SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Chess in China is a phenomenon that has changed the way we look at the chess world today. Already the women’s world title has been conquered by China, and in my opinion it is only a question of 5 to 10 years before the absolute title of world champion will also fall to one of the numerous super-talents that are developing in that huge country.
Taking place right now are the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds of the gigantic Chinese Chess League Division A. This League is organized over an 8 month period , with each team having the right to host one of the rounds. Many of the world’s top non-chinese players participate, as well as nearly all of the top chinese grandmasters, male and female.
One of the participants in this year’s league is super GM Ni Hua, a player whom I have been paying special attention to in recent years. I first saw him play in the 2007 Cappelle la Grande tournament and I was quite impressed, both with his obvious talent as well as with his friendly personality. Especially, I like his combative spirit over the board–rarely agreeing to draws and always playing for a win. Then his rating was approximately 2630, and since then it has risen and peaked at 2724 last year, before falling somewhat since.
As we can see, Ni Hua rapidly went to 2550 and then stalled for a while. His progress since has been marked by short jumps followed by somewhat longer periods of slumps. Ni Hua appears to be currently in a slump, but this league championship should see him gain quite a few rating points. So far Ni Hua has won 7 games, lost 1 and made 4 draws, all against tough competition. (However, he has been White in all 12 games–many top players pump up their ratings with team events where they insist on playing as many White’s as possible)
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 17th MOVE
Black tried to surprise his famous opponent by playing a risky opening experiment…which evidently backfired! Ni Hua has succeeded in lining up almost all of his pieces in the direction of the Black monarch. It is not surprising that an explosion now takes place:
The idea is simple enough: opening up the h-file for the White Queen and Rook to invade. Black has really no choice but to take the Bishop.
White threatens to win the Black Queen, so Black has little choice but to defend the Queen by either …Ba5 or …Be5. Which is the better choice? It turns out that the lesser of evils was 19…Be5, but even so after 20. Qh8ch Kf7 21.Qg7ch! Ke8 22.f7ch! Qxf7 23.QxB White has the better position while keeping his attack.
Instead, Black played the more plausible (but weaker) 19…Ba5?! and after 20.Bd2! Bb6 21. Bb4! we arrive at the following position:
Black is defenceless! There is nothing to be done about the threat Qh8ch And so he threw in the towel….(1-0)
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 16th MOVE (16.h4)
Strategically White has a won game: the opposite coloured Bishops favour the side with the stronger attack (White in this case) and Ni Hua simply has to advance his King side pawns, provoking a fatal opening around the Black monarch and then the game should be all over. Notice that the pawn structure also favours White’s chances: Black can not get in …d5, and the White Queen side pawn formation (doubled b-pawns) slows down Black’s counterplay considerably.
Even so, we must admire the artistry with which Ni Hua exploits his advantages. It is very instructive and I recommend the readers to pay close attention to how the game proceeds…
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 19th MOVE (19…Qd6)
GUESS WHITE’S NEXT MOVE!
This is a really beautiful game by Hi Hua! Sort of reminds me of Karpov at his best: sharp tactical ideas, precise manoeuvring and steadily building up the pressure…until the opponent cracks! Once more, a game for the reader to study very closely!
Ni Hua was born on May 31, 1983 in Shanghai and is one of China’s top chess grandmasters. He will be the national team captain at the upcoming Olympiad. Ni Hua learned the moves at ages 6 and his progress was rapid from that point forward. He played in his first Olympiad in 2000, in Istanbul. In 2003, he became China’s 15th Grandmaster at the age of 19. On April 2008, Ni Hua and Bu Xiangzhi both became the second and third Chinese players to pass the 2700 Elo rating line, after Wang Yue. He is ranked 59th in the world (September) , 7th in Asia, and 5th in China.
MISCELANEOUS VIDEOS WITH NI HUA
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS