Giri Wins Shenzhen Masters After Final Round Turnaround
Anish Giri took the $20,000 first prize in Shenzhen. | Photo:

Giri Wins Shenzhen Masters After Final Round Turnaround

| 31 | Chess Event Coverage

Anish Giri won the $20,000 first prize at the Shenzhen Masters in China after beating Dmitry Jakovenko in the final round and seeing tournament leader Pentala Harikrishna losing his game to Ding Liren

Exactly two years after winning the Reykjavik Open Giri took first place in Shenzhen. He scored both victories on April 27, which happens to be King's Day in the Netherlands. While Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands turned 52, Giri became King of Shenzhen for a day.

We're picking up the tournament at half-time, when Pentala Harikrishna of India was leading with 3.5/5 ahead of Giri who had 3/5. After a first-round draw and losing to the Dutchman, "Hari" had bounced back with three straight wins.

After the rest day, Harikrishna increased his winning streak to four games, beating Dmitry Jakovenko in another fine endgame. These days you don't often get the chance to play a game like this against the Berlin.

Harikrishna Jakovenko Shenzhen Masters 2019
Harikrishna vs Jakovenko. | Photo:

Giri kept the pace as he also won his game, a long one against Yu Yangyi. This was a B vs N endgame with an extra pawn, and it was surprisingly difficult to win. In fact, maybe it was actually a draw with correct play.

It is a fascinating but extremely difficult endgame to analyze. If we follow the engine, which calculates extremely fast in these positions, it often keeps the evaluation at +2.50 on a depth higher than 50 ply. That suggests it doesn't see a win, while in case the evaluation jumps above +4 we're dealing with winning a variation.

A true endgame expert is needed to make sense of it all, but it it's safe to say that putting the knight on the rim was a clear mistake by Yu. Besides, earlier he should have just kept his knight on e6 which is a "dead fortress" as pointed out by Giri.

Giri Yu Yangyi Shenzhen Masters 2019
Giri vs Yu Yangyi. | Photo:

In round seven the key clash between Harikrishna and Giri ended in a draw. It was only the second draw in the tournament for the Indian grandmaster, and it would be the last!

The next day Giri drew with Ding Liren, which was enough to catch Hari in first place as the latter lost to Richard Rapport, missing a few ways to draw deep in the endgame.

Playing hall Shenzhen Masters 2019
The playing hall in Shenzhen. | Photo:

However, the next day the "Hari Express" was riding at full speed again. For the second time in the tournament the Indian player bounced back from a loss by scoring a win right away and because Giri drew with Rapport, Hari was going into the final round with once again a half-point lead.

However, on Saturday everything turned around. First, Harikrishna played his eighth decisive game in the tournament, but sadly for him it was a loss. Ding Liren played a model game for the English opening, and especially the theme of open file (and great knight maneuvers):

Ding Liren Harikrishna Shenzhen Masters 2019
Ding Liren vs Harikrishna. | Photo:

Meanwhile, Giri had gone for 1.c4 instead and was involved in an endgame with an extra pawn against Jakovenko, with the knowledge that a draw would be enough for tournament victory as the tiebreak was direct encounter. But eventually, after 97 moves, he managed to win it and finish clear first.

Giri, in a Skype chat with "Where exactly it's lost and where on the edge, is a theoretical question. Practically it is just huge, but of course some games like that are being held; it wasn't totally lost. I think once I got b4 in the version that I go it, I felt I am winning."

Giri Jakovenko Shenzhen Masters 2019
Giri vs Jakovenko. | Photo:

Giri said he didn't view his last-round game as one where playing for a draw or a win depended on the tournament situation.

"Actually, I didn't view the game this way. I had a small idea in the opening (which was also the endgame), then I don't really have a choice, I quickly got small pressure and then an extra pawn, so I didn't even have to take the smallest risks today. Going for a draw was not exactly an option."

Shenzhen Masters 2019 closing ceremony
A group photo at the closing ceremony. | Photo:

"King's Day keeps coming up at the right moments!" Giri had started the Skype chat, after he had returned from the closing ceremony to his hotel room. His first reaction on the tournament victory:

"Very satisfied of course! Towards the end I already saw that I would win (on tiebreak) even with a draw, but converting in the end is extra pleasant, especially as it wasn't so straightforward at some point.

