Julius Caesar's bloody assassination by a group of conspirators led by Brutus on March 15, 44 B.C., forever marks today as a day of infamy, or the Ides of March. It’s fitting then that today, on this fateful of fateful days, we see the brutal and quick downfall of someone we built up in the previous column, namely 17-year-old Wei Yi, Beijing’s great hope of a future title challenger for Magnus Carlsen.
Aged just seven, Yi left home to live with his chess coach, enrolled in a specialist chess academy at eight, with designs of grooming him to become China’s first world title challenger. At 13, he became a Grandmaster, the fourth youngest ever to do so. At 14, his rating had climbed into the 2600s, and he was the youngest to achieve this peak.
The following year, aged 15, Yi crossed the Rubicon of “Super-Grandmaster” having climbed to the 2700 rating-point level - and in doing so, he smashed Carlsen’s record by more than a year, and the trajectory looked good. He was the junior to beat, and the one everyone looked out for.
However, since then, as he made the semi-move to the elite arena, he’s been plagued with bouts of uneven performances, resulting in some rating highs and lots of lows. In our last column, we told how Yi's unbeaten score of 3/4 in the 2nd China-India Summit Match power-housed his team to a crushing victory.
But without a rest, Yi immediately then took the tough 3,000km trip to Ho Chi Min City (formerly Saigon) in Vietnam for the 7th HD Bank Cup International Open, where he was top-seed in one of Asia’s premier opens, with $45,000 up for grabs, including $13,000 for the winner. But perhaps fatigue looks to have contributed to a shock second-round loss for Yi, as he sensationally crashed to the unknown 40-year-old jobbing Russian IM, Viacheslav Diu, rated just 2421.
And in one horrific defeat, Yi saw all his gains made in the China-India Summit Match more than wiped out, as he dropped two places in the unofficial live rating list. But despite the damage done, Yi has fought back now to 4.5/6, a half point behind leaders Le Quang Liem, of Vietnam, and Bu Xiangzhi, the former Chinese prodigy.
IM Viacheslav Diu - GM Wei Yi
7th HD Bank Cup, (2)
Semi-Slav Defence, Anti-Moscow
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 The 'Triangle Defence' of the Semi-Slav is usually a very tough nut to breakdown in a miniature - like here, to do that, it requires Black playing it all wrong. 5.Bg5 h6 The Anti-Moscow Variation has a reputation for being razor-sharp, and not handled right, Black can find himself being quickly bludgeoned to death 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 For the pawn, White looks to control the center, put his knight on the e5 outpost, and look at trying to either chip away at the queenside with a4, or go for directly blasting through Black's kingside. For Black, if he can thwart White from doing this, the endgame will usually be to his advantage. 9.Be2 Bb7 10.0-0 a6?! It all starts to go horribly wrong here for Wei Yi, who is either taking liberties in the opening with his lower-rated opponent, or he's got his opening theory mixed up. 10...a6 isn't the best move, better was completing his development with the solid and reliable 10...Nbd7. But after the opening faux pas, Wei Yi further confuses himself into a hopelessly lost position. 11.Ne5 b4? Wei Yi is having what can be politely described as a complete 'brain freeze'. He has to continue his development first before he can think of countering against White's center. 12.Na4! From the rim, the knight becomes a problem, as Black can't complete his development with the natural ...Nbd7 as he should have earlier, as now after Nxd7 Black can't play ...Qxd7, as Nb6 forking the queen and rook is somewhat embarrassing. 12…h5? This is almost suicide now, coming as it does after two inaccuracies. With Black being so far behind in development, this is not the sort of move he wants to be playing here - but it is now forced upon him, as he realizes now that he can't take on e4 as 12...Nxe4 13.Bh5! Nd6 14.Nc5 Bc8 15.Qf3 Ra7 16.Rae1 and Black's position is on the verge of total collapse. 13.f4! With the big lead in development and Black's king looking insecure, Diu probably can't believe his luck by finding himself up against one of the world's top players, and now with a glorious opportunity to blow the position wide-open. 13...h4 14.fxg5 Nxe4 15.Bf4 It's the easy move to make with the big lead in development and Black faced with unsurmountable problems defending his king - but the clinical kill was to be found in 15.Bh5! Qxg5 16.Bxf7+ Kd8 17.Bf4 Qe7 18.Bh5 and Black may as well consider resigning here, as his game is a total wreck. 15...Bg7 It's all too late now - White is so far ahead in development that he's ready to strike whether Black keeps his king in the center or even if he risks castling kingside. 16.Bxc4 0-0 Wei Yi has more or less decided he may as well hang for a sheep than a lamb, and voluntarily opts to end his self-inflicted nightmare by castling into a full-blown attack. 17.g6! fxg6 18.Bxe6+ Kh7 19.Qg4 1-0 Faced with a hopeless position, Wei Yi ends his agony now rather than attempting 'to save face' by avoiding the miniature (losing in less than 25 moves) with the embarrassing continuation of 19...Qf6 20.Nxg6! Qxg6 21.Qxh4+ Bh6 22.Bxh6 Qxh6 23.Qxe4+ Qg6 (There’s no escape 23...Kh8 24.Rxf8+ Qxf8 25.Qh4+ Kg7 26.Qg5+ Kh8 27.Rf1 forces mate.) 24.Qxg6+ Kxg6 25.Rxf8 etc.