Nankai wins in Nankai!

by Qiyu Zhou
12/7/2019 – The Winner of the World Prestigious University Chess Invitational Went to Nankai University Team 1! Headed by Wang Yue (2710), the team performed amazingly against many strong universities. University tournaments are no joke, with many GMs and IMs competing in Nankai over a four day period. | Photo: Yi Liu

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World Prestigious University Invitational

What does it mean to be a prestigious university? For some, it means excelling at chess. For others, it means placing high on international university rankings. This tournament invited some of the very best chess universities in the world. For example, University of Missouri fielded a team with Grigory Oparin (2660) and Dmitry Gordievskiy (2590). However, the tournament also invited some of the best academic universities in the world (by Times Higher Education rankings) such as University of Oxford (rank 1), Harvard University (rank 6), Princeton University (rank 7), University College London (rank 14), University of Toronto (rank 21). Perhaps of interest is that Japan did not send a specific university’s team, but rather played under the Japanese flag.

Day 1

Continuing from the previous report, the opening ceremony was kicked off by Yang Kexin (Deputy Secretary of CPC Committee of Nankai University), Ye Jiangchuan (Chairman of Chinese Chess Association), and Wang Hong (Deputy Secretary of CPC committee of Tianjin Sports Bureau placing their hands on this giant red ball. If you think it’s random, funny and cool all at the same time, we’re in this together. 😊


Dubbed the “Power Ball”. Perhaps a giant Pokeball? From left to right: Yang Kexin, Ye Jiangchuan, Wang Hong | Photo: Changrong Yu

Jiaqi Zhou

Before the tournament starts in the morning, Jiaqi Zhou teaches chess to his students from Nankai University, where it is an optional course | Photo: Changrong Yu

Day 2

Since this invitational was played under a 25 min + 10 sec/move format, each day had 3 rounds (apart from the last day). There is a lot of talk about chess becoming faster. This is one of the only rapid tournaments I have played, but I can say with 90% certainty I like this movement. As a current university student operating on a student budget, the usual one-week half to two-week tournaments for most open tournaments and youth/junior championships is far too long (and quite expensive). Even while I was still in high-school, it was very challenging to balance the International Baccalaureate program while playing tournaments.

Of course, it is different for everybody’s case, and some universities obviously put more emphasis on studies, but from talking to a lot of different students from universities like Harvard, Princeton, and my own, most players at this tournament play chess very occasionally.

Chess taught me valuable lessons about time management, and I’m very happy they’re applicable in real life too! Though I had to study for my classes in Nankai, I still very much enjoyed the trip. Nothing could make me reject the temptation to visit China and get the chance to spend some very valuable time with my grandparents who visited me (I personally haven’t had the chance to visit China for a few years, and of course they missed me 😊).

Round 1 started Beijing time at 14:00 sharp. The organizers did an amazing job on making sure each game started exactly at the posted time.

Nankai University Team 1 (the eventual winners) suffered an early loss to St. Louis University, with Nikolas Theodorou drawing against Yue Wang, and boards 2 and 3 on St. Louis winning their games.

Wang Yue

All eyes on Wang Yue. Yes, the 2710 Wang Yue | Photo: Changrong Yu

playing hall

Tournament is underway | Photo: Liu Yi

In Round 2 brings you a crazy game and drama between GM Yue Wang from Nankai University and Harvard University Michael Isakov. See the game below and thoughts by Michael, who managed to pull himself back from a sure loss.


Wang Yue

Wang Yue thinks… | Photo: Changrong Yu


While Isakov tries to save his game | Photo: Changrong Yu

Also, Michael Green from UCL shares his thoughts on an interesting game he played:


Marin's English Love Vol.1 and 2 - A complete repertoire for White after 1.c4

The aim of these Dvd's is to build a repertoire after 1.c4 and 2.g3 for White. The first DVD includes the systems 1...e5, the Dutch and Indian setups. The second DVD includes the systems with 1...c5, 1...c6 and 1...e6.

Day 3

After the rounds each day, there’s still some time to tour around Tianjin!

