Sethuruman and Kulkarni win Asian Continental

by Albert Silver
6/6/2016 – The Asian Continental held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan ended with no small amount of surprises and drama. The men's event saw the two sole leaders Le Quang Liem and Wei Yi both lose with white in the final round, missing gold as a result. Indian GM Sethuruman beat Wei Yi and took first. In the women's event, WGM Bhakti Kulkarni took sole first with 7.0/9. Illustrated report with analysis.

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Photos by Evgeny Smolnikov

Most of the great cities of the world are characterised by the inherent social and demographic conflicts that are ingrained in them. It is often starkly visible in the form of the old relics and customs and the modern ways that succeeded them, without really killing their predecessors. Tashkent qualifies — a part of it is a new-age metropolis, the most happening place in Uzbekistan, a part of it a leafy Soviet-era city, and also, a part of it is a home away from home represented by sprawling greenery. 

The Uzbekistan Chess Federation on behalf of Asian Chess Federation and FIDE is hosting the Asian Continental Chess Championships (Open and Women’s) from 25 May — 5 June 2016 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The tournament is a nine-round-swiss with the time control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an addition of 30 seconds per move starting from move one.

The tournament was dominated up to the end by two players essentially. The first was the
top seed Le Quang Liem (2718) who was undefeated after eight rounds with 6.5/8. In
round six, he beat Indian GM Sethuruman (2647) with black, and in round eight it was the
fifth seed GM Adhiban.

Keeping pace was Chinese prodigy Wei Yi, also with 6.5/8, defeating third seed, and local
hero Rustam Kasimdzhanov (2703)

The only player with 6.0/8 was Sethuruman himself, who had lost to Le Qaung Liem earlier, and
now faced Wei Yi with black

Wei Yi - S.P. Sethuruman (notes by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "15th Asian Continental"] [Site "Tashkent UZB"] [Date "2016.06.03"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Wei, Yi"] [Black "Sethuraman, S.P."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D45"] [WhiteElo "2694"] [BlackElo "2647"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "148"] [EventDate "2016.05.26"] {To beat Wei Yi with the black pieces is never easy. Even more so in the final round with a half point deficit, but Sethuraman thrives under such pressure and once again proves that he can beat anyone in any game. Just like he beat Tomashevsky in the last round of the 2015 Qatar Masters with the black pieces. } 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 {The Meran is the perfect choice for a must win situation. This was also what Ganguly played on board two against Le Quang Liem and won his game with the black pieces.} 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. g4 $5 {Wei Yi's choice can be questioned at this point. When he was in the lead why did he have to take so many risks? But this is the way he plays chess and this is the way he has reached above 2700! You cannot change the style of a chess player so easily.} Nxg4 8. Rg1 Qf6 9. Rxg4 Qxf3 10. Rxg7 Nf6 11. Rg5 { The threat is now Bg2 to trap the queen.} Qh1 12. Bd2 {The first new move of the game.} Bd7 13. O-O-O Qxh2 14. f4 Rg8 15. Bd3 O-O-O 16. cxd5 exd5 17. Nb5 Bb8 18. Qc5 b6 19. Nxa7+ {A very interesting piece sacrifice.} (19. Nd6+ Kc7 20. Qa3 $11 {was about even.}) 19... Kb7 (19... Bxa7 20. Qd6 {Threatening Ba6.} Kb7 21. Qxf6 $16) 20. Qe7 Qh6 $1 {Strong defence.} 21. Nxc6 Kxc6 22. Kb1 (22. Qa3 $1 Bg4 (22... Kb7 23. Qa6+ $18) 23. Rxg4 Nxg4 24. Kb1 {With good attacking chances.}) 22... Kb7 {Black is now a piece up and White needs to show his compensation.} 23. Rc1 Bc7 $1 24. Rf5 Ne4 25. Bxe4 dxe4 26. Rf6 Rg6 27. Rxf7 Rc6 28. Rxh7 Rxc1+ 29. Bxc1 Qc6 {White has three pawns but has clearly lost his attack and initiative. Black's king is more than safe and he slowly but surely activates his pieces.} 30. Rh2 Rc8 31. Rh7 Be6 32. b3 (32. Rh6 Bxa2+ $19 ) 32... Kb8 33. Kb2 Bf5 34. Rf7 Be6 35. Rh7 Rg8 36. Rg7 Re8 37. Qb4 Rh8 38. Qc3 Rh2+ 39. Bd2 Qxc3+ 40. Kxc3 {It is now just a case of breaking through because the bishop on d2 is quite passive and the pawns are not going anywhere.} b5 41. a3 Ba5+ 42. b4 Bc7 43. Rg6 Bd5 44. Rg5 Bc4 45. Rg1 Bd3 {The perfect spot for the bishop which safeguards the e4 and b5 pawns.} 46. Ra1 Bd6 47. Rg1 Kc7 48. Rg7+ Kc6 49. Rg1 Rf2 50. Rh1 Rg2 51. Ra1 Kd5 52. Rh1 Be7 53. Ra1 Rh2 54. Rg1 Ke6 55. Ra1 {It is actually not so usual to see Wei Yi being so helpless!} Rh8 56. Kb2 Kf5 57. a4 bxa4 58. Rxa4 Kg4 59. Ra7 Bh4 60. Rb7 Kf3 61. b5 Rh5 62. b6 Rb5+ 63. Ka3 Bd8 64. f5 Rxf5 65. Bb4 Kxe3 66. Bc5 Rf1 67. Rb8 Ra1+ 68. Kb2 Rb1+ 69. Ka3 Bg5 70. d5+ Ke2 71. Bb4 Bc1+ 72. Ka4 Bd2 73. Bxd2 Kxd2 74. b7 e3 0-1

