Mixed Pair Chess Event Takes Off in Chengdu

  • PeterDoggers
  • on 7/7/14, 2:30 PM.

A remarkable chess event has started today in Chengdu, China: the “International Star Mixed Pair Tournament.” As the name suggests, not one but two players sit behind one chess board, and face two opponents.

Each pair consists of a strong Chinese female player and a strong male grandmaster (except one pair consists of two Chinese female players). After the first day, Hou Yifan and Nigel Short are in the lead, with 2.0/2.

During the Norway Chess tournament, where he was commentator, Nigel Short told Chess.com about his next tournament: a promotional event in China where he would be playing, together with a female player, against other pairs of two players. Today, early-morning England time, he posted on the English Chess Forum:

I am about to start playing in a 5 round, mixed pairs tournament in Chengdu, China -- a village of around 14 million people. My "dance" partner is Hou Yifan. There is no website, so I will try and keep people updated here. I would normally do it via Twitter or my Facebook fan page but, this being China, they are both blocked. The (Sechuan) food at the banquet last night was superb, by the way -- even though I was breathing fire afterwards. The hotel isn't too shabby either.

Until someone explains to Mr. Short about proxies, we'll have to keep an eye on that forum for updates! Like many events in China, there isn't really a tournament Web site besides that of the Chinese Chess Asociation. The games can be followed live here and many photos have been posted here and here.

So how does it work, a mixed-pair tournament? At the opening ceremony, the following procedure was followed: the male participant first picked a playing card which corresponded with his lot number. Then he had to choose a stuffed toy panda which corresponded with his partner, whose name tage was attached to the panda!

GM Yu Shaoteng picking lot number 2.
Yasser Seirawan deciding which panda to choose...
...ending up being paired with ex-Women's World Champion GM Zhu Chen.

Why a panda? Well, Chengdu, the city where the tournament takes place, happens to be the home of the famous giant pandas. The breeding center that was founded there is the only one of its kind in the world that's located in a metropolitan area.

The famous black & white bear. | Photo by Nitin Ticku, via Wikipedia.

Chengdu itself, with its 14 million inhabitants as Nigel Short wrote, is the fourth most-populous city in mainland China according to the 2010 census. It is the provincial capital of the Sichuan province in Southwest China. Promoting the city and the region was the main reason for holding this remarkable event.

The drawing of lots at the opening ceremony led to the following pairs: 

  • GM Hou Yifan (China, 2629) & GM Nigel Short (England, 2665)
  • GM Maia Chiburdanidze (Georgia, 2500) & GM Artur Jussupow (Germany, 2582)
  • GM Xu Yuhua (China, 2465 & GM Yu Shaoteng (China, 2497)
  • GM Zhu Chen (Qatar, 2461) & GM Yasser Seirawan (USA, 2620)
  • WGM Alisa Maric (Serbia, 2387) & GM Ye Jiangchuan (China, 2602)
  • WGM Liu Shilan (China, 2249) & GM Xie Jun (China, 2574)
Yasser Seirawan, Nigel Short & Artur Jussupow at the opening ceremony.
Short signing the guest book...
...“Great to be in panda country!”
All participants paired, in a group photo.
May the tournament begin!

The tournament runs 6-9 July, with only five rounds in total. Each time a game is played between two pairs, and each pair alternates the moves. The men choose the opening moves and so they play all odd moves, while their partners play all even moves.

One of the results of the drawing of lots was that the two top-rated players, Nigel Short and Hou Yifan, became a pair, which makes them the clear favorite. However, in their case both had to travel from Europe (Hou Yifan just finished playing the Grand Prix in Georgia) and so that's a potential double jet lag. However, they did start the first day with two wins.

In the first round, against Chiburdanidze/Jussupow, Hou Yifan did something rather creative on move 10. White's king had to stay in the center for a while, and Black's reaction, to open up the center, was typical. But as soon as that king found shelter on the kingside, the advantage became obvious.

In the second round, against Liu/Xie, the top pair (or rather: Short) chose the French Defense themselves, and that worked pretty well as Black too. After the moves 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 h6 4. Ngf3 Nf6 5. e5 Nfd7 6. Bd3 c5 7. c3 Nc6 8. a3 Qb6 9. Qa4 Be7 10. O-O g5 11. h3 h5 12. g4 hxg4 13. hxg4 f6 14. exf6 Nxf6 15. dxc5 Qc7 16. Re1 Bd7 17. Bb5 Bxc5 18. Kg2 O-O-O 19. Nb3, can you find how they finished the game?

7-time Chinese Women’s Champion WGM Liu Shilan & ex-World Champion (and 9-time Chinese Women's Champion) GM Xie Jun.
Former World Championship Candidate GM Artur Jussupow & ex-Women's World Champion Maia Chiburdanidze.

