Two teams top Chengdu

by Alejandro Ramirez
7/10/2014 – It was the teams of Zhu Chen and Yasser Seirawan and Yu Shaoteng and Xu Yuhua. The rating favorites, Hou Yifan and Nigel Short, took a stumble on day three as they were able to score only 0.5/2 in rounds three and four, something that put them too far behind in a tournament that was only five rounds long. We bring you final impressions of a fun and unique event.

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Last Rounds

The tournament had clear favorites. Rating wise, it was Hou Yifan and Nigel Short that were to beat, but certainly Zhu Chen and Seirawan were powerful contenders.

Despite being the pre-tournament favorites, Hou Yifan and Nigel Short couldn't claim first place

The top rated team started the tournament well with two victories without problems. However they really stumbled in the next two rounds. The solid team of Yu Shaoteng and Xu Yuhua held them to a draw but the real disaster came in round four against Zhu Chen and Seirawan:

Yasser Seirawan and Zhu Chen stepped up to take advantage of their opponent's mistakes

[Event "Star Mixed Pair 2014"] [Site "Chengdu CHN"] [Date "2014.07.08"] [Round "4"] [White "Zhu, Chen:Seirawan"] [Black "Hou Yifan:Short, Nigel D"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E34"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2014.07.06"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 {Up to now both of these teams looked very well in the tournament. Zhu Chen and Seirawan had positionally crushed their opponents while Short and Hou Yifan had played some powerful chess to win two games. Both teams had already drawn Xu Yuhua and Yu Shaoteng, so the winner of this game had a great chance at sharing first.} 4. Qc2 d5 5. cxd5 Qxd5 6. Nf3 Qf5 {And old but solid line of the Nimzo-Indian. Here White is supposed to take on f5 and play the long endgame, but Zhu Chen was not interested in that.} 7. Qb3 {This has gained popularity in the last year or so.} Nc6 8. e3 (8. Bd2 { is the theoretically dangerous move.}) 8... a5 9. a3 a4 10. Qd1 Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 e5 {It seems that Black has no problems from the opening. They have been able to liberate all their pieces and White has very little to show for it. The pawn center is not that strong and the bishops dont have good diagonals yet.} 12. Be2 O-O 13. O-O Re8 14. Bb2 e4 15. Nh4 Qg5 16. g3 Bg4 $1 {It is very common that when playing against the pair of bishops exchanging one of your opponents bishops is a good idea. Here this is no exception, and as an added bonus all the light squares become exceptionally weak.} 17. c4 Na5 18. Bxg4 Qxg4 19. Qxg4 Nxg4 20. Rac1 Ra6 21. Rc2 Rc6 22. Rfc1 Nb3 23. Rd1 b5 24. c5 { With Black's maneuvers they have secured a strong light-squared blockade. White's bishop on b2 is doomed to be passive and everything is going Black's way.} Rd8 25. Rf1 Re6 26. Ng2 c6 $6 {already strange.} (26... g5 $1 {was an important move to retian the advantage. The point is that the knight on g2 is particularly bad.} 27. f3 exf3 28. Rxf3 h6 $17) 27. Nf4 Ree8 28. d5 $1 {White wastes no time in opening lines for his pieces. Now it is Black that has to be careful.} cxd5 (28... f6 {was a much better move.} 29. d6 (29. dxc6 Rc8 $11) 29... Ne5 $17) 29. c6 d4 30. c7 Rc8 31. Bxd4 Nxd4 $2 {An ugly mistake by Short. Hou Yifan still thought the position was ok but her partner didn't see how to save the position.} (31... Re7 $1 32. Nd5 (32. h3 Nxd4 33. exd4 Nf6 34. Rb1 ( 34. Rfc1 g5 35. Ne2 Nd5 $11) 34... Rcxc7 35. Rxc7 Rxc7 36. Rxb5 $11 {the endgame is approximately equal.}) 32... Rd7 $17 {no longer works as White has to give up the knight or the c7 pawn.}) 32. exd4 Re7 33. Nd5 Rd7 34. Rc5 {This important move was not available when the knight was on b3. Now the game is over as Black has no good way of preventing Rfc1 followed by Nb6.} h6 (34... Nf6 35. Nb6 Rdxc7 36. Nxc8 $18 {It is also important that on c5 the rook is defended.}) 35. Rfc1 1-0

After this loss it was nearly impossible to catch the top teams. A full point behind Zhu Chen and Seirawan and half a point behind Xu Yuhua and Yu Shaoteng with only one round to go meant that the standings were basically set.

Despite the high rating combination of Arthur Jussupow and Maia Chiburdanidze, it seems that their styles were too clashing and they never got along on the chessboard

Zhu Chen and Seirawan took no risks and chose a super-solid variation in the last round against Jussupow and Chiburdanidze; a team that never found any momentum but certainly posed real danger. The draw suited them fine, but it allowed Xu Yuhua and Yu Shaoteng to catch up with them by beating the relatively weak team of Liu Shilan and Xie Jun.

Ye Jiangchuan and Alisa Maric had their glory moment with their win on round two, but no other big successes

Yu Shaoteng (left) and Xu Yuhua played solid, good chess al through-out. Their styles truly matched!

Final round ready to begin

In the team of Xie Jun and Liu Shilan it was Xie Jun that was given the honorary "man" role in the pair, which basically meant she played first.

Overall the event was very fun to watch. The high ratings didn't mean that the teams would do well. Things such as style, coordination and general knowledge of openings were key to success. For example, Alisa Maric prefers to play the Caro-Kann but has never played a Sicilian... the opening that her partner preferred! It was a great way to blur the traditional rating lines and to create a new and interesting way of playing chess. Hopefully next year's event is slightly longer.


Photos by Liang Ziming from the Official Website

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Topics Chengdu, China

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.
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