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Belt and Road Open: Will Ganguly take home US$ 50,000?

by Satanick Mukhuty - 03/08/2019

The Belt and Road International Open is taking place from 28th July to 7th August in the Changsha city of Hunan Province, China. It is a nine rounds swiss event following a time control of 90 minutes with 30 seconds increment from move 1. Strong Grandmasters such as Wei Yi, Yu Yangyi, Le Quang Liem, Amin Bassem, Maxim Matlakov, Francisco Vallejo Pons, Arkadij Naiditsch, David Anton Guijarro, Evgeniy Najer are competing for a whopping first prize of 50,000 USD. After five rounds the tournament has found four leaders namely, Ivan Cheparinov, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Wang Hao, and Amin Bassem. In this comprehensive report we bring you the glimpses of the most important moments from rounds 1 to 5.

The Belt and Road tournament in China 2019 has three categories - A, where players above 2400 can compete, B - where you have players between 2000 and 2400, and C - is for players below the Elo of 2000. The organizers must be commended because they have been strict on these rating barriers for different categories. That's the reason why you have only 73 players fighting it out in the A category. However, from those 73 participants, you have 66 titled players! There are 42 GMs and 20 IMs taking part! The thing which makes this event unique is the first prize of US $50,000. Yes, you read that right! This is more than what MVL won (US $37,500) recently by finishing first at the Paris Grand Chess Tour 2019. Thanks to this huge prize fund you have six players above 2700 who have participated in the event. Wei Yi, with an Elo of 2737, is the top seed. He is followed by Yu Yangyi, Wang Hao, Le Quang Liem, Bassem Amin and Maxim Matlakov. India has six players taking part - Adhiban, Ganguly, Sethuraman, S.L. Narayanan, Harshit Raja and Himal Gusain.

Round 1: Ganguly dashes ahead with a thumping victory!

Surya Sekhar Ganguly started off the tournament with a crushing victory against the twenty-year-old Indonesian IM Yoseph Theolifus Taher. The game opened with symmetrical English but soon transposed into a variation of the accelerated Sicilian Dragon. Yoseph seemed out of his depth in the opening itself as his position aggravated quite early. The Indian Grandmaster missed no chance to punish all the dubious choices that his opponent made and brought home the full point convincingly. Let us begin by looking at the highlights of this encounter.


Surya Sekhar Ganguly - Yoseph Theolifus Taher, Round 1

9...a5 seemed questionable as it simply concedes b5 as a strong outpost for White's knights. Black has scored well in this position with alternatives like 9...Re8, 9...Bd7, 9...a6 etc.

Position after 13.f4; Black's position already feels very passive, how will he stop e4-e5 next?

Position after 15.Nd5: White's stranglehold has tightened!

Position after 17...dxe5: From here the game continued 18.Nxe7+ Kf8 19.Rxd8+ Nxd8 20.Nc7 Rb8 21.Ba7 and White won an exchange and eventually the game.

Round 2: Sethuraman sizzles, Ganguly keeps soaring!

Ganguly and Sethuraman have kicked off a great start in the event!

In the second round of the event both Surya Sekhar Ganguly and Sethuraman S P registered impressive victories with black pieces. The former won against Kateryna Lagno and the latter defeated Zou Chen. Let us check out the critical moments from both these games. First we look at Lagno versus Ganguly, this was a French Winawer where the Russian eschewed the poisoned pawn variation by playing a calmer 8.Bd3 line. Yet soon the game meandered into unusual complications.


Kateryna Lagno - Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Round 2

Position after 16.g4: White has started off a dangerous pawn storm, how does Black deal with the impending gxh5?

White is intending to play gxh5 after which Black will be forced to move the knight to h8. Ganguly played the move 16...Nxd3+! here, first eliminating the bishop, this indeed is the only move that preserves the balance. After 17.Qxd3 Bd7 (Not 17.cxd3 because of 17...f6), 18.gxh5 was countered with 18...f6!

But what happens after 19.exf6?

There are nice tactics at work here! After 19.exf6 came 19...Nxf4 20.Bxf4 e5! - a fork, if White goes 21.Bxe5 then 21...Rae8 regains the piece by force!

Ganguly navigated the complications masterfully! 

Next, White played 21.Bg5 and after 21...Qxd4 22.Qxd4 exd4 23.0-0-0 gxf6 Black stood tangibly better.

Even after the d4 pawn falls, Black will be a clear pawn up with a better position.

The Zou Chen versus Sethuraman game in contrast saw fireworks on the queenside. Playing the black side of Sicilian Rauzer Sethuraman initiated a deadly flank attack on move 17!


Zou Chen - Sethuraman S P, Round 2

Position after 17...b4: The start of gruelling complications!

Position after 22...a5: There's nothing to stop Black from rolling down his flank pawns. Can White survive this onslaught?

Position after 24...a4: Here, going Nxe7 Rxe7 Nd2 first would have been better but White played 25.Nd2 and 25...Na3+ 26.bxa3 Rc3 followed.

This was the most critical moment of the encounter. The only hope for White was 27.Nc4 but in the game 27.Qe2? was played and after 27...bxa3+ Black was simply winning!

Replay the full game along with computer generated analysis below:

Rounds 3-4: Ivan Cheparinov emerges as the sole leader!

