"Prestigious University Chess Invitational" taking place in Tianjin

by Qiyu Zhou
11/28/2019 – Twelve prestigious universities from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and China have sent chess squads to Tianjin. Nankai University is hosting the event as part of the celebrations of its 100-year anniversary. WGM QIYU ZHOU is in the coastal metropolis representing the University of Toronto. She sent us a pictorial report of her experience so far. | Pictured: Representatives of each university during the opening ceremony. | Photo: Liu Yi

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Exploring Tianjin

After a long flight from Toronto to Beijing, we were picked up by volunteers at the Beijing Airport, and driven first to our hotel and then to the tournament venue in Tianjin. The first thing I did was eat and sleep. Luckily, I don't usually get jet-lagged and was thus able to fully experience the rich culture of the city the next morning. 

After a hearty breakfast buffet featuring some of my favourite Chinese food, my first stop was The Ancient Cultural Street. This narrow street features Ming-dynasty style buildings. By walking down the boulevard, one can appreciate heritage arts, cultures, handcrafts and other local specialities. Taking this walk is, in my opinion, a must while in Tianjin. You can bring home all kinds of cultural souvenirs!

Tianjin, China

The gate to the ancient street, well-known for its arts — clay figurines, colourful paintings, beautiful traditional and fusion clothing from China | Photo: Qiyu Zhou

TIanjin, China

China is known for its calligraphy (L) and its rich colours (R) | Photo: Qiyu Zhou

After the walk through the Ancient Cultural Street, I ventured into the old city's downtown. Originally built in the 1400s, the Bell Tower (pictured below) was the highest point of the city, and it was built exactly in the centre of town. Of course, it comes with a bell...

Bell Tower, Tianjin

Bell Tower, in its original architectural glory | Photo: Qiyu Zhou

Opening ceremony

The Chinese General Administration of Sports is doing a great job in promoting chess in universities all over China. One of their many initiatives is sending famous chess coaches to give lectures and teach the royal game across China. A lot of Chinese universities even have chess as an optional credit course!

The opening ceremony not only kicked off the chess tournament but it also served as a celebration of the 100-year anniversary of Nankai University!

Professor Zhu Jiaqi

The organizer of the tournament, Professor Zhu Jiaqi | Photo: Liu Yi

Prestigious University Chess Invitational 2019

A very beautiful playing venue! | Photo: Changrong Yu

University of Missouri leads after round nine

The tournament is a single round robin with twelve universities participating. Each institution has sent a three-player team without any reserves — a female player must be included. Three rapid chess rounds have been played from Tuesday the 26th until Thursday the 28th, with the final two match-ups set to take place on Friday.

The one team that kept a perfect score until round nine is the University of Missouri. Russian grandmasters Grigoriy Oparin and Dmitry Gordievsky both have a perfect 9/9 score so far in Tianjin! Nankai University is in second place, as they lost their first round match-up against the Saint Louis University. The Chinese squad has the highest-rated player of the event in its roster: Wang Yue. China's number seven is undefeated, but drew his first two games, against Nikolas Theodorou (St. Louis) and Michael Isakov (Harvard).

The Saint Louis squad — Theodorou, Akshat Chandra and Dorsa Derakhshani — is in third place. They still have a chance though, as Missouri and Nankai are paired up against each other in round ten.

Standings after Round 9

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 University of Missouri 18
2 Nankai University 16
3 Saint Louis University 15
4 Moscow State University 13
5 Nankai University 2 10
6 Harvard University 8
7 University of Toronto 6
8 Princeton University 5
9 University of New South Wales 5
10 University of Oxford 4
11 University College London 4
12 Japan Team 4

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WGM Qiyu Zhou [pronounced Chee-you Jo], born in 2000, is a Canadian chess player who has competed for team Canada at the Women's Chess Olympiad since 2014 and who won the Canadian women's championship in 2016.