While the Europeans have been playing for world titles, in the open spaces of Asia an unhurried preparation takes place for a review of the positions at the top of the chess Olympus. How soon there will be a change in the top of the individual game we can only guess, but at the team level, this has already happened, with the Chinese team winning convincingly at the Tromso Olympiad. The East is on the march!
On 28 March, in Abu Dhabit (UAE) the Asian Nations' Cup began. The Chinese are the traditional favourites both in the men's and women's events. The Chinese selectors long ago found a sure way to success in team events and do not bother too much about chasing medals in what they regard as secondrate events. But Baku is not far awy and they need to decide on their line-up for that competition. This time at the Asia Cup, two youngsters have the chance to show what they can do in the men's event - Lu Shanglei (2620) and Zhou Jianchao (2612).
Wei Yi is already regarded as an experienced team "wolf".
In the women's team, boards 4 and 5 are occupied by the relatively-little known players Lei Tinjie (2495) and Guo Qi (2435). need one say that these two would significantly strengthen any other team in the event? And not just Asian teams. The Chinese can turn out maybe not hundreds, but tens of such players, certainly.
Is their vigilance slipping?
A similar pattern is true with the main rivals, India, who also have a few aces up their sleeve and are not afraid to take a look at their reserve players.
Beauty saves the world...and attracts sponsors. Tanya Sachdev in the match against Vietnam
In the fifth round, we saw the principled clash between the gold and bronze medallists at the last Olympiad.
Yi Wei - Santosh Gujrathi Vidit
The Chinese youngster had clearly misplayed the opening (an Italian Game) and faces problems, now collapsing in a few moves. 23.Bf4?! Bxb2 24.Rab1 Nb5 – An unpleasant surprise. The knight aims at the central outpost. 25.Ng3 Bc3 26.Rxe8 Rxe8 27.Be3 g6 28.Qd1 Bxa5 – War is war, but now it is dinner time! 29.Ra1 Bb6 30.Bxb6 cxb6 31.Rxa6 f4 – and now trouble comes to the home of the white king…
32.Ne2 f3 33.Nf4 Nd4 34.Ra1 Rf8 White resigned (0:1)
India won the match and are confidently leading the table with two rounds to go.
The Olympiad champions' woes were not over and a round later they could only draw 2-2 with the team from Kazakhstan! Wins in both matches and individual games cost the favourites a lot of blood, as in Asia nobody fears reputations. In the seventh round, the leaders had a tough win against the tenacious Bangladeshis (2,5:1,5). On top board, the 1980s hope Niaz Murshed lost to Adighan and on board two this happened:
S P Sethuraman - Minhaz Uddin Mohammad
28…Rb8 29.a6 bxa6 30.Qf4 Qe7 31.b4 a5 32.e4 Rxb4 33.Nd3 Rc4 34.Nb2 Qa3 35.exd5 White resigned (0:1). Board three was darwn and the Indian's won thanks to Krishnan Sasikiran.
There are not so many women's teams and so the organisers decided on a round robin. if you go by the results in tromso, then it would seem that the best chances at the start (apart from the Chinese) lay with India, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Vietnam and Iran.
Round six saw lightning from a clear sky:
The Chinese side's chances started looking dodgy from round two, when they drew with India who have been doing badly in this event. Kazakhstan took the lead with Vietnam and the heroes of the previous match. But the lead changed again the following round. The Kazaks, heroes of Tromso, very unexpectedly lost to Mongolia, whilst the Uzbeks beat Vietnam.
Многое, таким образом, решится в матчах 8-го тура: Китай-Вьетнам и Казахстан-Узбекистан.
Zhansaya Abdumalik. An excellent mood and the best score on boatd two (5/6).
This report has made use of photos from the FB page of Danira Ashirova.
Text: Sergey Kim
Abu Dhabi, Asian nations' Cup: Not a day without a sensation!