I have a particular affection for Chinese involvement in mind sports. In 1981 I was invited as the first western grandmaster to compete in an international chess tournament in China, held in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. For this, I was awarded the gold medal of the Chinese Olympic Association. Since then, I have organised three world memory championships in China, with a fourth set for Chengdu in November.
The Chinese have their own form of chess, Xiang Qi, which differs from western chess in various ways: a nine-by-nine board, play on intersections rather than squares, a piece which fires through other pieces and a king which is trapped in its own castle throughout the entire game. Given that fixed pawn structures are impossible in Xiang Qi, the game is considerably more tactical than international chess. The skills necessary to play Xiang Qi at a high level are, though, eminently transferable to chess as we know it.
From a relative standing start in 1981, the Chinese have gone on to win last year’s world chess Olympiad in Norway while 16-year-old Wei Yi won a game last week which, according to a news item in the Sunday Times, joins the chess immortals. Here is that game.
Wei Yi-Bruzon; Danzhou, China 2015; Sicilian Defence
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 Here 11 … Bd7 would most likely result in a transposition to the famous 24th game of the Kasparov-Karpov 1985 World Championship match. This was the game which clinched Kasparov’s victory as the youngest ever world chess champion. 12 Bxd4 b5 13 Qg3 Bb7 14 a3 Rad8 15 Rae1 Rd7 16 Bd3 Qd8 This reorganisation has often been tried but White’s play here makes the whole plan look suspicious. 17 Qh3 g6 18 f5 e5 19 Be3 Re8 20 fxg6 hxg6 21 Nd5 This is Wei’s new idea, varying from 21 Bb6 (planning 21 … Qxb6 22 Rxf6 Bxf6 23 Qxd7) as in Sredojevic-Rajkovic, Vrnjacka Banja, 2008. 21 … Nxd5 Blissfully unaware of the coming bomb. He had to try the unpalatable 21 … Bxd5. 22 Rxf7 (diagram 1) Black’s king is dragged inexorably into the firing line. 22 … Kxf7 23 Qh7+ Ke6 24 exd5+ Kxd5 25 Be4+ Kxe4 (diagram 2) 26 Qf7 In fact 26 c4 forces checkmate more quickly but only a computer could see this. 26 … Bf6 27 Bd2+ Kd4 28 Be3+ Ke4 29 Qb3 Kf5 30 Rf1+ Kg431 Qd3 This quiet move leaves Black helpless despite his huge material plus. 31 … Bxg2+ 32 Kxg2 Qa8+ 33 Kg1 Bg5 34 Qe2+ Kh4 35 Bf2+ Kh3 36 Be1 Black resigns
Fabiano Caruana has scored a fine victory in Dortmund, finishing with 5½/7, 1½ points clear of the field. This week’s puzzle is from this event.
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