The Top Chess Players in the World

GM Yu Yangyi

Yu Yangyi
Yu Yangyi at the 2017 World Cup. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Full name
Yu Yangyi
Jun 8, 1994 (age 30)‎
Place of birth
Huangshi, Hubei, China



Yu Yangyi is a Chinese super-grandmaster and world-class player. He was the World U-10 Champion (2004), the World Junior Champion (2013), the Chinese Champion (2013), as well as the Asian Continental Champion (2014). 

He has won multiple international events and is a particularly strong rapid and blitz player. He finished in the top six of the World Rapid and Blitz Championships every year between 2016 and 2019.

Yu has represented China in numerous international events, including the 2014 Chess Olympiad where China won the gold medal—he earned the individual gold medal for board three. Yu represented China in the 2020 FIDE Online Nations Cup and scored 7.5/10 to help China win the cup.

Early Career To Grandmaster

Yu learned to play chess at a young age and shared second place in the 2003 World Youth Chess Championships U-10 division. The next year, he shared first place in the same event (alongside GM Hou Yifan and others) to become the U-10 World Champion. In February 2007, he placed second in the Aeroflot Open group C with a 7.5/9 score. In 2008 Yu came in third place in the Aeroflot Open group B with a 7/9 score. 

In 2009 Yu scored 6/9 in the Asian Chess Championship and finished in third place with a 2700+ performance rating. He earned not one but two GM norms from this tournament because of the event's continental status. In the following week, Yu scored 6/9 in the Subic International Open and earned his final GM norm just before his 15th birthday.

Yu Yangyi
Yu at the 2012 World Junior Championships. Photo: Andreas Kontokanis/Wikimedia, CC.

Yu is one of the few players to go from being an untitled player to a grandmaster without attaining the FM or IM title first.

World-Class Player

Yu finished in seventh place on tiebreaks in the 2009 World Junior Championship. In the 2009 World Cup, he upset the 16th seed, GM Sergei Movsesian, in the first round and then upset GM Mateusz Bartel in the second round before losing to GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the third round.

In the 2011 Aeroflot Open, he shared fourth place (alongside GMs Gata Kamsky, Ivan Chaprinov, Rauf Mamedov, and others) half a point behind the winner. He finished ahead of over 80 grandmasters, including GMs Dmitry Andreikin, Dmitry Jakovenko, Sanan Sjugirov, Ding Liren, Vachier-Lagrave, Alexander Khalifman, and Daniil Dubov. Later in 2011, Yu won the Danzhou GM Tournament with a 7/9 score, 1.5 points ahead of the field that included GMs Wang Yue, Bu Xiangzhi, Wang Hao, Ding, and Hou.

Here is a game from 2012, where after a normal Ruy Lopez Breyer Variation, the position is roughly level by move 28. Black makes a misstep on move 29, allowing a great pseudo-queen sacrifice a few moves later:

After 33. Rxd7, Black must give back the queen because of the mate threat on h7. After the smoke clears and many pieces are exchanged, Yu is simply up a pawn with a dangerous passed d-pawn and more active pieces. A memorable game!

Yu won the 2013 World Junior Championship with an 11/13 score, ahead of a 117-player field that included GMs Alexander Ipatov, Zidit Santosh Gujrathi, Wei Yi, and Jan-Krzysztof Duda. By becoming the world junior champion, he automatically qualified for the Chess World Cup in 2015.

In the following game from 2013, Yu displays his great tactical abilities. After a fairly normal French Advance Variation, the game turns tactical when Yu offers a pawn sacrifice with 13. b3. Black errs on the next move, allowing a fantastic exchange sacrifice for an attack on Black's king.

The move 17. Qc2 is particularly sneaky because if Black captures the knight with 17... cxd2, then 18. Qxc5+ is mate in two! By move 20, White's pieces dominate the entire board, Black's king is in danger and Black's kingside is completely undeveloped. The final move of the game is a nice shot that wins the queen (and the rook on d6). A tactical clinic by Yu!

Yu Yangyi
Yu playing in the 2014 Qatar Masters. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The year 2014 was fantastic for Yu: In March he won his first Chinese Championship on tiebreaks over Ding, and in April he won the Asian Continental Championship. He won the Asian championship half a point ahead of the field including GMs Baskaran Adhiban, Ni Hua, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Xiangzhi, Wei, and Gujrathi. He also won the Asian Continental Blitz tournament, raising his blitz rating to 2753.

In the next game from the 2014 Asian Continental Championship, Yu plays the black side of a Sicilian Kan against GM S.P. Sethuraman. After an energetic pawn sacrifice by White, he pulls back the reigns with 21. g3 to keep Yu's knight off the f4-square. After two additional quiet moves, White allows 23... e4!

After this central pawn push, Black is far ahead. Yu conducts a nice tactical combination, and after the dust settles, he is simply up two passed pawns and the bishop pair. He closes out the technical part of the game proficiently—a classic counterattacking Sicilian win for Yu!

Later in 2014, Yu played board three for the gold medal-winning Chinese team and earned the individual board gold medal with a 9.5/11 score and a 2912 performance rating! His performance at the 2014 Olympiad pushed his classical rating over 2700 for the first time.

