Wang Hao beat Julio Sadorra with the black pieces in the final round to win the 2017 Asian Championship on tiebreaks over Bu Xiangzhi. They will be joined in the 2017 World Cup by Vidit and Yu Yangyi, who finished half a point back on 6.5/7 afster drawing their game, and Mongolia’s Tsegmed Batchuluun, who had the most wins of the players on 6/9. The women’s event was won by Vietnam’s Vo Thi Kim Phung, who finished with a brilliant unbeaten 7.5/9. Silver went to Guliskhan Nakhbayeva while Vaishali, the older sister of Praggnanandhaa, took bronze.
You can play through the moves of all the games from the 2017 Asian Championship by clicking on a result in the selector below – hover over a player to see all their results:
We noted in our report after five rounds that former Chinese no. 1 Wang Hao has become a Swiss open specialist in his “old age” (he’s currently 27…), and had followed his winning approach in the Sharjah Masters of starting with 4.5/5. He followed the Sharjah script again by then going on to draw three and win one of his final four games to claim the title on tiebreaks.
The crucial win came in the final round against Julio Sadorra from the Philippines, who had beaten Adhiban in the previous round and knew a draw with White would likely give him a coveted place in the 128-player World Cup knockout to be held in Batumi, Georgia later this year.
Alas for Julio, Wang Hao soon seized the initiative and pounced when Sadorra accelerated the end with the less than obvious blunder 32.Ke1?
32…Kf8! The rook can't be trapped, but after 33.Rg5 h6 White resigned, since the rook will have to go to a light square, when 34…Bf3! will both attack the rook and set up Re2+, winning the e3-bishop. Of course if the king had gone to f1 instead of e1 that particular disaster could have been avoided.
Wang Hao’s 31-year-old compatriot Bu Xiangzhi did things the opposite way around, winning four of his last five games. As he’d drawn three of the first four, though, he subsequently faced slightly weaker opposition and lost out to Wang Hao on the tiebreak of the ratings of his opponents.
The final standings at the top were as follows:
The top Indian player was Vidit, who bounced back from his loss to Wang Hao in Round 5 with three impressive wins in a row, meaning a solid draw with Black against Yu Yangyi in the final round was sufficient to secure a World Cup spot and also the bronze medal, since he had more wins than his opponent.
Top seed Yu Yangyi had a slow start, but won perhaps the game of the event in Round 6, giving up a pawn to stop Sengupta Deep from castling and then following up with utter domination:
24…Rxa5! An exchange sac in order to bring the knight into the kill zone: 25.Bxa5 Nf4! 26.Rb1 Qc2 27.Bd2 Ne2+ 28.Kf1 Qxc6 29.h4:
The knight is beautifully placed, but White can’t be allowed to try and free himself with Rh3, so… 29…Ng3+! Sengupta understandably feared 30.fxg3 Re2!, but giving up material with 30.Kg1 did nothing to stem the bleeding, and after 30…Nxh1 31.Kxh1 Re2 32.Be3 Qe4 33.Kg1 Be5 34.h5 d2 35.Qf1 it was time to end things:
35…Qxb1! White resigns
Yu Yangyi’s other win with the black pieces was somewhat less convincing. 2016 Asian Champion Sethuraman was pressing for a win in a complex position when he threw it all away in the space of two somewhat bizarre moves:
37.c4 or 37.Qd5+, exchanging queens, and it’s just a question of whether White can convert his extra exchange. Instead Sethuraman played 37.Bd4?! and met 37…Nxd4 not by recapturing with the queen, but by 38.c4??, simply giving up a piece and the game. Perhaps Sethuraman, who must have been in time trouble, thought 38.Qxd4 Qxc2+ was mating, but in fact White would live to fight another day after 39.Ka3 d5+ 40.b4.
