14 Jul

The Brilliant Comeback

According to my ever-present Oxford Companion to Chess, the first ‘Brilliancy Prize’ was awarded in 1876 to England’s Henry Bird (for his game against James Mason) by the flamboyant owner of New York’s Café International, where a major tournament was being held. After that, such awards soon became a tradition, and they were often gifts bestowed by private patrons of the game.

After 22.Rh5!!

Nowadays, sadly, brilliancy prizes are not awarded or feted over as in the past. But if the plaudits for the brilliancy was still in play today, then Chinese wunderkind Wei Yi would definitely have more than his fair share appearing in the anthologies - and he’s just turned in yet another stunning masterpiece to add to his burgeoning collection!

His impressive round 5 win over Yu Yanggyi in the 8th Danzhou Super GM tournament not only shoots the teenager right up the rankings but also keeps him in the lead at the top just ahead of the Chinese No.1, Ding Liren. Over the last couple of years or so, Wei has been plagued by indifferent form that stalled his progress - but in this sort of form, a major breakthrough is on the cards and back on a trajectory into the top-10.

At the age of 15, Wei reached the dizzy heights of 2734 and looked destined to challenge Magnus Carlsen for his top spot and world championship title. But he hit the wall and started to go backwards, losing not gaining points. Now aged 18, he’s on the comeback trail with his highest rating yet at 2751.8 on the unofficial live rating site to rise six places to a high of world No.14.

Wei in front - and on the rise! |© Danzhou Super GM

1. Wei Yi (China) 4/5; 2. Ding Liren (China) 3½; 3. Le Quang Liem (Vietnam) 3; 4-7. Wang Hao (China), Arkadij Naiditsch (Azerbaijan), Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine), Yu Yangyi (China) 2½; 8. Vladimir Malakov (Russia) 2; 9. Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine) 1½; 10. Lu Shanglei (China) 1.