A fantastic win that guaranteed a spot on the podium, but another game also held his fate in its hands: the matchup on board two.

Le Quang Liem had white against Indian GM Ganguly in the last round. A draw would ensure him of gold.

Le Quang Liem - Surya Ganguly

[Event "15th Asian Continental"] [Site "Tashkent UZB"] [Date "2016.06.03"] [Round "9.2"] [White "Le, Quang Liem"] [Black "Ganguly, Surya Shekhar"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D45"] [WhiteElo "2718"] [BlackElo "2654"] [PlyCount "154"] [EventDate "2016.05.26"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O dxc4 9. Bxc4 b5 10. Be2 Qe7 11. a3 a6 12. Ng5 Bb7 13. Bf3 Rfc8 14. Bd2 h6 15. Nge4 Nxe4 {[#]} 16. Bxe4 $2 {White can trace his problems to this move. Knight takes would have avoided the game continuation.} Nf6 17. Rfd1 c5 18. Bxb7 Qxb7 19. Be1 cxd4 20. Rxd4 Be5 21. Rd3 Ne4 22. Rc1 a5 {White is struggling with a nasty pin.} 23. Qd1 Nc5 24. Rd2 a4 25. Rcc2 Bf6 26. Qf3 {White is desperate to neutralize Black's advanatge by swapping queens, but this does not offer any relief.} b4 27. axb4 Qxb4 28. Nd1 Nd3 29. Rxc8+ Rxc8 30. Qe2 Nxe1 31. Qxe1 Rc1 32. g3 Qb3 33. Qe2 {[#]} Bxb2 $1 34. Rxb2 {No choice.} ({After anything else, such as} 34. Kg2 {then} a3 {will win extra quick.}) 34... Qxd1+ (34... Rxd1+ { was stronger. The real key here is that the pawn is easier to push with the queens still on the board, plus the queen and rook duo would allow Black to combine mating threats as well.} 35. Kg2 Qd5+ 36. e4 Qd4) 35. Qxd1 Rxd1+ 36. Kg2 Rd8 37. Ra2 Ra8 38. Kf3 g5 39. Ke4 g4 40. Kf4 h5 41. Kg5 Ra5+ 42. Kh6 Kf8 43. e4 Ke7 44. e5 f5 45. Kg7 a3 46. Kg6 Kd7 47. Kf6 Ra6 48. Kf7 Ra5 49. Kf6 Ra4 50. Kf7 f4 51. Kf6 f3 52. Kf7 Ra6 53. Kf6 Ra5 54. Kf7 Ra8 55. Kf6 Kc6 56. Kxe6 Kc5 57. Kf7 Kb4 58. Ra1 a2 59. Kg6 Kb3 60. Kxh5 Rg8 61. Rd1 Kc2 62. Re1 Kb2 63. e6 a1=Q 64. Rxa1 Kxa1 65. e7 Kb2 66. e8=Q Rxe8 67. Kxg4 Kc3 68. Kxf3 Kd4 69. Kf4 Rf8+ 70. Kg5 Rxf2 71. h4 Ke5 72. h5 Ke6 73. g4 Kf7 74. Kh6 Rg2 75. g5 Rg1 76. g6+ Kg8 77. g7 Ra1 0-1

