Wei Yi aiming to become China’s first real challenger to Magnus Carlsen
The Guardian, Friday 30 May 2014 12.11 EDT
The world’s youngest grandmaster turns 15 on Monday as he aims to become his country’s first player to contend seriously for the global crown.
China’s Wei Yi qualified as a GM at 13 years eight months, putting him fourth youngest on the all-time list where the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen, is third. Wei Yi also became the youngest ever to reach a 2600 rating and in the 2013 World Cup he knocked out the former finalist Alexei Shirov.
His subsequent progress has been slower, but his current 2634 rating is close to the world top 100 and makes him one of a handful of talents who can legitimately hope to become a future candidate for Carlsen’s throne.
A few weeks ago Wei Yi tied for third in the Chinese championship, half a point behind the winner, Yu Yangyi, who was the only player to beat the teenager. This week’s puzzle shows Yi’s best finish.
However, there are special problems for Wei Yi as he targets the world elite. China is unique among the leading chess nations in that it has several players in the top 100 despite little interest among its general population. The national game remains Chinese chess, which has different rules, and the country’s successes in international chess are due to well-directed government backing to identify young talent at an early age and provide intensive coaching and opportunities.
China will again be going for medals in the 150-nation world team Olympiad at Tromso, Norway in August. It will expect a top six finish among the men, and could take gold in the women’s event.
The frustrating development for Beijing is that, while its women players have won several world titles and the current champion, Hou Yifan, is the No2 female of all time behind only the legendary Judit Polgar, its male grandmasters seem to stall once they reach the world top 20-50. These have included Bu Xiangzhi, who was at one time the youngest ever GM, and Wang Hao and Wang Yue who have performed well in elite tournaments but have lacked consistency at the highest level.
China is still producing significant talents, among whom Li Chao, Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi are all in their early twenties and placing highly at international opens. But whereas a decade ago Chinese grandmasters often hunted in packs, the impression now is that, once established, they usually go their own way in gaining invitations. Arguably Chinese sports officials have been discouraged by the limited success of their previous efforts to develop a truly world class talent. Hence Wei Yi’s career has a wider significance in that, if his results take off, it will give chess a higher profile in the sports budget.
Full article here.