Vladimir Fedoseev conceded just a single draw to Maxim Matlakov as he won the Eliseev Memorial with a commanding 4.5/5. It was an unusual tournament, organised by Daniil Dubov in memory of his friend Yuri Eliseev, who died last year at the age of only 20. Daniil will have been pleased with the combative chess – out of 15 games only 4 were drawn – but also his own result. He beat Maxim Matlakov in the final round to finish in clear second place. We have the games and also tributes to Eliseev from the players.
Yuri Eliseev was not a well-known chess figure outside of Russia, though in most countries his achievements would have made him stand out. He won the U16 World Youth Championship, became a grandmaster at 17 and won the 2016 Moscow Open (the most memorable game of that event was the only one he lost!). Then, just after turning 20, he died in tragic circumstances that were sensational enough to attract widespread media coverage. He slipped while attempting a parkour trick to get from a window to a 12th floor balcony and fell to his death on November 26, 2016.
It’s testimony to the impact Yuri had on those around him, though, that one year later Dubov both decided and was able to organise a top-level tournament to celebrate the life of his friend - with no prizes other than for beautiful games. In an article at the Russian Chess Federation the players remembered their contemporary, and we’ve selected extensive highlights.
Daniil Dubov says he became close friends with Eliseev in 2013, after which they were almost inseparable:
He was probably the most all-round gifted person I know: he sang well, wrote poetry, had a great knowledge and love of the Russian language, and possessed an incredible memory – I remember that once we were travelling in a train, there was nothing to do, and he read half of Eugene Onegin to me from memory. Given time he could probably have read the whole thing.
We always helped each other out at tournaments, preparing each other; of course he had an incredible talent for analysis. Often I’d find an interesting idea the night before a game, note down a couple of variations and send it to him – and by the morning the file had tuned into a huge tree of variations in which (I checked more than once) there were no mistakes. That made a powerful impression: he didn’t stop where many would have cut off their analysis. In general, he had a drive towards perfection: whether in poetry, chess games or music – he always repeated that it was possible to do better. That’s very well illustrated by his best games: powerful play in the opening, accurate calculation of variations and clinical conversion.
That would all have been of no great significance if he wasn’t a good person and a devoted friend: we knew we could always count on him. For the sake of friends he was willing to do anything; I don’t know of a single case when he refused to help someone. We had a funny ritual: every night when he analysed something that might occur in my game in the morning I said “thank you” – and each time he came up with a new reply.
As with many highly talented people he could be absolutely unbearable in everyday life: he always wanted to play, to talk, to think – no doubt all of his friends came up against that. He simply couldn’t bear to be inactive – not a single journey, wait or dinner could go by without intellectual games. Once we were walking along during the Higher League in Kaliningrad and playing word games. At some point I looked at the water: “Let’s enjoy the scenery for a while!” I said. “Ok”. About 10 seconds later: “Well, did you enjoy it? Shall we get back to playing?”
At some point his fanatical love of chess was passed on to me as well – at least in part. We could study and play blitz for days on end, absolutely forgetting about everything: food, business, phone calls, our loved ones – from some point onwards all of that ceased to matter.
Yuri was a very vivid person – both in chess and in life; I hope that our tournament ends up being worthy of his memory.
Vladimir Fedoseev explained that some of Yuri’s best qualities were involved in our losing him so prematurely:
When I met Yuri in person I immediately understood that you couldn’t find another person like him in the world. He had such an unusual manner of speaking, behaviour and range of interests that it seemed he wanted to be unlike anyone else in everything. That undoubtedly showed up in his chess, enabling him to create unique – inhuman! – things. The explanation for that is very simple: Yuri trained differently from everyone else. He could often surprise you with the knowledge of theory of an average chess player of a 2500 level or below, and he played a lot against the computer. Disregarding classical knowledge in chess and in life, he followed his own path in everything.
Of course his loved ones, friends and coach tried to stop him, to warn him off dangerous hobbies, but his other quality made itself known: a readiness to pursue and defend his ideas to the end regardless of the opinion of those around him – often encountering laughter, misunderstanding or resistance. That, it seems to me, constituted the special courage and perseverance which accompanied him to the end, and that was worthy of respect. Those qualities remained with him always and, unfortunately, became the cause of his sudden death. Performing a trick that for him was elementary, one repeated many times, he slipped… We lost one of the most incredible chess players of his generation. Although I often came in to conflict with Yuri, largely because I considered his disregard for norms and life dogmas to be hypertrophied, I always recognised his unique gift and ideas. I hope that where he’s gone Yuri has found everything that was lacking for him here on earth. Rest in peace, Yuri!
