The Magnus Carlsen generation has stormed to the top of international chess. Norway’s world champion won the elite Tata Steel Wijk tournament last week with 9/13, while half a point behind him were four grandmasters from China, France, the Netherlands and United States, all under 25. And first prize in the B group went to Wei Yi, only 15, with an attacking style reminiscent of the legendary Mikhail Tal.
This breakthrough for the young guard has occurred so fast that the invitations to next month’s elite events at Baden, in Germany, and Zurich, Switzerland, have largely excluded them in favour of the older generation aged around 40 led by Vishy Anand and Vlad Kramnik.
America’s Wesley So, 21, who has made the fastest jump, was not even invited to the current Grand Prix tournaments which will determine two of the eight places in the 2016 candidates. However, this event is scheduled for the United States, which probably means So will have a wild-card place.
There were some fine games in the top section at Wijk, yet the headline stealer for many was Wei’s win in the penultimate round. It was quintessential Tal in that the teenager from Beijing blew his opponent’s Sicilian Defence off the board with sacrificial play and also that he made his moves at blitz speed, as did Tal in his pomp.
The first 15 moves repeated Ivan Saric v Anish Giri in the top group a couple of days earlier, with 16 Kb1! a subtle novelty in place of Saric’s 16 Bg5. Its point is that the immediate tactic 16 f6? fails to Nxf6 17 Rxf6 gxf6 18 Bb6 Bh6+! 19 Kb1 Qxb6 20 Qxd7+ Kf8.
Denying Black the bishop check and the f8 king escape square transforms 20 Qd7 from a harmless try into checkmate. Wei’s opponent unsurprisingly missed this wicked threat which could be met by 16…Nf6 17 Nd5 Bxd5 18 exd5 Rc8 and it is another game. Arguably the encounter lasted only one move on each side for Wei then crashed through with his sacrificial tornado. After 22 Nd5 Qxh3 leads to 23 Nc7+ Ke7 24 Bc5+ d6 25 Rxd6! and 26 Nd5 mate, while at the end if 24…Qxf6 25 Qc8+ Ke7 26 Bc5+ leads to mate.
The win may have been just very good preparation rather than genius at the board but it is still impressive. Wei’s rating at 15 has just reached the elite 2700 level which Carlsen achieved as the youngest ever at 16.
Wei Yi v Anne Haast
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be3 a6 7 Qf3 Ne5 8 Qg3 h5 9 0-0-0 h4 10 Qh3 b5 11 f4 Nc4 12 Bxc4 Qxc4 13 f5 Bb7 14 Rhf1 e5 15 Nb3 Qc7 16 Kb1! Rc8? 17 f6! Nxf6 18 Rxf6 gxf6 19 Bb6! Qc6 20 Na5 Qe6 21 Nxb7 Rb8 22 Nd5! Rxb7 23 Qc3 Qc6 24 Nxf6+! Ke7 25 Bd8+ Ke6 26 Qh3 mate.
After one day’s break Wei is in action again this weekend at Tradewise Gibraltar, probably the strongest and best organised open in the world. Gibraltar games can be viewed free and live online, starting 3pm, at gibraltarchesscongress.com.
Such is the quality of Gibraltar that Wei Yi is only the No12 seed in a field led by Bulgaria’s world No4, Veselin Topalov, the US star Hikaru Nakamura and the seven-times Russian champion Peter Svidler.