Wei Yi repeats in Leon

by Leontxo García
6/15/2015 – It is a feat that had not been achieved in years, and the only other player to have done it was Viswanathan Anand. Wei Yi has become the repeat winner in the Leon Magistral rapids after defeating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the finals by the minimum margin. Through a combination of resourcefulness, tenacity, and striking in the one opportunity that he was given, Wei Yi wins again!

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Only one player previously, the five time World Champion Viswanathan Anand, had won Leon two years in a row. But today there is another, and he just turned sixteen years old! The Chinese Wei Yi overcame by the minimum margin the Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final of the 28th edition, and confirmed that he is a serious candidate for the World Championship in the future.

The start of round one - MVL's best chance!

"I saw that my position was lost in the first game, but I did not panic - I never lost control of my nerves. Perhaps that was the key of this triumph" explained the winner. And the loser was in agreement: "I had at least one winning position, and maybe even two or three, in that first game. One must highlight that Wei Yi defended with incredible tenacity and technique. But that sensation that I let go of a clear win may have influenced my performance in the next three", admitted Vachier-Lagrave.

The first bout was, indeed, shocking. With his favorite defense, the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense, the Frenchman allowed a Bayonet attack from the Chinese, but he stopped it and launched his own counterattack on the other flank with great success: even after exchanging queens to soften the pressure, Wei Yi's king suffered from heavy fire from all of Black's pieces. White's position was simply losing.

That being said, in quick games that does not have to be decisive. First of all because sometimes the coup de grace is very hard to find (32...Nb1!!), and also because again the young Chinese player exhibited sang froid and justified his new nickname of the Jiangsu Ice Floe. Indeed, Vachier-Lagrave found more opportunities later in the game, but Wei Yi rescued himself from the abyss.

MVL will pick himself up from this defeat and fly to
Norway to participate in the first leg of the Grand Chess Tour

The second game was a draw without much commotion, since the Frenchman obtained nothing from the opening. And in the third Vachier-Lagrave committed a mistake in his set-up, that he admitted later. "I decided not to repeat the Najdorf, and that was a mistake". His young opponent was implacable: his material advantage at first did not seem so important, but he soon made it decisive.

[Event "28th Leon GM 2015"] [Site "Leon ESP"] [Date "2015.07.14"] [Round "2.3"] [White "Wei, Yi"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B35"] [WhiteElo "2721"] [BlackElo "2723"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez, Alejandro"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2015.06.12"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 Qa5 { MVL has used this version of the Accelerated Dragon a couple of times in the past - including a draw against Carlsen in last year's Sinquefield Cup (where he forgot his mover order!). Notice that in this specific Dragon there is no possibility to go into a Maroczy bind.} 8. O-O O-O 9. Nb3 Qc7 10. f4 d6 11. Be2 {an old line of the Dragon, but perfectly playable for both sides.} Bd7 12. Qe1 (12. g4 $5 {is an idea from the 70s that might still work nowadays. Wei Yi's approach is more positional.}) 12... a6 13. Rd1 (13. Nd5 $5 {this was a good time to play this move, as the knight has to retreat to a somewhat awkward square.} Nxd5 (13... Qd8 14. Bb6 Qc8 15. Nxf6+ Bxf6 16. c3 $14) 14. exd5 Nb8 15. Nd4 $14) 13... b5 14. Nd5 Nxd5 (14... Qd8 15. Nxf6+ Bxf6 16. e5 $1 {leaves Black with real problems. If he takes on e5 the pin down the d-file is dangerous.} dxe5 17. Nc5 Ra7 18. Bg4 $1 {with unsurmountable pressure.}) 15. exd5 Nd8 16. Nd4 e5 $1 {Breaking through while this move is still available.} 17. fxe5 dxe5 18. d6 $1 {An important intermezzo.} (18. Nb3 Nb7 {allows the Black knight access to the very important d6 square.}) 18... Qc8 (18... Qxd6 19. Nf5 Qc7 20. Nxg7 Kxg7 21. Qh4 {is too much: the pressure on the darksquares will collapse Black's defense. It is already impossible to defend against Bh6+}) 19. Nb3 Ne6 $6 (19... f5 {was already necessary, avoiding the following continuation in the game. However here White is also a little better. } 20. Nc5 Ne6 21. Nxd7 Qxd7 22. c4 $14) 20. Bf3 Rb8 21. Ba7 Rb7 22. Qf2 $1 { The patience demonstrated by Wei Yi to place such a move, specially in a rapid, is unbelievable. Most grandmasters would take the rook and think later - but defending the a7 bishop is more accurate.} f5 23. Bd5 $1 Kh8 24. Na5 $1 {And finally the rook is forced to take on a7, leaving White with the better bishop on the board.} Rxa7 25. Qxa7 Qc5+ 26. Qxc5 Nxc5 27. b4 Na4 28. Bc6 Rf7 29. Bxd7 Rxd7 30. Nb3 Bf8 31. Nc5 Rxd6 32. Rxd6 Bxd6 33. Nxa4 bxa4 34. a3 {Black doesn't have enough compensation for the exchange. He has a pawn, but White's passed c-pawn is powerful and the bishop cannot support the e-pawn well.} e4 35. Rd1 Be5 36. c4 Kg7 37. b5 axb5 38. cxb5 Kf6 39. b6 Ke7 40. b7 {this pawn will cost Black his bishop.} Bc7 41. Rb1 (41. Rb1 Bb8 42. Rc1 Kd7 43. Rc8 Ba7+ 44. Kf1 {and queens next move.}) 1-0

This victory forced Vachier-Lagrave to search a win desperately in the fourth round, that ended in an opposite colored bishop endgame. It was then that Wei Yi showed even more virtues: great calculation capacity and a very deep technical knowledge despite his extreme youth.

Wei Yi avoids giving concrete answers to any question related to his meteoric rise to the chess elite, despite joining some months ago the top-50 players in the World with only 15 years of age, and that he just won the Chinese chess Championship before his birthday. "For now, I only want to play better each time", he insists. He also would like to study a university career, which is very hard to match with elite chess competition. His undeniable happiness for the win is betrayed by his simple words. "How am I going to celebrate? With some Chinese food and sleeping".

The modest winner by 2.5-1.5: Wei Yi

Leontxo Garcia (left), MVL, Wei Yi and his translator

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Topics Leon, Rapid

Leontxo García is a renown Spanish sports and chess journalist.
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DBRussell DBRussell 6/17/2015 09:55
What a beast!

Wei Yi continues to inch closer to the very elite of chess.
At 16!!!
KrushonIrina KrushonIrina 6/15/2015 05:05
Wei Yi is the only person on the horizon to dethrone Carlsen.

But it is a long horizon.
The_Tenant The_Tenant 6/15/2015 03:58
Currently heralded as the chinese wonder boy, this guy Wei Yi definitely one to look out for. Can't wait to see him participate in more elite level tournaments.