Person of day - 20 NOVEMBER 2023
Ye Jiangchuan was born on 20th November 1960 in the city of Wuxi, in the Chinese province of Jiangsu. At first, Ye played Chinese chess and enrolled in the Sport Institute of Beijing, and here something occurred that changed his entire life. The 17-year-old student was summoned by the director of the department who asked him: “The Chinese national team is formed on the basis of our university and it will travel to the students’ World Cup. But you will have to play European chess. Do you want to try your strength?”
When Ye turned up to the first training session, a specialist of European chess and the rating-favourite of the team Liang Jinrong told him: “Do not worry, you play 1.g2-g3 with whites and 1…g7-g6 with blacks, and the contest will be enclosed. There will be little room for manoeuvre for the queen and it will be more familiar to you to play according to rules that are similar to Eastern ones. Try to exchange queens at first opportunity.” In the faraway Mexico City, in the second round, Ye met the English master Goodman, who had a rating of 2375. The Albion’s envoy complacently agreed to exchange the strongest figures and, from then on, could only watch as his opponent meticulously performed a check-mate with rooks. However, the Chinese debutant lacked experience and he received an initial rating of 2265, taking 7 out of the 12 available.
From distant Mexico Ye brought back to China every single book on chess that he could buy. His subsequent progress was swift and in 1981 he won the national championship, defeating all rivals. He stands out from Chinese chess players due to his erudition; in the Asian team championship of 1981, he caught an Indian opponent in a trap with a sacrifice of two figures, known in matches Fischer vs Reshevksy and Bastrikov vs Shamkovich. In that tournament China came second, largely due to the efforts of the young chess-player who lost only half a point. In the future, Ye and China would win 4 Eastern Championships.
In 1982, Ye Jiangchuan was selected for the Chinese Olympic team- which he would represent for 22 years- and he was immediately put on the second board. In the national team he gradually advanced towards the first board, but the Chinese could not win a medal at that time- until 2004, their best result remained the two-time attainment of fifth place.
Personal achievements did not come to Ye Jiangchuan immediately. In the arena of Asian zonal tournaments, for a long time he could not escape the shadows of Torre, Rogers, Adianto and the foremost Chinese grandmasters Ye Rongguang and Xu Jun. His breakthrough came in 1992, when Ye took first place in the inter-zonal tournaments, fulfilling the requirements of a grandmaster of European tournament circles and, according to FIDE, he played well in the inter-zonal tournament of 1993.
In the 90s, Ye played with varying success and began to rise again when many disregarded him. In 1999 he won a regional tournament with a result of 13 out of 14 and went on to win in a round-robin competition against Dreev, Krasenkow, Sutovsky and other invited grands. Ye became the first Chinese player to surpass the mark of 2600.
In the 2000 World Cup, the Chinese chess player won in a group with Ivanchuk, Short, Gurevich and Ponomariov, and lost in the knockout quarter-finals to Boris Gelfand by a score of 1,5:2,5. This was followed by a new victory in the zonal tournament, and in the knockout world championship of 2001, the Chinese leader advanced to the 1/8 finals, where he lost to the future finalist Vassily Ivanchuk. In the 2002 World Cup, Ye once again advanced from the group, but once again lost the quarter-finals, this time to Kasimdzhanov. Thanks to these and lesser achievements, his rating reached the mark of 2684 and Ye landed in the top twenty players of the world. He took 17th place in FIDE rankings.
However, age began to catch up and after a blossoming there followed a rough fall. Ye Jiangchuan began to let the youth pass in front of him in internal Chinese tournaments, and in the 2005 World Cup he lost to his old acquaintance, Xu Jun. His rating fell by eight places and the grandmaster announced the end of his career.
Ye Jiangchuan took charge of the national teams and achieved spectacular success in his new field. The grandmaster not only trained many well-known grandmasters, but also female world champions like Zhu Chen, Xu Yuhua and Hou Yifan. Under his auspices, the female Chinese chess players won in world championships and Chess Olympiads. Ye Jiangchuan is a recognised trainer of China and FIDE.
“To what do we owe the Chinese phenomenon? In 1974, in Malaysia, there was a meeting between the heads of the chess federations of Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Japan and the representatives of China, which was devoted to the problem of developing the game on the Asian Continent. The meeting was chaired by Campomanes and led by the billionaire Dato Tan Chin Nam. It was the businessman from Malaysia who realised the technicalities of China’s entry into FIDE (at the time of the Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, European chess was forbidden in the country), invested into the training of Chinese players and for a long time sponsored a round-robin tournament named after himself, where local players competed with the leaders of world chess. Ye Jiangchuan won three of them.”
Why did the Malaysian need this? He appreciated the potential of the Chinese when others did not and went further, founding the so-called “Plan of the Big Dragon”, which provided a comprehensive effort to train the rising generation of Chinese chess players. When the perennial leader of Chinese chess transferred to the job of trainer, he remembered the testament of Dato Tan Chin Nam- make China a great chess nation.” (out of an article for Ye Jiangchuan’s anniversary)