Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Kramnik of the Far East: Wang Yue

Needless to say, right before the Anand-Kramnik match in Bonn is as good a time as any to broach the subject of the highest ranking Chinese Chess Grandmaster, Wang Yue [0].

I have wanted to write this for weeks since his recent top result at the second FIDE Grand Prix in Sochi. You see, it all started with a snide viewer remark at ICC, while watching the last FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, in December 2007 where some ‘mere’ Grandmaster asked “WHO is Wang Yue?”, wishing to disparage him, dismissively saying that he was lost, and that he “couldn’t play’ My antenna went right up that moment! And you know what, he won the game!

After that tournament, where he scored very high into the double elimination, it seemed like his time had come. Adding to his obvious imprimatur, he then went on to share first place with Gashimov, Carlsen at the First FIDE Grand Prix in Baku in May, and clear second place with Gata Kamsky at the Second FIDE Grand Prix in Sochi early this August.

His rank today, at Live Ratings, at 2740.5 ELO puts him fair and square at number ten in the world, just below what Mark Crowther of TWIC recently called nine who ‘clearly form the current elite’ (excellent table, enhancing the FIDE ratings).

And now for our simple and clear major point: he did not loose ONE single game, among those two sets of 13 game tournaments (26 games) among many of the world best chess players at their best preparedness [1].

In fact, I have just created a chessBase file, and compiled all the data, and he only lost NINE times among 222 games in the last two years [2]. More to the point, the bulk of those were among seven losses in 2007 across 148 games (1 with White and 6 with Black), and even more remarkably, only two of those occurred in 2008 across 74 games (both with black)! His last loss that I can detect was on March 3rd, at the Reykjavik Island 23rd Open [3]. One loss with white in all those games back in 2007. Man.

Hence our title of his starting to be recognized as ‘the Kramnik of the Far East’. He is plays very super solid. Like Vladimir Kramnik, he proves very, very difficult to win against. You don’t think he gets major support from the Chinese leadership now? Think again.

Much like Carlsen, he is often seen winning seemed drawn endings, and converts to win with unrelenting if not manically calm pressure, not unlike the patent boa constrictor squash Nakamura applies when he is in form and refuses NOT to not win or just as Fischer did in the early 70’s. This guy is tough! Just look at him. We could also call him the Clint Eastwood of Chess. Just look at this guy:

Look at this game, which he won when no one could see any real large advantage:

'Our surprised and respectful attitude to the Chinese grandmaster slowly turns to sincere admiration. [Source, you guessed it: ChessVibes, here! Very convenient viewable java applet. dk] He demonstrates not only typically Chinese composure, tenacity and good calculation skill, but also shows good chess education. His endgame technique is very high.

'Today Wang Yue won another complex bishop ending, against Radjabov, after going through the storm of complications and obtaining a slight advantage against a dangerous opponent…. Radjabov showed his ambition by not looking for equal positions. He was determined to play for a win, and missed the moment when he had to secure the equality.

'His last chance was 19...Rxd3! (instead of 19...Rdc8) 20.Rxd3 Bg5 21.h4! (21.Rd7? Bc6 22.Rc7 Be8) 21...Bxe7 (21...Bf6 22.Rd7 Bc6? 23.Rd6!) 22.Rd7 Bc5 23.Rxb7 Rxa2 24.Rd7 Rxb2 25.Rd2 Rb1+ 26.Rd1 Rb2 with a move repetition.

'After that Black desperately fought for a draw, but Wang Yue's technique was superior to Radjabov's. The Chinese player calculated a bit deeper and maneuvered a bit finer. I (Shipov) think, Teimour could and should have taken White's dangerous central pawn.'

'He played 24...Bxa2, but I failed to fins any danger after 24...Bxe4. For example, 25.Bc4+ Kh8 26.Re1 (26.Rff7 g5!) 26...Bf5 27. Rxe8+ Rxe8 28.Kf2 Bb1!, and Black will not lose in this sharp ending. However, this was not the critical moment of the game!'

