Russia vs. China: China leads 25.5-24.5

8/22/2009 – For a number of years now, the annual Russia versus China match has served as an opportunity for the perennial powerhouse to match wits with the rising star. Russia took the inaugural match, but China took the next three. Last year, dissatisfied with recent results, Russia turned the tables once more. This year marks the sixth such much and China currently looms large.

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Russia vs. China in Sochi, Russia

Relations between China and Russia go back a long way. All the way to the Ming Dynasty, in fact. The first Russian diplomatic visit to China took place in 1618-19, led by a Cossack teacher from Tomsk, called Ivan Petlin. It was not a great success, because the Chinese emperor refused to see him, and he was reduced to taking back some letters from Chinese officials. Unfortunately, nobody in Moscow could read Chinese, so the letters remained undeciphered for several years afterwards. Relations between the two countries stumbled along over the next 400 years or so, with periodic disputes over shared border regions, including Kazakhstan and Mongolia. On paper, the Chinese Communist revolution in 1949 should have made them both blood brothers, but in reality, relations soon reached their nadir, particularly during the early 1960s, when Mao and Krushchev shared an intense hostility. One of my favourite political anecdotes involves these two. The story has it that, during President Nixon's visit to China in 1972, he and Mao, after dinner one night, got to musing on how the world might have turned out differently, if it had been Krushchev who had been assassinated, rather than Kennedy. Mao is reputed to have quipped, "Well, one thing's for certain - I bet Onassis wouldn't have married Mrs Krushchev!"


Mrs. Krushchev adjusting her husband's tie, during a visit to France in 1960.

With the collapse of communism in Russia, what had become Sino-Soviet relations were de-alliteralised, and reverted to being Russia-China again. It is under this name that, a few years ago, the two countries begun an annual chess match. The Chinese have tended to do pretty well, partly because of the absence of some of Russia's leading stars, but mainly because of the phenomenal strength of modern-day Chinese chess. This year's match is taking place at Dagomys, near Sochi, on Russia's Black Sea coast, from August 14th-24th 2009. There are two sections, for men and for women, with five boards each. Five classical games are followed by ten rapid and then ten blitz games.


Prior to entering the ring: in the blue corner, Russia; in the red corner, China

Hal Bond takes up the story:

In the start to the match the men seemed a little more timid than their female counterparts. All games on the men's side were drawn in less than forty moves, while four out of five of the women's games were decisive, giving the Chinese women a 3.5-1.5 edge. Valentina Gunina ground down Xu Yuhua in a 36-move effort in the Queen's Indian. Elena Tairova yielded the full point to Huang Qian in a slightly longer game, dropping it in a 45 move Anti-Meran Gambit. Nadezhda Kosintseva lost in a shocking 64-move Catalan against Ju Wenjun, while her sister managed the draw against Zhao Xue in a 52-move Ruy Lopez Chigorin. Furthering Russia's misfortune, Marina Romanko lost in 57 moves against Shen Yang, while trying the King's Indian Classical.


Despite employing similar techniques, most of the Russian women simply couldn't get an edge in the first round.

Men's section Round 1 – Aug. 15, 2009
Ding Liren
½-½
Tomashevsky, E.
Nepomniachtchi, I.
½-½
Ni Hua
Timofeev, Artyom
½-½
Zhou Jianchao
Vitiugov, Nikita
½-½
Bu Xiangzhi
Wang Yue
½-½
Malakhov, Vladimir
China
2.5-2.5
Russia
  Women's section Round 1 – Aug. 15, 2009
Gunina, Valentina
1-0
Xu Yuhua
Huang Qian
1-0
Tairova, Elena
Ju Wenjun
1-0
Kosintseva, Nad.
Shen Yang
1-0
Romanko, Marina
Kosintseva, Tat.
½-½
Zhao Xue
China
3.5-1.5
Russia

In round two China fielded Ding Liren, Ni Hua, Zhou Jianchao, Bu Xiangzhi and Wang Yue, who were looking to serve notice to Russia's Evgeny Tomashevsky, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Artyom Timofeev, Nikita Vitiugov and Vladimir Malakhov, that world domination in the chess realm is soon to be changing hands. But how soon is soon?

The Russians won the second round 3.0-2.0. Timofeev fell to Ni in 44 moves from the Black side of a Sicilian, but redemption came from Tomashevsky, who bested Wang in 49 moves using the English Four Knights, and Vitiugov who ground down Zhou in 64 moves from the black side of a Rogozin Queen's Gambit. Malakhov held off Bu with black while Nepomniachtchi was unable to convert against Ding's French.


Fresh from his success in Mainz (and still wearing the t-shirt), Nepomniachtchi
showed a keen interest in the women's match.

Men's section Round 2 – Aug. 16, 2009
Ni Hua
1-0
Timofeev, Artyom
Tomashevsky, E.
1-0
Wang Yue
Bu Xiangzhi
½-½
Malakhov, Vladimir
Nepomniachtchi, I.
½-½
Ding Liren
Zhou Jianchao
0-1
Vitiugov, Nikita
China
2.0-3.0
Russia
  Women's section Round 2 – Aug. 16, 2009
Huang Qian
1-0
Gunina, Valentina
Romanko, Marina
1-0
Ju Wenjun
Tairova, Elena
1-0
Shen Yang
Kosintseva, Nad.
1-0
Zhao Xue
Xu Yuhua
1-0
Kosintseva, Tat.
China
2.0-3.0
Russia

The third round saw fortunes reverse, although the decisive games were all won by White: Ding scored against Vitiugov, Malakhov against Ni (both Anti Meran's) and Wang broke the tie with his win over Timofeev's Dutch in 63 moves. At this point, the score was even at 7.5 each.


Between rounds, Tomashevsky was interviewed by the national news, while
Nepomniachtchi lounged in the background.

Men's section Round 3 – Aug. 17, 2009
Tomashevsky, E.
½-½
Bu Xiangzhi
Ding Liren
1-0
Vitiugov, Nikita
Malakhov, Vladimir
1-0
Ni Hua
Wang Yue
1-0
Timofeev, Artyom
Zhou Jianchao
½-½
Nepomniachtchi, I.
China
3.0-2.0
Russia
  Women's section Round 3 – Aug. 17, 2009
Romanko, Marina
½-½
Huang Qian
Xu Yuhua
½-½
Kosintseva, Nad.
Zhao Xue
1-0
Tairova, Elena
Gunina, Valentina
0-1
Ju Wenjun
Kosintseva, Tat.
½-½
Shen Yang
China
3.5-1.5
Russia

The fourth round, for the second time in this match, saw a series of five draws. Though not quite as regrettable as the non-fight in round one, Ni-Tomashevsky, at 13 moves, was over before it started. One might more easily call the remaining encounters hard-fought, though only Malakhov-Zhou was significantly over 40 moves.


Tomashevsky, 2689, towers over Ni, 2701. Unfortunately, that had no bearing on the result of their game.

Men's section Round 4 – Aug. 18, 2009
Malakhov, Vladimir
½-½
Zhou Jianchao
Bu Xiangzhi
½-½
Nepomniachtchi, I.
Vitiugov, Nikita
½-½
Wang Yue
Ni Hua
½-½
Tomashevsky, E.
Timofeev, Artyom
½-½
Ding Liren
China
2.5-2.5
Russia
  Women's section Round 4 – Aug. 18, 2009
Ju Wenjun
1-0
Kosintseva, Tat.
Shen Yang
1-0
Gunina, Valentina
Tairova, Elena
1-0
Xu Yuhua
Kosintseva, Nad.
½-½
Huang Qian
Zhao Xue
0-1
Romanko, Marina
China
2.5-2.5
Russia

After the disappointment of round four, the players made a real effort to make the fifth round especially uninteresting, with four of the five games drawn in approximately 20 moves (two in 17 and two in 22). Fortunately, Malakhov, who has slowly emerged as the fighter of the group, decided to play aggressively and was rewarded with a 37 move win over Ding on the black side of the Slav Defence. The Russian men currently enjoy a narrow 13-12 edge over China.


Wang, 2736, calmly collected the half-point against Nepomniachtchi, 2632.

Men's section Round 5 – Aug. 19, 2009
Ding Liren
0-1
Malakhov, Vladimir
Nepomniachtchi, I.
½-½
Wang Yue
Ni Hua
½-½
Vitiugov, Nikita
Zhou Jianchao
½-½
Tomashevsky, E.
Timofeev, Artyom
½-½
Bu Xiangzhi
China
2.0-3.0
Russia
  Women's section Round 5 – Aug. 19, 2009
Huang Qian
½-½
Kosintseva, Tat.
Romanko, Marina
0-1
Xu Yuhua
Tairova, Elena
½-½
Ju Wenjun
Shen Yang
0-1
Kosintseva, Nad.
Gunina, Valentina
1-0
Zhao Xue
China
2.0-3.0
Russia

The women's match continues to favour China, and still features fewer draws. Russia managed to win with their three whites in the second round while surrendering two points as Black. Scoring for Russia were Romanko over Ju in a 45 move Sicilian Rossolimo, Tairova over Shen in a 26 move Guioco and Nadezhda Kosintseva prevailed in a Spanish Breyer over Zhao. China bounced back in round three, despite being saddled with another three blacks. In the only round with more draws than decisions, China managed a win with each colour: Zhao won in 27 moves from the white side of a Slav and Ju used the Gruenfeld to topple Gunina in 30 moves. The draws lasted twice as long. Marina shared the point with Huang after 65 moves in a Centre Counter, Xu and Nadezhda Kosintseva drew a 50 move Caro Kann and Tatiana Kosintseva split with Shen after 55 moves in a Spanish Berlin.

The fighters of this match seem to be the women:


WGM Shen Yang, 2453, who has currently been a part of four decisive games.


Wenjun Ju, 2443, who sits at three wins, one loss and one draw.


IM Marina Romanko, 2447, also a participant in four decisive games.


WFM Valentina Gunina, 2437, who has yet to have a drawn game.

Round four was the first indecisive round for the women, with each side scoring 2.5, but this belied the board results, which saw another set of four decisive encounters: Ju bounced Tatiana Kosintseva in a 43 move Sicilian Maroczy Bind, Shen defeated Gunina in a 50 move Slav Lasker/Smyslov, Tairova squeezed Xu in a 61 move French Rubinstein and Romanko triumphed against Zhao in a 45 move King's Indian Classical. Meanwhile, Nadezhda, the older of the Kosintseva sisters, was held to a 48 move draw by Huang, despite holding the white pieces in a Sicilian Najdorf. Round five saw Russia make up some desperately needed ground, in a round featuring two hard-fought draws and three wins. The Kosintseva sisters brought in half of Russia's three points, with Tatiana holding the draw against Huang and Nadezhda scoring a nice black victory over Shen. Romanko lost to Xu, while Tairova was not afforded the opportunity to take advantage of her white, with Ju holding her to a draw. Gunina was the hero of the round, however, crushing Zhao in a 27 move Queen's Pawn Opening. China currently enjoys a 13.5-11.5 lead.

Hal Bond

Links

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