Reports Nov 8, 2018 | 1:41 PMby Colin McGourty

Ding moves to 99 as Chinese stars strike

Ding Liren beat Radek Wojtaszek and Yu Yangyi overcame Nikita Vitiugov as blood was finally spilt in Round 5 of the Shenzhen Masters. Going into the rest day the Chinese players not only lead the tournament but have other claims to fame: Ding Liren has reached 99 classical games unbeaten and has also now been joined in the world Top 10 by Yu Yangyi. The Chinese no. 2 has overtaken Wesley So and Levon Aronian.

A party to celebrate Ding Liren surpassing Mikhail Tal's 95-game unbeaten streak | photo: Chinese Chess Federation

You can replay all the games from the Shenzhen Masters using the selector below:

A sea of draws

6-player double round-robins used to be one of the most popular formats for top-level chess, but one of the reasons they’ve become rare is that collecting a group of similarly rated opponents to play only 3 games a day runs a high risk of any particular day ending with all games drawn. That’s been the case in Shenzhen, where for the first four rounds we were lucky to have the storyline of Ding Liren’s remarkable record!

96... and counting! | photo: Chinese Chess Federation

The games weren’t quite as dull as the results, with Ding Liren in particular willing to mix things up. In Round 2 he pressed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with an extra pawn until move 61, in Round 4 he also had an extra pawn against Nikita Vitiugov, and in Round 3 he went for a bold exchange sac!

23…Rxf3!? Black got good compensation, but Yu Yangyi neutralised the initiative and might have had some ways to play for more before accepting a draw on move 43.

A Chinese day in Shenzhen

It's been a tough few days for the Wojtaszesk household after they took home all the top prizes on the Isle of Man! | photo: Chinese Chess Federation

In Round 5 Ding Liren was soon a pawn up yet again, but it seemed Radek Wojtaszek knew exactly what he was doing in the Catalan position as he didn’t stop to think over the first 15 moves. That impression faded, however, as both players began to burn up time, with White’s advantage remaining when Radek decided to exchange off queens. The fatal mistake in a tricky position may have come on move 52:

Radek could have held onto the e6-pawn with 52…Bc8, 52…Kd7 or, probably best, 52…Kb5!, followed by 53…Bd5. Instead he went for a more active plan with 52…Ba7+? 53.Ke5 Bxe3 54.Nxe6 but when 54…Bc8 was met by 55.Ng7! the writing was on the wall. Ding’s kingside pawns soon became unstoppable:

Yu Yangyi tortures Nikita Vitiugov on the way to the Top 10 | photo: Chinese Chess Federation

The first player to win in the tournament, however, was Yu Yangyi, who played the Ruy Lopez against Nikita Vitiugov and didn’t pause for thought as he followed a 2008 Russian Team Championship game between Gata Kamsky and Viktor Korchnoi for the first 16 moves:

Nikita here thought for 25 minutes before playing 16…Rfd8 instead of Korchnoi’s 16…Ncxd4 17.cxd4 a5. That doesn’t look to have been an improvement, and soon Nikita ended up a pawn down and still with a huge space disadvantage. Yu Yangyi won in 53 moves, as China joined Russia in having two players in the live world Top 10!

Of course that also means that the Chinese players lead at the half-way point of the tournament:

Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave both have five draws so far | photo: Chinese Chess Federation

The players now take a rest day – to watch the start of the World Championship match? – before playing the remaining five rounds. The action in Shenzhen starts at 7am CET each day, and you can follow it live here on chess24!   

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