'In my opinion, the game was decided in the bishop ending. Radjabov's passive strategy proved wrong. He could transfer the king to c5 by

31...Kd7! (instead of 31...Ke7) 32.Kf2 Kc6! 33.Bg8 h6 34.Bf7 (34.Ke3 Kc5!) 34...Kc5! 35.Kg3 (35.Bxg6 Kd5; 35.Ke3 g5) 35... Be4 36.Kf4 Bb1, creating an unbreakable fortress. After the move in the game, the Chinese grandmaster prepared a zugzwang position (46.Bf5!) and took the b4-pawn. Then the b6-pawn fell as well. I was impressed by 55.Ba6! (intending 55...Ke7 56.b5!). Compared to that, 58.Bd7! looks really simple. White created an adjacent passed pawn, and secured a win. Wang Yue is now one of the leaders!'


I expect that we will be hearing a lot more from him in the future and certainly this is one more facet of major evidence of the rising supremacy of China.

Warmest, dk

[0] Did you know that China is now third among all chess nations, for having the near highest average chess rating of it's top level grandmasters? See FIDE Country chart, at this link. They now surpass even Israel, Azerbaijan, USA, Hungary, India, Armenia, and Bulgaria in the top ten. Of course, Russia and the Ukraine occupy the strastophere for ELO density and elevation.

[1] Needless to say, I have objectively aggregated the data in xls of the two tournaments, but this is a matter for another day. Yasser kindly sent it to the editor of chessBase for me and I also sent it to TWIC, also Peter Dodgers at ChessVibes, but the feeling was that its still early yet. At the third tournament, I will be ready to resubmit! Remember, there are six tournament, you play in four, and get to pick your best three results, dropping your fourth worst. Wang Yue wont be dropping any of these two [4]!

[2] Please email me at the email provided at my Classic GM Game Collection file, and I will gladly send the cbv file (no pgn’s please for this file. I am not a web service in this case please).

[3] That I have found. Not perfection, but probably very, very close to accurate.
{addendae: I did exact checking today, and had to revise these figures, and THESE are now perfectly accurate. cf. FIDE player data, directly. Thur 09 Oct 08 dk}

[4] Again, much to his credit, I much prefer Peters format at the now, in my eyes, preeminent chess site ChessVibes, shown here (
Baku), and here (Sochi) for the two Grand Prix to date.

The Eyes! Asiatic Dreaming, for some deep far off place like chess Jupiter! That GM look of many troubles and cares that is uncanny greatness!


Anonymous E said...

I'm more into Wang Hao.

Wed Oct 08, 11:53:00 PM PDT  
Blogger transformation said...

1W/1L/2d= 4! 17% of his loses 07-08, one man for sure!

Wed Oct 08, 11:58:00 PM PDT  
OpenID chesstiger said...

Dont forget Bu! I guess many good chinese chess players are coming to the surface.

Thu Oct 09, 04:33:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Fierabras said...

There's definitely something special about Wang Yue. Instead of Kramnik I like to compare him to Capablanca (although the Capablanca-Karpov-Kramnik styles are all related). Like Capablanca, he does not seem to be interested in opening advantages and dominates in the endgame. The effortlessness with which he wins from and draws with top players, is very intriguing.

Thu Oct 09, 08:45:00 AM PDT  
OpenID liquideggproduct said...

Even as someone who follows chess only very casually, Wang Yue was known to me as an impressive player.

The Chinese are no longer playing only Xiangqi. Maybe the rest of the world will finally take notice? (Or maybe people are, and I don't know they know...)

Thu Oct 09, 12:19:00 PM PDT  
Blogger transformation said...

