Over the last few years, China has become the growing force with victories at the Tromsø Olympiad in 2014 and the World Team Championship in Tsakhaczor in Armenia earlier this year. And as a nation, they are now on another “long march” - though this time not a Chairman Mao political survival one, but rather a modern-day sporting one - with their sole aim being to capture World champion Magnus Carlsen’s title.
And the Chinese continue to go from strength to strength, as last month they had another major triumph with Yu Yangyi capturing the jubilee 50th edition of the annual Capablanca Memorial tournament in Havana, named after José Raúl Capablanca (1888-1942), and held in the former world champion’s memory since 1962. 21-year-old Yu Yangyi dominated the tournament, scoring 7/10 to win with a round to spare.
However the Chinese player to watch is Wei Yi, the most talked about teen phenomenon in the chess world today - he’s the player Beijing are banking on for a future title challenge with Carlsen. The 16-year-old’s progress in the last two years has been quite meteoric. Like Carlsen, Wei keeps breaking records, being the youngest to reach the rating of 2600 and 2700. And in late May, when he was still 15, he became the youngest Chinese champion, upstaging higher-ranked rivals Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi, who were heavily favoured to win the title.
When Bobby Fischer was 13, everyone remembers that he played a memorable game that earned the title of ‘The Game of the Century’. And in the opening rounds of Wei’s latest tournament, the ongoing 6th Hainan Danzhou GM tournament in China, the teen sensation turned in - against a very strong and experienced Cuban grandmaster - an equally similar Fischer-styled brilliancy that again had the chess world sitting up and taking notice.
Wei Yi definitely looks as if he’s already started his ‘long march’ towards the title.
Wei Yi - Lazaro Bruzon Batista
6th Hainan Danzhou, (2)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nc3 a6 4.Be2 Nc6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Be7 9.f4 d6 10.Kh1 0-0 11.Qe1 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.Qg3 Bb7 14.a3 Rad8 15.Rae1 Rd7 16.Bd3 Qd8 17.Qh3 g6 18.f5 e5 19.Be3 Re8 20.fxg6 hxg6 21.Nd5 Nxd5? The alternative 21...Bxd5 22.exd5 Rf8 (22...Nxd5? 23.Bxg6! fxg6 24.Qe6+) 23.Bh6 Nh7 24.Bxf8 Bxf8 25.a4 would have been the lesser of two evils, but White still would have the advantage. But this does allow.... 22.Rxf7!! A wonderful rook sacrifice from the young Wei Yi, as he takes his opponent's king on another sort of Chinese ‘long march’ up the board to its slaughter. 22...Kxf7 23.Qh7+ Ke6 24.exd5+ Kxd5 The alternative also lost: 24...Bxd5 25.Bxg6 (threatening Qf7+ or Qh3+, both mating) 25...Bxg2+ 26.Kxg2 d5 27.Qf7+ Kd6 28.Qxe8 easily winning. 25.Be4+! The further bishop sacrifice snares the Black king, which now can't make its escape to safety via c6. 25...Kxe4 26.Qf7!? [A very human reaction - but only here could the cold calmness of silicon-certainty scream out a mate in eight with 26.c4! Kd3 (26...bxc4 27.Qxg6+ Kd5 28.Qf7+ Kc6 29.Qxc4# (the point behind 26.c4!)) 27.Qxg6+ Kxc4 (27...Be4 28.Rd1+ Kc2 (28...Kxe3 29.Qg3+ Ke2 30.Qe1#) 29.Qxe4+ Kxd1 30.Qd3+ Ke1 31.Qd2+ Kf1 32.Qd1#) 28.Rc1+ Kd5 29.Rd1+ Kc6 (29...Kc4 30.Qd3#) 30.Qc2# 26...Bf6 27.Bd2+ Kd4 28.Be3+ Ke4 29.Qb3! Kf5 30.Rf1+ Kg4 31.Qd3! Now the dual threat is Qxg6 and Qe2 mating. 31...Bxg2+ If 31...Rg7 32.Qe2+ Kh4 there now comes the deadly, quiet move 33.h3! the idea not only being Qg4 mating, but also Kh2 and g3 mating. 32.Kxg2 Qa8+ 33.Kg1 Bg5 34.Qe2+ Kh4 35.Bf2+ Kh3 36.Be1 1-0 Now there's no way to stop Rf3 mating - a truly wonderful masterpiece of the modern game.