Carlsen advanced his overall rating to 2876, only six points shy of his all-time peak. The gap to the No2, India’s Vishy Anand, has jumped to a whopping 72 points.
Yet Carlsen could be faced with a serious challenger as early as 2017. Across the border from Shamkir, in Azerbaijan’s neighbour state Armenia, the world team championship ended in victory for China, already the first Asian country to break the Western monopoly of the biennial Olympiads. China captured gold ahead of Ukraine and Armenia, while the top-seeded Russians recovered from a dreadful start but still finished only fourth.
China has no heritage of Western chess. Xiangqi and Go remain far more popular. But when state backing arrived in the 70s, China’s coaches opted to focus on the best youthful talents. This strategy was used in 1930s USSR to create a golden generation and was followed in England in the 70s and 80s when Nigel Short and Michael Adams were spotted and helped before they were 10.
China’s current top six, all rated above the elite 2700 level, have an average age of 22. Chinese GMs used to peak at the world top 30-50, but now Ding Liren, 22, is rated No11 and poised for the top 10.
But the real mega-talent is Wei Yi. The 15-year-old was the best individual scorer in the world teams with 7/9, jumping to No34 in the ratings. He is the youngest 2700 in chess history, inviting comparisons with the phenomenal quantum jumps made by Fischer, Kasparov and Carlsen in their mid-teens. His likely years to become a world title candidate are 2017 and 2019, but his current progress is so fast that he should not be ruled out for the 128-player World Cup at Baku this September, whose two finalists will become candidates in 2016.
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