The final World Cup place went to a surprise candidate, 30-year-old 4-time Mongolian Champion Tsegmed Batchuluun, who lost two games, to Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Vidit, but with five wins finished above the rest on the somewhat controversial tiebreak (for a Swiss tournament) of most wins. He won his final three games, finishing with a win over 17-year-old Aravindh, when the youngster’s will-to-win led him astray:
35…b4? The most natural move in the position, but a mistake: 36.cxb4 Bxb4? Consistent, but it was better to forget about the pawn. 37.Rab2! Ba5? (37…Na6 left some chances) 38.Rxb6 Bxb6 39.Ba5 Once again pinning and winning:
The other 17-year-old, Wei Yi, has already qualified for the World Cup, but it was still a disappointing event for the chess world’s most exciting rising star. Coming straight from winning the 11-round Chinese Championship, he lacked some spark as he went on a run of four draws in a row from rounds 2-5. Perhaps feeling it was time to win at all costs, he played sharply with Black against Vietnam’s Tran Tuan Minh, only for it all to go horribly wrong.
In a tricky position Wei Yi spent 10 minutes on 29…Rd8?
White could have gone for the cute 30.f5 gxf5 31.Ne6! Qxe6 32.Qg5+, but 30.e6!, as played in the game, was more than sufficient. The basic threat is simply Nf7 and the rook has nowhere to go without losing the d5-bishop. All Tuan Minh needed to do was avoid a few tricks, i.e. after 30…Bc5+ he played 31.Bf2 rather than blundering 31.Kh1?? Bxg2+ with mate. Then after 31…Rd6 32.Nf7 Rxe6 he forked the black rook and queen with 33.Nd8! rather than falling for 33.Qxd5?? Qxd5 34.Rxd5 Re1#
After that shock normal service was restored for Wei Yi, who went on to win his last three games, bludgeoning another Sicilian in Round 7 and then brushing aside a rook sac in the final round:
It must be a thrill to play a move like 26…Rxf2 against Wei Yi, but Indian Champion’s Karthikeyan’s fun didn’t last long: 27.Kxf2 Rf8+ 28.Kg1 Qxg3 29.Qe3! and since after 29…Qxe3 30.Bxe3! two black pieces would be under attack the remaining five moves of the game were just a formality.
There was no need for tiebreaks at the top of the women’s event, with gold, silver and bronze all separated by half a point. Who could have predicted that those places would be occupied by the 8th, 9th and 17th seeds?
2nd placed Guliskhan Nakhbayeva had a lot to do with that as she beat 2nd seed Sarasadat Khademalsharieh and 4th seed Padmini Rout in Rounds 7 and 8 on the way to an unbeaten +5.
That wasn’t quite enough for the title, though, since 23-year-old Vo Thi Kim Phung from Vietnam added to her two U20 Asian Championship victories by taking the adult title with 7.5/9. The key game for the final standings was her win with Black over bronze medallist Vaishali in the penultimate round.
An U12 and U14 World Youth Champion, 15-year-old Vaishali shares the same attacking instincts as her better known younger brother, Praggnanandhaa (in action just now in the Zakaros Open Hungary). She offered a piece sacrifice, but Vo instead took a pawn:
Here Vaishali thought for almost half an hour before going for it with 18.Nxf7, but alas, it doesn’t work (it was time to try and scrape a draw after 18.Nd5). Vo coolly replied 18…Rxc3! (18…Kxf7? 19.Rad1! and our silicon friends say White wins) 19.Nxh8 Rxe3! (of course 20.Qxe3 runs into 20…Bc5), and the rest was desperation. Vaishali nevertheless went on to win her final game – her sixth win of the event. She’s not going to let her brother get all the headlines!
That wasn't quite all for the 2017 Asian Championship. On Sunday 21 May most of the same players competed over nine rounds of fast 3 minutes + 2-second increment blitz games for the Asian Blitz Championships. On this occasion Vaishali was in a class of her own, scoring an unbeaten 8/9 to finish half a point ahead of Sarasadat Khademalsharieh and another half point clear of Padmini Rout. In the Open section Wei Yi and Rustam Kasimdzhanov both lost one game on the way to 7.5/9, with Wei Yi taking the title on tiebreaks. Bai Jinshi edged out Aravindh on tiebreaks to take bronze.