Danzhou Masters: The unfortunate b5

by Aditya Pai
7/30/2018 – Two wins and two draws were witnessed in the fourth round of the 9th Hainan Danzhou Super Grandmaster Tournament. Interestingly, the downfall of both losers — Vidit Gujrathi and Jan-Krzysztof Duda — began after they moved their pawn to b5. Bu Xiangzhi kept his tournament lead in the meantime with a draw against Wei Yi in a razor-sharp Ragozin. Going into the rest day, he remains ahead of his nearest rival by half-a-point.

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Precarious pawn pushes

Reaching the halfway mark at the 9th Hainan Danzhou Super Grandmaster Tournament, Chinese players, who are in majority at the event, have begun to dominate. Alongside Bu Xiangzhi, another Chinese star, GM Yu Yangyi, has surfaced to the top of the leaderboard, taking the second spot at the conclusion of round four.  The third grandmaster from China, GM Wei Yi is still to rev up his engine and currently stands among the tail-enders with a score of 1½/4.

Of the four games of the round, two were drawn while two finished decisively. Both of the decisive games were won by the players with the white pieces. Another interesting similarity in both of these decisive games was that it was the move b5 that led to the downfall of both black players:

Yu Yangyi vs Vidit Gujrathi

The top seed of the tournament, Yu Yangyi, might not have gotten off to the best start imaginable but has slowly made it to the top of the leaderboard by the halfway stage. In round four, he scored his second straight win — against Vidit Gujrathi — to take sole second place.

Vidit had a decent position in the middle game that arose out of an Exchange Gruenfeld. He had even breezed through the middlegame with ease but in the endgame, there came this point where he played the ominous b5. 

 

Black is a pawn up here and even though his far advanced passer on d2 is about to be hacked off, his position doesn’t look that bad. The computer also doesn’t think Black has anything to fear here. But when Vidit played 32…b5 in this position, the computer changes its mind and begins to give White an edge. To the human eye, this still looks about equal. Sure, White has only one pawn island in comparison to Black’s three but blacks outside passer should provide enough counter-play.

Black never got a chance to get his a pawn rolling, however. Queens were exchanged a few moves later and once the white king got active, Black was unable to hold his scattered pawns.

Yu Yangyi and Vidit Gujrathi during their fourth round game at the Danzhou Masters

Yu Yangyi made it to the sole second place after his second straight win of the tournament against Vidit Gujrathi | Photo: Official website

 

Sam Shankland vs Jan-Krzysztof Duda

In round three, we had seen Wei Yi go down surprisingly fast in an equal endgame against Yu Yangyi. This time something similar happened in the case of Jan-Krzysztof Duda in his game against Samuel Shankland. And yet again, it was that dreadful b5 move that began Black’s downfall.

Shankland, who had lost to Vidit Gujrathi in the previous round, was clearly looking to remain solid in this game. In a Sicilian Scheveningen, he had chosen to go for a line full of exchanges. Before the 20th move, all pieces but rooks were exchanged off. Both sides had six pawns apiece in the resulting double rook endgame and there was no reason to believe that this game would drift in any other direction than in that of a draw. But just then, Duda laid an egg. 

 

Here, Black can just protect the b pawn with 26...Rb8 or just play 26…R8a5 and lead a happy life. But Duda, who had been playing wonderfully well so far, also got mysteriously lured to 26…b5 and that spelt the end for him. After 27.cxb5 Rxe4 28.b6, White’s passed pawn gave him a big advantage. It didn’t take Shankland too long to convert the game after this.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda during his game against Sam Shankland at the Danzhou Masters

Duda's game against Shankland came to a tragic end after the former blundered in an equal endgame | Photo: Official website

 

Bu Xiangzhi vs Wei Yi

Tournament leader, Bu Xiangzhi chose to test his young compatriot Wei Yi in a sharp line of the Ragozin variation of the Queen’s Gambit. On his 14th, Bu offered a piece for two pawns with 14.Nxe6

 

If Black takes, White can recapture with the queen and harvest three black pawns while also keeping the initiative. Wei Yi, however, declined the sacrifice and took White’s c3 pawn instead. And as it happens with so many razor sharp opening lines, the game fizzled out into a draw by the 22nd move.

We Yi playing against Bu Xiangzhi in the fourth round of Danzhou Masters

Bu Xiangzhi and Wei Yi wrapped up their game in merely 22 moves! | Photo: Official website

 

Le Quang Liem vs Vladimir Fedoseev

While Bu Xiangzhi and Wei Yi finished quickly with a quick tactical adventure, Le Quang Liem and Vladimir Fedoseev showed their love for a silent life. A placid position arose in their game out of a Scotch Opening which the players were happy to sign peace in after 36 moves of play. 

Vladimir Fedoseev during his fourth round game against Le Quang Liem at the Danzhou Masters

Vladimir Fedoseev drew his fourth game in a row against Le Quang Liem | Photo: Official website

 

Tuesday will be a rest day in Danzhou. Play will resume on Wednesday, August 1, 2018, at 2:30 PM local time (GMT+8). 

Standings after round 4

 

All games

 

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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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Aighearach Aighearach 7/31/2018 03:34
b5 is awful, that's why I always hope black will play the Benko.
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