Reports Jul 7, 2015 | 2:02 PMby Colin McGourty

Artemiev earns showdown with Russia’s best

17-year-old Vladislav Artemiev has won the Russian Higher League in Kaliningrad, earning the chance to take on Svidler, Karjakin and co. in the Russian Championship next month. 2014 European Champion Alexander Motylev finished second, while otherwise it was a triumph for youth, with qualification spots also going to Russian Junior Champion Ivan Bukavshin (20), Ildar Khairullin (24) and Daniil Dubov (19).

Vladislav Artemiev took 1st prize on tiebreaks, ahead of Alexander Motylev (on his left) and Ivan Bukavshin | photo: Ekaterina Shermazanova, Russian Chess Federation website

The only chess player worldwide younger and higher rated than Vladislav Artemiev is Wei Yi, and though the Chinese player has been making all the headlines recently it’s clear his Siberian rival is also going to be a top player. His four wins and five draws in the Russian Higher League didn’t feature the scalps of any star players, but you can see how tough the event is when you realise none of the top five seeds managed to qualify for the Russian Championship – Malakhov (2699), Matlakov (2696), Fedoseev (2674), Inarkiev (2668) and Sjugirov (2662) all fell short.

Rk.SNoNameRtgPts. TB1  TB2 
18GMArtemiev Vladislav26606.546.543.0
216GMMotylev Alexander26436.545.542.0
314GMBukavshin Ivan26476.545.541.5
411GMKhairullin Ildar26536.048.544.5
56GMDubov Daniil26616.047.043.0
615GMPopov Ivan26476.046.043.5
73GMFedoseev Vladimir26746.046.042.0
813GMZvjaginsev Vadim26486.044.041.0
95GMSjugirov Sanan26626.043.039.0

Russia currently has four of the top six rated juniors in the world, but it’s Artemiev who looks like the real star. We already featured him in an article comparing his endgame technique to that of Botvinnik, Karpov and Kramnik, and that ability allowed him to pull off some unlikely wins.

Vladislav Artemiev - the future of Russian chess? | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

In his Round 1 game against Jaroslav Prizant he was on the wrong side of a combination based on the weak d6-bishop: 



16.Bxg7! Nxg7 17.Qh6 Be5 18.f4. The dying bishop was able to force an ending – 18…Bxb2+ 19.Kxb2 Qf6+ 20.Qxf6 Nxf6 – though it was clearly worse for Black. Artemiev nevertheless went on to outplay his opponent, who fatally miscalculated a “drawing” line.

In Round 3 Russia’s new Vlad showed he's no tactical slouch either:


16…Rxb2! 17.Nxe5 Qf6! – and the double attack on f2 and the knight meant Black had won material and, shortly afterwards, the game.

In his third win with the black pieces in Round 5, Artemiev played the Najdorf, easily rebuffed David Paravyan's attack and won an ending | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

Overall the 17-year-old won three games with the black pieces, a topic which featured in a post-tournament interview with Eteri Kublashvili for the Russian Chess Federation website:

How did the tournament go for you?

It turned out I was in decent form. To be honest, the tournament followed an unusual pattern: I scored almost all my wins with the black pieces. Before the final two rounds I needed to win one game, since it became clear my tiebreakers wouldn’t be so good. I went for it and beat Mikhail Kobalia, although this time with White. That win also happened to be quite beautiful. Then in the last round I made sure of the necessary draw against Alexander Motylev.

How was it playing against the senior coach of the Russian junior team, Mikhail Kobalia, under whose guidance you’ve won so many team tournaments?

To be honest I didn’t really want to meet him at the board and was hoping to avoid it. But there was no choice (laughs). The game was quite complex, but at some point Mikhail started to make mistakes and lost.

How did you manage to win the other games with Black? Did your opponents play too aggressively?

It’s long since been the case that the percentage of points I score with Black is much higher than with White. With White it’s harder to get a fight, and if you push too hard then your opponent gets chances. In the end I was the one who exploited those chances.

In the final round you made a quick draw with Alexander Motylev, while the other contender for tournament victory – Ivan Bukavshin – kept fighting for a long time and got a position with an edge. Did you follow his game and worry about the fate of first place?

Yes, of course I followed Ivan’s game, but I can’t say I was worried. It wasn’t so fundamental to me if I take first or second place, since the majority of players, myself included, were focussed on qualifying for the Superfinal.

The crucial win over Mikhail Kobalia, which featured Artemiev playing for domination across the whole board, has been analysed by Spanish IM David Martinez:

Kobalia and Artemiev side by side in a previous round of the Russian Higher League | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

1. e4 c5 2. ♘f3 e6 3. g3 The King's Indian Attack is a weapon recommended by none other than Bobby Fischer against the Sicilians with e6. Apart from its objective value it's also highly recommendable both for the ease with which you can play it and also the options it gives to play for a win, since for many moves you keep almost all the pieces on the board.

3... ♘c6 4. ♗g2 ♘f6 5. ♕e2 The idea of this move is to try and force through d4, after c3 and Rd1.

5... e5 In my view this is the most precise response, even if it does lose a tempo.

6. O-O d6 7. c3 ♗e7 This kind of setup, with "antlers" (c5-e5) and the bishop on e7 was underestimated for many years. In my opinion it's highly playable against almost any kind of closed system, whether it's the King's Indian Attack or the English.