International Star Mixed Pair Tournament 2014 | Round 2 Standings

# Pair 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Hou/Short phpfCo1l0.png 1 1 2.0/2
2 Xu/Yu phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1.5/2 1.75
3 Zhu/Seirawan ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 1.5/2 0.75
4 Maric/Ye 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 1.0/2
5 Chiburdanidze/Jussupow 0 0 phpfCo1l0.png 0.0/2 0.00
6 Liu/Xie 0 0 phpfCo1l0.png 0.0/2 0.00

10084 reads 21 comments
7 votes


  • 2 years ago


    @b2b2: I think Edward addresses your concerns very well. The pairs need to be close to each other in rating, for sure.

    I have to agree, Edward. Even though winning on your own will always be more fun (I don't think people will prefer doubles THAT much), doubles should be quite exciting!

    @Aaronsky72: I thought it was funny Smile.

  • 2 years ago


    Fun game, I'd love to see more of those -- including the opportunity to do it here on chess.com.  Just like tennis and table tennis have mixed doubles (I've played it and it's a lot of excitement), chess can have it prominently too!

  • 2 years ago


    To the best of my knowledge there is no discussion allowed between partners in doubles chess.  Perhaps the main reason being that the stronger partner would take over the game.  Now in the case of Short and Hou that would probably not be the case since they are so close in strength and Hou is WWC; but, with regard to the other teams there are significant differences in ratings.

  • 2 years ago


    ChessMN16, Thanks for the comment. I had assumed that chess doubles would be based on the two players discussing with each other each move before it was made. My elementary school students tell me this could easily be done with both players typing their move suggestions on a common keyboard that only the partners can see. This is the most effective way to go, as it maximizes the social aspect of the format, while at the same time raising the level of play. Doubles tournaments would likely be best offered with both players being with no more than 100 rating points of each other. I actually think chess doubles would be so popular that many of the players might give up singles chess and opt for the enjoyment and stimulation of doubles chess. At the very least, chess associations need to give a very serious effort to promoting doubles chess. It might even attract more females to the game, as all social science research suggests that overall, females are more attracted to activities with "relationship" as an important component.

  • 2 years ago


    Very nice idea! I also heartily agree with Edward's suggestion.

    Hmm, I had an idea when I was reading this news post. How about a doubles tournament where both players of each pair actually discuss the moves with one another? The discussion could be made by phone texting (the phones are provided by the tournament organizers and free from Internet access / can't make calls / free from chess software) and then the discussion yields one move to be made. If there is any disagreement on the move, one player gets to make the move he wants, and then the next move if there is any disagreement, the other player gets to make the move he wants. However, any disagreement should be actively discouraged. 

    Also, there obviously must be some distance between the players, not lots of moving around, and cameras on the phones at all times. Also, obviously the phones can only be used to text the player's partner, and not other players. 

    Haha, my idea sounds completely ridiculous, but I get overly imaginative at times Tongue Out.

  • 2 years ago


    I'm going to be in Chengdu starting tomorrow night! ^_^

  • 2 years ago


    An interesting idea, mixed doubles like in tennis. But the gender-specific titles are starting to look ridiculous. I mean, in this event there are men 'Grand Masters', women 'Grand Masters', and women 'Woman Grand Masters', as per the FIDE classification. Get rid of sex discrimination in chess! It's as outdated as VCRs and Plessy v. Ferguson.

  • 2 years ago


    This is actually an established tournament format in Go.

  • 2 years ago


    How unfair is it to pair Hou with Short? No one else has a chance.

  • 2 years ago


    looks like alot of fun! Smile

  • 2 years ago


    I agree wth edward, but I sadly dont have double games

  • 2 years ago


    This format of two people playing as one team, let's call it chess doubles, could have a very important role in the future of chess. It has a lot going for it, including a splitting of the time to study openings and, more importantly, adding a social component to tournanment chess, something chess completely lacks. We've played doubles at our local chess club and it's very enjoyable. This could be especially important in youth chess, where most kids quit in the fifth grade because they don't like the isolation inherent in both studying chess and playing tournaments. Bughouse chess also has the social dimension that makes it so much fun, but doesn't lead to high level games and the accruel of knowledge among the participants.  FIDE should find a way to spearhead the growth of chess doubles.

  • 2 years ago


    This is so awesome! Two of my favorite grandmasters are on the same team. (Hou/Short)

  • 2 years ago

    FM gauranga

    Jusupov looks like a nice bear these days. Wink

  • 2 years ago


    >Are there any rules about consultation between members of each pair?

    I was wondering the same thing. It reminds me of this youtube video of checkers (aka draughts)

    edit: It's called Quatre Mains (four hands) in that video.

  • 2 years ago


    Glad to see them having fun with chess. GM Friedel would have been a natural for this event.

  • 2 years ago


    Are there any rules about consultation between members of each pair?

  • 2 years ago


    Interesting pairing of 2 prodigies (Short/Hou) from different eras.  Prodigies often think their own "way", except within the confines of theory.  An off-beat line (requiring independent thinking) might highlight their differences; although tactics will always lay bare the truth.

  • 2 years ago


    looks like great fun!

  • 2 years ago


    an absolutely hilarious idea! 

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