China have beaten India 10:6 in a four-round match held in Liaocheng, China from 5-8 March 2017. The Indian team went into the final round knowing they needed to win 3.5:0.5 to save the match, but instead Wei Yi beat Abhijeet Gupta as the Chinese team cruised to victory. That was Wei Yi’s second win, after he also beat his 17-year-old contemporary and Indian Champion Murali Karthikeyan in the previous round.
While Russia and China have played countless “friendly” team matches against each other, this is only the second “China-India summit”, after China beat India 18:14 in the first held in Hyderabad, India back in 2015. While neither team picked even close to their strongest line-up, the match-up represented one of the hottest rivalries in world chess.
When it comes to China, of course, it’s nothing new. They’re the reigning open World Team Champions, women’s Olympiad Champions and have been dominating the women’s individual title for almost three decades now. Tan Zhongyi’s victory in Tehran and Ju Wenjun’s victory in the FIDE Grand Prix series means that even Hou Yifan dropping out of the cycle won’t see the title pass to another country in the near future.
In Wei Yi, China has finally found a realistic contender for the most prized goal of all – the overall World Championship title.
India, of course, claimed that prize a decade ago when the individual genius of Vishy Anand propelled him to the very top. At first it seemed he was an isolated phenomenon and Vishy even had to endure criticism for not doing as much promotion as he might have done as Champion – but it turned out it was just a question of time! There’s been an Indian chess explosion with the nation of 1.3 billion people going from no grandmasters to 44 over the course of Vishy’s career:
That exceeds China’s 39 grandmasters, but it’s perhaps the depth of talent that impresses most, with India now up to over double China’s number of titled players:
Among those are 11-year-old Praggnanandhaa, who has realistic chances of becoming the world’s youngest ever grandmaster.
The 2nd match between China and India was held in the Donchangfu district of Liaocheng, one of the countless Chinese cities of 6 million people you’ve never heard of!
The event saw two teams of four compete in a Scheveningen match, in which each player played one game against each member of the opposing team. You can replay all the games from the event, with computer analysis, using the selector below (hover over a player’s name to see all their results):
As you can see, both teams fielded a mix of youth and experience, but the standout players were the youngest stars. 17-year-old Wei Yi needs no introduction, but Karthikeyan Murali is also still only 17 and can already boast of being a two-time Indian Champion as well as an U12 and U16 World Champion. He’s up to no. 18 on the March world junior list, only 10 points behind 11th place fellow 17-year-old Indian Aravindh.
In the first round it was Karthikeyan who shone as India took a surprise 2.5:1.5 lead. Zhou Jianchao’s 17.g4? was a mistake that was instantly punished:
17…e4! Captures on e4 are in Black’s favour, but so was 18.Bc2 Bxg4!, with White unable to hold the position together.
That was the high point of the event for both Karthikeyan and India, however, since China went on to win each of the remaining three days. Karthikeyan lost to 21-year-old Lu Shanglei and then made the same mistake as many of his older colleagues in world chess... he took on Wei Yi in the Sicilian! The Chinese player did his thing, with the pawn jabs 13.a3! and 14.e5! making things razor-sharp:
Wei Yi didn’t let go of the initiative for a moment and ultimately cashed in with 28.Nd8:
Black had done all he could to defend g7 with both his rook and queen, but now 28…Rf6 would of course allow instant mate. Karthikeyan’s 28…Rf8 was equivalent to resignation, which soon followed.
Wei Yi didn’t have things easy and had to fight for his life a pawn down against Ganguly, but he finished unbeaten and wrapped things up for China on the final day. Needing only to avoid a heavy defeat, the Chinese team took the professional approach of keeping things tight on three boards, while Gupta-Wei Yi was a wild and enjoyable clash. Wei Yi had to weather a ferocious attack, but was ready to pounce when given the chance:
Gupta could probably have forced perpetual check by repeating moves with 45.Qh8+, but instead 45.f6? was met by the clinical 45…Qb2!, targeting f2 and the knight on f1. 46.Qf5 Kd8 47.Rd3 ran into 47…Bg6! and the fat lady broke into song.
It was a difficult event for Gupta, who had suffered his third loss in a row, while that second win in a row saw Wei Yi edge up to world no. 25 and 2729.3 on the live rating list. Lu Shanglei also scored two wins for China, with only Zhou Jianchao losing any games (two). For India, Sethuraman was the top performer, with one win and three draws, but he couldn't prevent China emerging as the 10:6 victors.
It'll be interesting to see how the balance of power has changed in another two years! A little sooner, Wei Yi is top seed in the HDBank Masters that starts on 12th March, with his teammates also competing.