It was the latest strong result in what has been a good year so far for the prodigy.

With his third straight national title, the latest coming this week, Wei Yi, 17, has demonstrated once again that he is the present and the future of chess in China.

Wei became a grandmaster before 14 and then reached a rating of 2700 three months before his 16th birthday – the youngest player ever to do so. After that, his progress stalled a bit, but 2017 has been a good year so far. Before winning the Chinese Championship, he tied for third in Wijk aan Zee, tied for second in the HD Bank Cup in Vietnam, and scored well in various team events.

At the moment four other Chinese players are rated over 2700 (Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi, Li Chao, and Wang Yue), while three other players (Bu Xiangzhi, Wang Hao, and Ni Hua) are rated 2675 or better. None of them played in the championship, making Wei’s job a little easier, at least on paper. Wei also demonstrated good form, scoring 8½ points out of 11 and going undefeated.

Still, it was still a closely contested tournament. A pair of grandmasters rated over 2600, Lu Shanglei and Wen Yang, entered the last round half a point behind Wei, and they both won, so Wei needed to do the same to claim the title.

Wei is already known for playing sharp lines and for recording speedy victories. He recorded two more early in the tournament against opponents who essayed the Sicilian Defense.

Wei Yi vs. Fang Yan
ch-CHN 2017 | Xinghua CHN | Round 6.2 | 28 Apr 2017 | 1-0
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 a6 4. Be2 b5 We'll see
4... Nc6 in the next game.  )
5. d4
5. O-O is also possible, which often transposes.  )
5... Bb7 This is unusual. Black wants to keep the position closed, albeit at the cost of a space disadvantage.
5... cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bb7 is normal, and now White has several moves to choose from, including 7.Bf3 and 7.a3.  )
6. d5 This is the cost Black must pay.
6... Nf6 7. Bg5! White is essentially forced to swap off this bishop to keep his impressive pawn center intact.
7... h6 8. Bxf6 Qxf6 9. O-O d6
9... Bd6 isn't beautiful, but it makes sense. It keeps control over e5, and does so without burying the bishop behind his pawns.  )
9... e5 was played against Wesley So a few years ago, but without success.
10. a4 b4 11. Nb1 a5 12. Nbd2 Be7 13. Nc4 Black's position is miserable. The dark-squared bishop is completely shut in, while if the other bishop tries to be active it will be exchanged away, after which White will infiltrate on the light squares. 1-0 (27) So,W (2650)-Jiang,L (2337) Montreal 2012  )
10. dxe6 The immediate
10. e5! is also strong, as played in a pair of earlier (email) games. (See below, but they both began with 10.e5.)  )
10... fxe6
10... Qxe6 11. Nd5  )
11. e5! dxe5 12. Nd2 The startling
12. Nxe5! is possible and strong.
12... Qxe5 13. Bh5+ Ke7 14. Re1 Qg5 15. g3 g6 16. Bg4 Kf7 17. Rxe6  )
12. Re1 was played in the email games.
12... Nd7 13. Nd2 O-O-O 14. a4 b4 15. Nce4 Qf4 16. Bd3 Kb8 17. Qe2 Ka7 18. g3 Qf7 19. Nb3 Rc8 20. Na5 Nf6 21. Nxb7 Qxb7 22. Rad1 Rg8 23. a5 Rb8 24. Nd2 Bd6 25. Nc4 Rgd8 26. Nxe5 Rbc8 27. Nc4 Bf8 28. Nb6 Rb8 29. Qxe6 h5 30. Bf1 1-0 (30) Chekmasov,S (2357)-Chouraqui,G (2258) ICCF email 2011  )
12... Nc6? It looks active, but it's a mistake.
12... Qf7! was best. The queen will have to retreat anyway once White puts a knight on e4, and in this way Black can try to save a tempo with the bishop on f8, to capture a knight on d6 immediately should White send it there.
13. Bh5 g6 14. Bf3 /+/-  )
13. a4! O-O-O?? Suicide.
13... b4 14. Nce4 Qd8 15. Bh5+ Maybe  )
13... Be7 is best. Black's position is lousy after
14. Nde4 Qf7 15. axb5 axb5 16. Rxa8+ Bxa8 17. Nd6+ Bxd6 18. Qxd6 Qe7 19. Bh5+ Kf8 20. Qd3 , but at least he doesn't yet have to resign.  )
