Chess goes Go in China

by Zhang Jilin
7/30/2015 – A few days after one match between Russia and China ended, they play the second. This time they try a new format for team competitions: a knock-out system which is rather popular in Go competitions in China but has hardly been tried in chess. In the first round Karjakin won against Wei Yi. Zhang Jilin reports from the very far east.

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Chess matches between China-Russia matches have a long tradition - the first match was played in Shanghai in 2001. These matches are part of the regular chess meetings the two nations enjoy. Recently, the ninth traditional Russia-China match took place in Ningbo and ended with convincing victories of the Men's and the Women's team from China.

Now another match between Chinese and Russian top-players began. It is played as knock-out team event, in a format that is rather unusual for chess competitions. It was inspired by Go competitions and is very popular in China. But in chess this format seems to be tried for the first time, at least on a high level.

Each team has five players and the line-up has to be established before the match.

The line-up of the Chinese team:

1. Wei Yi
2. Ding Liren
3. Ni Hua
4. Yu Yangyi
5. Wang Yue.

Yes - this is the team that won gold at the Chess Olympiad in Tromsö 2014.

And this is the line-up of the Russian team:

1. Sergey Karjakin
2. Evgeny Tomashevsky
3. Alexander Morozevich
4. Ian Nepomniachtchi
5. Dmitry Andreikin


And that's how the team knock-out works:

In every round one, and only one, player of each team plays against the corresponding player from the other team. The players on first board begin the match. The winner of this mini-match then plays against the player of the opposite team who follows next in the line-up.

For example:

In the first round Karjakin (board 1 of the Russian team) plays against Wei Yi (board 1 of the Chinese team). If Karjakin wins, he then plays against Ding Liren (board 2 of the Chinese team). Should Ding Liren win this match against Karjakin, he will play against board 2 of the Russian team, Evgeny Tomashevsky. But if Karjakin also wins against Ding, he then plays against Ni Hua - board 3 of the Chinese team. If all players from one team are relegated this team loses the team match.

Round two: Ding Liren plays against Sergey Karjakin

The time-limit is 90-30/30 seconds per move. Only one game is played. Should this game end in a draw, two blitz games with a time-limit of 5+3 will follow. Should there still be no winner, the mini-match will be decided by a final game in sudden death mode.

The Russia-China match began on 29. July and in the first round Wei Yi and Sergey Karjakin had to play each other. The regular game ended in a a draw but Karjakin won the blitz-match.

Games of the first round



29. July: 1. Round
30. July: 2. Round
31. July: 3. Round
01. August: 4. Round

The event is played in two parts. The first four rounds are played in Hei Xiazi, after that follow five (or less) additional rounds in December (12. to 17) in Harbin City. The winning team receives 50.000 USD, the losing team receives nothing. Each player of the winning team receives 5.000 USD starting fee, while each player of the losing team receives a starting fee of 3.000 USD.

Organizers of the match are the Chinese Chess Association and People's Government of Fuyuan County. Host of the event is the Culture, Radio, Film, Television, Press and Publication Bureau of Fu Yuan County and the Education and Sports Bureau of Fuyun County. Chief arbiter is Zhang Jilin, one of the other arbiters is a rather well-known figure in chess: it is Hou Yifan - she likes to try new things.

Hou Yifan, Chief Arbiter Zhang Jilin (center), and Deputy Chief Arbiter Yang Ning

On duty

The match is played on the Hei Xiazi peninsula, near the Russian-Chinese border. The Russian name for the peninsula is Bolshoy Ussuriysky peninsula. This small patch of land lies lies at the junction of the rivers Ussuri and Amur and belongs partly to China and partly to Russia. Here is the most eastern point of China. The inhabitants of Hei Xiazi are the first Chinese who see the sun rise in the morning and thus a monument to honor the rising sun was erected.

The match and the venue was chosen to emphasize the friendship between the two states.

The most eastern point of China

A peninsula at the junction of Ussuri and Amur

A monument for the sun.

Zhang Jilin is a Women Grandmaster and lives in China. At tournaments in China she often works as arbiter for the Chinese Chess Federation.


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