Hainan Danzhou Masters: Yu Yangyi bags title; Vidit Gujrathi ends up at bottom of leaderboard after exciting final round
While Vidit Gujrathi's overall performance was quite dismal, one must keep in mind that this was a very strong tournament with every player rated above Elo 2700.
After a stormy penultimate round, the battle for the title of the 9th Hainan Danzhou Masters was between the overnight tournament leader, Yu Yangyi and his compatriot Bu Xiangzhi. Bu was half-a-point behind the leader and had to win at all cost to remain in contention.
Yu Yangyi, on the contrary, could afford to take things calmly. He had the luxury of going for a solid draw and putting the onus of catching up on his rival – and that is what he did. Bu, however, was unable to win his game to catch up in the tournament lead. With the black pieces, he lost quite surprisingly against Vladimir Fedoseev, leaving Yu Yangyi in sole first place.
Meanwhile, Indian number three, GM Vidit Gujrathi was battling to avoid finishing last in the tournament. The final round had pitted him against Vietnamese number one, GM Le Quang Liem. Vidit had the white pieces in this game and this was a good opportunity to finish the tournament on a high note.
The game began with a Nimzo Indian Defence in which the players followed the moves from the game between Alexei Shirov and Michael Adams in Bilbao, 2014. On his 14th turn, Vidit deviated from Shirov's play and came up with a novelty. As play progressed, Vidit gave up a pawn in the middle game in order to manoeuvre his knight to the king side.
Le Quang Liem was able to hold on to this pawn well into the endgame. As compensation, Vidit had the initiative and a better pawn structure. On the 64th move, the tide began to turn in Le's favour, Vidit cracked and made back to back errors.
Vidit had chased his opponent's king all the way from the kingside to its current post where it now looked safe. White had no checks and or any tricks for that matter any longer. Unwilling to exchange more pieces – which was the best way to proceed – Vidit decided to move his king and this turned out to be fatal. After this move, the king suddenly began to look exposed. Vidit tried a few checks but after Le found a safe spot for his king, he just had an overwhelming advantage.
Tournament leader, Yu Yangyi had the black pieces against Sam Shankland in the final round and went for his favourite Petroff Defence. As is the case in most Petroffs, the position reached out of the opening was rather bland. By the 21st move, a dead equal endgame with rooks and bishops of opposite colours was reached. The game went on for 17 more moves but the result of the game was never in doubt.
A draw in Yu Yangyi's game meant Bu Xiangzhi had a chance to catch up with the tournament leader. However, Bu's position against Vladimir Fedoseev did not hold much promise. Within the first 25 moves in a Queen's Indian Defence, the game had reached a rook and pawn endgame with five pawns for each side.
Although the position looked more or less equal in this endgame, Fedoseev was in the driver's seat. Despite material equality, Bu was under some pressure due to his weak pawns and passive rook. Fedoseev managed to net a pawn immediately after all the liquidations by making the most of his rook's active post. It took some time in the ensuing endgame for Fedoseev to convert the game but by move 58, he had secured his first win of the tournament.
Jan Krzysztof Duda and Wei Yi discussed the Mikenas variation of the English Opening. Wei was very well prepared for the game. Deviating from known theory on his 8th turn, he went on to get a slight advantage early in the game. Although queens were off the board, Wei, with his extra space and double bishops, exerted considerable pressure on Duda's position. Duda fought hard to restore equilibrium but black's advantages turned out to be too difficult for him to deal with.
Among the tail-enders after the penultimate round, Vidit was the only player to lose. While Shankland drew against Yu Yangyi, Fedoseev and Wei Yi won their games against Bu Xiangzhi and Jan-Krzysztof Duda respectively. This left Vidit as the only player in the last place.
While Vidit's overall performance was quite dismal, one must keep in mind that this was a very strong tournament with every player rated above Elo 2700. Not to mention, in comparison to most of his rivals, Vidit lacks experience when it comes to round robin tournaments. In fact, this is only the second time that he has been a part of a major closed event. But this might also turn out to be an important learning experience for Gujrathi who is slated to lock horns against some of the very best players of the world in his next closed event, the Tata Steel Masters in January 2019.
Aditya Pai is an editor at ChessBase India.