14. axb5 axb5 15. Bxb5 Nb4 16. Qe2 In addition to his many positional problems, Black can add a terminally weak king to his list of woes.
16... Be7 17. Nde4 Qg6 18. Ra7 Rd4 19. Rfa1 Rhd8 20. Rxb7! Kxb7 21. Ba6+
21. Ba6+ Kc7 22. Nb5+ Kd7 23. Nxd4 exd4 24. Bb5+ Kc8 25. Ra8+ Kb7 26. Rxd8 Bxd8 27. Be8! is a nice touch. The bishop can't be taken due to Nd6+, while any sane queen move allows Qb5+. Finally, if
27... d3 , then White can play 28.cxd3 or
28. Qf3 , again with a crushing advantage.  )
Wei Yi vs. Wang Chen
ch-CHN 2017 | Xinghua CHN | Round 9.6 | 02 May 2017 | 1-0
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 a6 4. Be2 Nc6 Black takes a more conventional approach than Fang Yan did in the preceding game.
5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Nge7
6... Qc7 transposes to a mainline Taimanov. Wei Yi has some experience here, and some happy memories. Three massacres ensue, and they help explain why Wang Chen prefers to try his luck in a different variation.
7. O-O Nf6 8. Be3 Bb4 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. Qd4 c5 11. Qc4 O-O 12. Na4 d6 13. a3 Bd7 14. e5 Bb5 15. Qh4 dxe5 16. axb4 Bxe2 17. Rfe1 Bb5 18. Nxc5 Nd7 19. c4 Bc6 20. Nxa6 Qb7 21. Qg3 f5 22. Nc5 Qxb4 23. Nxe6 Rf7 24. Rxa8+ Bxa8 25. Ra1 Bc6 26. Bh6 Qxb2 27. Rf1 e4 28. Nd8 Rf8 29. Nxc6 Qf6 30. Qc7 Nc5 31. Ne7+ 1-0 (31) Wei,Y (2725)-Karthikeyan,M (2578) Liaocheng 2017  )
7. Nb3
7. Be3 and  )
7. O-O are the traditional options, while  )
7. Bf4 has received some attention in recent years.  )
7... Qc7
7... Ng6 is more common.  )
8. Be3
8. O-O is likewise more usual.  )
8... Ne5?!
8... d5!? 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxd5 exd5 11. Qxd5 Be6 offers Black some compensation for the pawn. It's not full compensation, but Black is going to be slightly worse in any case. The question is the sort of disadvantage he prefers to suffer.  )
9. O-O White is already clearly better, leading one to wonder what went wrong in Black's preparation. White's 7th move isn't the main move, but it's not so unusual either.
9... d6
9... d5!?  )
10. a4 Bd7 11. a5 Nc4 12. Bxc4 Qxc4 13. Qd2
13. f4  )
13. Nd2!?  )
13... Rc8 14. f4 Ng6
14... f5!? is a computer suggestion that's not so easy for a human to play. Black lags in his development and his king is in the center, so a move that doesn't help his development and is likely to result in his king being more exposed after
15. Nd4! seems pretty implausible. But maybe it's a reasonable trade-off to prevent White from playing f5 himself? The bottom line is that Black is suffering.  )
15. f5 Ne5 16. fxe6 fxe6
16... Bxe6 can be met by the spectacular
17. Nc5!! , aiming to trap the queen. For example:
17... Rxc5 or
...  18. Ra4 . Black is in big trouble.  )
17. Rad1 White's position is a dream; he just has to figure out how to win it.
17... h6? This weakens Black's position on the h5-e8 diagonal. Stay tuned.
18. Bd4! Qc7?? Now White wins easily.
18... Nf7 19. e5!  )
19. Qf2 Bc6 20. Bxe5 dxe5 21. Qg3 Threatening mate in two starting with Qg6+. (See the note to Black's 17th move.)
21... g5 22. Qg4 Again threatening mate in two, this time starting with Qh5+.
22... Bd7 23. Qh5+ Kd8 24. Qg6
24. Na4 is even more brutal, but it's enough for White to find one winning line and go for it.  )
24... Qc6 25. Rf7
25. Qf6+ Kc7 26. Qxh8?? Bc5+ is the only thing Black can hope for.  )
25... Bd6 26. Qf6+
26. Rxd6! Qxd6 27. Nd5!! is a spectacular and wholly unnecessary way to win.  )
26... Kc7 27. Qxe6 Now 28.Nd5+ is one monster threat.
27... Rcd8 28. Qf6! Rhf8 This makes it easy, but
28... Rhg8 29. Rxd6 Qxd6 30. Nd5+ Kc6 31. Qf2! forces Black to surrender the queen just to delay mate by a few moves.  )
29. Rxd6!

It is impossible to become a world-class player without being able to win all sorts of games, and in the last round, Wei showed his positional chops by gradually outplaying his opponent in a queen and bishop ending, taking advantage of his extra space and superior pawn structure.

