17 Jul

The China Summit

This year marks not only the 70th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War but also the first chess ‘summit match’, as the Soviet Union crushed the United States (then four-time Olympiad champions) by the unexpectedly hefty margin of 15.5-4.5. Moves were transmitted by radio, which took place from Sept. 1 to Sept. 4, 1945. The American team played from the Henry Hudson Hotel in New York and the Soviets at the Central Club of Art Masters in Moscow.


Coincidentally, his was to be the very first international sporting event held after the war, and it also proved to be a seminal moment for Soviet domination of the chess world, which lasted for decades. A couple of years later, Mikhail Botvinnik - who led the Soviets in that first summit match - would go on to become world champion.

There was a second Soviet-USA summit match in 1954, this time a face-to-face meeting in New York City at the Roosevelt Hotel; and witnessed by a very impressionable 11-year-old Bobby Fischer. The score was less lopsided, but equally traumatic - 20-12, in favour of the Soviets. The Soviets played in two further historic summit matches, in 1970 and 1984, when they took on a combined Rest of the World team held respectively in Belgrade and London.

Those memorable Soviet matches are now beginning to echo China’s efforts to dominate the chess world. In 2001, China had their first foray into summit chess when they took on the US in Seattle, organised and sponsored by the Seattle Chess Foundation, the forerunner of America’s Foundation for Chess. Since then, China have gone on to recently capture gold for the first time in the men’s Olympiad and World Team Championship.

China are now perceived to be emerging as the new chess superpower, and this week they take on the once-mighty Russia, the remnants of an ailing superpower, in a 10-player Scheveningen Team Match for men and women in Yin Zhou Cup in Nigbo, China. Teams Men: China: Yu Yangyi, Wei Yi, Bu Xiangzhi, Lu Shanglei, Wang Chen Russia: Svidler, Vitiugov, Matlakov, Fedoseev and Dubov. Women: China: Tan Zhongyi, Shen Yang, Huang Qian, Lei Tingjie, Ding Yixin. Russia: Gunina, Girya, Goryachkina, Pogonina, Kashlinskaya.

All eyes though are firmly fixed on the men’s match; and especially new 16-year-old phenom Wei Yi, the player heavily tipped to become China’s first world title challenger - and he didn’t disappoint, being the only player with three decisive games after three rounds! The new teen sensation convincingly won his first and third games, though came unstuck in the second when he faced Peter Svidler, the seven-time Russian champion.

In the men’s match, after three rounds, China dominates Russia by a score of 9-6.

Wei Yi - Peter Svidler
Yin Zhou Cup, (2)
Ruy Lopez, Anti-Marshall
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.a4 The Anti-Marshall - played, as we can assume from the title, to avoid Peter Svidler's lifetime of knowledge and nuances of the Marshall Attack after 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 Bd6. It is not to say that Black has a winning attack here (theory tends to indicate that, with correct play on both sides, a draw is the most likely result) that Wei Yi avoids the big theory line; it's more the case that Svidler is such an expert in this system, that every line he will have done deep and lengthy preparation at home on. But the trouble with opening labyrinths such as the Marshall and mainline Najdorf, is that seldom you get to play those big theory lines, as opponents deviate into the sidelines - but you get to play against these lines so much that you also accrue a wealth of knowledge of what to do, as happens here with Svidler. 8...b4 9.d4 d6 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Nbd2 Bc5 12.h3 h6 13.Qe2 Qe7 14.a5 Be6 15.Bc4 Nh5! Heading for the big outpost on f4, just as White can't play g3 to prevent it - and with Wei Yi opting to exchange pieces and queens, this is a sure sign that Black has won the opening skirmishes. 16.Bxe6 Qxe6 17.Qc4 Qxc4 18.Nxc4 Rfe8 19.Be3 Wei Yi has to seek further exchanges, as Svidler's bishop was dominating. 19...Bxe3 20.Nxe3 Nf4 21.Rad1 Red8 22.h4 f6 Black has a rock-solid position and a big target of that weak White a-pawn to work on. Defending this is going to be hard work. 23.Kf1 h5 24.Nc4 Kf7 Nice. Svidler also takes advantage of the fact that he can get his king active for the ending, as White can't due to the presence of the knight on f4. 25.g3 Ne6 26.Rd5 Ne7 27.Rd2 Nc5 The knight may have been kicked from f4, but it has quickly found an equally better outpost on c5 to hit e4. 28.c3 bxc3 29.bxc3 Ke6 30.Rxd8 Rxd8 31.Nfd2 Nc6 There looms the long-term issue of how White will defend the a5-pawn - but now Svidler also finds a way to hit c3, compounding White's problems in defending here. 32.Ke2 Na7! (See Diagram) Heading for b5, where both of Black's knights will combine to win pawns. 33.Na3 Rb8 34.Nac4 Nb5 35.Rc1 Na4 36.Nb1 g6 Wei Yi is in such a knot defending his weak pawn on c3 that Svidler now casually gets his position ready for the endgame breakthrough. 37.f4 Nc5 38.Nbd2 exf4 39.gxf4 Rd8 And now with multiple threats of ...Rd3 and ...Nd3, Wei Yi sacrifices a pawn in an effort to activate his pieces to salvage the game. 40.f5+ gxf5 41.exf5+ Kxf5 42.Ne3+ Ke6 43.Rc2 Kf7 44.Nf3 Ne4 45.Nd1 If 45.c4 Nbc3+ 46.Ke1 Rd3 wins. 45...Re8 46.Kf1 c5 47.Nd2 Kg6 All of Black's pieces are so active now that he threatens all of White's weak pawns. Something will have to give. 48.Nc4 Ng3+ 49.Kf2 Nf5 50.Nde3 Nxh4 51.Rc1 Re4! Again Svidler ties his opponent's pieces down - and just look at the sorry site of the c3 pawn, that has been an albatross around Wei's neck for much of the game. The rest is simply a matter of technique, as Svidler begins to cash in his chips now. 52.Nd2 Rf4+ 53.Ke2 If 53.Kg3 Kg5 54.Nd5 Nf5+! 55.Kg2 Ra4 and Black is easily winning. 53...Nf5 54.Rg1+ Kf7 55.Nd5 Ra4 56.Kd3 Rh4 Svidler has such a dominant position he can afford to tease his opponent. 57.Nf3 c4+ 58.Kd2 Re4 59.Rf1 Re6 60.Kc1 Rd6 61.Nb6 Ne3 62.Re1 Rd3 It's total domination now. 63.Na4 Ng4 64.Nh4 Nxc3 65.Nc5 Rd5 66.Nxa6 Rxa5 67.Nb4 Na2+ 0-1

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