Reports Apr 30, 2015 | 8:43 AMby IM David Martínez

China, again. Hello, domination!

China confirmed they have what it takes to dominate as a team after adding a convincing victory in the 2015 World Team Championship to their breakthrough 2014 Olympiad triumph. The driving force behind the team was 15-year-old Wei Yi, whose 7/9 performance won him a gold medal on board four and saw his live rating soar to 2717.5  and no. 34 in the world. Ukraine took silver while hosts Armenia took the final place on the podium ahead of favourites Russia.

The Chinese men's team - also the best-dressed team in the event! | photo: Arman Karakhanyan, official website

All China are lacking to confirm their domination of the top echelons of international chess is a male World Chess Champion after their team swept to victory in the World Team Championship held in Tsaghkadzor, Armenia, from 18-29 April. A somewhat slow start - only a single win in the first three rounds - gave no indication of what was to follow. China accelerated and after crushing Armenia 3.5-0.5 they went on to win all their matches except for a draw against Ukraine. Yu Yangyi was the only team member to lose a game, though he made up for his two losses with three wins. Ding Liren and Wei Yi both posted performances over 2800, making at least one top player conclude that a Chinese era in chess has begun:

As well as China's victory attention inevitably turned, once again, to yet another failure for the Russian team. They entered the tournament as the reigning champions and the rating favourites but lost their first two matches and only scored their first win in Round 5. Why do they fail to dominate such events? Former coach Evgeny Bareev had the following explanation for why the team without Vladimir Kramnik, Peter Svidler or Ian Nepomniachtchi had struggled:

In terms of selection I'd say that we sent a team of defenders... They're all very good defenders, but nevertheless they're defenders and we needed to "score". And no-one attacks us strongly since they consider a draw against the Russian team a good result.

Russia yet again failed to live up to expectations  | photo: Arman Karakhanyan, official website

Alexander Grischuk, who scored eight draws and one loss on top board to drop 14.5 rating points, had no explanation for the failure, but otherwise was glad to be in the Armenian mountain resort:

Armenia is a native country for me as my father was born here. He told me a lot about Armenia. I've really liked it here. Tsaghkhadzor is a very beautiful place. On the event's rest day we went for a walk and on the way back we got caught in snow. Due to the snow the car couldn't climb up to the hotel. We were forced to walk about an hour on foot. It was funny, but at the same time interesting and beautiful.

China's victory was forged with the white pieces. Out of 18 games they won 9 and drew the other 9, while with Black they scored only +1 (3 wins and 2 defeats), with 13 draws. Their general approach was not to run too many risks, and with White they managed to squeeze out a lot of wins from balanced positions. It should be noted, though, that it could all have gone wrong in the penultimate round, since both Yu Yangyi against Bruzón and Wei Yi against Yuri González were losing with White but nevertheless managed to win their games!

Let's take a look at the final standings, both for teams and on the individual boards:

Team standings

Rk. Team12345678910 TB1  TB2  TB3 
1China222331523.0397.5
2Ukraine2241221.0355.0
3Armenia½21118.0315.5
4Russia221020.5349.0
5USA23231019.5338.3
6Hungary222½22917.0302.0
7Israel22818.5322.3
8Cuba1123716.5286.0
9India12½3716.0274.3
10Egypt0½1211110.0186.3

Board 1

Rk. NameRtgTeam%Pts.Games
1GMAronian Levon2770Armenia66.76.09
2GMDing Liren2751China61.15.59
3GMDominguez Perez Leinier2729Cuba55.65.09
4GMHarikrishna P.2731India55.65.09
5GMGelfand Boris2747Israel50.04.59
6GMLeko Peter2713Hungary50.04.08
7GMShankland Samuel L2661USA44.44.09
8GMGrischuk Alexander2794Russia44.44.09
9GMPonomariov Ruslan2713Ukraine43.83.58
10GMAmin Bassem2634Egypt35.72.57

Levon Aronian scored 3 wins and 6 draws on top board and later commented on the performance of 2011 World Team Championship winners Armenia:

Since we started the World Teams poorly bronze medals also aren't bad. I always said - one for all and all for one. Since Sergei Movsesian and Vladimir Akopian weren't in their best form it was quite tough for us, and our play didn't come together. Taking that all into account third place is a big achievement.

