Wei Yi is the sole leader after three rounds of the Danzhou Super-GM tournament on 2.5/3. He beat Lu Shanglei fast on the black side of the Sicilian and then won a spectacular encounter with Ruslan Ponomariov where he sacrificed pawn after pawn to allow a rook to maraud around the board. The only other player to win a game is the Chinese no. 1 and world Top 10 player Ding Liren, who also defeated Lu Shanglei.
The Danzhou Super-GM tournament is now in its 8th edition and is continuing the tradition of inviting five of the top Chinese players and pitting them against some star names from the rest of the world.
The tournament has some of the toughest anti-draw rules you’ll ever witness – no draw offers are allowed (only theoretical draws or with the agreement of the arbiter), while if the players draw by repetition within 15 moves they have to start the game again. If they draw by repetition in 15 moves again both players lose! Nevertheless, we’ve only seen three wins in 15 games:
So far it’s all been about Wei Yi, the 18-year-old Chinese prodigy who celebrated the most stunning moment of his career so far in the same Danzhou, two years ago, when he won an instant classic against Lazaro Bruzon:
Wei Yi hit 2700 at a younger age than Magnus Carlsen and was already rated 2724 when he played the game above. His climb since then hasn’t been quite so dramatic, but he’s currently up to 2746 and world no. 17 on the live rating list and – which is bad news for his elite rivals - there’s evidence he’s becoming a more and more all-round player.
What we haven’t been able to see is his taking on too many of those rivals, since after a decent performance in Wijk aan Zee in January he’s been playing exclusively in Asia: the 2nd China-India Summit, the 7th HDBank Masters, the Chinese League, the Chinese Championship, the Asian Championship, the Chinese Team Championship and the World Team Championship (of course that was a more international event!).
His first victim in Danzhou was a local player, Lu Shanglei, who played a rare variation of the 3.Bb5 Sicilian. Things fell apart when he tempted Wei Yi into a queen sortie with 21.Ne2?!
Wei Yi saw no ghosts and after 21…Qb2! he simply picked up the pawns on a3 and b4. Lu Shanglei then went for a desperate drawing attempt with 25.Nf5+...
…but after 25…gxf5 26.Qg5+ Kf8 27.Qh6+ Ke7 28.Rxe5+ Kd7 Lu Shanglei admitted there was no hint of perpetual check and resigned.
In Round 2 Wei Yi played Black against Vassily Ivanchuk and, after sharp play in the opening, found himself defending a passive position with an isolated d-pawn. In the past this type of technical task might have been considered Wei Yi’s weakness, but he didn’t waver for a second and held a draw in 44 moves.
After two games with Black he gained the white pieces against Ruslan Ponomariov and really let loose.
The opening saw Black hold onto the c-pawn by capturing a knight on a3, to reach an unbalanced position Evgenij Miroshnichenko is the highest rated player to have had with White:
This is where the theme of the game is revealed, however, since Wei Yi began with 10.e4! and then would later sacrifice pawns with 14.d4!? and 17.g4!?, all to clear a path for the rook to both reach the kingside and attack the black king:
The computer isn’t convinced that White’s initiative is worth two pawns, but Wei Yi continued his theme, with 22.Rg5!? beginning a new odyssey of the rook:
Ponomariov’s 22…c3?! (23…Na4!?) 23.bxc3 Nc4?! (23…a4!?) looks to have allowed the game to swing decisively in Wei Yi’s favour, but you have to admire how the Chinese player now set about clearing a path for his rook on the 6th rank with 24.fxg6 and 26.e6, so that just a few moves later he was able to play 29.Rxb5!
Then after 29…Ke7 the rook made it to the 8th rank with 30.Rbb8 and fittingly, in the final position ten moves later, it’s that same rook that began its life on a1 that is dominating the board:
A beautiful game that deserves much deeper analysis!
The only other player whose games have been as full of incident is Ding Liren, who survived by the skin of his teeth against Le Quang Liem in Round 2:
The Vietnamese no. 1 had just missed a chance to give up his queen for what should have been a winning, if scary position. Here, though, Ding Liren was able to save the game with 37.Rxe5! Qxe5 38.Qg6+ Kf8 39.Rxh8+ Qxh8 40.Qf5+ and perpetual check.
Then in Round 3 Ding Liren got what looked like a tricky to convert queen and rook ending a pawn up vs. Lu Shanglei. It hasn’t been Shanglei’s tournament so far, though, and he went on to fall into a mating net only a few moves later.
That leaves the standings after 3 rounds as follows:
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