Tianjin Eye

View from the Tianjin Eye (perhaps named after its London counterpart)
And a view of the Tianjin eye! | Photos: Qiyu Zhou

Qiyu Zhou

Your author, representing University of Toronto | Photo: Liu Yi

Day 4

In China, do we call food Chinese food or just food? This is a hotly-debated topic, because in Mandarin, “Zhong can (中餐)” can either mean Chinese food or lunch. Usually, it’s just food though.

Chinese food

The breakfast buffet offers a wide variety of Chinese foods… | Photo: Qiyu Zhou


But some still prefer their choice of butter and bread, and it’s never too early for cake | Photo: Qiyu Zhou

Day 5

The deciding round of the tournament, round 10 saw University of Missouri lose to Nankai University Team 1 by ½-2 ½. On board 1, we saw Grigory Oparin draw Yue Wang, but both boards 2 and 3 lost. Prior to the round, Missouri had a perfect score. However, after the loss, Nankai and Missouri both had 9/10. Both Nankai and Missouri won their last match, but the damage was done and Nankai clinched first place on tiebreaks.


Grigory Oparin plays as his captain Christian Chirila looks on | Photo: Changrong Yu

Take a look at the face off between Grigory and Wang (with comments by your author)!


Closing Ceremony

Some universities came to China to win, some came to find out more about China, and some came to make friends with Chinese university students, as well as each other. In the end, Nankai University narrowly took home first place, with University of Missouri coming second on tiebreaks. 

Nankai team

The first prize goes to Nankai University. The middle 3 players are in the middle: Yankai Li, Wang Yue and Yiyi Xiao | Photo: Changrong Yu

Closing thoughts

Though I missed a lot of social events (unfortunately. due to schoolwork), many other teams toured Nankai with volunteers from the local university, experienced Chinese massages, shopping and karaoke (KTV, as it is affectionally called in China).

Dinner out

UCL, Oxford University and the Japan team enjoy a meal out

It has been a great opportunity for the university students to know each other’s universities and cultures. This event hopes to make China even more open to the world, as well as show that chess is not game for professionals, but can also be enjoyed by amateurs like us. I hope that some universities from different countries will be interested in holding a similar event. Here we all give a shout-out to Nankai, wishing its 100th Anniversary to be a prosperous one, with another 100 years of good fortune to come.

Tianjin street

Tianjin has some 15 million people, proving the need for most streets to be as wide as this one! | Photo: Qiyu Zhou

Qiyu bubble tea

Sipping on boba — bubble tea, now a world phenomenon, is very popular in its birthplace | Photo: Changrong Yu

Two-minute interview with IM Nikolas Theodorou at the Nankai World Prestigious University Invitational

It might not be a good time to interview you after your draw against Nankai University Team 2 today in the 9th round. But could you please tell us whether you have enjoyed this tournament?

Nikolas Theodorou: Even though we’re hoping to be the first, we’re 2nd after the 9th round. It’s not that bad, but we really hope to do better. But I really like to play here, like to see different places, like the food and tournament organization. We went sightseeing with my teammates this morning, it was very exciting for me and my teammates. I also enjoy playing chess with students from different universities all over the world. I am also excited to interact with students from all over the world, close to my age.

Have you ever thought of becoming a professional chess player?

NT: Um, I never really wanted to become a professional chess player. I would rather combine chess with my study. This is why chose to go to St. Louis. Um, which is a great opportunity to do what I wanted.

Do you have any plan for your future? Continue to play chess, or continue your academy after you finish your bachelor’s degree?

NT: I haven’t decided yet, but I don’t think I will ever stop playing chess. I will keep going to tournaments, and after getting my degree, I want to get a job in engineering potentially.

What are the benefits that you have gained from playing chess?

NT: It helps me become initiative for sure. It also helps with my studies, organize my time, and helps me with my logical thinking, which has something to do with math.  I really like math and chess. And my favourite subject in school is math (ODE: ordinary differential equations) if I have to choose one.

