Mixed Pair Chess Event Takes Off in Chengdu

Mixed Pair Chess Event Takes Off in Chengdu

Jul 7, 2014, 2:30 PM 10,619 Reads 21 Comments Chess event coverage

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

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