Xiong, Wei fuel youth movement in chess events an ocean apart
By David R. Sands
The Washington Times – Saturday, June 6, 2015
There was some strange karma going on in two chess tournaments a world apart last week.
At the Chicago Open, 14-year-old IM Jeffery Xiong of Texas shocked a field of proven veterans to finish alone in first at 7-2, surpassing the 2500 ratings mark and notching his third grandmaster norm to put him on track to become the first Chinese-American grandmaster in the U.S. Four days later, 15-year-old Chinese prodigy GM Wei Yi shocked a field of proven veterans to finish alone in first in the Chinese Chess Championships in Xinghua, becoming China’s youngest national champion ever while cracking the top 30 in the world FIDE rankings.
Even weirder, the key wins for both Xiong and Wei came in defeating a higher-ranked rival from the White side of the same variation of the Ruy Lopez Berlin Defense. At least the two youngsters took very different approaches in breaking down the dreaded “Berlin Wall” and winning a vital point.
For Xiong, the tournament turned on his tough last-round victory over Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista, a former world junior champion. White displays admirable patience in trying to break down Black’s entrenched fortress and shows maturity beyond his years by outplaying his older rival at a key point in the rook ending.
The Berlin earned its fearsome reputation as a drawing line when Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik famously used it to repeatedly frustrate Garry Kasparov’s attacking ambitions in their 2000 London world championship match. White Ruy players have learned to take it slow, as Xiong does here, in nursing White’s small spatial edge deep into the middle game.
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