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GM Blog: A Child’s Game

By GM Ben Finegold


The two highest ranked players in the World under age 21 recently played a match. Hungary’s Richard Rapport and the Chinese player Wei Yi played from 20th to 23rd December in Yancheng, China.


A 2-2 tie after four classical games required a blitz-tiebreak. After two blitz-games and another 1-1 tie, an Armageddon game decided the match in favor of Rapport. Both players are in the top 50 in the World, and both are likely to be in the top 10 in the not too distant future.


The first two games were split, with Wei Yi winning a brilliant attacking game to start the match and Rapport equalizing the score after a nice technical endgame win in game 2.


The next two games were very interesting, but both ended in draws, so tiebreaks were needed.  The match more than met expectations of fans worldwide.  Both players are known for a swashbuckling, sacrificial style, which is rare at the top level.  The latest World Championship match, for example, between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin saw two decisive results in the twelve classical games. Here, the first two games saw the players trade wins!


After four games the score was 2-2 and a blitz-tiebreak had to be played. But after two games this tie-break ended with another 1-1 tie and an Armageddon game had to decide (black starts with less time, but has draw odds, so if the game is drawn, black wins!). Rapport won the Armageddon and the match.


Wei Yi, only 17 years old was, perhaps, a slight underdog to his more experienced 20 year old opponent, but, with the match played in China, some felt the home-court advantage gave Wei Yi excellent chances.

I expect we will see one, or both of these young chess giants in Saint Louis this year, perhaps at the annual Sinquefield Cup or the new Sinquefield Cup rapid event, where youth usually triumphs over experience.