A very unexpected result, not so much because Ganguly isn't capable of it, since obviously he is, but because both leaders, who had played superbly until the final round, lost with white. As a result, S.P. Sethuruman took sole first with 7.0/9, while Le Quang Liem and Wei Yi took silver and bronze respectively.

It should be noted that because the Asian Continental Championship also qualifies the top five, if not already qualified, to the next World Cup, fourth place finisher Murtas Kazhgaleyev from Kazakhstan, and Deep Sengupta from India, who finished fifth, can look forward to that as well.

Local hero Rustam Kasimdzhanov was not at his best in the second half when he skidded
with three draws and then a loss to Wei Yi in round eight

Murtas Kazhgaleyev from Kazakhstan managed to qualify thanks to his final win over...

... sixth seed GM Vidit from India.

GM Abhijeet Gupta (2654) never really got going and finished with 5.0/9

Ni Hua (2682) also had a difficult event and ended with 5.0/9

In spite of a great many 'wunderkinds' (wonder kids), such as 10-year-old Javokhir Sindarov (2384)
above, there were no remarkable results as their more experienced (and often much higher rated)
peers held them at bay.

The event went smoothly thanks to the efforts of the arbiters and organizers

The top three finishers

Final standings

Rk
SNo
Ti.
Name
FED
Rtg
Pts
 TB 
 TB2 
1 9 GM Sethuraman S.P. IND 2647 7.0 6.0 2551
2 1 GM Le Quang Liem VIE 2718 6.5 5.0 2605
3 3 GM Wei Yi CHN 2694 6.5 5.0 2595
4 14 GM Kazhgaleyev Murtas KAZ 2582 6.5 5.0 2514
5 20 GM Sengupta Deep IND 2543 6.5 5.0 2438
6 12 GM Lu Shanglei CHN 2614 6.5 5.0 2428
7 10 GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son VIE 2636 6.5 5.0 2424
8 7 GM Ganguly Surya Shekhar IND 2654 6.5 4.0 2550
9 26 GM Batchuluun Tsegmed MGL 2489 6.5 4.0 2401
10 16 GM Vakhidov Jahongir UZB 2578 6.0 5.0 2516
11 5 GM Adhiban B. IND 2665 6.0 5.0 2463
12 49 FM Begmuratov Alisher UZB 2371 6.0 5.0 2421
13 19 GM Ghaem Maghami Ehsan IRI 2551 6.0 3.0 2599
14 54 FM Hafiz Arif Abdul INA 2348 5.5 5.0 2437
15 24 GM Karthikeyan Murali IND 2518 5.5 5.0 2384
16 53   Fang Yan CHN 2354 5.5 4.0 2541
17 6 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2658 5.5 4.0 2511
18 22 GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. IND 2528 5.5 4.0 2507
19 32 GM Kostenko Petr KAZ 2457 5.5 4.0 2492
20 37 IM Tin Jingyao SIN 2427 5.5 4.0 2463
21 36 IM Mohammad Minhaz Uddin BAN 2430 5.5 4.0 2258
22 13 GM Wen Yang CHN 2611 5.5 3.0 2586
23 2 GM Kasimdzhanov Rustam UZB 2703 5.5 3.0 2561
24 21   Xu Yinglun CHN 2531 5.5 3.0 2375
25 17 GM Bai Jinshi CHN 2567 5.5 2.0 2402

