Fledgling Chinese Teen Well Equipped to Make Star Burn Bright
CHENNAI: Wei Yi is the most talked about teen phenomenon in the chess world now. The 16-year-old’s progress in the last two years has been meteoric. Like reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen, Wei keeps breaking records.
He became the youngest Chinese chess champion last week at the age of 15, upstaging higher-ranked Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi. Wei also holds the record for being the youngest to reach the rating of 2600 and 2700. If he continues to improve at the same pace, Wei might be the answer to China’s dream of producing a world champion in the future.
China has had prodigies before Wei. Bu Xiangzhi, who was a child prodigy, held the record for being the youngest GM at 13, which was surpassed later by many players. Bu still remains a strong player, even though he couldn’t make it to the top 20 list.
Ding Liren, who is the No 1 ranked Chinese with a rating of 2749, won three Chinese titles at the age of 19. Ding has already made his mark at the highest level, finishing joint second behind Carlsen in the Tata Steel Chess. Ding, along with Wei and Yu Yangyi, are the three brightest players from his country at the moment.
Wei has been on a roll in 2015. He started by winning the Challenger group at the Tata Steel Chess in Wijk aan Zee, The Netherlands. Importantly, his triumph fetched him a spot in the Masters section in 2016, which attracts the world’s best players like Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian. He followed it up by playing a pivotal part in China winning the World Team Championship in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia. His score of 7/9 on the fourth board earned him an individual gold and highest performance rating of 2846 in the tournament.
R B Ramesh, who was India’s coach in the World Team and had first-hand experience of watching Wei in action, had this to say on the Chinese talent: “Very calm mind on the board and tremendous self-belief. He is also a phenomenal talent.”
Wei, who started playing chess at the age of eight, dominated the Chinese C’ship, except for his blip in the final round against Lu Shanglei. He won by half a points margin (7.5/11) from Ding. As a matter of fact, he broke Ding’s Berlin Wall with an exchange sacrifice in their individual encounter.
Wei’ exploits on the board have already started comparisons between him and Carlsen at the same age. The Chinese bettered Carlsen’s record to become the youngest to the 2700-club. The real test for Wei will be when he starts facing top 10 players in super strong tournaments. However, his record against higher-ranked players so far has been impressive.
What makes the Chinese a special player? He revels in dynamic positions and likes to take risks. Another facet of his game which is striking is his ability to outwit opponents in quiet middle-game positions. Added to that he has strong nerves, which helps him wriggle out of tight situations.
If Wei keeps performing in the same vein for the next two to three years, he might be the next big star after Carlsen.