Ding Liren swaps places with Yu Yangyi in Shenzhen

by Antonio Pereira
11/12/2018 – After his undefeated streak was rounded off at a hundred games with a loss against Vachier-Lagrave, Ding Liren jumped right back to winning ways with a victory over Yu Yangyi in round eight of the Shenzhen Masters. He now shares the lead with MVL at 4½/8 with two days to go in the double round robin. In round seven, Nikita Vitiugov defeated Radoslaw Wojtaszek and joined the chasers half-a-point behind the co-leaders. | Photo: qipai.org.cn

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Chinese derby

It is not a novelty to talk about China as a powerhouse in the chess world, but a name that curiously does not come up very often in the news is Yu Yangyi's. Before losing today's game against Ding Liren, he actually was part of the top-10 in the live ratings list, and his 12th place in the official FIDE list ranks him above such well-known players like Karjakin, Nakamura and Svidler. In fact, he has been a member of the 2700-club since September 2014 (with a short one-month absence in October of the same year).

Yu Yangyi was sharing the lead with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave until round seven thanks to a previous win over Nikita Vitiugov (analysed by Alex Yermolinsky), but had the difficult task of facing the only Chinese player higher-rated than him next, world's #4 Ding Liren.

Yu Yangyi still has chances as he plays MVL in the last round | Photo: qipai.org.cn

In the game, Ding thought for over 24 minutes before playing the novelty 13.Bg5 and took the struggle to unexplored territory. In the strategical battle that ensued, White's fianchettoed light-squared bishop quietly played a key role and gave way to the split of Black's pawn structure on the queenside:

 

White's pressure yielded results after 29.bxc6 bxc6, and Black was left stuck with a strategical disadvantage. The queens and light-squared bishops were exchanged before the time control and a knight vs bishop endgame (with a pair of rooks on the board) was reached. Already in a favourable position, Ding exchanged further down into a pure rook endgame:

 

After 45.Nxb4 cxb4 46.Rc7+ Black cannot prevent his opponent from gaining a pawn. Ding Liren showed good technique in the final phase of the game and took the win after 74 moves.

Nikita Vitiugov won one and lost one in Shenzhen | Photo: qipai.org.cn

Also in a technical endgame, Nikita Vitiugov had defeated Radek Wojtaszek in the previous round. The player from Saint Petersburg accurately assessed that the 4 vs 3 rook endgame would favour him after the following forced sequence:

 

31.Bxb6+ leaves White a pawn up after 31...axb6 32.Ra8+ Kd7 33.Rxg8 hxg5 34.Rxg7.

 

At this point, Wojtaszek decided he was not in the mood to look for a miracle and resigned immediately.

Undefeated — Anish Giri drew all eight games so far in Shenzhen | Photo: qipai.org.cn

With two rounds to go, five out of six players are cramped in the top of the standings, with only Wojtaszek out of the fight for first place:

 

All Shenzhen Masters game

 

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.