Reports Apr 18, 2019 | 3:43 PMby Colin McGourty

Giri draws first blood in the Shenzhen Masters

Anish Giri has opened the scoring in the 2019 Shenzhen Masters after defeating Harikrishna in Round 2. The Dutch no. 1, who finished in second place in the first two editions of the tournament, will be aiming to go one better and win arguably his first supertournament, but he’ll face competition from the Chinese nos 1 and 2, Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi, as well as Richard Rapport and Dmitry Jakovenko.

Anish Giri can always be relied upon to open the scoring in a tournament! | photo:

The 2018 edition of the Shenzhen Masters overlapped with the Carlsen-Caruana match and some other major tournaments, but it was still known for two things:

1. Draws

There wasn’t a decisive game until Round 5, and Anish Giri was heading for a perfect 10/10 before he threw it all away in the final round:

2. An unbeaten streak

The draws in the early rounds weren’t treated with quite the negativity they usually would be, since each draw was another notch on an incredible streak by Ding Liren. 

A party was thrown for Ding Liren when he crossed Mikhail Tal's mark of 95 unbeaten games | photo: Chinese Chess Federation

He surpassed Mikhail Tal and increased his unbeaten run to a perfect 100 classical games, before Maxime Vachier-Lagrave finally brought the fun to an end in Round 7. That was MVL’s only win of the event, but it was enough to edge a 3-way tiebreak ahead of Giri and Ding:

This year there’s no Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – the French no. 1 plays in the GRENKE Chess Classic from Saturday, while Nikita Vitiugov and Radek Wojtaszek are also replaced by Harikrishna, Dmitry Jakovenko and Richard Rapport. 

The players have at least one fan each in Shenzhen! | photo:

You can play through all the games using the selector below:

In Round 1 it looked like we might be headed for a repeat of 2018. The three draws weren’t exactly lifeless, but when Yu Yangyi and Giri ended hostilities on move 31 only a pair of pawns had been traded off. Jakovenko-Harikrishna seemed to be going the Russian grandmaster’s way until it also fizzled out into a draw in 35 moves.

Ding Liren and Richard Rapport played on until the bitter end | photo:

Ding Liren-Rapport saved the day by being played out all the way to bare kings, but it wasn’t clear if Richard Rapport’s 30…Rd3!? had been a blunder or a very cold-blooded calculation. 31.Bd5! suddenly left Black in a spot of bother:

White’s threatening not just the rook on d3 but to capture on e8, while 31…Bb5 runs into 32.Bxf7+! Kxf7 33.Qf5+ and regaining the bishop with an extra pawn. In the game Rapport went for 31…Rxd5 32.Qxe8+ Qxe8 33.Rxe8+ Kh7 34.Ra8 and ultimately a rook ending where White had an extra b-pawn. Grandmaster Suat Atalik in our chat was explaining how it’s far from a trivial draw, but ultimately Rapport managed to make it look relatively straightforward.

The all-Chinese clash proved uncomfortable for the Chinese no. 1 | photo:

In Round 2 Rapport-Jakovenko was a quiet variation on Rapport-Anand from Wijk aan Zee earlier this year. Yu Yangyi-Ding Liren saw Yu blitz out his first 18 moves and seem to get an edge, but in the end that game also ended in 32 moves. It all came down to Giri, who had scored a winless -3 to finish bottom of the table in Shamkir.

It’s always tempting with Chinese tournaments to give the Google Translate versions of the local reports, which have a poetry all of their own. How can we compete with this?

Dutch chess player Giri "killed the first drop of blood" today, he was in the beginning of Italy, always grasping the situation and taking the initiative, and finally using the opponent's mistakes, transferred to the end of many soldiers to win.

Giri took $12,000 for 2nd place in 2018 - can he make it $20,000 for 1st in 2019? | photo: 

The Italian Game variation chosen by Harikrishna did seem curious, since up to Giri’s 15.b4! the players followed the 2018 World Rapid Championship game Jorden van Foreest vs. Markus Ragger. Black is in much more danger than appears at first glance:

Here Hari chose 15…a6 instead of Ragger’s 15…Rfe8, but in just a few moves Black was struggling to find any squares for his pieces. Tactics often follow from positional domination, and that was the case here after 24…Nd8:

25.Rxd7! Rxd7 26.Nxf6+! gxf6 27.Rxe8 left Black a pawn down, while all his problems with a lack of space or squares for his pieces had gone nowhere. Giri didn’t put a foot wrong and smoothly won in 40 moves.

Magnus Carlsen had tweeted last month:

As we always mention, Giri did win the 2011/2 Reggio Emilia tournament above some half decent players - Caruana, Nakamura, Morozevich, Ivanchuk and Vitiugov – so you can question whether he really hasn’t won a supertournament. But was Reggio Emilia a “traditional” supertournament?  And is the Shenzhen Masters? Magnus’ coach Peter Heine Nielsen, or "a friend", decided it was a chance for some trolling:

There are still 8 rounds to go before we need to reach a definitive conclusion, however, and in Round 3 it’s an immediate test for the tournament leader - Black against Ding Liren. The games start at 8am CEST and you can follow them all LIVE here on chess24!

See also:

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