I am not giving away any secrets when I say that national championships just now are being seen through the prism of the forthcoming Olympiad. This is especially true of those countries, whose teams are bound to be fighting for the medals. St Louis has finished and only two rounds remain in the Chinese championship, the country whose men won the gold last time and whose women the silver. One recalls that in order to hinder Mariya Muzychuk's preparations for the world championship match against Hou Yifan, the Chinese suppressed publication of the latter's games. A similar ban used to apply to national championship games (all players, not just one or two), but that seems to have been lifted, although much other information is lacking.
Of course, there is Google, but that is not much help. You don't believe me? Try it for yourself! The tournament is a solid mystery. We have not even managed to find out where it is being held. The strongest players, with the exception of Wei Yi, are not playing. Li Chao is defending the national colours in Norway, but the rest? What is the qualifying status of the tournament, is it a passport to the Olympiad team? We just don't know this and many other things.
The top (and not only the top) Chinese players need no seminars on tactics. The slightest slip and punishment follows immediately:
Gao, Rui-Xu, Jun
15…d5? 16.exd5 cxd5 17.gxf4 dxc4 18.Qb6! exf4 19.Qxa7 fxe3 20.Qxe3 – and White realised the extra exchange. (1:0)
But when it comes to the "obligatory programme", such as the endgame, some lapses occur, sometimes quite striking ones::
Zhao, Jun-Bai, Jinshi
Can White lose this? He could, and quite quickly. 50…Ke6 51.Kc5 Kf5 52.Kb6 Kxf4 53.Kxa6 Kxg5 54.Kb5 f5 55.Kc4 Kf6 56.a4 Ke5 –White resigns (0:1). And the white player was not some amateur, but a GM rated 2634 (!).
The win allowed young Bai Jinshi (only one year older than Wei Yi) to share second place with «+1», whilst his opponent dropped to second last on «-1». A very unlikely fall!
The teenagers continue to come! Will we see Bai Jinshi in Baku?
Wei Yi has 6,5 points and with a solid gap over his closest rival, first place seems assured. The leader wins in the middlegame and the endgame, and has been opening with both 1.е4, and 1.с4.
Wei, Yi-Wang Chen
22.Nd5 Qb8 – Taking on d5 is bad but maybe he should shut off the dangerous bishop (22…е5)? 23.Nf6 Nxf6 24.Bxf6 Rc8 25.Bg4 Ba8 26.Rh3 Rc5 27.Qh4 h5 28.b4 – Black resigns (1:0). One of the most important games of the tournament occurred in the first round:
Wei, Yi- Bai, Jinshi
29…Kg7?! – Only a Chinese player could make such a move! 30.Bd7 Rc7 31.e6 f6 32.g4 h6 33.h4 g5 34.h5 Ra5 35.Rxa5 Qxa5 36.Rc5 Qb6 37.Kg2 – The sun has spots! A quicker win was 37.Rxd5 – although this does not change the result of the game.
37…Qb8? – allowing unwanted guests to come in. 38.Ra5 Qb7 39.Qc5 Kf8 40.Qd6 Qb8 41.Bxc6 Rc8 42.Qxb8 Rxb8 43.Bxd5 Rb6 44.Ra8 Kg7 45.Ra7 Kf8 46.a5 Rd6 47.Bc4 – Black resigns (1:0).
It seems the Championship result is clear
In the women's championship, the battle for the medals is tougher and more uncompromising, with many decisive games. Here the difference with Western players (the US women's championship, for example) is less great. Maybe women are the same the world over?! 6 players still have chances to win the event. There have also been some terrible blunders (when aren't there?):
Guo, Qi-Wang, Dou Dou
36…Rd5?? 37.Rxe6 Rxe6 38.Re1 Kf6 39.Kxd5 – White won (1:0).
Chinese national championships A solid mystery…