All-Round Grischuk Too Strong For Yu Yangyi
Showing both his endgame and attacking skills, Alexander Grischuk proved too strong an opponent for Yu Yangyi. Grischuk won their four-game match in Jiayuguan, China with a 3-1 score, and with it the $20,000 first prize.
Grischuk at the closing ceremony on Tuesday morning. | Photo: Fan Lulu.
In the current top 100, nine grandmasters are from China. We see their names in tournaments on a regular basis, but none of them has a lot of match experience. The Chinese Chess Association has been trying to change that, by organizing several matches in recent years.
A new match, between Alexander Grischuk (Russia) and Yu Yangyi (China), was organized from July 20 to 24 in Jiayuguan, a city in the northwest of China. The city is famous for the nearby Jiayu Pass, the largest and most intact pass of the Great Wall of China.
At the opening ceremony, Yu Yangyi made a reference by quoting the old saying: "One who fails to reach the Great Wall is not a hero."
Yu Yangyi at the opening ceremony. | Photo: Fan Lulu.
Former women's world champion Xie Jun translating for Alexander Grischuk at the opening ceremony. | Photo: Fan Lulu.
The first two games of the match were remarkably timid. In the first, Yu played the Petroff and equalized quickly. A draw was agreed on move 24. The next day saw only half of that, with a draw being agreed as early as move 13 in a Fianchetto Grünfeld. But, luckily, the last two games were excellent.
In game three Grischuk drew first blood. He switched from 5.d4 to 5.Nc3 against his opponent's Petroff, and moved right into a double-rook endgame where White's edge was having two "pawn islands" vs three.
For game three Grischuk had prepared a different approach. | Photo: Fan Lulu.
The way the Russian GM outplayed his Chinese opponent reminded of some of José Capablanca's best endgames. (You can find a great selection in the old classic "Capablanca's Best Chess Endings" by Irving Chernev.)
"I got [a] slight advantage in the opening," said Grischuk. "I think from the opening to the endgame the position was quite unpleasant for him. It's very hard to defend for many hours."
Grischuk's score sheet of the game. | Photo: Zhang Mingxing.
Suddenly Yu found himself in a must-win situation to force a playoff. But how to play for a win against the Berlin? It's one of the most difficult questions for top GMs these days.
The Chinese player chose the topical plan of castling queenside in the Anti-Berlin, but he hardly got an attack off the ground. Meanwhile, Grischuk pushed his pawns rather quickly, and he was soon better. Where a draw was enough to clinch the $20,000 first prize ($10,000 went to the loser of the match), he won rather easily.
"This game was very interesting," said Grischuk. "Yu Yangyi came up with a new plan to attack my kingside. I didn't know how to react. I didn't like the standard maneuver for the knight, and decided put my knight on a4, as Kasparov often did. He once beat me like that. After that I managed to play 18...d5 and then 19...d4, and there my position is almost winning."
The Anti-Berlin with a early Bxc6 dxc6. | Photo: Fan Lulu.
Yu Yangyi: "Overall I didn't play well in this match, especially in the last two games. Grischuk showed great strength and did not give me too many chances. I'm relatively weak in the opening and middlegame judgment. I think I learned a lot from this match."
The match was organized by the Chinese Chess Association and the People's Government of Jiayuguan city, with support of the Sports Bureau of Jiayuguan city, the Beijing Huayi culture development center and the Heilongjiang Longyi Sports Industry Development Co., Ltd.
A group photo at the closing ceremony. Fan Lulu.
At the time of writing Grischuk and Yu are on their way to Ningbo, where they will be playing in the Chinese League—Grischuk for Shanghai, Yu for Beijing. Other players in the league include Le Quang Liem, Arkadij Naiditsch, Vladimir Malakhov, Alexander Moiseenko, Antoaneta Stefanova, Olga Girya, Kateryna Lagno and Anastasia Bodnaruk.
Games from TWIC.
Thanks to Liang Ziming, the news officer of the Chinese Chess Association, for providing daily reports on this match.