All tied at Shenzen Masters

by Macauley Peterson
11/5/2018 – In the Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen, six world-class players have played six draws so far. The two top Chinese players Ding Liren and Yu Yangui compete with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri, Nikita Vitiugov and Radoslaw Wojtaszek. With Monday's draw Ding surpassed the undefeated streak of the great Mikhail Tal! Ding's 96 games without a loss can be considered the best undefeated streak in history, if not (yet) the longest. | Photos: Qipai.com

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Ding surpasses Tal

Shenzhen is located in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong north of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The city is the centre of the Chinese telecommunications industry and is considered the fastest growing city in China. There are currently more than 12 million people living there. And for the next week, there are six additional prominent chess grandmasters in residence.

Chinese chess, too, can't complain about a lack of growth. While the Chinese women have long been at the top of the world, with Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun currently the two highest-rated women, now the Chinese have become a tremendous powerhouse in open competition as well. Twice the team won the overall gold medal in Chess Olympiads (2014 Tromso and 2018 Batumi). With Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi, Wang Hao, Wei Yi, Bu Xiangzhi and Li Chao, six Chinese grandmasters have already become entrenched among the top players in the world with an Elo rating over 2700. The top two among them are currently competing in Shenzen.

Ding Liren

In the tournament, two rounds have been played so far. All games ended in a draw. That already marks a non-trivial achievement for one of them; Ding Liren's streak of classical games without a loss now stands at 96 — one more than the legendary undefeated streak of the eighth World Champion Mikhail Tal.

Last year, New in Chess magazine charted undefeated streaks and placed Tal in both spots one and two. Our "New in Chess Invincibility List" in May, 2017 attempted to set the record straight, noting when Wang Yue's 82 game streak was broken in 2008 that Sergei Tiviakov had reported a longer streak of 110 games. However, as Tiviakov himself informed us at that time:

Of course, my opponents were not all very strong...but they did include Ivanchuk, Aronian, Radjabov, Carlsen, Dreev, etc. So my record can still be compared with that of Wang Yue, for example.

Therefore, Ding's achievement is arguably now the most impressive such streak in history, given the incredible calibre of players he has faced since it began August 9th, 2017, when he lost to Anish Giri in the second game of a four-game match. Giri is, of course, one of the six in Shenzen, and he's already drawn Ding in Sunday's first round but he'll have another chance to end the streak in round six (albeit less likely with the black pieces).


Tip: You can see the complete streak for yourself: scroll through and download Ding's games in our Playerbase!


Round 2 and three more draws

Ding played a full game with Vachier-Lagrave in the second round. Out of a Symmetrical English opening, the players traded down to an early rook ending by move 25 in which Ding was up a symbolic pawn with four versus three on the kingside. The Frenchman showed good defensive technique to draw the game without difficulty. 

Wojtaszek came with a theoretical novelty in Semi-Slav on move 14.b5, which is the first recommendation of engines: 

 

The game never strayed from equality and the players shook hands in a drawish rook and bishop ending.

That leaves Giri vs Yu, which was a bloodless 33-mover of a Petroff Defence. Giri held back on h3 and the pair followed the game Wei Yi vs Yu Yangyi from June's Danzhou Masters — a game Yu won, though only after an endgame blunder from Wei. Giri deviated with 9.Re1

 

The players charted their own course to equality. Although Giri tried to mix things up on the kingside by launching his h-pawn, the attack fizzled and a draw was signed once the queens came off.

Yu Yangyi

Standings after Round 2

 

All games

 

Andre Schulz contributed to this story

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/7/2018 02:48
@ fgkdjlkag:

I think that, quite certainly, a winning streak will necessarily every time (at the highest level) give a higher performance rating that an unbeaten streak; it means objectively a higher quality of play.

