Reports Dec 27, 2014 | 11:47 AMby Colin McGourty

Christmas Nutcracker: Fedoseev stars

Vladimir Fedoseev was the player who grabbed the chance to make a name for himself | all photos: Eteri Kublashvili and Vladimir Barsky, Russian Chess Federation

19-year-old Vladimir Fedoseev was the star of the Nutcracker Battle of the Generations tournament in Moscow, scoring five wins in eight games in the rapid section. Alas, there was a bitter end for the youngster as a final round loss to a resurgent Peter Leko was enough to tip the match in favour of the experienced team of Leko, Alexander Morozevich, Alexei Shirov and Alexey Dreev. We take a last look at how the young Russian hopes performed.  

After four rounds of classical chess with two points for a win the experienced “Kings” and the young “Princes” were tied at 16:16. That left eight rounds of rapid chess with one point for a win to be played on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Although the Princes took an early lead they were pegged back and eventually lost 16.5:15.5 for an overall 32.5:31.5 victory for the Kings.

Let’s focus, however, on the young stars of the future:

Vladimir Fedoseev: 11/16 – 5/8 (+1) in classical, 6/8 (+4) in rapid

Fedoseev was the powerhouse behind the young team and the top scorer in the whole tournament. He notched two wins and a loss in classical chess but was supreme in rapid, opening with two wins and beating every member of the opposing team, including Alexander Morozevich twice. When you look through his games it seems he often ends up in objectively bad positions but then simply outcalculates his opponents.

Fedoseev scored 2.5/3 in his three games against Alexei Shirov

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised by his success since, as we noted in our profile, he finished third in this year’s European Championship. Observers were united in praise (from the Russian Chess Federation articles here and here):

Sergei Rublevsky:

In my view Fedoseev has played brilliantly…

Sergey Shipov:

You can’t help but express admiration for Vladimir Fedoseev’s play: it’s clear that he’s ready for great achievements. When play becomes dynamic it’s just impossible to live with him and it seems he sees tactics better than the rest. It strikes me that Fedoseev should be brought into the Russian team, at least as a reserve player, or perhaps already on the 5th board, because you sense that he has fantastic practical strength and the energy of youth: his eyes burn, all the pieces fly where they should and he calculates tactics. Recalling, for example, how Vladimir Kramnik was brought into the team at 16 and Alexander Grischuk at 17, it seems to me it’s already time to introduce Volodya.

Oleg Skvortsov (the sponsor):

Fedoseev performed better than everyone else, and he was the one who made the biggest impression… I was stunned by Vladimir’s play and result: he scored +1 in classical chess and +4 in rapid. In such a strong field that’s a fantastic outcome!

Let's look at a couple of moments from his games. In Round 6, Alexey Dreev had played the opening badly with Black:

14.Rxf5! exf5 15.Bh5! emphasised the point, and Vladimir went on to convert his advantage flawlessly.

Peter Leko ended a tough tournament in fine style to clinch victory for his team

On the other hand, we can’t pass over the only decisive game of the final round. Peter Leko had a very slow start in Moscow, failing to win in his first six games, but he played a crucial role at the end, winning his last two games to give the Kings victory. Against Fedoseev in the final round Leko found a neat way to exploit the unfortunate placement of the black pieces:

34.Qa4! – hitting the rook and bishop 34…Rb6 35.Bc7! – hitting the two rooks. It was possible to chase the white queen for a couple of moves but nothing could be done about the double attack.

Fedoseev nevertheless received two tickets to watch The Nutcracker, by which we mean the ballet version in the Bolshoi Theatre, for the tournament’s best performance.

Grigoriy Oparin: 7.5/16 – 4/8 in classical (=), 3.5/8 in rapid (-1)

It was a very solid debut in an elite closed tournament for Grigoriy Oparin

Once again by far the lowest rated player in the tournament showed that he’s very much at home in this company. 17-year-old Oparin had a curious rapid tournament, scoring a solid seven draws and one loss, to Alexey Dreev:

24.Bxg7! won Dreev a pawn, due to the fork 24…Bxg7 25.Ne7+ (Oparin tried 24…Rc6 but it didn’t help matters).

Sergei Rublevsky:

Oparin, for example, is clearly underrated, as often happens with youngsters.

Sergey Shipov:

I’m very satisfied with this tournament, and moreover my student Grigoriy Oparin played here. He did well in classical chess and until the seventh round was playing very well in rapid, but then he lost to Alexey Dreev. Nevertheless, I don’t think Grisha let me down.

Daniil Dubov: 7/16 – 4/8 in classical (=), 3/8 in rapid (-2)

Daniil Dubov fulfilled one of the requirements for playing in Oleg Skvortsov's tournaments - fighting chess!

Dubov certainly boosted the entertainment levels in the Christmas tournament, though his six decisive games out of eight in rapid chess included four losses.

