After the quiet start and rest day it was all about Alexander Grischuk in Jiayuguan, as the Russian star won one rook ending and one crushing attacking game to triumph 3:1 in his match against China’s Yu Yangyi and claim the $20,000 first prize. Jan Gustafsson, who provides video analysis of the match, was full of praise for Grischuk’s approach to the final two encounters, saying they were “played in the style of the old masters, just showing great strategic play”.
As we previously reported, the first two games of the 4-game match in northwest China were instantly forgettable 24 and 13 move draws. Then the players had a rest day, when activities included simultaneous displays for the players against 20 local schoolchildren each:
Luckily after that we got some full-blooded encounters in the final two games. You can replay all the games, with computer analysis, using the selector below:
It’s been suggested that given the huge popularity of the Petrov Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6) among Chinese players it could be renamed the Great Wall of China, but in this encounter Alexander Grischuk came prepared to challenge it. He played a near-novelty on move 11 that sent Yu Yangyi into a 30-minute think and soon reached a promising ending. Grischuk commented (all player comments and photos were kindly provided by Chinese Chess Federation Press Officer Liang Ziming):
I got a slight advantage in the opening. I think from the opening to the endgame the position was quite unpleasant for him and I feel it’s very hard to defend for many hours. At one moment he made a big mistake and after that the position became really hard for him to save.
At move 25, he should have played 25…Rb6! instead of 25…Kf8? and then I have to exchange my active rook, because if I play 26.Rxa7 he has 26…Rc6, and I can’t save the pawns (27.c4 runs into 27…d5!).
Grischuk’s technique in the remainder of the game was extremely impressive, as Jan Gustafsson described in his recap of the whole match:
In the final game Yu Yangyi had to play for a win with White to level the scores and force a rapid playoff. That led him to go for a new plan with opposite-side castling in the Anti-Berlin that had the virtue of getting Grischuk to think for 45 minutes by move 10. A key moment came after 12.Kb1:
Grischuk commented afterwards:
This game is very interesting. Yu Yangyi came up with a new plan of attacking my kingside and I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t like the standard knight manoeuvre and decided to put my knight on a4, as Kasparov often did. He beat me once like that. After that I managed to play d5, and then d4, and after that my position is almost winning.
The game Grischuk was thinking of is probably this one:
Here Kasparov played 24…Nxb2!, a sacrifice Grischuk could also have played on move 22 against Yu Yangyi, but in mild time trouble Grischuk played a pseudo-sac on c3 and slowly went about building his strategic edge until it was simply overwhelming. There are fewer sadder sights in chess than Yangyi’s position after 30.Nc1:
The white queen is a miserable defender of pawns and it’s obvious White has no hopes of mounting any kind of counterattack on the kingside. All it needed was for Grischuk to deliver the final blow, which he did by bringing one more unit into the attack – 30…Qb6 31.h4 a5! and the a-pawn joined in the mass assault on b3. The end came on move 36:
36.Bxb3! White resigns
A perhaps somewhat shell-shocked Yu Yangyi commented:
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, but I think I learned a lot from this match.
Yu Yangyi dropped to world no. 19 after the match, making Wei Yi the clear Chinese no. 2, while Grischuk climbed to world no. 11, only 4 points away from 10th placed Ding Liren. Funnily enough, Grischuk can return to the Top 10 tomorrow, since he's remaining in China and his opponent in Round 8 of the Chinese League is none other than Ding Liren! You can follow that game from 07:00 CEST here on chess24. Another three rounds of the team event will be played in the following days.
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