But, nonetheless, as the longest unbeaten streak (Ding Liren's 97 games - for the moment) is more than 5 time longer than the longest winning streak, I think that it highlights different qualities; a 19-games winning streak means pure DOMINATION. Such isn't at all the case with Ding Liren's streak. But to play, like Ding Liren did, game after game for months and months and months without losing ANY game EVER requires an incredible level in defense, and an extraordinary stability in one's game. And I don't think it is obvious that the player who can demonstrate absolute domination as Fischer did will necessarily have the stability to control absolutely every game for as long as Ding Liren did. And perhaps not either the same mastery of defense: if you have a very clear superiority (like Fischer had at the time of his winning streak), I think it is possible that you can play 19 consecutive games without having to defend stubbornly for dozens of consecutive moves in a given game. But for 97 games, it seems difficult; one day, you will more or less necessarily end up in a rather inferior position even if you are better than everyone on the planet, and then, your defensive qualities will be decisive for continuing your unbeaten streak.

So, globally, I think that Fischer's streak meant "domination", while Ding Liren's streak means "superiority in defense and stability".

For me, yes, Fischer's streak is extraordinarily impressive, but to be able to stay as long without ever losing any game like Ding Liren did is also, in a very different way, something really quite stupendous. In my opinion, both are really quite memorable; differently memorable, but nonetheless memorable... so to say, about these streaks, "there are not in competition one with the other"; Ding Liren's achievement doesn't belittle Fischer's streak, and reciprocally...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/7/2018 02:15
@ marcguy: The problem is that I don't think that I have EVER read anything about winning streaks at top-level!
It is true indeed that, for example, if the second-best winning streak is (for example) 9 consecutive wins, Fischer's streak would be really particularly outstanding. But, nonetheless, on the one hand, yes, it would be possible in this case to say that Fischer outperformed more his rivals for the longest winning streak that Ding Liren his own rivals for the longest unbeaten streak, but, one the other hand, a winning streak demonstrates a very high level of global superiority on a rather short number of games while a very long unbeaten streak means essentially an extremely high level in defense and a extreme regularity on the long run, so the two are really very different, in my opinion. The player who can have the longest winning streak couldn't necessarily obtain a very long unbeaten streak, and the player who can have the longest unbeaten streak couldn't necessarily obtain a (comparatively) very long winning streak.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/7/2018 12:12
Should be possible to calculate statistically which is more impressive. At least a start is looking at performance ratings.
marcguy marcguy 11/6/2018 08:41
@Petrarlsen:

You are correct in that it is comparing apples to oranges, but ask this question: How many players have had comparable unbeaten streaks compared to how many players that have ever come close to winning 19 consecutive games against top flight IM/GM competition without allowing a single draw?
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/6/2018 02:27
@ jsaldea12:

How do you know that Fischer would have be able to play 96 consecutive games without losing even one single game ? (...And it must be said that, in all his career, he never did it...)

(Obviously, the same could be said of Ding Liren: it isn't at all because you stay unbeaten for 96 games that you could be able to win 19 consecutive games.)

In my opinion, this is more or less comparing apples with oranges...
jsaldea12 jsaldea12 11/6/2018 03:01
I agree with marcguy: Bobby Fischer 19 consecutive ame without a draw is more impressive
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/5/2018 11:29
@ marcguy: In my opinion, to compare Fischer's winning streak and Ding Liren's unbeaten streak is comparing completely different things. It doesn't highlight the same qualities to be able to win 19 consecutive games and to stay unbeaten for 96 games. (...unless, obviously, if a player was able to win 96 consecutive games, but, at the top-level, this seems more or less impossible...)
marcguy marcguy 11/5/2018 07:44
Impressive, but Bobby Fischer's 19 consecutive wins without allowing a single draw on his way to the World title in the Interzonal and matches against Taimanov, Larsen, and Petrosian is even more so, will never be duplicated.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/5/2018 06:45
Big congratulations to Ding Liren!! I hope he will make it to a 100 games unbeaten streak!
Abraxas79 Abraxas79 11/5/2018 05:11
All draws so far. Expect plenty more to come.
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