Hainan Danzhou Masters: Vidit Gujrathi scores emphatic win over Sam Shankland; Bu Xiangzhi takes sole lead
Having lost and drawn in the first two rounds, Gujrathi registered an emphatic win over GM Samuel Shankland in round three, breaking the American grandmaster's streak of 62 unbeaten games.
Third time is a charm, they say, and so it was in Vidit Gujrathi's case at the 9th Hainan Danzhou Super Grandmaster's tournament. Having lost and drawn in the first two rounds, the Indian No 3 registered an emphatic win over GM Samuel Shankland in round three, breaking the American grandmaster's streak of 62 unbeaten games. A couple of rounds ago, Gujrathi's own long unbeaten streak of 40 games was broken with a loss against the Polish GM Jan Krzysztof Duda. With this win, Gujrathi has climbed up to the joint third place on the leaderboard. Given that he was in the bottom-most spot at the commencement of the round, this is a very welcome change of state for the Indian No 3.
Gujrathi had the white pieces in the third round and opened with his favourite queen’s pawn opening. Shankland responded with the Slav Defence and came out with a decent position out of the opening. However, although the position looked all right for Shankland, Gujrathi had acquired some trumps out of the opening. For starters, he was the one enjoying extra space and more importantly, he had the bishop pair against his opponent’s two knights. In addition to this, Gujrathi's queen strongly controlled the a-file, practically, the only open file on the board. So even though the position was just "equal" in the eyes of the computers, Shankland clearly wasn’t having an easy time.
Under pressure, the American grandmaster made an inaccuracy on his 29th move. This allowed Gujrathi to manoeuvre his dark-squared bishop around to the d6 square, a post from which it not only pinned the black knight to the king but, in coordination with the white queen, also generated some strong threats on the enemy monarch. Shankland fought tooth and nail to hold his position together over the next few moves but the cramped position he was in was getting worse by every move.
On the 46th turn, Shankland cracked again and allowed Gujrathi to win two pawns and even liquidate into a queen endgame. At this point, the position had just gone out of hand for black. Gujrathi did not finish in the cleanest possible manner but his play was still good enough to bring home the bacon.
The other games of the day were no less exciting. While two games finished decisively, Vladimir Fedoseev survived what was nothing short of a miracle. Out of a Semi Slav, Duda had gone all guns blazing at his opponent from the word go. Flinging his kingside pawns forward early in the game, Duda generated a very strong kingside attack right out of the opening. Sacrificing a whole rook, he had almost caught Fedoseev's king in a mating net. Had it not been for a timely queen sacrifice by the Russian grandmaster, his king would have been doomed to death. And even the endgame Fedoseev had bailed out into did not seem to be very promising. Duda had a strong outside passed pawn along with a knight and queen against his opponent's two rooks and a bishop. But despite all of his advantages, Duda was unable to break through his opponent's ironclad defence in this endgame. After trying for more than five hours, the Polish GM decided to sign the truce.
The all-China battle between Wei Yi and Yu Yangyi resolved in a surprise win for the latter. Yu Yangyi had essayed the Petroff Defence with the black pieces, an opening he had side-stepped in the previous round against Bu Xiangzhi. The position had remained equal all through the game. Wei had an extra pawn in the game but his crooked pawn structure rendered the position equal. But Wei faltered quite extraordinarily on his 35th move and lost two back to back pawns. Just five moves later, he decided to throw in the towel.
Things had gone badly wrong for the Vietnamese No 1, GM Le Quang Liem, in his game against the tournament leader, Bu Xiangzhi. With the black pieces, the Vietnamese grandmaster placed his knight on the rim on his seventh turn in a Symmetrical English and went on to shred a pawn, a few moves later. This was followed by a queen exchange and after a few minor skirmishes, Bu succeeded in converting the game without much discomfort.
With this win, Bu has taken sole lead in the tournament with a score of 2.5/3. Jan-Krzysztof Duda is half a point behind at 2.0/3 while Vidit Gujrathi, along with Vladimir Fedoseev and Yu Yangyi share the third place with a score of 1.5/3. Another pack of three consisting of Sam Shankland, Le Quang Liem and Wei Yi share the bottom-most spot at 1.0/3.
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