TB: direct encounter; TB2: average rating of opponents

Click for complete standings

In the Women's event, Uzbek WFM Bakhora Abdusattorova, 16 years old, heavily outperformed
her 2091 rating with an excellent 2273 performance, including a win over IM Batchimeg (2412)

Rebecca Stones was likely the player who traveled the furthest to participate, as she flew
over ten thousand kilometers from Australia to Uzbekistan

WGM Nguyen Thi Mai Hung came in fourth with 6.0/9

Indian WGM Soumya Swamithan came in third with 6.5/9 and a 2437 performance

After stumbling in round two with a loss, second seed WGM Dinara Saduakassova (2415)
stormed back with 4/5 in the final rounds and came in second with 6.5/9

Nevertheless the event was clearly that of WGM Bhakti Kulkarni (2296) who's flawless event
included a 4.5/5 start, with a big win over top seed IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (2459)

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh - Bhakti Kulkarni (notes by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "15th Asian Continental w"] [Site "Tashkent UZB"] [Date "2016.05.29"] [Round "4.3"] [White "Khademalsharieh, Sarasadat"] [Black "Kulkarni, Bhakti"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D07"] [WhiteElo "2459"] [BlackElo "2296"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2016.05.26"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 {Bhakti came to this tournament armed with the Chigorin which turned out to be a great decision.} 3. Nf3 Bg4 4. cxd5 Bxf3 5. gxf3 Qxd5 6. e3 e5 7. Nc3 Bb4 8. Bd2 Bxc3 9. bxc3 {This is one of the most important positions in the opening and in general a good one to improve your understanding about the game of chess. White has the bishop pair and strong central pawns where as Black has a flawless pawn structure and two knights. All in all White should have a theoretical edge but it is not so easy for White to play as there is no safe parking spot for the king.} Qd6 10. Bd3 Nf6 11. Qc2 O-O (11... O-O-O {is the usual place for the black king. But as White has done nothing too active Black goes for 0-0.}) 12. O-O Rfd8 13. Rab1 b6 14. Rfd1 Ne7 15. Bf1 Ng6 16. Qf5 c5 17. Be1 cxd4 18. cxd4 Qc6 $1 {A powerful move taking aim at f3 pawn and threatening Nh4.} 19. Rbc1 Qb7 20. Qh3 (20. dxe5 Rxd1 21. Rxd1 Nh4 $17 {And the f3 pawn falls.}) 20... exd4 {White's pawn structure is completely ruined.} 21. Bg2 dxe3 22. fxe3 (22. f4 exf2+ 23. Bxf2 Nxf4 $19) 22... Qe7 23. Bf2 Rxd1+ 24. Rxd1 Qa3 25. f4 Rf8 26. Qf3 Re8 27. Qc6 Qxa2 { Black has two extra pawns but with the double bishops for her opponent she should remain careful.} 28. e4 Rf8 29. Qc1 Qe2 30. Rd4 Qg4 31. e5 Nh5 32. h3 Qf5 33. Be3 Nh4 34. Bf2 Nxg2 35. Kxg2 h6 36. Qe3 Rc8 37. Qf3 g6 {Everything is under control and Sarasadat saw no reason to continue. A very nice win for Bhakti.} 0-1

A great win, but after draws in rounds six and seven her advantage had dwindled to half a point with four players close behind with 5.0/7. In round eight she faced the surprising Chinese player Li Xueyi, who was scoring scalps left and right, and a serious candidate for the podium.