Nikolas Theodorou

IM Nikolas Theodorou (fide rating 2541), originally from Greece, is a 2nd-year student in Physics Engineering | Photo: Changrong Yu

Final team results of all rounds

Round 1 on 2019/11/26 at 14:00
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   University of Oxford   University of Toronto 2 : 1
2   University of Missouri   Princeton university 3 : 0
3   University of new south wales   Japan Team 2 : 1
4   Saint Louis university   Nan Kai university : ½
5   Harvard University   University college London 1 : 2
6   Nan Kai university(Team2)   Moscow state university 1 : 2
Round 2 on 2019/11/26 at 15:30
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   University of Toronto   Moscow state university :
2   University college London   Nan Kai university(Team2) 0 : 3
3   Nan Kai university   Harvard University 2 : 1
4   Japan Team   Saint Louis university 0 : 3
5   Princeton university   University of new south wales 1 : 2
6   University of Oxford   University of Missouri 1 : 2
Round 3 on 2019/11/26 at 17:00
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   University of Missouri   University of Toronto : ½
2   University of new south wales   University of Oxford :
3   Saint Louis university   Princeton university 2 : 1
4   Harvard University   Japan Team 3 : 0
5   Nan Kai university(Team2)   Nan Kai university ½ :
6   Moscow state university   University college London 3 : 0
Round 4 on 2019/11/27 at 14:00
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   University of Toronto   University college London 3 : 0
2   Nan Kai university   Moscow state university 2 : 1
3   Japan Team   Nan Kai university(Team2) 0 : 3
4   Princeton university   Harvard University :
5   University of Oxford   Saint Louis university 0 : 3
6   University of Missouri   University of new south wales 3 : 0
Round 5 on 2019/11/27 at 15:30
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   University of new south wales   University of Toronto 1 : 2
2   Saint Louis university   University of Missouri 1 : 2
3   Harvard University   University of Oxford 2 : 1
4   Nan Kai university(Team2)   Princeton university : ½
5   Moscow state university   Japan Team 3 : 0
6   University college London   Nan Kai university 0 : 3
Round 6 on 2019/11/27 at 17:00
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   University of Toronto   Nan Kai university 0 : 3
2   Japan Team   University college London 2 : 1
3   Princeton university   Moscow state university ½ :
4   University of Oxford   Nan Kai university(Team2) :
5   University of Missouri   Harvard University 2 : 1
6   University of new south wales   Saint Louis university 0 : 3
Round 7 on 2019/11/28 at 14:00
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   Saint Louis university   University of Toronto : ½
2   Harvard University   University of new south wales : ½
3   Nan Kai university(Team2)   University of Missouri 1 : 2
4   Moscow state university   University of Oxford : ½
5   University college London   Princeton university 1 : 2
6   Nan Kai university   Japan Team 3 : 0
Round 8 on 2019/11/28 at 15:30
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   University of Toronto   Japan Team 1 : 2
2   Princeton university   Nan Kai university 0 : 3
3   University of Oxford   University college London 1 : 2
4   University of Missouri   Moscow state university 2 : 1
5   University of new south wales   Nan Kai university(Team2) 0 : 3
6   Saint Louis university   Harvard University : ½
Round 9 on 2019/11/28 at 17:00
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   Harvard University   University of Toronto :
2   Nan Kai university(Team2)   Saint Louis university :
3   Moscow state university   University of new south wales 3 : 0
4   University college London   University of Missouri 1 : 2
5   Nan Kai university   University of Oxford 3 : 0
6   Japan Team   Princeton university 0 : 3
Round 10 on 2019/11/29 at 14:00
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   University of Toronto   Princeton university 3 : 0
2   University of Oxford   Japan Team 3 : 0
3   University of Missouri   Nan Kai university ½ :
4   University of new south wales   University college London 1 : 2
5   Saint Louis university   Moscow state university 3 : 0
6   Harvard University   Nan Kai university(Team2) 1 : 2
Round 11 on 2019/11/29 at 15:30
No. Team Team Res. : Res.
1   Nan Kai university(Team2)   University of Toronto : ½
2   Moscow state university   Harvard University :
3   University college London   Saint Louis university 0 : 3
4   Nan Kai university   University of new south wales : ½
5   Japan Team   University of Missouri 0 : 3
6   Princeton university   University of Oxford 3 : 0


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.


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