It’s been a good few days for the Russian class of 1998! 20-year-old Aleksandra Goryachkina won the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament with two rounds to spare, while 21-year-old Vladislav Artemiev shrugged off his first classical loss in 60 games to bounce back with three wins and overall victory in Poikovsky. Our tournament round-up is completed by the Asian Continental Championship, which was won by Le Quang Liem, while 15-year-old Alireza Firouzja was among the players to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.
The last couple of weeks were dominated by Altibox Norway Chess, but as we’re going to see throughout 2019, there was a lot of top level chess elsewhere. Two of the winners were Russian players born in 1998 who could be said to have followed in Magnus Carlsen’s footsteps. Aleksandra Goryachkina emulated Magnus in Stavanger by only losing the final game of the Women’s Candidates Tournament, after wrapping up victory three days earlier. In the Karpov Tournament in Poikovsky, Vladislav Artemiev emulated Magnus by winning the event despite losing rating points.
We said almost everything that needed to be said about Aleksandra Goryachkina’s phenomenal performance in the Women's Candidates Tournament in our report after 9 rounds, when she’d beaten Valentina Gunina to reach a massive +6, 7.5/9 score. With a 2.5 point gap all she needed was to draw the remaining games, and indeed she drew her next three games to secure victory with two rounds to spare.
It wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds, however. Goryachkina was in some danger against 2nd place Kateryna Lagno in Round 10, while against Tan Zhongyi in Round 12 she later admitted she never made it out of the opening. In a line of the Caro-Kann where Anish Giri had crushed David Navara in Shamkir Chess 2018, Tan Zhongyi looked to have an overwhelming position, but first she missed some chances, then she allowed a fortress and finally Goryachkina could have won by playing e.g. 54…Bg4! (gradually the white pawns and indeed pieces will fall)
Goryachkina sensed she was probably winning, but, like Peter
and Jan, she couldn’t see it at a glance, and she was delighted to end a tough
game and tournament with the draw she needed to secure first place in the tournament.
She drew quickly against Nana Dzagnidze in the penultimate round and admitted it was hard to find motivation when she’d already achieved her goal. Aleksandra isn’t a prolific speaker, even in Russian, but some of her post-game interviews were fun. For instance, this was with Anastasia Karlovich after Round 13:
Karlovich: “Are you psychologically already preparing for the World Championship match?”
Goryachkina: “I’m psychologically preparing to take a rest!”
A near perfect event for Goryachkina was only spoiled by Mariya Muzychuk in the very final round, with Mariya’s 24.Ra7!! posing too many problems for the black pieces:
That game won Mariya the beauty prize, and you can watch her go through the game with Evgeny Miroshnichenko:
Fundamentally it meant almost nothing, but as with Magnus in Stavanger it was painful for Goryachkina:
Of course it spoiled a good performance. I’d already got not very pleasant positions with Black for half the tournament, so it was coming…
What does she have to learn from this?
I have to try not to lose the last game, as it’s not so pleasant!
Goryachkina said the €50,000 first prize and the much higher amount she’ll earn from her upcoming World Championship match against Ju Wenjun weren’t motivating factors – “my mum is the chief bookkeeper in our household!”
Meanwhile it was Mariya’s sister Anna who took the €40,000 prize for 2nd place, with wins over Gunina and Kosteniuk in Rounds 12 and 13 taking her to a +2 score after she started with -2 after four rounds:
On the one side in this tournament only the first place really matters, but on the other side I started so horribly that when you start with -2 and somehow you see yourself on the last place, and you just dream of becoming second in the end, so in general it was quite ok. I don’t think I could do more.
Kateryna Lagno edged out Tan Zhongyi for 3rd place with 50%, with Kateryna no doubt voicing a general feeling when she commented, “finally it’s over!” She elaborated when asked about her children:
They’re waiting for me, I wait for them, and I don’t want to play chess right now and I don’t want to open my laptop! I don’t want to speak about openings, so I want to be a mother.
No-one else in the tournament finished with a plus score (click on a result to open that game with computer analysis):
It’s been an incredible year for 21-year-old Vladislav Artemiev, who started by winning the Gibraltar Masters and then just couldn’t stop. He won the European Individual Championship and had Grischuk comparing him to Chuck Norris as he scored 6.5/8 for Russia in the World Team Championship. Even when it seemed he was slowing down, e.g. by starting with 4 draws in 5 games in the Russian Team Championship, he then went on to win the last 4 games. You can argue about the level of his opposition, but there’s no doubt about the performance:
That was enough for Artemiev to become one of the very few players in recent years to break into the Top 10:
He’s currently just short of that mark on the live rating list after Wesley So rejoined the Top 10 with a +1 performance in Norway.