So that no one can imagine my singling out Wang Yue could be anything like incidental in nature, then please see these ranking according to the two major playing styles on a quantitative basis. The respective columns are:

world rank (Rk) according to October FIDE ELO, name, then accordingly expressing loss percentages first for white (W%) then for black (B%). These figures, interestingly, at the FIDE Top 100
site are from after Jan of 2007, so coordinate perfectly well with my comparison period for the data. To get to the individual numbers, first you must go to the

Federation Rankings
site, or Country Chart, and from there, click to the country of your choice, then view the individual names, similar to below there.

While of course I show all the great fighting players, for comparison on just how high an attainment Wang Yue has, I include some other players off the top ten who are well known as particularly hard to beat and loss less often than most:

Rk name ***** W * B

1. Topalov *** 10 29
2. Morozevich *14 21
3. Carlsen *** 14 16
7. Aaronian ** 13 17
8. Rajabov *** 08 14

3. Ivanchuk ** 06 12
5. Anand ***** 05 10
6. Kramnik *** 02 14
9. Leko ****** 11 13
10.Jakovenko * 07 13
11.Wang Yue ** 01 08

26.Bu Xiang ** 07 14
28.Ni Hua **** 10 06
34.Wang Hao ** 07 11

15.Karjakin ** 12 10
17.Svidler *** 13 15
22.Ponomariov* 13 13
20.Gelfand *** 10 14
35.Sasikiran * 14 09
52.Dreev ***** 10 18

Suffice to say, yes, this man is among the world beyond compare!

Thu Oct 09, 01:33:00 PM PDT  
Blogger transformation said...

Oh My God: I blinked when I reread my own note above, wondering if my very careful notes contained a gross inaccuracy? No. This post is about the paucity of losses by Wang Yue over a sustained period of time, and now here, immediately above in relation to other super grandmasters.

and now what? yes, the loss figures for Topalov and Morozevich are correct AND this must be placed into resolution upside down:

as many as 50% of ALL of Topalov's WHITE games are wins and 55% of all of Morozevich's with WHITE. think about that. contracts for Kevlar protection vests! bang, bang, band! balastic nylon vests.

lastly, i had meant to add Kamsky:

16.Kamsky **** 16 16

for loss % as Wht and Blk, not quite in line with the others, with excess Wht loses. :)

warmly, dk

Fri Oct 10, 12:25:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Phaedrus said...

Brilliant post. I do not think that anyone else has made it so clear that he may be a true candidate for the world title!

The way his rating is developing, is most impressive, and the trend upwards is very steep.

And god only knows what will happen if he reaches the level that he can play matches instead of tournaments. Not losing is so much more important in matches than in tournaments.

So maybe not Carlsen after the Anand/Kramnik reign, but Wang Yue (succeeded by Carlsen?).

I do not think that there ever was a period in top chess in which the the top positions were so heavily contended.

Fri Oct 10, 12:34:00 AM PDT  
Blogger transformation said...

thank you. the more that i dig, the more that i find. of course, i could have included Topalov's and Morozevich's win% with Blk and again, nice to see how this post places 'fighting chess' so much more clearly into resolution.

Topalov manages to win as many as 28% of all his Blk games and Morozevich wins a remarkable 38% of all his Blk games.

again, the post is on Wang, but this also shows, with high loss ratio's, like stock with a high price to earnings ratio and with it, a 'high beta', these sorts and Kamsky too, rank highest in Blk loses but this also means they are going to push, and push, and push.

along these lines, Carlsen wins 40% of his games with White and a full 24% with Blk.

we can see that Topalov, Morozevich, Kamsky, and Carlsen very often show up to win and press to win and win, and so produce more losses, and with it, at times runs of great wins and greatness of yet another kind.

i agree with you that if not Wang, many chinese are of the future. all four of them have this same Confucian Literani style of deliberation and exactitude, not making errors to the maximum! very zen!

warmest, dk

Fri Oct 10, 12:58:00 AM PDT  
Blogger wang said...

Thanks for this information. I am not very aware of the top echelons of chess so this was useful.

Mon Oct 13, 11:54:00 PM PDT  

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