Gabriel Sargissian explained there had been extra pressure on the hosts:

We started the World Team Championship badly. After four rounds we had only two points, which is a very bad result. Gradually we began to play better. I can't explain the reason - perhaps tension got in the way. We really wanted to win and dedicate the win to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, but unfortunately it didn't work out. I think bronze for our small country isn't a bad result either.

Aronian did everything in his power for Armenia | photo: Arman Karakhanyan, official website

Board 2

Rk. NameRtgTeam%Pts.Games
1GMLenderman Aleksandr2617USA71.45.07
2GMIvanchuk Vassily2731Ukraine61.15.59
3GMKarjakin Sergey2757Russia56.34.58
4GMYu Yangyi2724China55.65.09
5GMBruzon Batista Lazaro2691Cuba50.04.59
6GMSargissian Gabriel2674Armenia50.04.08
7GMSutovsky Emil2628Israel37.53.08
8GMErdos Viktor2612Hungary33.32.06
9GMSethuraman S.P.2634India27.82.59
10GMShoker Samy2482Egypt25.02.08

Aleksandr Lenderman pulled off a great win over Vassily Ivanchuk which helped the USA to a surprise win over Ukraine and to an equally surprising 5th place overall, tied with Russia on match points despite an average team rating that was above only Egypt's. Team captain IM John Donaldson writes on the US Chess Federation website:

Alex Lenderman, who only made it on the team after Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Gata Kamsky and Ray Robson declined, also won four games in a row! This included wins over Emil Sutovsky, Vassily Ivanchuk and Lazaro Bruzon. Alex's 5/7 score, good for a 2818 performance, earned him the gold medal on board two. It was great to see Alex, who doesn't get a lot of international opportunities, take full advantage of his chances.

Aleksandr Lenderman was one of the surprise stars of the event | photo: Arman Karakhanyan, official website

Apart from that one loss Ivanchuk was the powerhouse behind the Ukrainian team, scoring three wins. He wasn't feeling the pressure, emotional or atmospheric, as he told an Armenian website:

I like everything here. Armenia is a chess country and it's good to be here and play chess. They say that in high mountains the pressure is higher, but it doesn't bother me.

Board 3

Rk. NameRtgTeam%Pts.Games
1GMQuesada Perez Yuniesky2629Cuba68.85.58
2GMTomashevsky Evgeny2745Russia68.85.58
3GMSmirin Ilia2652Israel64.34.57
4GMBu Xiangzhi2681China62.55.08
5GMAkobian Varuzhan2622USA58.33.56
6GMAlmasi Zoltan2698Hungary56.34.58
7GMEljanov Pavel2733Ukraine50.03.57
8GMOnischuk Alexander2665USA42.93.07
9GMSasikiran Krishnan2654India37.53.08
10GMAdly Ahmed2595Egypt35.72.57
11GMMovsesian Sergei2665Armenia35.72.57
12GMRapport Richard2710Hungary25.01.56
13IMEzat Mohamed2479Egypt18.81.58

The two Cuban medalists, Quesada and Domínguez | photo: Facebook

Gold medalist Quesada's first win was against 19-year-old Richard Rapport, whose downward spiral from the end of the Aeroflot Open just continued in Armenia. He's lost an incredible 38.9 points in a month:

The Rapport report makes grim reading | source: 2700chess.com

Board 4

Rk. NameRtgTeam%Pts.Games
1GMWei Yi2703China77.87.09
2GMKryvoruchko Yuriy2686Ukraine75.04.56
3GMMoiseenko Alexander2697Ukraine66.74.06
4GMRodshtein Maxim2667Israel64.34.57
5GMVidit Santosh Gujrathi2630India64.34.57
6GMVitiugov Nikita2736Russia64.34.57
7GMBalogh Csaba2651Hungary62.55.08
8GMNaroditsky Daniel2640USA57.14.07
9GMMelkumyan Hrant2651Armenia56.34.58
10IMFarahat Ali2389Egypt25.01.56

Wei Yi ended the tournament with a stunning five wins in his last six games! | photo: Arman Karakhanyan, official website

Replay all the games with computer analysis here on chess24!

See also:


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