08 May

The Chinese Trifecta

The oft-used unofficial term “Super-Grandmaster” refers to the cream of the crop of GMs, those who have successfully climbed the greasy ladder to the 2700 rating-point level in the world rankings.  Until China’s teenage sensation Wei Yi came along, the youngest person ever to attain that standing was Magnus Carlsen, our current world champion and honorary Chairman of First Move.

After 36...Qg4!

Carlsen did so in 2007 when he was 16. Near the beginning of 2015, then 15-year-old Yi smashed that record by more than a year - and with this, the speculation started that Yi could well become the first Chinese player to play in the Candidates and forward to challenge for the world title.

The Chinese government pays serious attention to sports (just as the USSR did), especially now in chess, with a training regime that more resembles the fabled Soviet School of Chess. Beijing has been rapidly developing top-tier GMs for quite some time now, making it one of the strongest chess-playing nations in the world.

Their great hope is Yi - and back in 2015 when he first burst onto the chess scene, he confirmed his breakthrough by becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Chinese Championship, sensationally taking the title outright ahead of the favorite, Ding Liren. Showing it was no fluke, Yi repeated his title win again in 2016. And last week, in Xinghua, Yi made it a hat-trick of victories by taking the title with his unbeaten score of 8.5/11, half a point clear of Shanglei Lu and Yang Wen.

Wei Yi, 3-time Chinese champion at 17!

In doing so, the Chinese wunderkind has now won his national title in three successive years - and remarkably, he’s still only 17-years-old!  And in the May 2017 rating list, he’s the youngest player among the FIDE top 70 players and is currently ranked #25 worldwide.

GM Xu Yinglun - GM Wei Yi
Chinese Ch., (7)
Semi-Tarrasch Defence
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 cxd4 8.cxd4 In the Semi-Tarrasch Defense, Black opts to recapture with the knight on d5 so as not to be landed with the isolated d-pawn. The idea being he wants to complete his development, have a solid position, and look long-term for his queenside pawns to become a danger in the endgame. But alas, as Tarrasch himself wryly observed, "Before the endgame the gods have placed the middlegame." 8...Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Bxd2+ 10.Qxd2 White's focus of attention in the Semi-Tarrasch is his powerful pawn center - which if he can make it work to his advantage, can often over-spill to a ferocious kingside attack. 10...0-0 11.Bc4 Nd7 12.0-0 b6 13.Rfe1 Bb7 14.a4 Rc8 15.Bb5 Nf6 16.Bd3 h6 The Black pieces currently keeps White's center under close observation, and there's no prospects of any over-spill kingside assaults. 17.a5 b5! 18.a6 The point being that, if 18.Bxb5 Nxe4 Black will have successfully broken down White's center, leaving White with the added burden now of the isolated d-pawn, and Black's pieces beginning to take control of the board. 18...Bc6 19.Qb4 Qb6 Not only eyeing d4 and the b6-f2 diagonal, b,ut also asking White how in the long-term, will he defend a6? 20.Nd2 Rfd8 We now see that Wei Yi has 'won' the opening skirmish, as his pieces are the more harmoniously placed, and he's now ready to strike the White position. 21.Nb3 e5 22.d5 Bd7 23.Na5 Rc7 24.Nb7 Rdc8 25.h3 Superficially White looks OK, but long-term Black holds all the advantages here, and now his rooks control the only open file on the board. 25...Rc3 26.Red1 White is restricted to operating for now with this rook, as the other on a1 has to defend the a6-pawn that has been somewhat prematurely pushed up the board. 26...R8c7 27.Nd6 Nh5! The knight is heading for the wonderful outpost on f4, from where it can't be attacked. 28.Nf5 Nf4 Wei Yi's knight on f4 has the better outpost than his opponent's knight on f5, as Black's pieces are working in unison now to attack the White king. 29.Bf1 Rc2 30.Ne3 R2c3 31.d6 Rc8 32.Ra2 Rxe3?! This is somewhat 'speculative', as it is not certain Black gains anything with this exchange sacrifice, except perhaps instant panic from his unsure opponent on how best to continue. Instead, Wei Yi had the solid option of 32...Rc1!? 33.Rxc1 Rxc1 34.Qa3 Qc6! with a promising position to further press his opponent. 33.fxe3 Qxe3+ 34.Rf2? A fatal move in the position. White had to be brave and play 34.Kh2! Rc3 35.Rb1 and ask Black what exactly does he have for his exchange sacrifice here, apart from perhaps smoke and mirrors and some sort of added sacrifice on h3 and a repetition? But, as often happens in chess, immediate panic sets in when the stronger player sacrifices material as he takes aim at your king. 34...Qg3! The threat to h3 is now winning for Black, as White has missed a trick. 35.Rf3 Nxh3+ 36.Kh1 Qg4! It could well be that this is what White had missed in his calculations: the all-important pin on the d1 rook that prevents Rxh3. 37.Bxb5 Bxb5 38.Qxb5 Nf2+ 39.Kh2 Nxd1 40.Qxe5 Qh4+ 41.Rh3 Qg5 42.Qxg5 hxg5 It's a little messy, but at least White has a couple of pawns pushed up the board that could become a threat. But then again, a piece is a piece..... 43.Rb3 Nf2 44.Rb7 Nxe4 45.d7 Rd8 46.Rxa7 If 46.Rc7 Kf8 47.Rc8 Ke7 and Black easily wins. 46...Nc5 The extra piece now comes into its own by rounding up those advanced passed pawns. 47.Rc7 Nxd7 48.a7 Nf8! 0-1 And White resigns, as with the knight on f8, Black has time to cover his king to allow the knight and rook to pick off the a7 pawn.

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