Here is Yu's win over Duda from the Olympiad. Duda does not play for an advantage out of the opening, and the position is level by move 8! An opposite-colored bishop endgame is reached on move 22, but Yu is up a pawn. By move 29, his advantage has grown with his more active pieces and two passed pawns. Yu tortures Duda for a long time, and by move 47 the position is lost for Duda, who is facing four passed pawns!

As if 2014 hadn't already been great enough for him, Yu won the Qatar Masters tournament with a 7.5/9 score in December 2014. He finished in sole first place in the 154-player field, edging out GMs Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri by a half-point (he defeated them both in this tournament).

Yu Yangyi
Yu with the 2014 Qatar Masters trophy. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Yu continued his winning ways in the 2015 Capablanca Memorial tournament, scoring 7/10, 1.5 points ahead of the field that included GMs Andreikin, Pavel Eljanov, Leinier Dominguez Perez, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Lazaro Bruzon Batista. He also scored 6/7 in the 2015 Millionaire Chess tournament, making him the first seed in the playoffs, but lost to GM Hikaru Nakamura. 

In the 2015 Qatar Masters tournament, he tied for first with World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen (who won on tiebreaks), ahead of a 132-player field that included GMs Kramnik, Sergey Karjakin, Vassily Ivanchuk, Giri, Ruslan Ponomariov, Duda, Wesley So, and Shakriyar Mamedyarov.

Yu Yangyi
GM Daniel King (left) and Yu at Qatar Masters 2014. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

World Rapid And Blitz Success

Yu played a lot of team competitions in 2016, including the Chinese Chess League, European Club Cup, and the 42nd Chess Olympiad. He also had his first high placement in the 2016 World Rapid Championship, scoring 10/15 and tieing for fourth place, one point behind the winners (Ivanchuk, Alexander Grischuk, and Carlsen). This was his best rapid result yet, but there was more to come.

Yu tied for first place (alongside GMs Nakamura and David Anton Guijarro) at the 2017 Tradewise Gibraltar tournament, ahead of a field of 255 players, including GMs Vachier-Lagrave, Michael Adams, Veselin Topalov, Boris Gelfand, Nigel Short, Fabiano Caruana, Vitiugov, and Peter Svidler.

Yu Yangyi
Yu at the 2016 World Rapid Championship. Photo: Peter Doggers/

Yu continued his success at the World Blitz/Rapid events and scored 13.5/21, and he tied for sixth place in the 2017 World Blitz Championship with Ding, Mamedyarov, Svidler, and others. 

In 2018 Yu became a member of the PRO Chess League's Chengdu Pandas (he is still on the team, which is now known as the China Pandas) that made the finals. In August 2018, Yu won the Danzhou GM tournament for the second time, ahead of GMs Le Quang Liem, Wei, Vladimir Fedoseev, Duda, Xiangzhi, Samuel Shankland, and Gujrathi. 

In September 2018, Yu reached number-12 in the world with a 2765 classical rating. He finished with 10/15 in the 2018 World Rapid Championship, tied for sixth place alongside GMs Alireza Firouzja, Giri, Karjakin, Grischuk, and others. At the 2019 Norway Chess event, Yu tied for second place (alongside GM Levon Aronian) behind the winner Carlsen, but ahead of GMs So, Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave, Viswanathan Anand, Ding, Mamedyarov, and Grischuk. 

Yu Yangyi
Yu playing in the 2017 World Cup. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Later in 2019, he tied for second place (with Ding and Vachier-Lagrave) in the Grand Chess Tour Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz. Aronian won the event, but Yu placed ahead of GMs Karjakin, Carlsen, Richard Rapport, Caruana, Dominguez, and Mamedyarov. In one of Yu's blitz wins from this event against Carlsen, the world champion goes for an early and unsound piece sacrifice against Yu's Petrov with 4. Nxf7?!

Carlsen does a good job of getting his pieces active and maintaining his large lead in development, and the game remains sharp throughout. Yu manages to exchange minor pieces to simplify the position, and Carlsen's initiative fizzles out. After 17... Bh6, Yu is clearly in the driver's seat while he maneuvers his dark-squared bishop from h6-f4-e5 (a relocation worth remembering). After 21... Rfg8, Carlsen is just lost, and the final coup de grace of 25... Ne3 leaves an impression as well—Carlen will be down a rook with no compensation and an unsafe king.

The 2019 World Cup was Yu's best yet. He defeated GMs Ehsan Ghaem-Maghami, Baskaran Adhiban, and Wei Yi, and upset Nepomniachtchi to reach the quarterfinals (top eight). Yu defeated Vitiugov and then lost to his fellow countryman Ding in the semifinals. Yu lost the third-place match to Vachier-Lagrave for a fourth-place finish in the 128-player field.

Yu Yangyi
Yu playing in the 2017 World Cup. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Yu scored 10/15 in the 2019 World Rapid Championship, tieing for fifth place. He also played well in the 2019 World Blitz Championship, ending tied for sixth place—his FIDE blitz rating reached 2808 after this event, making him the number-five blitz player in the world at the time. 

In 2020 Yu played for China in the 2020 FIDE Online Nations Cup, scoring 7.5/10 to help China win the cup.

In 2021, Yu finished fourth in the FIDE Grand Swiss, qualifying for the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix, where he finished 20th. In November 2022, he won the Fall Chess Classic in Saint Louis.

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