Wei, Yi vs. Bai, Jinshi
ch-CHN 2017 | Xinghua CHN | Round 11.5 | 05 Apr 2017 | 1-0
1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 My suspicion is that Wei Yi chose the Vienna not primarily from a belief that it's the most promising way to fight for an opening advantage, but rather to avoid drawish variations like the Petroff, the Berlin, and the Marshall Gambit. This is especially so in his must-win situation.
2... Nf6 3. Nf3 Bb4
3... Nc6 is also very solid.  )
4. Nxe5 O-O 5. Be2
5. Nd3 is more common now, but it's almost certain to transpose to the game if after
5... Bxc3 6. dxc3 Nxe4 7. Be2 Black plays 7...Re8. But must he? There are other decent options, including 7...d6.  )
5... Re8 Lest you think the note addressing 5.Nd3 proved that 5.Be2 was the more precise move order, note that Black can also choose
5... d6 here. So it appears that there is no meaningful difference between the 5.Be2 and the 5.Nd3 move orders.
6. Nd3 Bxc3 7. dxc3 Nxe4  )
6. Nd3 Bxc3 7. dxc3 Nxe4 8. O-O b6 This is quite rare - and (probably) rightly so. It is much more common for Black to push the d-pawn and play in an overtly classical way.
8... d5  )
8... d6  )
9. f3! This surprising move makes excellent sense: White aims to "kill" the bishop before it even goes to b7. This is an old technique sometimes referred to as the "Steinitzian Restriction Method": when one has the bishop pair, the first order of business is often to restrict the opponent's minor pieces. Eventually the bishops may come into their own, but that's for later; first, take away the opponent's possibilities.
9... Nd6
9... Nf6 10. Bg5 is unpleasant for Black.  )
10. Re1 Nc6 11. Bf1 Bb7 12. Rxe8+ Qxe8
12... Nxe8 13. b3  )
13. Bf4 Qe7
13... Nf5 was possible, followed by ...d6. The c-pawn is immune from capture, as ...d6 traps the bishop, which will soon be lost.  )
14. Nb4! Very nice. If Black doesn't swap, the knight can come to d5; if he does, he's trading his good knight for what wasn't a very good piece. Moreover, it benefits White to have the pawn on b4, as it helps cramp Black's queenside without requiring him to weaken his "original" a-c pawns.
14... Nxb4 15. cxb4 Ne8 16. Qd2 d6 17. Re1 Qd7 18. Bd3
18. Bg5!? was interesting, using the semi-threat of Re7 to induce a kingside weakness.  )
18... Nf6 19. Bg5! Re8 Black exchanges one disadvantage for another. The good news is that he can swap two pairs of pieces and eliminate White's bishop pair; the bad news is that doing so forces him to compromise his kingside structure. It's not that his king is endangered, but that the pawns become targets.
20. Bxf6 gxf6 21. b5?!
21. Rxe8+ Qxe8 22. Kf2 may have been better, not rushing to determine the queenside structure.  )
21... Rxe1+ 22. Qxe1 h6?!
22... Qe6!  )
23. Qg3+ Kf8 24. Qf4 Kg7 25. Kf2 White is back in business, and now the pawn on b5 is a net benefit.
25... Bd5
25... c5!? 26. bxc6 Qxc6 is a reasonable bid for counterplay. He weakens his structure a little bit more, but the kingside was already enough of a problem that this is worth it.  )
26. c4?! Another inaccuracy. White does want to play this, but this was the wrong moment.
26. Qf5! Qxf5 27. Bxf5 Bxa2? 28. b3 wins for White, as Black's bishop can't buy its way out, and there's nothing constructive for Black to do while White's king runs over to collect the bishop.  )
26... Bb7
26... Be6! was probably Black's last chance to save the game.  )
27. b4! Qe6 28. Qf5! Qxf5 29. Bxf5 The fact that several of White's queenside pawns are or will be fixed on light squares is of no consequence, because Black's bishop will never see the light of day and never get to attack any of them.
29... c5 30. bxc5! dxc5 31. Kg3 h5 32. Kh4
32. Kh3! is more precise, saving up the spare tempi. Black's king has no good moves, and ...Ba8 allows Bc8.  )
32... Kh6 33. a3 a6 34. a4 a5 35. h3 One move to spare!
35... Ba8 36. Bc8 f5
36... Kg6 37. Kg3  )
37. Kg3! There's no need to give Black's bishop any air; the f5-pawn will drop soon enough.
37... Kg5 38. h4+ Kg6 39. Kf4 Kf6 40. Bxf5 Bb7 41. Bh3 Another zugzwang.
41... Ke7
41... Ba8 42. Bc8  )
42. Kg5 Kd6 43. Kf6!
43. Kxh5 wins easily, but White shows good technique. Here White must calculate a tiny bit. It's not too challenging, but after four hours of play in the last round of a two-week long tournament, with the national championship on the line, there is absolutely no reason to do this.  )
43... Ba8 44. Bc8
44. Bc8 Kc7 45. Bf5 is a trivial win. White threatens Be4, Kxf7, Kg5, Be4 followed by g4...he can do almost anything he wants to.  )


Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.