Anish Giri and Ding Liren lead the Shenzhen Masters at the halfway stage after all six games in Rounds 4 and 5 ended in draws, but the rounds couldn’t have been more different! In Round 4 accurate defence saw all games end by move 31, while in Round 5 Mickey Adams and especially Anish Giri were on the verge of victory only to see their hopes slip away. Harikrishna – Yu Yangyi lasted 102 moves, with Hari defending the tricky Rook vs. Rook + Bishop ending.
80% of games have now finished drawn in the Shenzhen Masters, but not all draws are alike! You can replay all the games so far – and see the pairings for future rounds – using the selector below:
Anish Giri, Harikrishna and Mickey Adams gave a masterclass in neutralising your opponents’ white pieces at the highest level. Harikrishna pinpointed the moment he succeeded in his game:
The most interesting game from an opening point of view was perhaps Yu Yangyi-Giri, which followed the infamous Carlsen-Topalov game from Round 1 of Norway Chess 2015 until Giri deviated with 12…Qd6 instead of Topalov’s 12…0-0. In the original game Magnus played the middlegame brilliantly only to lose on time when it turned out he didn’t know the time control. It was one of the moments of that year…
On this occasion, though, White got nothing and the longest game of the day ended on move 31.
Round 5 was utterly different, with at least two players having great reason for regret. One of them, Anish Giri, could have played Magnus Carlsen in New York if only he’d won some of the winning positions he had in the Moscow Candidates Tournament. That issue reared its ugly head again in Shenzhen, with Dutch no. 2 Loek van Wely weighing in during his 1st 8-hour Banterthon session:
I think he has some kind of problem. He’s getting very good positions, of course he has great preparation, but somehow he’s not finishing off his opponents, whereas these other guys like So or Carlsen are kind of ruthless when they have a winning position. That’s the difference between where he is now, 2770… otherwise he’d be 2800 easily. Of course you cannot really blame him for all the draws that he’s making because he’s mainly trying quite hard, but you can blame him for not finishing off his opponents, for lacking some kind of toughness.
You can watch Loek's comments below (before that he talked about Hou Yifan, Wei Yi, Wesley So - "a lot of strength comes from his belief that he's supported by God" - and Fabiano Caruana):
With White against Peter Svidler in Shenzhen, Anish managed to outplay his opponent in the middlegame, until White had total domination on the queenside and in the centre combined with not just an extra pawn but the compensation. Peter had to do something drastic and he did, lashing out on the kingside with a desperate counterattack:
While Peter still had some time to think Anish was almost down to playing on increments, and here he walked into a knight fork with 35.h3? Nxf4! 36.hxg4 Ne2+ 37.Kf2 Nxd4 38.Rd1, with Peter’s precise 38…f6! shutting down the game immediately.
Instead 35.Nc6! was the path to victory, with the straightforward threat of Ne7+ and then e6+. It’s not quite so simple, though – after 35.Nc6 Nxf4 36.Ne7+ Kh8 37.e6+ f6 White finally has to deal with the threats of mate on g2 or a knight check winning the white queen:
It turns out the only winning move is 38.Rxf4! That’s not a move likely to trouble a player of Giri’s calibre too much when he got there, but to see it all in advance when the whole line was only suddenly made possible by 34…g5 isn’t so trivial.
The other game featuring a big missed opportunity was, up to a point, a beautiful strategic display by Mickey Adams. In a Ruy Lopez he sacrificed first one, then two pawns in exchange for Ding Liren's rooks finding themselves in horribly contorted positions. The moment of truth came at around move 38:
Here Mickey played 38.f3, allowing counterplay against the weakened g3-pawn. After 38…Kg8 39.b3 Rh3 40.Rf5 f6 the English grandmaster saw nothing better than forcing a draw by repetition. Instead it was time to cash in with a move like 38.f4! (38.c5! is also very strong). After the plausible 38…Rxf4 (38…Nxf4 39.Ng5+!) 39.Rxh5+ Kg8 40.Ra8+ Nf8 41.Ng5! Black has to give up the exchange with the f8-knight left pinned:
A move like 41…Rxc4 is mate-in-two with 42.Rh8+!
The third game looked for all the world as though Harikrishna was going to get ground into dust just as he had been in his last game with the white pieces against Giri. A little more precision from Yu Yangyi in the middlegame and that might have happened, but instead Hari managed to find an escape route:
45.Bxe6! saw Hari reach the theoretically drawn Rook vs. Rook + Bishop ending. Although many top players have managed to lose that ending, Hari had done his homework:
Yu Yangyi tried for the full 50 moves allotted him after the
last pawn was exchanged, but he couldn’t prevent a draw on move 102.
The standings are therefore unchanged as the players enjoy the tournament’s only rest day:
A full five rounds remain, with Giri-Adams in Round 6 a top vs. bottom clash:
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