In round 3 Ivan Cheparinov emerged as the sole leader of the event by defeating the strong Romanian Grandmaster Mircea Pârligras | Photo:

Ivan was able to liquidate into an ending where he had a 2 to 1 pawn majority on the queenside, this he was able to convert with commendable technique. Check out the full game below:

Among the Indians, S.L.Narayanan was also able to squeeze out a nice victory against Jun Xu with the black pieces. Here's the full game:

S.L.Narayanan had lost his game against Cheparinov in the previous round, the win against Jun Xu was therefore a nice comeback! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

In round 4, Sethuraman found a quick win against Liu Yan in just 28 moves. The following was the decisive moment of the game:


Liu Yan - Sethuraman S P, Round 4

Black has just played 17...Bf6, how would you continue as White?

The underlying threat in the position is Ne7-Nxd5 exploiting the fact that the rook on c8 is hitting the c1 bishop. The only logical move to stay in the game would have been 18.Be3! but White blundered here with 18.e3? now after 18...Ne7 Black was just winning.

Can you see why 18...Ne7 is decisive here?

The game followed 19.Bxf7+ Kxf7 20.Rxd8 Rxc1+ 21.Kg2 Rxd8 22.Qxb4 Bf1+ 23.Kf3 and Black had two minor pieces plus a rook for the queen, more importantly White didn't have enough counterplay in compensation.  

After just five moves from the above position White called it a day!

Round 5: Ganguly's impeccable opening preparation stuns Wei Yi

In round 5, the in-form Surya Sekhar Ganguly shocked Wei Yi by beating him in just sixteen moves! The latter made an unsuspecting error on move 10 which the Indian Grandmaster was able to mercilessly refute in the next six moves forcing the Chinese super GM's resignation in just sixteen!

IM Sagar Shah explains the nuances of this game in the following video:

After suffering shocking upsets in rounds 1 and 4 Adhiban registered his first victory against A.Setyaki in round 5 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Results of round 5

Bo.No.NameFEDRtgPts. ResultPts. NameFEDRtgNo.
111GMCheparinov Ivan GEO2666 ½ - ½3 GMYu Yangyi CHN27362
215GMGanguly Surya Shekhar IND26383 1 - 03 GMWei Yi CHN27371
33GMWang Hao CHN27253 1 - 03 GMNguyen Ngoc Truong Son VIE263617
419GMSethuraman S.P. IND26303 0 - 13 GMAmin Bassem EGY27075
57GMVallejo Pons Francisco ESP26873 ½ - ½3 GMZhao Jun CHN263618
623GMZhou Jianchao CHN26083 ½ - ½3 GMAnton Guijarro David ESP26789
76GMMatlakov Maxim RUS2701 1 - 03 GMDeac Bogdan-Daniel ROU262120
831GMMegaranto Susanto INA2545 1 - 0 GMNaiditsch Arkadij AZE26818
913GMMotylev Alexander RUS2654 ½ - ½ GMXu Yinglun CHN256228
1029GMZeng Chongsheng CHN2551 ½ - ½ GMLupulescu Constantin ROU264914
1150GMYu Ruiyuan CHN2464 ½ - ½ GMParligras Mircea-Emilian ROU263816
1235IMLi Di CHN2523 ½ - ½ GMNarayanan.S.L IND261622
1321GMLu Shanglei CHN26192 ½ - ½ GMBatchuluun Tsegmed MGL253532
144GMLe Quang Liem VIE27132 1 - 02 Peng Xiongjian CHN246749
1544IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat IRI24812 1 - 02 GMNajer Evgeniy RUS267810
1624GMOleksiyenko Mykhaylo UKR26002 ½ - ½2 IMTaher Yoseph Theolifus INA246051
1725GMJu Wenjun CHN25952 ½ - ½2 WIMZhu Jiner CHN245453
1855Zhao Yuanhe CHN24482 ½ - ½2 GMWen Yang CHN258626
1927GMXu Xiangyu CHN25852 1 - 02 GMBatsiashvili Nino GEO243362
2056IMXiang Zeyu CHN24472 ½ - ½2 GMLagno Kateryna RUS254930

Standings after round 5

Rk.SNoNamesexFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 
111GMCheparinov IvanGEO26664,026829,014,03
215GMGanguly Surya ShekharIND26384,026658,514,53
33GMWang HaoCHN27254,026308,013,03
45GMAmin BassemEGY27074,025498,013,03
52GMYu YangyiCHN27363,526049,015,52
69GMAnton Guijarro DavidESP26783,525969,515,52
77GMVallejo Pons FranciscoESP26873,525799,014,52
831GMMegaranto SusantoINA25453,525546,511,52
918GMZhao JunCHN26363,525438,513,02
106GMMatlakov MaximRUS27013,525418,514,02
1123GMZhou JianchaoCHN26083,525007,511,52
1244IMKhademalsharieh SarasadatwIRI24813,026778,013,51
1343IMBilguun SumiyaMGL24823,026608,013,52
1450GMYu RuiyuanCHN24643,026458,012,51
1535IMLi DiCHN25233,026429,014,51
1617GMNguyen Ngoc Truong SonVIE26363,0262610,015,52
1737GMTan ZhongyiwCHN25113,026228,514,02
1829GMZeng ChongshengCHN25513,026138,013,52
191GMWei YiCHN27373,026099,515,52
2032GMBatchuluun TsegmedMGL25353,025787,512,01

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