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 served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.

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