8th Russia-China match – A tradition to look forward to

by ChessBase
7/4/2012 – Now in its eighth edition, the Russia-China team match has become a tradition of the highest order. While the Russians may have enjoyed a comfortable superiority in the past, today it is one of their greatest challenges. This mammoth match of fifteen rounds and 150 games just started, and includes star players in both teams. Here is a first report and a bit of history on this elite encounter.

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Date: The 8th Russia vs China match takes place July 1st - 9th, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Classical chess (each member of the team gets to play all the members of the opposing team once) and rapid (two games against each member of the opposing team). No draw offers are allowed before move 40.
Scoring system: Each game is worth one point; the team with the highest combined score (women+men) will be declared the winner.
Prize fund: Each men's team receives $15,000 (non-taxable); each women's team receives $10,000 (non-taxable)
Time: Games start at 15:00 local time and the time control is 90 minutеs for thе first 40 movеs, then 30 minutеs to a finish with a 30 second increment from the start for the standard games, with the rapid games played at 15 minutеs plus 10 sесond increment.

8th Russia-China match – A tradition to look forward to

Now in its eighth edition, the Russia-China team match has become a tradition of the highest order, heir to the classic Russia vs. World or Russia vs. Yugoslavia matches of yesteryear. While the Russians may have enjoyed a comfortable superiority in the past, today it is one of their greatest challenges. Also, nothing is left to chance in this huge event.

This year, the friendly match is held in St. Petersburg, Russia. The term friendly applies only up to and including the handshake, but at the board it is a tense struggle where honor and cash are on the line.

The women's match has been one of trading blows and a score of 5-5 after two rounds

The first such match was held in 2001, and was designed to help test all the players to the fullest. Each country had a men’s team, a women’s team, and a junior team, and in each case, the players played each and every one of the players in the rival teams. In fact, the final round took place on the fateful day of September 11, and the players, walking cheerfully into the hall, oblivious to the events, were stunned to see what was happening. A shocked Alexander Khalifman said, “It is World War III”.

This first encounter was a clear success for the Russians with a decisive 41.5-30.5, but when the next match took place in 2004, delayed due to economic conditions worldwide, they were unable to repeat their result. While the men’s team once more won, the Russian women were steamrolled by the Chinese by 13-5, which turned out to be the deciding factor for an overall Chinese victory. In the junior teams, the high point was a 14-year-old Ian Nepomniachtchi who scored 5.0/6, but don’t be fooled, as the Chinese also fielded a young Wang Hao, only rated 2385 at the time, and we all know what became of him as he is their top board today with a 2733 rating.

Two 14-year-old juniors in 2004: Ian
Nepomniachtchi and Dmitry Andreikin.
(from personal archive of Nepomniachtchi)

As time passed, the match has changed and evolved, and the explicitly junior section has been dropped in favor of a dual men’s and women’s team each with five players. Each player meets each of the others once in classical games, and then, they meet each other twice in rapid games for an overall meet of 150 games! Last year they also had a double-round of blitz for a grand total of 250 games. The Chinese took the match 128-122.

The Russian Federation site is hosting the live games, and though there is none of that breathtaking video coverage they have often spoiled us with in the past, they are actually providing on-the-fly written GM commentary with the games. Although it is in Russian, if you use a browser such as Google Chrome, the comments are automatically translated to the language of your choice.

This year the lineups of both countries are:

Russian men

Dmitry Jakovenko
Evgeny Tomashevsky
Ian Nepomniachtchi
Nikita Vitiugov
Maxim Matlakov
Average rating: 2711.6

Ian Nepomniachtchi is back defending the Russian colors

Russian women

Valentina Gunina
Alexandra Kosteniuk
Natalia Pogonina
Olga Girya
Baira Kovanova
Average rating: 2451.4

Valentina Gunina is the top board for the Russian women

Natalia Pogonina was also on the team in 2004

Chinese men

Wang Hao
Wang Yue
Li Chao
Ding Liren
Yu Yangyi
Average rating: 2691.8

Once a budding junior, Wang Hao is now China's top board

Chinese women

Zhao Xue
Ju Wenjun
Huang Qian
Shen Yang
Ding Yixin
Average rating: 2451.4

Overall, the Elos balance out, with the slight on-paper edge for the Russian men compensated by the extra oomph of the Chinese women.

In the classical games third of the encounter, the toughness of the lineups has already lived up to the promise. The first round was a minuscule victory for the Russians with a 3.5-1.5 win by the men, while the Chinese women minimized the damage with a 3-2 win of their own.

Reigning three-time Chinese champion Ding Liren committed a serious mistake in his game against Nikita Vitiugov allowing the latter to finish in style.

[Event "RUS-CHN Summit Men 8th"] [Site "St . Petersburg"] [Date "2012.07.02"] [Round "1"] [White "Vitiugov, Nikita"] [Black "Ding, Liren"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E82"] [WhiteElo "2703"] [BlackElo "2680"] [PlyCount "47"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [EventType "team-schev"] [EventCountry "RUS"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. Nge2 b6 8. d5 e6 9. Nf4 exd5 10. Nfxd5 Nc6 11. Qd2 Nxd5 12. Nxd5 Be6 13. Bd3 Bxd5 14. cxd5 Nd4 15. O-O b5 16. Kh1 Qd7 17. Rae1 b4 18. f4 h5 $2 {A serious mistake that just opens the black king to direct measures.} 19. f5 Be5 20. Bxd4 Bxd4 21. e5 Bxe5 22. Rxe5 $1 {Removing the only piece that could help defend the king.} dxe5 23. f6 Kh7 {To prevent Qh6-Qg7 mate.} 24. Rf5 $3 (24. Rf5 $3 {Superb and final. The threat is Rxh5+. Black must give up the queen, but what is worse is that after} Qxf5 25. Bxf5 {Black cannot take back the bishop since} gxf5 {is mate after} 26. Qg5 Rg8 27. Qxh5#) 1-0

The second round saw the Chinese men hold the Russians to a 2.5-2.5 draw, whereas the Russian women avenged their first round loss with a 3-2 win of their own.

Pictures by Eteri Kublashvili

Men's standings after two rounds

Women's standings after two rounds

Overall, the Russians lead by 11-9 after two rounds.



The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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