by Manuel Weeks
Bu Xiangzhi Clear Leader
Kiril Georgiev and Bu Xiangzhi
The top four boards all saw decisive results as the tournament favourites made their move. China’s Bu Xiangzhi is still the clear leader after defeating former Gibtelcom masters winner Bulgarian GM Kiril Georgiev in a doubled edged Slav defence. You don’t often see Black castle queenside in q-pawn games but this fashionable line, made popular by Alexander Morozevich it is common. Bu offered a trade of queens on move 29 that could not be accepted.
Bu’s play has seemed effortless in that no real fireworks have occurred but more a steady grinding down of his opponents has happened.He has been very successful with such an approach to reach his high rating.
A Chinese male player lost a game for the first time yesterday. Ukrainian GM Zahar Efimenko sacrificed a piece speculatively in a Sicilian Najdorf. It looked for a long time that there was no compensation for the piece in the form of a direct attack on the white king but in fact Efimenko captured the white kingside pawns and with the help of his own monarchs guided one of them to the finish line.
Wang Hao and Zahar Efimenko
Here the fireworks began with 20…Nxb2
And yet the game had the final picturesque position.
Even though Wang Hao is still a piece up the Black h-pawn is unstoppable.
There was an excellent masterclass given in the evening by Moldovian Grandmaster Viktor Bologan. It would have been easier for him to show a game he had analysed in detail from past years but the bulk of his lecture was his game that he had played that day against former Women’s World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova. He admitted that he had sacrificed a little incorrectly but it was a game to remind him of his own youth. The in house commentator, Stuart Conquest, thought that the position must be won for black but it is no so easy to defend against Bologan in this mood. In time trouble Stefanova failed to find the best defence and after five and half hours the point went to the man from Moldova.
Antoaneta Stefanova and Victor Bologan
Here White played the tactical shot, 26.Rxg6+,fxg6 followed by 27.Qd3!
Wang Yue played the game we all wish we could play against Nordic champion Emanuel Berg, full of small tactics, always a little better. A true virtuoso performance. Not as wild as the previous games but no less enjoyable to play through.
Wang Yue and Emmanuel Berg
Here the top seed played 21.f4 temporarily giving up material but the piece will always be won back. What was most impressive was that he always managed to keep the pressure on his experienced opponent till he lost a pawn and later the game. A game well worth playing through!
The question remains whether Bu can keep up such an incredible run and remain in the lead. The list of pursuers is impressive with his own countrymen plus the might of Ukraine and Moldova on his coat tails. In some way the tournament has been a battle between the traditional countries where chess has been ingrained in the culture for centuries and the new superpower of China. The popular opinion says that the Chinese are extremely tactical in their games, always looking for the combinational solution even in quiet positions. With three rounds to go the scene is set up for an enthralling finish.