Last month, when Magnus Carlsen won the 2nd Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir, Azerbaijan with a dominating score of 7/9, a full point clear of ex-champion Viswanathan Anand, he claimed he could ‘stay at the top for another 20 years’. But some believe the threat of the world champion’s demise could come sooner rather than later, with many believing the player likely to topple him being China’s Wei Yi, who only last week celebrated his 16th birthday.
He’s the most talked about teen phenomenon in the chess world since, well, er, Magnus Carlsen - and their rating trajectory at the same age is strikingly similar. Wei Yi holds the record for being the youngest to reach the rating landmarks of 2600 and 2700. And last month in Xinghua, he also became the youngest Chinese champion, upstaging higher-ranked seeds Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi to be catapulted to No. 30 in the world rankings. And now, after last week’s latest leg of the Chinese Team Championship, he’s climbed another two spots to world No. 28.
China has had prodigies before Wei, but none made the breakthrough or showed the potential that he has had. And if he continues at this pace, he looks set to be the answer to China’s dream of finally producing a world champion in the future. While Wei Yi is too inexperienced just now to be a candidate for the world title, it is a possibility that can’t be ignored, as he could be a dark horse contender for September’s World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, with the two finalists receiving automatic spots into the 2016 Candidates Tournament.
Wei has been on a roll in 2015. He started by winning the Challengers group of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, The Netherlands - and this triumph rewarded him with a spot in the Masters section in 2016, where he’ll have his first meeting over the board with Carlsen, who will be defending his 2015 Wijk title. This could be the first of many intriguing meetings between the two, so book your ringside seat early!
Wei Yi - Wan Yunguo
Chinese Team Championship, (6)
Reti/Kings Indian Defence
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.b3 Bg7 4.Bb2 0-0 5.Bg2 d6 6.d4 e5 7.dxe5 Ng4 8.h3 Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Bxe5 10.Bxe5 dxe5 11.Qxd8 Rxd8 12.Nd2 Nd7 13.0-0-0 Re8 14.g4 Kg7 15.a4 Rb8 16.Nc4 Here we have a simple position with not many pieces or weaknesses on the board. However, what little advantage Wei Yi has, he makes the most of it by building up the pressure and his opponent cracks. 16...e4 17.Rd4 Nc5 18.Rhd1 b6 19.e3 Bb7 20.a5 Ne6 21.Rd7 Bc8 22.R7d5 Bb7 23.Rd7 Bc8 24.R7d2 Bb7 25.Kb2 Rbd8 26.Kc3 f5? In such positions against higher-rated players, the best option you have is to exchange pieces with 26...Rxd2 to relieve the pressures in the position. My best guess is that Black didn't see the coming tactical trap, otherwise he would have exchanged rooks down the d-file. 27.Rd7+! The rook infiltrates to the seventh and dominates. Now, Wei Yi's opponent collapses under the pressure. 27...Kf6 28.axb6 axb6 29.Nd6! (See Diagram) Now a nice little tactic leads to a won ending. 29...Rxd7 30.Nxe8+ Ke7 31.Rxd7+ Kxd7 32.Nf6+ Ke7 33.Nxh7 fxg4 34.hxg4 c5 There's no way to trap the knight, as it has an easy escape route: 34...Kf7 35.g5 Kg7 (35...c5 36.b4! cxb4+ 37.Kxb4 Kg7 38.Nf6 Nxg5 39.Nd7 Bc8 40.Nxb6 Bh3 41.Bh1 and the c-pawn will run quickly.) 36.Nf6 Nxg5 37.Ne8+ Kf7 38.Nxc7 and the endgame is won, because White will eventually pick off Black's weak b6-pawn. 35.Bf1 Nc7 If 35...Kf7 36.Bc4 pins and wins, as there's little or no hope of drawing the ending with bishops of the same colour. 36.g5 b5 37.Kd2 It looks complicated and dangerous to play, but the likely clinical wins was with: 37.b4!? Nd5+ (37...c4 38.Bg2 Nd5+ 39.Kd2 c3+ 40.Kc1 Nxb4 41.Nf6 and after the coming Bxe4, the bishops will come off and White will pick off the b- and c-pawns.) 38.Kb2 Nxb4 39.Nf6! Ke6 40.Bxb5 Kf5 41.Kb3 Kxg5 42.Nd7 again picks off the c-pawn to win. 37...Bc6 38.Bh3 Ne8 39.Bf1 Bd7? The last mistake, and tellingly, it comes the move before the time control - it's always the case in chess where you make a decisive mistake rushing to make the time control. However, after 39...Ke6 trying to win this for White is going to be really, really difficult. 40.Bg2 Bc6 41.Kc3 With b4 coming, White will engineer a route for the king to d4 and pick off the weak Black pawns. 41...Nc7 42.Nf6 Nd5+ 43.Nxd5+ Bxd5 44.b4! Kd6 45.Bf1 Bc6 46.Be2 Bd7 If 46...Kd5 47.Bg4 threatens a route for the bishop to get to the g6 pawn, or perhaps c8 to hit the e- and b-pawns. 47.f3 exf3 48.Bxf3 cxb4+ 49.Kxb4 Ke5 50.Bg2! Nice! Now Black can't play Kf5 as Bh3+ wins. The rest is now an easy win - though instructive nevertheless. 50...Bf5 51.c3 Bd3 52.Bc6 Kf5 53.Bxb5 Bc2 54.c4 Kxg5 55.c5 Kf6 56.c6 Bf5 57.Kc5 Ke5 58.c7 g5 59.Bc6 g4 60.Kb6 Bc8 61.Ka7 Kd6 62.Kb8 Be6 63.Bg2 Kc5 64.c8Q+ 1-0