October 3, 2008, 11:50 am
Although its women established themselves as amongst the best in the world many years ago, for some reason China’s male players had failed to match their success. Until now. The latest rankings of the world’s top players, which were released Oct. 1, include four Chinese men among the top 35 with Wang Yue, the leader of the Grand Prix series, at No. 11, Bu Xiangzhi at No. 26, Ni Hua at No. 28 and Wang Hao at No. 34. The surge of its top players has put China at No. 3 in the country rankings, behind only Russia and Ukraine.
The men flexed their muscle at the 5th China-Russia match, which ended last weekend. The match included teams of men and women from each country. Games were played at regular tournament time controls, at rapid rates (usually 25 minutes per player per game, with 10 seconds added to each player’s clock after each move) and at blitz rates (usually five minutes per play per game, sometimes with a couple of seconds added to each player’s clock after every move).
Although the Russian men won the competition, the Chinese men beat them in the tournament length games, a significant feat as several of Russia’s top players — Peter Svidler, Dmitry Jakovenko and Evgeny Alekseev — were on their team.
In an interesting reversal of fortune, the Chinese women, who have been dominant in recent matches, lost to their Russian counterparts. Although Shen Wang of China was the top scorer among all the women with 4 out of 5, her result could not make up for the disappointing performance of her teammates.
Xu Yuhua, the women’s world champion from 2006-8, who failed to defend the title at last month’s championship tournament in Nalchik, Russia, continued her recent struggles by only scoring 2.5 out of 5, including a quick loss in Round 2 to Ekaterina Korbut.
Korbut ended up with 3 out of 5, along with Nadezhda Kosintseva and Natalija Pogonina. All the results can be found at The Week in Chess.