"I was aware of that, going in the final two rounds. In fact Hari did yet another comeback, winning in round nine, so that put more pressure on me in the end."

Giri agreed that the achievement of his main rival Harikrishna was quite remarkable.

"Yes, he won five games, which is very cool, and he did an immediate comeback twice. Of course, as I always say, with good or bad results, draws and what not, coincidence and circumstances always play some role.

In fact what saved me, was breaking the trend of him winning better endgames, by holding against him [in round seven - PD]. Had he won there, he would have been there already, I guess."

Below is that key game, which was probably lost for Giri, he thought. "Probably, especially before the time-control, my position was too shaky, he had nasty bishops and I had little time."

He added: "The endgame after the time control, I felt should be surely holding, but wasn't so simple either. I will have to analyse it in more detail, but from what I heard the endgame actually did hold."

Harikrishna Giri Shenzhen Masters 2019
Harikrishna vs Giri was a key game at the Shenzhen Masters. | Photo:

For a player of Giri's level and status, the Dutch player has won relatively few tournaments in his career so far. His victory at the 2011/2012 Reggio Emilia tournament is a long time ago, and some don't regard this as a "super tournament" even though that term doesn't have a clear definition and Giri finished ahead of the "super" strong grandmasters Alexander Morozevich, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Vassily Ivanchuk and Nikita Vitiugov.

Besides the aforementioned Reykjavik Open, which definitely doesn't count as a super tournament, there was his shared first place with Magnus Carlsen at the 2018 Tata Steel Chess tournament. An excellent result, but it doesn't count either as Carlsen won the playoff.

Giri: "I don't give too much importance to exact placing. For example, if somehow Hari would win today because Ding would blunder something, I would be second and I don't see exactly what I would have had done differently then.

"My critics have a point that I haven't won too many top tournaments, much less than Carlsen, Caruana, but also Levon [Aronian], Hikaru [Nakamura], Nepo[mniachtchi] and many others have probably more first places. I am in a happy place nonetheless and I hope to do well in the cycle this year. I will have a few opportunities, hopefully I can peak at some of them, though it won't be easy."

Giri Shenzhen Masters 2019
Giri giving his sponsor Optiver some exposure in China. | Photo:

The topic of "not winning super tournaments" appeared in some recent Twitter trolling between Giri and Carlsen, and yesterday at the Grenke Chess Classic the world champion referred to it once again, joking that he was "extremely worried" Giri would win in China and calling the Shenzhen Masters "a bit of a soft super-tournament."

Giri: "I had quite an interesting thought about softness actually. I came to realize that Magnus has it much easier than the rest of the players in his tournaments! He never has to play against himself, so he by definition always has a softer pairing.

Also, do realize, every tournament Magnus wins, it is like Shenzhen for me. Good tournament, but without Magnus. Soft!

"As for Twitter, I had a perfect tweet setup today, in case I would win the tournament with a draw, but in the end I messed it up."

Update: after beating Aronian at Grenke on Saturday, Carlsen gave his reaction, with lots of smiles:

“I would like to offer my quite insincere congratulations to Anish for his win. It was an exciting last round. Now he got this monkey off his back, so we’ll see what happens in the future. But it’s a bit of a mixed feeling to be honest.”

2019 Shenzhen Masters | Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB Prize
1 Giri,Anish 2797 2853 ½½ ½½ ½1 ½1 6.5/10 $20,000
2 Harikrishna,Pentala 2723 2830 10 10 ½1 11 6.0/10 $12,000
3 Ding,Liren 2809 2779 ½½ 01 ½½ ½½ 5.5/10 $10,000
4 Rapport,Richard 2726 2759 ½½ 01 ½½ ½½ ½½ 5.0/10 $8,000
5 Jakovenko,Dmitry 2719 2654 ½0 ½0 ½½ ½½ 3.5/10 17.5 $6,000
6 Yu,Yangyi 2751 2648 ½0 00 ½½ ½½ ½½ 3.5/10 17.25 $4,000

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