Chinese no. 1 Ding Liren took a leaf from the Bobby Fischer playbook as he sacrificed a minor piece for a pawn in a fighting 88-move draw against compatriot Yu Yangyi. That was the highlight of the first round of the Shenzhen Chess Masters, with the other games ending in draws at around move 30. Anish Giri only stopped to think (a little) after 25 moves of his game against Mickey Adams, while Peter Svidler found precise moves to thwart Harikrishna’s hopes of exploiting a space advantage. There are no less than nine rounds to go.
It’s been a very quiet month so far for the world’s top chess players, so it’s good to finally have a supertournament to watch. The Shenzhen Chess Masters is a new event taking place in the Friends International Hotel in the Longgand District of Shenzhen, a city of 12 million just north of Hong Kong:
The prize fund is $90,000, with $20,000 for first place, and the line-up has an average rating of 2756. In fact, the range is only 28 points, from top seed Anish Giri (2769) to bottom seed Peter Svidler (2741). That compact spread makes it likely we’ll be seeing more days like the all-drawn first round on Thursday:
Adams-Giri saw the oldest player in the event, Mickey Adams (45), face the youngest, Anish Giri (22 – though Yu Yangyi is only 2 weeks older). What followed was a demonstration of opening preparation from the young Dutchman, with Giri not pausing for more than 23 seconds until he reached move 25 of a Ruy Lopez.
His idea had been seen before, but only in a rapid game from Anna Muzychuk in 2013:
This position had been reached 13 times by White, including 3 times by Sergey Karjakin and once by Magnus Carlsen. Only Anna here played the temporary pawn sac 21…d4 22.cxd4 c4 23.b3, with the idea that Black now wins back the pawn by playing 23…Bc5! and exploiting the pin on the d-file. Black gained a potentially dangerous passed pawn, but Mickey had no trouble steering the game to a drawn opposite-coloured bishop ending a few moves later.
Harikrishna-Svidler was much more tense, with a lot going on in the early stages. Peter Svidler spent 20 minutes thinking how to respond to 14.Nb3:
Without a post-mortem from Peter the following is guesswork, but it’s likely he wanted to avoid Fabiano Caruana’s fate after he played 14…Rac8 against Ding Liren in Round 1 of the 2015 Tata Steel Masters. The Chinese no. 1 then expanded with the tricky 15.e4!, when capturing the pawn would lose Black material. Fabiano eventually won that game, but not because of the opening.
It turns out Svidler’s 14…Rfd8 novelty does successfully stop 15.e4, though, since in one Pacmanesque line it turns out White has no rook to eat on f8 after the rook has moved to d8. In the game 15.Be5 a5 16.c5 Qa6 17.Qb2 followed, with Svidler then solving his problems with the precise 17…Qb7!