Shenzhen Masters — a dozen draws

by Alex Yermolinsky
11/7/2018 – No winners in Shenzhen so far. All three games in both the third and fourth rounds ended drawn. Ding Liren was closest to winning in today's contest, with an extra pawn, but he had to settle for splitting the point. GM ALEX YERMOLINSKY checks in and brings the players in for some harsh criticism. But he also herald's Ding's undefeated streak — now at 98 games — noting that "he doesn't play for draws, he just plays good chess his opponents cannot refute". | Photos:

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Still a logjam

The Shenzhen tournament just can't seem to get off the ground, as all games in rounds three and four were once again drawn. It's not like I cannot accept a draw as a result of a hard-fought game, but the "effort" shown below really gets my blood boiling.

Round 3

Pray, tell me, what is the point of crossing five time zones to play a "game" like Vitiugov vs Giri?

Vitiugov and Giri

Even the players look bored and the game hasn't started yet!


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On some level I can understand Giri, who is willing to sacrifice one rating point to get an easy draw with Black, but what's up with Vitiugov? He's by far the lowest-rated player in the tournament and should be viewing an invitation to play in Shenzhen as a great opportunity to advance his career! Hopefully, it's just a blip on the radar.

The attention quickly focused on the local stars head-to-head game, where Ding put his unbeaten streak on the line. What is the most impressive about Ding's streak is that he doesn't play for draws, he just plays good chess his opponents cannot refute.


cake time

Surpassing Tal's undefeated record of 95 games is worth of cake | Photo:

The longest game of the third round belonged to Vachier-Lagrave and Wojtaszek. Given the contestants' great expertise in the Najdorf Sicilian one could have hoped for a sharper line, but no such luck.


During the third round

Round 4

The fourth round was similarly lifeless with two of the games ending in equal endgames with symmetrical pawn structures on moves 30 and 36 respectively. Giri effectively neutralised Wojtaszek's Catalan, and the game ended in a repetition in a dead even queen ending.

The Vachier-Lagrave vs Yu Yangyi came was notable for following the 2017 Petroff game of Robson vs Wei Yi as far as 17 moves deep, but Yu's alternative was unable to disturb the balance of the position.

Ding Liren had an extra pawn against Nikita Vitiugov, and therefore a modest edge at the time control at move 40, but it was not enough to convert the point.


The game continued for a few moves, but Black could not progress. Ding's streak extends to 98.

Given the sombre tone of this report, the reader might get an impression that the players in Shenzhen just go through the motions, and, like all of us, cannot wait for the World Championship Match to begin to turn into spectators.

But I, for one, do not think so. This is a double round-robin event with a lot of games left, and we will see some decisive games. Who knows, maybe Ding Liren can finally lose a game, although I don't wish him so.

Let's just root for exciting chess!

Standings after Round 4


All games Rounds 1-4



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.


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