Karjakin vs China: 3-0

by Johannes Fischer
7/31/2015 – The knock-out format of the Russia - China match currently underway in Hei Xiazi is a refreshingly new idea. However, maybe some players will have no chance at all to show their skills. In the first three rounds Sergey Karjakin, Russia's board one, eliminated Wei Yi, Ding Liren and Ni Hua. On Saturday Karjakin will play against Yu Yangyi.

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The format of the Russia - China match is unusual for chess matches: Each team has five players and the line-up has to be established before the match. In every round one, and only one, player of each team plays against the corresponding player from the other team. The players on the 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.

View from the tournament venue

The line-up of the Chinese team:

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

Indeed - 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

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 match began on 29. July and in the first round Sergey Karjakin drew the regular game against Wei Yi but then went on to win the blitz-match 2-0.

Russian captain Vladimir Potkin opens the match by playing
Wei Yi's first move in his game against Sergey Karjakin.

Games of the first round


Round 2

In the second round Karjakin had to play against China's number one, Ding Liren, and again won in blitz. The regular game was drawn and the blitz ended in a 1-1 tie, but then Karjakin won the match because he drew the decisive game in sudden-death format which Ding Liren had to win.

The arbiters: Hou Yifan, Chief Arbiter Zhang Jilin, and Deputy Chief Arbiter Yang Ning

Round two: Ding Liren plays against Sergey Karjakin

Games of the second round


Third round

In the third round Karjakin played against Ni Hua, and this time no blitz-match was necessary. Karjakin won the regular game and thus eliminated the third Chinese player in a row. The Chinese team (and the players of the Russian team who would like to join the match and play some serious chess) can only hope that Yu Yangyi or Wang Yue can stop Karjakin's winning streak.

Sergey Karjakin vs. Ni Hua

Ni Hua could not stop Karjakin

Sergey Karjakin on his way to win his third match in a row.

Third round game


On Saturday Karjakin will play against Yu Yangyi. Then the match will be interrupted and continued in December in Harbin City.


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.

Photos: Fan Lulu

Website of the Chinese Chess Federation

Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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ton orbe ton orbe 8/4/2015 07:11
This format is actually not new. It is borrowed from E-sports Global Starcraft II League (GSL) Team matches which is also popular in China. The Team Captain of both teams has absolute discretion on what his line up should be and must make decisions based on his study of the players of the other team. The match psychology starts with the drawing of the line up. Some teams put their best player on no. 1 some at the last. The thing is, China thinks all its players can play board 1, that they have such depth that the first player is essentially as strong as the last player. Karjakin is proving them wrong.

It can also happen, and it has happened many times in starcraft II team matches, that the first team can rack up 4 straight wins but the fifth player of the losing side is able to rack up 5 straight wins! This format is very thrilling to watch actually, in starcraft II.
Emil Cabagay Emil Cabagay 8/2/2015 02:50
Karjakin stomp his class to the Chinese Golden players! He's also lucky not to be beaten by Chinese #1, else it might be a reversal!
vishyvishy vishyvishy 8/1/2015 07:25
There is a BASIC mistake in this format ... you need to play it reverse ... I mean the lowest rated players in both team should play the first starting game and then whoever wins would play higher rated of the opposition ... this way it would become most interesting!...and early end would be Dramatic and Historic!
Bill Alg Bill Alg 8/1/2015 03:54
He also eliminated Yu Yangyi on the fourth day.
leenn leenn 8/1/2015 09:39
The system is faulty: The two No 5s Wang and Andreikin should have played in the First round, with the winner mating No 4 of the loser's team etc. That would make for a more interesting and fairer system.
yesenadam yesenadam 8/1/2015 12:05
And yet, .. there's not even an adjective, just the bare facts. Maybe your problem is with the match system.
gmwdim gmwdim 7/31/2015 10:50
Actually, Karjakin didn't "win" the tiebreak with Ding Liren, he held the draw as black in an Armageddon game.