The other impressive run Vladislav Artemiev was nursing was an unbeaten streak in classical games that seemed to have stretched to 60 after draws in the first two rounds in Poikovsky. It was going to take something special to beat him, and that was provided by 38-year-old Indian Grandmaster Krishnan Sasikiran, who played arguably the game of his life to beat Artemiev in Round 3. It was the kind of game that was so beautiful that despite losing Artemiev couldn’t deny his opponent the pleasure of finishing with checkmate on the board.
Here are Jan and Peter talking about the game during the Norway Chess live broadcast:
So that was a tough blow for Artemiev, but he simply shrugged it off, scoring a smooth win over Anton Korobov in the next round. Chess was definitely the sport for him to pick vs. Korobov…
He then ended the tournament with victories over Vladislav Kovalev and Vladimir Fedoseev. 44.Bh3! was the move that broke Fedoseev’s resistance:
Artemiev said he couldn’t see a satisfactory defence for Black, though 44…Nc5!, preparing 45.Rf4 Nxd3! may still have given some chances. Instead after 44…Kxh6? 45.Rf4! Ne2 46.Rfxa4 bxa4 47.Bxd7 Artemiev was a piece up, and he didn’t go astray in the remaining 10 moves that Fedoseev prolonged the game.
As we mentioned at the start, for once in 2019 Artemiev very slightly lost rating...
...but he edged out Dmitry Jakovenko on the tiebreak of more wins (they had an identical Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak) to take first place:
Note it was also an impressive 50% performance for 17-year-old Andrey Esipenko, who could easily be keeping Artemiev company at the top of the rating list in a few more years.
The final recent event we’re going to look at is the Asian Continental Championship, which took place in Xingtai, China from 7-15 June. When 15-year-old Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja started with 3.5/4 he was threatening to match Wei Yi and Magnus Carlsen by crossing 2700 on the live rating list before his 16th birthday. In Round 5, however, he was to run into an absolutely stunning move by 20-year-old 2-time Indian Champion Karthikeyan Murali:
Karthikeyan paused for 21 minutes here before unleashing the positional queen sacrifice 9…Qxc3+!! It seems it didn't come as quite such a shock for everyone!
After 10.bxc3 dxe3 11.f3!? Nh5! Black already had good
compensation, and within 10 moves had taken over. Karthikeyan didn’t spoil his
masterpiece but went on to win in 52 moves.
The queen sacrifice immediately reverberated around the chess world, with Peter Svidler giving it high praise before he began his Banter Blitz session on a Norway Chess rest day:
You can replay the game here.
Firouzja bounced back after that loss to defeat Aravindh in the very next round, but he went on to lose one more game, to the eventual tournament winner, Le Quang Liem.
The US based Vietnamese star finished in clear first on 7/9:
The main intrigue about the tournament wasn’t first place, however, but gaining one of the five World Cup places available. Le Quang Liem had actually already qualified from the 2018 Asian Championship, while Rinat Jumabayev did so via a zonal tournament in Uzbekistan, so that the places went to Karthikeyan, Sethuraman, Narayanan, Firouzja and Gupta (check out all the qualifiers so far here). Top seed Vidit and stars such as Adhiban, Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin missed out, though Nihal did get a consolation prize on the final day!
We now have a slight lull in the top class action before the Croatia Grand Chess Tour starts next Wednesday, June 26th, but we mean slight. Ding Liren and David Navara are playing a 10-game rapid match in Prague (with 67-year-old Jan Timman also taking on 17-year-old Thai Dai Van Nguyen) and Le Quang Liem will join Shankland, Jones, Howell, Xiong and Swiercz for the top group of the Summer Chess Classic in St. Louis. That starts today and is a 10-round double round-robin. Also before Croatia we have a new event, the Netanya International Chess Festival in Israel, where the Masters features Dominguez, Svidler, Dubov, Rodshtein, McShane, Nabaty, Gelfand, Eljanov, Postny and Smirin. That starts on Sunday.
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