. Surya Ganguly and M. Amin Tabatabei are tied for first with 5½ after seven rounds. Six grandmasters including Vidit Gujrathi, Wei Yi and Le Quang Liem are a half point behind at 5/7. With two rounds to go, it's still wide open.

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Six in the running

After a tough start, the super GMs at the Asian Continental Chess Championship finally made their way to the top of the leaderboard. Six rounds into the event, Wei Yi, Wang Hao and Vidit Gujrathi shared the tournament lead alongside Surya Ganguly, SP Sethuraman, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Nguyen Ngoc Troung Son and Amin Tabatabaei. Le Quang Liem, Ni Hua, Xu Yi and Parham Maghsoodloo were just a half point behind.

But in the seventh round, only Ganguly and Tabatabaei could win their games, leaving them with a half point edge over the field. Let's see how they got there.

Round 4

After their quick draw in the third round, both Ganguly and Wei Yi came out with strong wins in round 4. Playing on board 1 against the Iranian sensation, Firouzja Alireza, Wei was in his element in a closed Sicilian and whipped a win out in 27, deploying some sharp tactics.

 

Surya Ganguly was also pitted against a talented Iranian — the reigning World Junior Champion, Parham Maghsoodloo. In a Queen's Gambit, Maghsoodloo was made to suffer almost all through the middlegame by Ganguly, who had the black pieces. The knock-out punch came on the 32nd move when the Bengali Grandmaster offered a knight sacrifice that netted him a couple of pawns.

 

SP Sethuraman also joined the leaders on 3½/4 after scoring a fine win over compatriot MR Lalith Babu.

Sethuraman during the 2017 FIDE World Cup

SP Sethuraman (at the World Cup in 2017) | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Round 5

The fifth round pitted Surya Ganguly against his then co-leader, SP Sethuraman. Wei Yi, in the meanwhile played against his countryman, GM Ni Hua on board two.

Sethuraman, who had the black pieces against Ganguly, chose to discuss the Open Spanish but went astray very early. Ganguly had sacrificed a pawn in the opening and Sethuraman sought to liquidate the position by offering a queen exchange. But the boot was on the wrong foot when Ganguly whipped out a stunning bishop sacrifice. 

 

Ganguly immediately exploited black's central king position here with 15.Bxd5! If the bishop is captured 15...cxd5, white has 16.Qxd5 and there are all kinds of threats looming over black. Sethuraman tried getting his king to [relative] safety with 15...0-0-0 but after 16.Bxe6+ Kb7 17.Qe3 white remained a pawn up and had a fantastic position. The game went on until the 44th move but Ganguly was in total control all the way through.

 

Sethuraman and Surya Shekhar Ganguly during the fifth round of the 17th Asian Continental Championship

Ganguly took sole lead at the conclusion of round 5 | Photo: Genghis Imperial

With his win, Ganguly took sole lead in the tournament as the game between Ni Hua and Wei Yi on the second board ended in a quick draw. Wei Yi, who had the black pieces, made no attempt to try retaining his lead and agreed to sign peace just 13 moves into a Petroff Defence game.

 

Wei Yi

Wei Yi made no attempt to retain his lead in round 5 | Photo: Amruta Mokal (archive)

On board 6, Wang Hao scored a dominating win with black over Vietnamese GM Tran Tuan Minh.

 

Wang Hao at the 2017 Asian Continental Championship in Chengdu, China

On board 6, Wang Hao (at the 2017 Asian Championship) | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Round 6

Ganguly’s lead from the previous round turned out to be rather short-lived. In round 6, the top board result turned the tournament on its head. Ganguly, who was half-a-point ahead of the field until this point, was defeated by GM Vidit Gujrathi. All of a sudden, there were eight takers to the top spot on the leaderboard.

GM Vidit Gujrathi

Vidit Gujrathi's win over GM Surya Ganguly drastically changed the standings | Photo: Sagar Shah (archive)

 

After a dominating win in round five, top-seeded GM Wang Hao whipped out another brilliant win with black over Nodirbek Yakobboev to make it into the 8-way tie at the conclusion of the sixth round. 

 

White had just played 31.h4? to kick the knight away. A serious drawback of the move is that it weakens white's kingside. Wang plunged in immediately with 31...Ngxe4! and after 32.Bxe4, unveiled 32...Qg4. The bishop, of course, is indefensible as both 33.Re1 and 33.Bd3 spell instant doom after 34...Qxg3+. White limped on with 33.Qc3 Qxe4 34.Re1 Rd3 35.Qxe5 but Yakobboev had lost too many pawns at the end of the sequence.

 

Meanwhile, on board 2, Wei Yi climbed up a spot with a comfortable draw on board two against Le Quang Liem.

 

Wei Yi — in remarkably colourful attire | Photo: Ronaldo P Banaag

Round 7

In the top clash, Ganguly defeated Wang Hao with the black pieces to reach 5½/7. In an equal middlegame, Ganguly got some pressure one White's overextended pawn centre and Wang did not find a defence.

 

White can hold the position together with 25.Ned2 taking advantage of the pin on the e6 knight if Black tries to capture on d4. But Wang opted for 25.Qc1 targeting the f4-pawn, but now the problem is that the pin is working in the other direction! After 25...Nxd4 Wang anyway took 26.Qxf4 but found himself in hot water after 26...f5! Black is winning a piece and White resigned in short order.

Standings after Round 7 (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 GANGULY Surya Shekhar 5,5
2 TABATABAEI M.Amin 5,5
3 WEI Yi 5,0
4 ABDUSATTOROV Nodirbek 5,0
5 NGUYEN Ngoc Truong Son 5,0
6 MAGHSOODLOO Parham 5,0
7 LE Quang Liem 5,0
8 VIDIT Santosh Gujrathi 5,0
9 MEGARANTO Susanto 4,5
10 SETHURAMAN S.P. 4,5
11 FIROUZJA Alireza 4,5
12 LALITH Babu M R 4,5
13 JUMABAYEV Rinat 4,5
14 ADHIBAN B. 4,5
15 WEN Yang 4,5
16 WANG Hao 4,5
17 KHUSNUTDINOV Rustam 4,5
18 NI Hua 4,0
19 XU Yi 4,0
20 YAKUBBOEV Nodirbek 4,0

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Women's Championship

In the Women's group, IM Padmini Rout is heading resolutely towards the title. Undefeated with five wins, she has now brought her score to 6/7. After taking sole lead at the conclusion of the fifth round, Padmini defeated WGM Gong Qianyun in round six to increase her lead to a full point, a lead she maintained by drawing Guo Qi in round seven.

Padmini Rout during the fifth round of the A17th ian Continental Championship

Padmini, before her game against Mongolian WFM Munkhzul Turmunkh | Photo: Genghis Imperial

 

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Standings (women's tournament top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 PADMINI Rout 6,0
2 PHAM Le Thao Nguyen 5,0
3 GONG Qianyun 5,0
4 WANG Jue 5,0
5 MUNKHZUL Turmunkh 4,5
6 ZHU Jiner 4,5
7 GUO Qi 4,5
8 VO Thi Kim Phung 4,5
9 AULIA Medina Warda 4,5
10 LI Yunshan 4,5
11 NGUYEN Thi Thanh An 4,5
12 NING Kaiyu 4,0
13 LI Xueyi 4,0
14 GU Tianlu 4,0
15 KARENZA Dita 4,0
16 FRAYNA Janelle Mae 4,0
17 HOANG Thi Bao Tram 3,5
18 NANDHIDHAA P V 3,5
19 NAKHBAYEVA Guliskhan 3,5
20 ZHANG Xiao 3,5

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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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