Li Xueyi - Bhakti Kulkarni (notes by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "15th Asian Continental w"] [Site "Tashkent UZB"] [Date "2016.06.02"] [Round "8.1"] [White "Li, Xueyi"] [Black "Kulkarni, Bhakti"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D07"] [WhiteElo "2105"] [BlackElo "2296"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2016.05.26"] {It was crucial for Bhakti to win this game to maintain the lead over the field and once again she goes for the trusted Chigorin Defence.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 3. cxd5 Qxd5 4. e3 e5 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Bd2 Bxc3 7. Bxc3 (7. bxc3 {The position would be similar to the game against Sarasadat. But here there has been no Bg4xf3. Li Xueyi tries to play more positionally by taking with the bishop.}) 7... exd4 8. Ne2 Nf6 9. Nxd4 O-O 10. Nb5 {This is a risky line where White wins the c7 pawn but lags seriously behind in development.} (10. Nxc6 Qxc6 11. Rc1 {is a safe line for White without too many risks.}) 10... Qg5 11. h4 Qh6 12. Nxc7 Rb8 $6 {This is surely not a piece of home preparation by Bhakti as she cannot afford to lose time with this move.} (12... Bg4 {is definitely the main line.}) 13. Nd5 Ne4 14. Bb5 Nxc3 15. Nxc3 a6 16. Be2 $6 ( 16. Bxc6 Qxc6 (16... bxc6 17. Qc2 $14 {is not a huge edge but quite a pleasant position for White.}) 17. O-O $14) 16... Bf5 17. Qa4 (17. Qd5 Qf6 18. Rd1 Rbd8 19. Qf3 $14) 17... b5 18. Qf4 Qxf4 19. exf4 Nd4 20. Rd1 Rbd8 21. g4 $2 { The decisive error of the game.} (21. f3 {followed by Kf2 and White would have survived.}) 21... Bc2 $1 22. Rd2 Rfe8 (22... b4 {was more accurate.} 23. Nd1 Be4 $1 24. Rg1 Nc2+ $19) 23. Rh3 (23. Kf1 {and White can still fight.}) 23... b4 24. Re3 (24. Nd1 Rxe2+ 25. Rxe2 Nxe2 26. Kxe2 Bxd1+ $19) 24... bxc3 25. bxc3 Nxe2 26. Kxe2 Ba4 {The rest is easy.} 27. c4 Kf8 28. Rxd8 Rxd8 29. Ra3 Bd1+ 30. Ke3 Bxg4 31. Rxa6 Bf5 32. Ra5 g6 33. Ra3 h5 34. Rc3 Ra8 35. a3 Ke7 36. Kd4 Kd6 37. c5+ Kc6 38. Ke5 Ra5 39. Kf6 Rxc5 40. Re3 Rc2 0-1

This vital win kept her in the sole lead and no one was able to change that by the end. She finished sole first with 7.0/9 and a superb 2506 performance plus a spot in the next Women World Championship.

The three top finishers

The winners of both events, WGM Bhakti Kulkarni and GM S.P. Sethuruman

Final standings

Rk SNo Ti. Name FED Rtg Pts  TB  TB2 
1 15 WGM Kulkarni Bhakti IND 2296 7.0 5.0 2318
2 5 WGM Saduakassova Dinara KAZ 2415 6.5 5.0 2307
3 10 WGM Soumya Swaminathan IND 2346 6.5 5.0 2279
4 17 WGM Nguyen Thi Mai Hung VIE 2276 6.0 5.0 2338
5 18 WGM Hoang Thi Bao Tram VIE 2263 6.0 4.0 2336
6 20 WIM Vo Thi Kim Phung VIE 2173 6.0 4.0 2254
7 1 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat IRI 2459 5.5 4.0 2258
8 3 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag MGL 2442 5.5 4.0 2215
9 7 WIM Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim UZB 2390 5.5 3.0 2239
10 12 WIM Pratyusha Bodda IND 2336 5.0 5.0 2211
11 26 WFM Abdusattorova Bakhora UZB 2091 5.0 4.0 2290
12 8 WGM Hejazipour Mitra IRI 2349 5.0 4.0 2195
13 25   Li Xueyi CHN 2105 5.0 3.0 2333
14 11 WGM Pourkashiyan Atousa IRI 2336 5.0 3.0 2297
15 4 IM Padmini Rout IND 2433 5.0 3.0 2226
16 9 IM Pham Le Thao Nguyen VIE 2348 5.0 2.0 2307
17 14 WGM Gomes Mary Ann IND 2304 4.5 3.0 2275
18 6 IM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs MGL 2412 4.5 3.0 2211
19 21   Uuriintuya Uurtsaikh MGL 2172 4.5 3.0 2194
20 13 WIM Vaishali R IND 2322 4.5 2.0 2327

TB: direct encounter; TB2: average rating of opponents

Click for complete standings


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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