Sergei Rublevsky:

Dubov also had interesting games today [the first day of rapid], but he played very riskily – not that I see anything bad in a young player doing that… Dubov won a spectacular game against Morozevich, but without analysing it you can’t say if the attack was correct or not. In classical chess, meanwhile, I liked the game Dubov-Dreev. It looked almost flawless.

Oleg Skvortsov:

I was particularly impressed by Dubov’s games – for example, the way he crushed Morozevich with White (true, Morozevich had a draw by perpetual check). And Dubov’s last game against Shirov, when Danya, it seems, missed a win, made a strong impression.

The win against Morozevich also won Dubov two tickets to watch The Nutcracker for the best game (24...Qb2+! Re2 25.Qb6+ is the perpetual check Morozevich should have taken):

1. ♘f3 d5 2. d4 ♘f6 3. c4 e6 4. ♘c3 dxc4 5. e4 ♗b4 6. ♗xc4 ♘xe4 7. O-O ♘xc3 8. bxc3 ♗e7 9. ♖e1 O-O 10. h4 c5 11. ♘g5 ♘d7 12. d5 ♗xg5 13. ♗xg5 ♘f6 14. d6 ♗d7 15. ♕f3 ♗c6 16. ♕g3 ♔h8 17. ♗d3 h6 18. ♖ad1 hxg5 19. hxg5 ♘h7 20. ♗xh7 ♔xh7 21. f4 c4 22. ♕h3+ ♔g8 23. ♔f2 ♕b6+ 24. ♖e3 ♗e4 25. ♖h1 f6 26. ♕xe6+ ♖f7 27. ♕xe4 f5 28. ♕e6


While Dubov did come close to beating Shirov in their final round game it couldn’t quite match their first game for nail-biting action. Here Daniil has just rejected a perpetual check to play for a win with 46…Kf5?!

It could have backfired spectacularly after 47.Ng3+! Kg5 48.Qxd5+!! Rxd5 49.Nxe4+, forking the black king and queen. Instead after 47.Ne3+? Kg5 the rook sac 48.Rxg6+ Kxg6 49.Qb6+ only cost Shirov the game after the simple 49…Qf6 ended all the fun.

Vladislav Artemiev: 6/16 – 3/8 in classical (-1), 3/8 in rapid (-2)

Neither Morozevich nor Artemiev quite lived up to their reputations

It seems this simply wasn’t Artemiev’s time to shine. It took him until his 11th game of the tournament to score his first and only win:

24…Na4! left Alexei Shirov, who remarkably failed to win a rapid game, unable to defend both the h3-bishop and the pawns around his king. 25.Bxc8 Qxa2! saw Black crash through.

It needs to be remembered, though, that Artemiev came close to winning his first three classical games. He was also the youngest player in the tournament, so Vladislav still has everything ahead of him.

So what of the tournament as a whole. Some opinions:

Sergei Rublevsky:

It was an excellent idea! The struggle has been very fierce, which means the line-ups were well chosen. To be honest, before the start I thought that the experienced line-up would prove stronger, but the youngsters have grown up.

Sergey Shipov:

In my view the tournament lived up to all expectations, because the play was fantastically hard-fought. Before the start I honestly thought that the “kings” would win quite convincingly, but our young chess players played very well, even if “young” doesn’t exactly fit anymore, since 20 years old is the age of great achievements. For example, Ruslan Ponomariov became World Champion at the age of 18. In general, our young players showed their class, resilience and that they clearly have top-level ability.

Oleg Skvortsov and Sergey Shipov in the audience for the final day

And finally the man who really matters, tournament sponsor Oleg Skvortsov, who organised the tournament together with President of the Russian Chess Federation Mark Glukhovsky:

Glukhovsky and I have decided that the “Nutcracker” will become a traditional tournament to be held in December around the Catholic Christmas. Some changes are possible, but the basic principle will be the same: young Russian chess players vs. well-known, experienced players. They don’t necessarily have to be from the Top 20, but they should be representatives of the current chess elite, or the elite of the recent past. I think this line-up was ideal.

The format will stay the same – 4 vs. 4?

I think so, yes. 3 vs. 3 is too few and 5 vs. 5 or 6 vs. 6 is a lot. 4 vs. 4 is the ideal format for the Scheveningen system. And note: there were 64 points at stake in the tournament. A symbolic number!

So it’s only around 360 days to wait until the next such event! 

A final photo for the 2014 Nutcracker Battle of the Generations

You can download all the rapid games in PGN format below:

Let’s end by giving some quick links to other traditional chess events at this time of year:

  • Zurich Christmas Open (7 rounds, 26-30/12, players include Naiditsch and Rapport): homepage, results
  • Rilton Cup, Stockholm (9 rounds, 27/12-5/1, players include Smirin and Hammer): homepage, results, live games
  • North American Open, Las Vegas (9 rounds, 26-30/12, players include Wesley So and Akobian): homepage, results, live games

See also:

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