China's top chess administrator believes that China is strong enough to beat Russia in the chess contest of two nations starting on Thursday.
"China stands a better chance than in any of the previous two contests, since Chinese players, especially the men's team, have improved a lot," said China's chess chief Wang Runan.
The third edition of the China-Russia Chess Contest, slated for Aug. 10-20, opened Thursday at the newly constructed Mongolian Camp, near the Chinese side of the border with Russia, with 20 grandmasters from the two countries facing off against each other.
China sent a five-member men's team composed of Bu Xiangzhi, Zhang Zhong, Wang Yue, Zhang Pengxiang and Ni Hua, and a women's team with Hou Yifan, Shen Yang, Zhao Xue, Wang Yu and Huang Qian.
Russian men's team boasts world number 22 Vladimir Malakhov, 33rd-ranked Vadim Zvjaqinsev, Dmitry Jakovenko, Alexey Dreev and Evgeniy Najer, while their women's team includes Tatiana and Nadezhda Kosintseva, ranked world No. 9 and No. 12 respectively, as well as the 18-ranked Ekaterina Kovalevskaya.
The contest, widely reckoned as an event of the traditional tycoon versus a rising power, was initiated in 2001 with Russia winning on 41.5 points against China's 30.5 in Shanghai, before the Chinese team took a revenge in the second edition in Moscow in 2004, beating Russia 37.5-34.5.
With three Chinese women crowned the world champions and Chinese men's team twice runners-up in the World Cup and World Olympian Team Championships, Chinese officials are confident of a victory.
"China has a short history in chess, but has made rapid progress in the sport and achieved remarkable honors," said Xiao Min, an assistant to the Chinese sports minister, adding that the performance of Chinese women's team would decide the this year's result.
"The Chinese women team is now experiencing a change of guard. Better known players are ageing and newcomers have not reached their peak," she said.
"Whether China can beat Russia again will depend on the Chinese women's performance."
"But they still hold an edge over Russian female players," she added.