GM Wei Yi - GM Yu Yangyi
8th Danzhou Super GM, (5)
Petroff’s Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 Before the revival of the Berlin 'Wall' Defence during the Kramnik-Kasparov World Championship match in London in 2000, the Petroff's Defence was the dreaded drawing system Black player's would adopt to thwart aggressive opponents. Nowadays, the Petroff is more akin to a Sicilian Najdorf compared to the Berlin! 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Be7 7.c4 Bb4+ 8.Kf1 A little inconvenient having to move the king like this, but White doesn't want to see pieces being exchanged off as he has the greater potential of maximising his attacking options. 8...0-0 9.a3 Be7 10.cxd5 Nf6 11.Nc3 Nbd7 It's dangerous to play 11...Nxd5, as after 12.Qc2 White has big kingside attack brewing. So by playing 11...Nbd7, Black is looking to play ...Nb6xd5 and have his knight on a solid, central outpost. 12.h4! Wei Yi is not going to just sit back and allow his opponent build a solid position - he's already signalled his intentions he's going for the jugular! 12...Nb6 13.Bg5 Nfxd5 14.Qc2 h6 There's no alternative after the uber-aggressive 12.h4! If instead 14...g6, then 15.Bh6 Re8 16.h5! and the 'caveman' approach is soon going to bludgeon through for a mating attack. 15.Re1! There's no holding back now - Wei Yi has all his pieces primed and ready to crash through with the attack. 15...Re8 The bishop is taboo: 15...hxg5? 16.Bh7+! Kh8 17.hxg5 g6 (the only way to stop White playing Bg8+ mating) 18.Bxg6+ Kg7 19.Rh7+ Kg8 20.Bxf7+ and a quick mate. 16.Ne5 Bxg5 Yu is playing with fire here against a dangerous opponent whose trademark is slashing, sacrificial mating attacks. He would have faired better first consolidating with 16…Bf6, but after 17.Be4 White is still on top with excellent kingside attacking prospects. 17.hxg5 Qxg5 18.Bh7+ Kf8 19.Nxd5 Nxd5 20.Qc5+ Ne7 21.Re3! Wei is in his element here as he rapidly mobilises his pieces for the attack. And this sudden attack clearly unsettles his rattled opponent. 21...Bf5? Missing the key winning move, albeit not an easy one to spot. Yu should have gone first for 21...Be6!? to shore up his defences and entice 22.d5 (This time 22.Rh5 is not so clear, as after 22...b6! 23.Qb5 Qf4 leaves us with an unclear position, as the Black queen now attacks d4.) 22...Bf5! with a level position, as now the Rh5 trick doesn't work after d5. 22.Rh5!! In such positions against Wei, you only need to make one little inaccuracy for him to pounce with an unexpected tactic. 22...Qxh5 23.Nd7+ Now we see the reason why enticing d5 first was crucial. 23...Bxd7 24.Qxh5 The body count may well show equality - but the deciding factor is going to be the precarious vulnerability of Black's king. 24...Rad8 25.Qc5 The pin on the knight allows White to re-route his bishop to the more menacing a2-g8 diagonal. 25...Bc6 26.Bc2 a6 27.Bb3 It's amazing how Wei easily and rapidly re-arranges his pieces to keep the pressure on Yu with his concerted attack. 27...Rd6 28.Qh5 Nd5?! It's understandable you'd want to unravel and exchange pieces in order to have some respite from the mounting pressure - but not quite now. A more resilient defence was to be found in 28...Rg6!? to prevent Qg4 - a move that quickly comes back to haunt Yu. 29.Rxe8+ Kxe8 30.Qg4! g6 31.Bxd5 Rxd5 32.Qc8+ Wei's queen dominates the position and picks off a crucial and ultimately game-deciding loose pawn. 32...Ke7 33.Qxc7+ Kf6 34.Qf4+ Kg7 35.f3 a5 36.b3 h5 The problem Yu has here in trying to organise a fortress, is that Wei's king easily marches across the board to maximise his winning potential. 37.Kf2 Rb5 38.Qe3 Rd5 Yu would really like to have the bishop on d5 rather than the rook, but unfortunately 38...Bd5? backfires to 39.a4! Rxb3 40.Qe5+ picking up the bishop. 39.Ke1 Rf5 40.Qe7 Rd5 41.Qc7 Rf5 42.Qh2 The White queen dominates, and 42.Qe7 was probably a tad better, but Wei just wants to stop his opponent for now from playing ...g5 and ...h4 that at least shows the spirit of an active defence. 42...Bd7 43.Kd2 Be6 44.Kc3 Bd5 If 44...Rb5 45.b4 axb4+ 46.axb4 Rf5 47.Qh4! and White will start to squeeze the win out. 45.b4 Bc6 46.Kb3 Bd5+ 47.Kc3 Bc6 48.Qh4 axb4+ 49.Kxb4 Rd5 50.Kc4 Rf5 If Wei didn't have his a-pawn, his opponent could easily save the game by setting-up a fortress position by just shuffling his rook between f5, d5 and b5. 51.Qd8 Bb5+ 52.Kb4 Bf1?! There was much merit in playing 52...Bc6 to keep the fortress-like possibility, as it put the onus on Wei to squeeze out the win - which is no easy task here. But instead, by being 'tempted' by those kingside pawns, White's d-pawn gets to run. 53.g4 Rb5+ 54.Kc3 hxg4 55.a4! More precise than 55.fxg4 Bg2 56.a4 Rd5! where Black at least has the d-pawn under control whilst indirectly defending his b-pawn thanks to the X-ray attack with his bishop on g2. If anything, here it looks as if - with careful play - Black can construct a fortress with his rook and bishop - but after 55.a4!, the rook gets shunted off the all-important fifth rank defence. 55...Rf5 56.fxg4 Rf3+ 57.Kb4 Rf4 58.Kc5 Bg2 If 58...Rxg4 59.Qe7! is going to win the b-pawn, as defending it with ...Bg2 sees the d-pawn run home. 59.Qg5 It's just all too awkward for Black now to try and think of saving this, especially with his rook and bishop getting in a tangle, as Wei simply runs his d-pawn. 59...Re4 60.d5 Rxa4 61.Qe5+ Kf8 62.Qh8+ Ke7 63.d6+ Kd7 64.Qb8 1-0

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