Russia’s and China’s men’s team fought to a draw in the annual tête-à-tête between two of the world’s chess superpowers. Russia’s women did a bit better by narrowly defeating their rivals.

The annual “friendly” match between Russia and China did not produce any clarity about who is superior among the men’s teams. The competition, which ended June 15, finished in a draw, 12.5 to 12.5. The Russian women’s team did a bit better by narrowly outplaying their rivals, 13 to 12. 

Each country fielded squads of five men and five men, who played Scheveningen matches against each other — each male player faced all of the male players on the other team; the same for the women. 

The Russian and Chinese National teams are clearly two of the strongest in the world. Russia has been the highest rated squad at every Olympiad since they became their own country. China has been the fastest growing chess superpower and won the last OIympiad and the last World Team Championship. Russia’s and China’s prowess at chess is all the more impressive because both countries are comprised entirely of homegrown players.

Since 2001, the training regimen of both countries has involved playing a friendly match against each other. The matches often produce interesting games and this year was no exception.

The Russian men jumped out to an early lead with Dmitry Jakovenko scoring the only win of Round 1 by beating Yu Yangyi.

Dubov, Daniil vs. Yu Yangyi
Russia-China Match | Moscow | Round 5 | 15 Jun 2016 | 1/2-1/2
27. d5! Spirited and strong
27... Nxd5
27... exd5 28. e6 This is even worse for Black  )
28. Bxd5 exd5 29. e6 Re8 30. e7 h6 31. Qd2 Kh7 32. Rf4?
32. Nxb5! This would have won, but it was very hard to calculate
32... cxb5 33. Qxd5 Qa8 34. Qxa8 Rxa8 35. Rd1 c3 36. Kg2! A very important resource
...  b4 37. Rd8! White wins by one tempo
37... c2 38. Rxa8 c1=Q 39. Rh8+  )
32... g5 33. Rf5 Rg8 34. Re5 Qa8 35. Qc2+ Kh8 36. Qd1 Kh7 White still has an advantage, but he has to take b5 at some point. Dubov did not manage to figure it out.
37. Qb1+
37. Kg2 Qe8 38. Nxb5 cxb5 39. Qxd5  )
37... Kh8 38. Qd1 Kh7 39. Qh5 Qe8 40. h4
40. Nxb5 Last chance
40... cxb5 41. Rxd5 c3 42. Kg1!! Dubov should be forgiven for missing this insanely hard move to find on the last move before time control
...  c2 43. Rc5  )
40... gxh4 41. Qf5+ Kh8 42. gxh4? Last mistake
42. Qf4! Rg6 43. Qxh4  )
42... Ba6! Without Nxb5, White is out of chances
43. Ne2 Bc8 44. Qh5 Kh7 45. Rg5 Rg6 46. Rxg6

China’s men leveled the score in Round 2 when Lu Shanglei beat Dmitry Andreikin.

Lu Shanglei vs. Andreikin, Dmitry
Russia-China Match | Moscow | Round 2 | 15 Jun 2016 | 1-0
a5? I don't understand this move. Black allows white to carry out his only real strategic goal in the position without a fight.
21... Nd4 Black should try to prevent d4  )
22. d4 Nxd4 23. Bxd4 Rxd4 24. Rxd4 Nxb3+ 25. cxb3 Qxd4 It's possible Black thought this position is safe because of the weakened dark squares around the White king, but Black has no concrete threats and he is a pawn down.
26. Kb1! Qf6 27. Qb2! Qxf4
27... Qxf7 28. Qe5+  )
28. Qd4 Black is now in some trouble.
28... Qf3 29. Qd8+ Ka7 30. Qxa5+ Kb8 31. Qd8+ Ka7 32. Qd4+ Kb8 33. Rd1 Bc5 34. Bg2
34. Qxc5 Was a more efficient move to convert the advantage.
34... Qxd1+ 35. Kb2 Qe2+ 36. Ka3 Qa6+ 37. Kb4  )
34... Qe2 35. Bf1 Qh5 36. Qd7 Rf8 37. b4 Bxb4 38. Rc1 Rxf7
38... Qxh4! This probably holds, but who can play such a move right before time control?  )
39. Qd8+ Ka7 40. Qd4+! And White cleaned up
40... Bc5 41. Rxc5 Rxf1+ 42. Kb2 Qd1 43. Ra5+ Kb8 44. Qe5+ Kc8 45. Qxe6+ Kc7 46. Rc5+ Kb8 47. Qc8+

The men’s competition remained tight through Rounds 3 and 4, as each team won one game in each round. For a moment in Round 4 it looked as if Russia might run away with the competition by winning two games and losing none, but Maxim Matlakov messed up a winning (but very complicated) position in time trouble against Yu Yangyi, not only allowing Yu to survive but to snag the full point to keep the match score deadlocked.

Matlakov, Maxim vs. Yu Yangyi
Russia-China Match | Moscow | Round ? | 15 Jun 2016 | *
22. Rf3?
22. Nf3! Ne4 23. Bd3! This would have been lights out for Black.  )
22... Qxg2 23. Bf1 Qg1 24. Qd3 Ne4 Black is back in the game.
25. Nxe4 dxe4 26. Qxe4 Rac8 27. Kd2
27. h4! The engine likes this move. Note that f5 does not work
27... f5 28. Qe1 No check on h2  )
27... Rc6 28. h4? A move too late...
28. d5  )
28... f5! And White is beaten back.
29. Qe1 Qh2+ 30. Re2 Qd6 And Black went on to win, though with errors on both sides

In the last round, four of the men’s games were pretty uneventful draws that did not take too long. It all came down to the game between Daniil Dubov of Russia and Yu. The game was ultimately drawn after a titanic back-and-forth struggle.

Dubov, Daniil vs. Yu Yangyi
Russia-China Match | Moscow | Round 5 | 15 Jun 2016 | 1/2-1/2
27. d5! Spirited and strong
27... Nxd5
27... exd5 28. e6 This is even worse for Black  )
28. Bxd5 exd5 29. e6 Re8 30. e7 h6 31. Qd2 Kh7 32. Rf4?
32. Nxb5! This would have won, but it was very hard to calculate
32... cxb5 33. Qxd5 Qa8 34. Qxa8 Rxa8 35. Rd1 c3 36. Kg2! A very important resource
...  b4 37. Rd8! White wins by one tempo
37... c2 38. Rxa8 c1=Q 39. Rh8+  )
32... g5 33. Rf5 Rg8 34. Re5 Qa8 35. Qc2+ Kh8 36. Qd1 Kh7 White still has an advantage, but he has to take b5 at some point. Dubov did not manage to figure it out.
37. Qb1+
37. Kg2 Qe8 38. Nxb5 cxb5 39. Qxd5  )
37... Kh8 38. Qd1 Kh7 39. Qh5 Qe8 40. h4
40. Nxb5 Last chance
40... cxb5 41. Rxd5 c3 42. Kg1!! Dubov should be forgiven for missing this insanely hard move to find on the last move before time control
...  c2 43. Rc5  )
40... gxh4 41. Qf5+ Kh8 42. gxh4? Last mistake
42. Qf4! Rg6 43. Qxh4  )
42... Ba6! Without Nxb5, White is out of chances
43. Ne2 Bc8 44. Qh5 Kh7 45. Rg5 Rg6 46. Rxg6

When all was said and done, both sides had some key wins and there were a lot of good games. Matches like these are truly a delight for the players and fans. I was very sorry to see the China-United States match that I played in in 2013 discontinued after just one edition.

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Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.