Richard Rapport wins Danzhou Tournament

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/10/2020 – The 11th edition of the Danzhou Tournament took place on December 3-9, with half the participants playing online from the Country Garden Havana Holiday Hotel in Danzhou and the other half playing from home. It was an 8-player double round robin with a time control of 15 minutes for the game and 10-second increments from the start. Hungarian GM Richard Rapport was the clear winner after collecting 8/14 points. Ding Liren got sole second place. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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Rapport undefeated

Once the tournament was over, after 14 rounds, it turned out that a result from the first round was crucial for the final standings, as Richard Rapport kicked off the event by beating Ding Liren with the black pieces. In the end, Ding, who was leading the standings table until round 8, finished in sole second place a half point behind Rapport.

That was one of two losses suffered by the strongest player in China, while his Hungarian colleague managed to finish the tournament undefeated. Rapport collected four wins throughout, two over Yu Yangyi, one over Veselin Topalov (the Bulgarian ‘mouse slipped’ on move 9) and the one mentioned above over Ding.

Alexander Grischuk and Anish Giri both scored 7½ points, thus finishing a full point behind Ding. After starting strong, Giri lost three in a row in rounds 5-7. Wins over Wang Hao and Topalov on Monday, however, allowed him to climb back in the standings table.

Danzhou Chess Tournament 2020

The Chinese squad playing in situ | Photo: Liang Ziming

Ding vs. Rapport
Round 1 - Danzhou, 2020

The two eventual top finishers of the tournament battled it out in a sharp Bogo-Indian. Rapport is not one to shy away from sharp struggles. 


White has an active rook on the third rank, but Black stands solid with a stable structure. Ding decided to move forward on the kingside — 14...Rb8 15.Re3 Bd7 16.Qd3 a5 17.f4 Kh8 18.g4 g6 19.g5:


Rapport correctly assessed that he needed to activate his pieces if he wanted to survive, thus 19...e5. Black continued to untangle — 20.h4 Qg7 21.fxe5 Rxf1+ 22.Kxf1 dxe5 23.Nf3 Nc6 24.Qc3 Re8:


Nonetheless, White got to plant a knight on f6 after 25.Nd2 Nd4 26.Ne4 Nf5 27.Rd3 Rf8 28.Nf6. In this critical position, Rapport made a grave mistake:


28...Nh4 is a losing move. In a classical game, Ding most likely would have found the extremely strong 29.Kg1 threatening to capture the bishop on d7 (the knight on f6 was previously pinned) — there would follow 29...Bf5 30.Rd5 Nxg2 31.Kxg2 when White has a clear edge with his active pieces.

The Chinese star did not find the king manoeuvre though, as he played 29.Qxe5 instead, to which Rapport responded with the strong 29...h6. Notice how important it was to unpin the knight immediately.


Now came 30.Kg1, and after 30...Bf5 it was Ding’s turn to give his opponent a chance to take over — 31.e4 led to a series of simplifications that favoured black:


31...hxg5 32.exf5 Qxf6 33.Qxf6 Rxf6 34.fxg6 Rd6 35.Rxd6 cxd6:


All the black pawns are on dark squares, while there is no way for White to defend the g6-pawn. Here 36.Bh3 was the best defence going forward, as White already needed to be extremely precise (and lucky) to avoid defeat. Ding played 36.Be4 and had to resign eleven moves later.

Ding Liren

Ding Liren | Photo: Liang Ziming

Other highlights of the long tournament included Giri under-promoting to a knight to hold a draw in a razor-sharp struggle against Wei Yi!


The young Chinese found 26.Ne7+, giving up the knight to double on the h-file — 26...Qxe7 27.Qh2. Notice that he could not play 26.Qh2 immediately due to 26...Qxd5+ 27.b3 Qxh1 28.Qxh1 c1Q.

After the text, Giri found the one move that holds the draw:


27...c1N was the shocking resource Black had in the position. White has nothing better than 28.Ka1, and a perpetual follows with the knight checking from c1 and b3.

The key point is that Wei cannot play 28.Kb1 due to 28...Qe4+ 29.Ka1 Qxh1 30.Qxh1 Nc5:


White cannot capture the knight on c1 as he would lose the queen after 31...Nb3+ with a fork and a discovered attack. Black would simply end up with a material advantage in an imbalanced endgame.

In the same 12th round, one of the games finished rather quickly:


Intending to exchange queens, Topalov’s mouse slipped and he played 9...Qd2, ending the game on the spot. 

Final standings


All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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