We have been postponing writing a proper “Prodigy Profile” on Wei Yi, simply because there is so much we’d like to say that the project is too daunting! The Chinese super-prodigy has been shattering ratings records (relative to age) for a solid year and a half, and has been on our radar as a remarkable young talent for far longer than that. We still don’t feel ready to post anything final, but as we’ve been working on the project we’ve come across a few bits and pieces we just can’t wait to share.
First of all, if you haven’t been following Wei Yi’s career, here is a quick summary of some of his key achievements:
- Fourth youngest GM in history
- Youngest player ever rated 2600+ (at age 14.43, over six months faster than #2 Wesley So’s 14.99)
- Youngest player ever rated 2700+ (at age 15.76, almost a year faster than #2 Magnus Carlsen’s 16.59)
- Currently (as of the May 2015 rating list) the highest rated player ever under the age of 17, at 2718 (note that he does not even turn 16 until June 2, 2015, so he broke this record with over a year to spare!)
So the point is that he’s pretty good at this whole “chess” thing, especially for his age. In January 2015 he had perhaps his most impressive tournament performance yet, when he won first place in the Challengers division at Tata Steel (scoring 10.5/13, for a 2793 performance rating), unless you prefer his results in April 2015 at the World Team Championships where he scored 7/9 to help China win first place overall, for a 2837 performance rating.
We can see from the graph above that for the last year and a half Wei Yi has been setting a new record for “highest rating ever achieved at age X” with each new published rating. He is now ranked 33rd in the world at 2718. And just in case you didn’t hear it clearly the first time, he is NOT YET 16 YEARS OLD!
The obvious question to ask is: how good will he get? Many of the records he is breaking formerly belonged to one Magnus Carlsen, who you may have heard of. As impressive as Wei’s rise has been so far, it’s probably premature to anoint him as the definitive successor to Carlsen’s perch atop the chess world. Still, it is of course intriguing to speculate about his future. We can’t say exactly how strong he will eventually become, or how long it will take for him to climb into the top ten in the world rankings (which isn’t guaranteed… but kind of seems inevitable.) One thing we can clearly say, though, when we look closely at his results to date, is that he doesn’t appear to be approaching any kind of ratings plateau yet.
Consider the following graph, which shows his performance rating in all 21 tournaments he’s played since January 2014 (a 16 month span in which he gained 111 rating points):
We can notice, first, that in 16 of the 21 events his performance rating exceeded his actual rating at the time. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, of course. One doesn’t gain 111 rating points without a stat like that. More interesting, however, is the trend of his performance ratings. Six of his first seven tournaments in this sample, were in the 2560 to 2650 range. This alone was enough to bring his rating up from 2607 to 2638, but just as his rating started to catch up with his apparent skill level… the performances began to improve. Since July 1, 2014, Wei has played 14 events, and only once posted a performance rating lower than 2670! Those 14 tournaments (104 games in all) have been played at a net performance rating of 2745!
The obvious conclusion is that even at 2718, Wei Yi’s rating has almost certainly not yet caught up with his “true” playing strength. He has consistently been playing at higher than a 2718 level. And perhaps even more importantly, his apparent “playing strength” has been increasing even faster than his published ratings, so there is no reason to expect his ascent to slow any time soon. It would be fair to expect his rating to climb at least into the 2740+ range before he’d be in any danger of plateauing, just based on the playing strength he has already demonstrated. And if his history is any sign, by the time his rating reaches that new height he may have grown even stronger!