Shenzhen: Giri does it!

by Macauley Peterson
4/27/2019 – In Shenzehn, China, Pentala Harikrishna defeated Yu Yangyi in the penultimate round to retake a half point lead over Anish Giri. But he had Black in the final round while Giri was White. Could 'Hari' score his first super-tournament victory? It looked like he was headed for a tournament-clinching draw, but a slip-up gave Ding Liren a chance to turn the tables and Giri a golden opportunity to grab tournament victory. | Photo:

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Harikrishna takes half point edge to final

That Harikrishna is leading the Shenzhen Masters heading into the final round is not itself surprising, but what is remarkable is that he's doing so despite having lost two games!

After a seventh round of three draws, Richard Rapport dealt Harikrishna his second loss of the tournament in round eight and allowed Anish Giri to pull equal with two rounds to play. Since Giri beat 'Hari' in round two, the Dutchman has the tiebreak advantage should the finish on equal points — the first tiebreak is 'direct encounter'.


Rapport sporting a smart red suit | Photo:

The realization of White's small material advantage (two flank pawns) was difficult.


The black king controls the h-pawn, while his minor pieces prevent the a-pawn's advance. If necessary, Black can also sacrifice a piece and aim for a draw of one piece against two (without pawns).

The White knight obstructs his own pawn on the a-file and is also dominated by the black bishop. Important now was 57...♚g8 58.♔g6 ♞e5+ 59.♔f6 ♞c6 60.♗b6 ♝e5+ 61.♔xe6 ♝c3 and so on, or 57...e5 58.♔f5 e4 59.♔xe4 ♝e7 etc., would also have been sufficient.

But Black instead let the White knight out of prison: 57...a3?. There followed 58.b8 c1+ 59.h4 e8 60.c7 e3 61.a6 a3 62.g4 b5 63.f4 c5 64.c6 d7 65.e5+ e8 66.h6 f8 67.h7 g7 68.h5 1-0

Giri drew with Ding Liren to tie for the lead, with momentum on his side.

Results of Round 8


Harikrishna showed his resilience in the penultimate round, however, and he went after his opponent's Petroff Defence in yet another queenless middlegame. Eventually Harikrishna won a pawn and in the endgame the players reached this position:


Black played 51...c5 and after 52.e4+ he faced an unpleasant choice: He decided to swap the minor pieces with 51...♞xe4+, but the rook ending is straightforwardly lost: 53.xe4 a7 54.a4 c5 55.g3 b5 56.a2 h5 57. f4 1-0

52...♚d4 was no better, as there would follow 53.♗b7 and the a-pawn runs next.

IM Sagar Shah annotates the game in full

Harikrishna does fine without his queen | Photo

Rapport against Giri was an Open Catalan in which Rapport followed Wojtaszek vs Giri from the 2018 Shamkir tournament through a whopping 23 moves into a dead-equal endgame. The players shook hands on move 32 after using up very little time on the clock. Giri had a free evening to contemplate last round strategy:

Results of Round 9



UPDATE: Harikrishna stumbles and Giri takes advantage

In a dramatic turn of events in the final round Harikrishna lost, giving Giri the opening he needed to press with White and ultimately win his long minor piece endgame against Dmitry Jakovenko to leapfrog the Indian number two and win the Shenzhen Masters with a final score of 6½ / 10.

Ding Liren is Anish's new best friend. He manoeuvred patiently with White in an English Opening, but by move 24 when the queens came off, the symmetrical pawn structure and equal material made a draw look likely.


Reminiscent of a Knight's Tour!

Ding has just vacated the knight outpost on c5 and Harikrishna now takes time to ensure the knight does not return with 35...b6, however in the long run that opens up the new and more lucrative c6-square for the knight. Black's own advanced knight on f3 meanwhile lacks meaningful targets. 35...g5 would have been a logical follow-up, when White's edge is minimal.

Harikrishna avoided exchanging knights, but soon Ding's developed a dominating position:


46.h8 with the other rook coming to c8, Ding later corralled the d5-pawn with a winning advantage. But he embarked on a spurious mating net, driving Harikrishna's king to g1 and giving him a golden opportunity to save the game — and his tournament — with a tactic:


Can you spot the idea Harikrishna missed?

59...♞xe3! And no matter how Ding recaptures Black's f-pawn becomes a dangerous threat that will be enough for at least a draw.

In the game Harikrishna played 59...d6 and gave Ding a second chance to win. The game continued 60.d5 g6 61.h7 d6 and now Ding managed to break through:


62.a5! The passed pawn that results will decide the game in White's favour.

Giri needed 97 moves [the live broadcast incorrectly showed only 64 moves at first after a technical snafu -Ed.] and the full seven hours to prosecute his endgame advantage against Jakovenko, but he succeeded and, with that, won the tournament:


Results of Round 10


Final standings


All games


Andre Schulz contributed reporting


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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macauley macauley 4/27/2019 03:19
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/27/2019 02:57
"The players shoot hands on move 32"

Are they in the hospital now? Man, chess can be very dangerous.