8. ♖d1 ♗g4 Not a bad move as such, but I dislike the way Kobalia handles the position. I'd prefer to place my bishop on e6, perhaps after playing h6 first.

9. d3 O-O 10. ♘bd2 ♖e8 11. ♘c4 ♗h5 12. h3 ♗f8 13. g4 ♗g6 I think the only mission of the bishop on g6 is to be exchanged someday on f5, at best, so it seems better placed on e6. Ok, I admit that it also defends something on g6 

14. ♗g5 ♗e7 15. ♘h4 The white pieces are seeking homes on the kingside. Black, meanwhile, is going for the classical "bayonet" pawn attack on the queeside.

15... b5 16. ♘e3 h6 17. ♗xf6 ♗xf6 18. ♘hf5 ♖b8 The battle couldn't be more tense. White's attack on the queenside is nowhere close to landing a killer blow, so Artemiev has to adopt a different approach. He switches to dealing with the queenside as well.

19. a3 ♗g5 20. b4 a5! Black is almost always going to have the upper hand on the queenside, so why is Artemiev provoking these moves? First of all, so as not to get crushed there, but as we'll see, he also wants to create some counterplay on the b-file so that Black isn't left with a free hand.

21. bxa5 ♘xa5

21... ♕xa5 was still possible, allowing the black queen some activity. The d6-pawn would fall, but c3 is also hanging.

22. ♖ab1 ♘c6 23. ♘d5 ♕d7 24. ♕f3 ♘e7! The fewer knights there are around the black king the more chances it will have of surviving!

25. ♘fxe7+ ♗xe7 26. ♕g3 Black's position is still holding, but he has a serious problem: it's easier for White to play. Kobalia intends to defend along the 7th rank.

26... ♕a7 27. ♖b3 ♖b7 28. ♖db1 ♖d7 29. c4 The b-file will now work in White's favour!

29... bxc4 30. dxc4 ♗d8 31. ♖b8 f6 32. h4 Although the machines tell us the position is more or less equal, it's undoubtedly White who has more chances of notching up a full point, especially since time is becoming short.

32... ♗e7 33. ♖8b5 ♗d8 34. ♕d3 Defending e4 in order to free the white bishop to enter the position via h3.

34... ♗f7 35. ♗h3 This is what White had been missing!

35... ♗e6 Kobalia's position is already difficult, but he could still have tried

35... g5 looking to set up a blockade. Despite Black's multiple weaknesses it would neither have been quick nor trivial to transform that advantage into a win.

36. ♖b8 ♔f8 37. g5 But now it's over.

37... fxg5 38. ♗xe6 ♖xe6 39. ♕h3 ♖e8 40. hxg5 ♔g8 41. ♖a8 A hard-won victory for Artemiev, who kept his opponent under pressure on every move.

1-0

The player who stood out most apart from Artemiev was 2014 European Champion Alexander Motylev, who was first to take the sole lead after winning four of his first six games. 

"Veteran" 36-year-old Alexander Motylev took a quick draw with Artemiev in the final round to guarantee both players a place in the Russian Championship proper | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

His crucial win against top seed Vladimir Malakhov couldn’t have been more crushing, ending with 27.e6!


The full Russian Championship Superfinal, which takes place in the far-Eastern Russian city of Chita from the 8-21 August, will be one of the first big tests – and chances – for Artemiev, as he looks to break into elite-level chess. 

Almost a local Siberian event for Omsk-born Artemiev, although sticklers for facts might point out that Chita (pictured) is around 2,500 km to the east! | photo: Russian Chess Federation

The event is a 12-player single round-robin, featuring:

  1. Dmitry Jakovenko, 2757
  2. Sergey Karjakin, 2753
  3. Evgeny Tomashevsky, 2745
  4. Peter Svidler, 2740
  5. Nikita Vitiugov, 2734
  6. Igor Lysyj, 2671
  7. Daniil Dubov, 2661
  8. Vladislav Artemiev, 2660
  9. Ildar Khairullin, 2653
  10. Alexander Motylev, 2643
  11. Denis Khismatullin, 2642
  12. Ivan Bukavshin, 2642

Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk qualified as the highest rated Russians on the July 2015 rating list but appear to have declined their invitations. The Women’s Superfinal will take place simultaneously and feature almost all the top players, including Ekaterina Lagno in her first Russian Championship.


We don’t have to wait that long to see Artemiev in action again, though, since he’ll be top seed at the Lake Sevan International Chess Tournament in Armenia. That 9-round closed tournament starts this Sunday (12 July) and features some real stars of the future - Duda and Sevian especially stand out alongside Artemiev for their age and ratings.

  1. Vladislav Artemiev (Russia, 17, 2660)
  2. Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (India, 20, 2643)
  3. Jan Krzysztof Duda (Poland, 17, 2632)
  4. Tigran L. Petrosian (Armenia, 30, 2630)
  5. David Anton Guijarro (Spain, 20, 2626)
  6. Salem A. R. Saleh (UAE, 22, 2615)
  7. Robert Hovhannisyan (Armenia, 24, 2611)
  8. Samvel Ter-Sahakhyan (Armenia, 24, 2593)
  9. Hovhannes Gabuzyan (Armenia, 20, 2589)
  10. Samuel Sevian (USA, 14, 2578)

Few will have forgotten how 14-year-old Sam Sevian managed to beat Wesley So at this year's US Chess Championship

You can check out the official website here, while we also hope to broadcast the games on chess24.

See also:


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