China leads the United Kingdom by 18-14

9/7/2007 – It's déjà vu all over again. After defeating Russia in Nizhniy Novgorod a week ago the Chinese team – four top GMs, two juniors and two ladies – is well on its way to do the same to the United Kingdom team, headed by Mickey Adams and Nigel Short. After four of six rounds they lead by four points. WGM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant is the highest scorer with 3.5/4. Big illustrated report.

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UK v China in Liverpool

As part of the lead-up to its status of 2008 European City of Culture, the city of Liverpool is playing host to a UK-China summit chess match, from September 4th to 9th. Teams of six male and two female players are competing in a Scheveningen-style match. The format of the match is a Scheveningen for the first six boards (each player meets all six opponents once); and similar for the women's boards (each to play both opponents three times). The rate of play is all moves in 2 hrs plus 30 seconds per move. Rounds 1-5 start at 3 p.m., round six at 9 a.m.

The English team includes both Michael Adams and Nigel Short, the first time for almost 20 years that the two have played together in an event on British soil. The Chinese team includes top stars Wang Yue, Bu Xiangzhi  and Ni Hua, plus 13-year old schoolgirl sensation Hou Yifan.  Alongside the match, there will also be a nine-round International Open, with a prize fund in the region of £10,000–£12,000 (details to follow).

Age Rating   Age Rating
GM Michael Adams 34 2724   GM Bu Xiangzhi 22 2685
GM Nigel Short 42 2683   GM Wang Yue 20 2696
GM Jonathan Rowson 30 2599   GM Ni Hua 24 2681
GM Nick Pert 26 2536   GM Zhang Pengxiang 27 2649
GM Gawain Jones 18 2526   GM Wang Hao 18 2619
GM David Howell 16 2519   WGM Hou Yifan 13 2523
WGM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant 39 2419   WGM Shen Yang 18 2439
IM Jovanka Houska 27 2401   WFM Ding Yixin 16 2278
Average age: 29, average rating: 2551
 
Average age: 20, average rating: 2571

Report after round four

The event started in the St George's Hall, Liverpool, appropriately perhaps on Monday 3rd September, "the day war broke out", as legendary Northern comic Rob Wilton used to say. The main event of the week, the UK- China match, got underway on Tuesday, Sept. 4th. Each team consists of four boards, plus two junior boards and two ladies boards. On paper, the two sides are fairly evenly matched in rating terms, but the Chinese team probably start as slight favourities, thanks to their greater youth and the fact that they have just come from a highly successful trouncing of the Russian team, in a similar match played in Nizhny Novgorod.

Round one saw the Chinese visitors get off to a splendid start, winning three games to England's one, with four draws. On top board, Mickey Adams worked up some advantage as Black against Wang Yue, but looks to have missed an opportunity late in the game. On board two, Nigel Short went down to Wang Hao, in an excellently-played game by the latter. The day ended with Britain defeated by two points. It seems clear that the match will be a tough battle!


The match is being played on the stage of the St George's Hall

Round two: the UK team suffered another disappointing day, as they again lost by a score of 5-3. This time, the score does not really reflect the run of the play, as both Jovanka Houska and Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant were exceedingly close to winning. If they had been able to convert their advantages, the round would have been shared 4-4. But the pressure of the time-limit, plus ferocious resistance from their Chinese opponents, proved too much. On top board, Mickey Adams' Hedgehog led to heavy simplification and a steady draw. Nigel Short, on second board, added another number to his repertoire of non-Spanish 1.e4 e5 openings. Having in the recent past employed the King's Gambit, Evans Gambit and Ponziani, he surprised Wang Yue with the sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.a3!? However, Wang refused to be rattled by this choice, and although White perhaps obtained the smallest of nibbles, the appearance of opposite-coloured bishops on the board soon led to a draw.


Round two under way, with Ding Yixin vs Keti Arakhamia in the foreground

So, after two rounds, China leads the UK by 10-6. In the Open tournament being held alongside, the lead after five of the nine rounds is with Latvian GM, Normunds Miezis, with 4.5. Half a point behind are Stewart Haslinger, Alberto David and David Smerdon, ahead of a large group on 3.5.


GM Jonathan Rowson with black. In the background Wang Hao, Nigel Short, Bu Xiangzhi

Round three: After two days of slight disappointment, the British team found their form in round three of the UK-China match, winning four games to China's two, with two draws. With the match now at the halfway stage, the Chinese lead has been cut to just two points. Adams led the way, with a convincing demolition of Ni Hua. Capitalising on what he later described as some "slightly strange" opening play from his opponent, he soon established a clear positional advantage. In the press room, England team captain Jon Speelman was confidently expecting his top board to bring home the bacon, and Adams duly obliged.


Adams bringing home the bacon against Ni Hua in round three

Round four: This went back to the 3-5 loss for the UK team. Top seed Micky Adams lost to Zhang Pengxiang with white, as did Gawain Jones to Bu Xiangzhi with black. Keti Arakhamia-Grant scored another win, this time against 16-year-old Ding Yixin, and is now the overall top scorer with 3.5/4 points.


Bu Xiangzhi vs Gawain Jones in round four (in the background Hou Yifan)

Report by Steve Giddens, photos by Stephen Connor

Standings after Round 4

United Kingdom Rtn. R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 Tot.
9
GM Adams, Michael 2724
½
½
1
0
   
2
GM Short, Nigel 2683
0
½
1
½
   
2
GM Rowson, Jonathan 2599
0
0
0
½
   
½
GM Pert, Nicholas 2536
½
0
0
½
   
1
GM Jones, Gawain 2526
0
1
½
0
   
1.5
GM Howell, David 2519
½
0
1
½
   
2
IM Arakhamia-Grant, Keti 2418
1
½
1
1
   
3.5
5
IM Houska, Jovanka 2401
½
½
½
0
   
1.5
   
3
3
5
3
     
14

China Rtn. R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6
Tot.
15
GM Wang, Yue 2696
½
½
1
½
   
2.5
GM Wang, Hao 2626
1
1
½
½
   
3
GM Zhang, Pengxiang 2649
1
1
0
1
   
3
GM Bu, Xiangzhi 2685
½
½
0
1
   
2
GM Ni, Hua 2681
1
1
0
½
   
2.5
WGM Hou, Yifan 2523
½
0
1
½
   
2
WGM Shen, Yang 2439
0
½
0
1
   
1.5
3
WFM Ding, Yixin 2278
½
½
½
0
   
1.5
   
5
5
3
5
     
18

Performances by the players so far

Liverpool


The venue: St. Georges Hall, Concert Room, Liverpool, UK


The side of George's Concert Hall, where cars can park and players enter


On one side of the hall stands a statue of Queen Victoria, Britain's longest-reigning monarch


And on the other, her consort Prince Albert, described on the statue's inscription as "a wise and good prince"


On the steps in front of the hall is a statue of the Earl of Beaconsfield, a.k.a. Benjamin Disraeli – twice British Prime Minister in the 19th century, novelist, and Queen Victoria's favourite politician


On the other side of the square, behind St George's Hall, is the Walker Art Gallery, one of the largest and most important galleries in Britain, outside of London. It is named after a former Mayor of Liverpool, whose fortune was built in that noblest of trades, the brewing industry!


St George's Hall, Concert Room on the inside – click here for a virtual tour

Pictures and information by Steve Giddins


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