Maxim Matlakov explained that his encounters with Eliseev were only at the chessboard, but that didn’t make them any less memorable:
A game once took place between us that was among those you remember for the rest of your life. It was the last round of the 2016 Higher League, and only a victory would give one of us a chance to qualify for the Superfinal. Having caught me out in opening preparation (before the game I was mentally prepared for that as, after all, Eliseev had a wonderful knowledge of theory! I remember once being impressed by the game Eliseev-Sjugirov, with powerful opening preparation and an attack conducted in the best traditions. That game can boldly be called a masterpiece of modern chess!) and achieved a big advantage, Yuri made a crude blunder a couple of moves before the time control and my position unexpectedly became winning… As you know, mistakes come in pairs, and on move 42 Yuri blundered a rook…
Having checked the variations more than once and considering it a normal oversight (which in practice quite often happens when the position suddenly swings 180 degrees), I fell for a brilliant trap. After a series of fast moves I suddenly realised that in the “winning” variation I was getting mated by a pawn promoting to a knight! Luckily I found a way to bail out and the game ended in a draw.
Frankly speaking, after going over that and doing further detailed analysis I often found myself thinking that you needed to have phenomenal fantasy in order to find such an idea! I don’t know how much time it would have taken another player to find that, but Yuri’s accurate calculation took all of five minutes, which of course is evidence of his great talent.
Later, discussing that entertaining and dramatic game, I came to the conclusion that Yuri is a very interesting and erudite person with an out-of-the-ordinary view of things.
Yuri was characterised by chess romanticism. I think he was one of those people who, if they’re carried away by some idea, do everything to bring it to reality. At times that cost him results, but masterpieces were born.
Love of chess and the ability to work hard are some of the qualities Eliseev possessed that would, in my view, have enabled him to achieve great success. How wonderful that he was a chess player – how sad that he’s no longer here with us…
The chess tournament in Eliseev’s memory was organised in the Tigran Petrosian Club in Moscow, chosen since it was Eliseev’s own club. 76-year-old former Women’s Soviet Chess Champion Liudmila Belavenets was the arbiter, Alexander Morozevich provided commentary at the venue and the six players chosen for the first half made a formidable line-up.
They were also in the mood to play enterprising chess, with only 4 draws in 15 games:
Vladimir Fedoseev is still in the middle of his breakout year and would have recovered all the rating points he lost in the recent European Club Cup - if not for the fact that the tournament wasn’t rated:
He won in his trademark style, sowing confusion on the board and often surviving objectively bad positions (for instance against Dubov in Round 2) to go on to win.
That could be seen in the last round, when he bamboozled 2015 World Junior Champion Mikhail Antipov and then got to execute a spectacular finish:
30.Rfxf5!? (the obvious choice on aesthetic grounds, though 30.Nxf5! was even stronger) 30…Rf8? (30…exf5 allows 31.e6! with the threat of Be5+, but after 31…Qf6 the game goes on) 31.Rf6! N6d5 32.Qf2 Nxf6 33.exf6 Qd8 34.Bc2! (a fine nuance – the knight isn’t allowed to come to d3 to hit the e5-square and the queen) 34…Bd3:
Now it was finally time for 35.Be5! and Antipov resigned. 35...Nc6 doesn't work, since after 36.Nb7 if the black queen moves f7+ will be followed by the white queen coming to f6.
2nd place was decided in Dubov-Matlakov, which was a game Eliseev would have approved of. Dubov played a pawn sacrifice for the initiative against Matlakov’s Caro-Kann and then, after getting the chance to keep his opponent’s king in the centre, he went on a brutal king hunt for the remaining 20 moves. The monarch didn’t make it out of there alive:
The Eliseev Memorial isn’t over just yet, since Dubov, Predke and Antipov will now be joined by Vladislav Kovalev,
Dmitry Gordievsky and Klementy Sychev for another five rounds of action: