Reports Dec 3, 2014 | 3:10 PMby Colin McGourty

Kramnik clobbers Giri, Igor the Bald on fire

On Tuesday Kramnik towered over Giri at the board, and not only literally... | photo: Dmitry Rukhletskiy, Qatar Masters

It was the showdown we’d all been waiting for. Anish Giri, on a streak of six wins out of six, faced a day of reckoning against Vladimir Kramnik. What followed was a bitter pill to swallow for the young Dutchman as Kramnik, one accidental opening innovation aside, produced a masterpiece of positional chess to catch Giri on 6/7 with two rounds to go. Over in Russia, meanwhile, Igor Lysyj has stolen the limelight by adding Sergey Karjakin to his earlier scalps of Dmitry Jakovenko and Alexander Morozevich.

There were 77 games in the Qatar Masters Open on Tuesday, but only one had the undivided attention of the whole chess world. GM Jan Gustafsson and IM Lawrence Trent take us through it:

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Before the game Giri had continued the running joke about Kramnik's struggles to find the name of his opponent by turning the name card to face him:

But afterwards it was Kramnik doing the joking. He noted to Simon Williams that his opponent, “was about to score Caruana’s seven victories”, before later adding, “I still have a chance to do a Caruana!”

Not Giri's best day at the office | photo: Dmitry Rukhletskiy, Qatar Masters

Kramnik has now won all five classical games he’s played against Giri with the white pieces, and couldn’t help echoing his “client” comments about Carlsen when he noted:

Anish is now even ahead of me on rating but still at the moment it’s a bit difficult for him to play me. Of course it’s clear that time is running for him, so very soon he will start to beat me - like a patzer! But for the moment I’m still holding somehow.

Kramnik was asked about the main contenders for the next match against Magnus Carlsen. First he played down his own chances of qualifying for the Candidates - which given the current rating situation and his absence from the Grand Prix don’t look great – before adding:

There are a lot of very good young players – Caruana, Aronian… and Grischuk is playing very well nowadays. If he keeps on playing like this he can really challenge. And some younger guys like So – he’s risen very quickly. Now the competition is incredibly high. You cannot really predict who is going to be Carlsen’s next opponent. Karjakin as well, of course.

Chess can be tough! | photo: Maria Emelianova, Qatar Masters

The key events on other boards in Qatar were that China’s Yu Yangyi beat Aleksandr Lenderman to move to 5.5/7 and get to play Giri with Black on Board 1 in Round 8, while Salem A.R. Saleh won a very creative game (from both players!) against Rauf Mamedov to get White against Kramnik:

Here Black is much better, but Salem’s 42…Rxd5! was the only way to end the game on the spot. White can’t take the rook due to Re2+ and a quick mate, but there’s also no way to parry the threat of Rd2+ e.g. 43.Rf2 Qe5+ picks up the rook on a1.

Behind Salem Saleh and Yu Yangyi on 5.5/7 is a group of no less than 14 grandmasters on 5/7, including heavyweights such as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Evgeny Tomashevsky. The latter failed to qualify for the Russian Championship as he finished only 7th at the Russian Higher League qualifier – which brings us to the winner of that event…

Igor the Bald leads the Russian Championship

Igor Lysyj is the newest member of the 2700 club after beating Sergey Karjakin, though he has more hair than your average bald man | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

When Igor Lysyj took the lead in the first round of the Russian Men’s Championship Superfinal it looked coincidental – yes, he’d beaten 2732-rated Dmitry Jakovenko, but he was only leading since all the other games were drawn. Now after Round 5, though, he absolutely deserves his sole lead on 3.5/5, since he’s added Alexander Morozevich and now Sergey Karjakin to his list of scalps – and taken his live rating to a neat 2700.0 going into the rest day.

He wiped Karjakin from the board:

Here 38…Bxc6! seemed counterintuitive, giving White a supported passed c-pawn, but Igor had seen that after 39.dxc6 (39.Rxc6 may be better, but it seems Igor was right to describe this position as strategically lost for White afterwards) 39…d5! he’s crashing through.

Sergey Shipov, the Championship’s Russian commentator and the author of a two-volume opening manual “The Complete Hedgehog”, described the game as follows:

Igor Lysyj delighted me by playing a classical “Hedgehog”. No doubt in future I’ll use that game if I continue my Hedgehog survey. The game really did end up very solid, with everything done sensibly and expertly: the opening, the setup and the accurate and competent manoeuvring. Igor pushed ahead at the right moment, opening the position. It felt as though Igor simply played brilliantly. It’s hard to understand what’s going on with Sergey Karjakin in this tournament. It’s obvious that for some reason Sergey isn’t in form. In short, it’s a surprise that the Elo favourite is at the bottom of the table, while the newcomer has raced out in front.

So who is Igor Lysyj? Well, the stub biography at the Russian Chess Federation website is probably not the place to start, except for the URL giving the literal translation of his surname!

Igor was born 27 years ago in the industrial city of Nizhny Tagil in the Ural Mountains. He still lives and has studied for two degrees (Economics and Sport) in the region, gaining some support for his chess career from the university and also the locally-based chess team Malakhit, with whom he won the 2014 Russian Team Championship.

Igor Lysyj with his Malakhit teammates Alexander Grischuk and Peter Leko after winning the 2014 Russian Team Championship | photo: Vladimir Barsky, Russian Chess Federation

Perhaps Lysyj’s career-best individual result was to finish half a point clear of the field with a 7.5/9 2847 performance at the 2012 Moscow Open, but he’s also had a very impressive 2014. He finished 2nd in the Iasi Open in Romania and then went on to win the Russian Higher League to qualify for his first ever Russian Championship Superfinal.

Higher League winners Igor Lysyj and Olga Girya raise the Russian flag at the Closing Ceremony | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

It’s not only his results that stand out, however. The first line of GM Dmitry Kryakvin’s blog on Levon Aronian’s opening disaster against Alexander Grischuk in Norway Chess was, “Woe to him who doesn’t study Lysyj.” Aronian had apparently failed to do so, or forgotten his analysis, and Kryakvin ended the article:

I have to note that not studying the ideas of such creative guys as Igor Lysyj and Alexander Riazantsev looks slightly frivolous in our omniscient computer age.

When asked about the praise he was given as a “fierce analyst” Igor was modest:

Everyone now has a powerful computer and when we switch on Houdini we all become great analysts. Of course I find Dmitry’s opinion flattering, but with the current state of technological development if you have some stubbornness and are willing to expend time and energy then it’s become much easier to do high quality analysis than it was 5-6 years ago. Although back then it was more interesting to analyse.

Lysyj is also the co-author of two books on 1.e4 e5, including one devoted solely to the Berlin. In any case, with four rounds to go after Wednesday’s single rest day Igor will have a chance to try and repeat Dmitry Andreikin’s feat in 2012 of winning first the Higher League and then the main Russian Championship.

There was a very familiar commentary team for part of the Round 5 action in Kazan | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

So what other events took place in the Russian Championship? Well, Alexander Morozevich won two in a row to take the lead after Round 3, but is now right back where he started after losses in Rounds 4 and 5. His defeat against Denis Khismatullin can’t be described as anything other than deserved, but for a single move in time trouble, after 34…Rb6?, he could have turned the tables:

Morozevich responded to the attack on his rook with 35.Rc7?, but instead 35.f6+ wins. Black can’t take on f6 with the king due to the knight fork on d5, while other king moves allow White to push his e-pawn to the seventh rank.

Perhaps the weirdest game of the day, however, was Svidler-Nepomniachtchi, which looked to be going all Peter Svidler’s way after 15.b4!

When Nepomniachtchi was later commenting on whether he could have continued at the end instead of taking a draw by repetition he explained:

If I play on let’s say I win after some long game in some slightly better endgame, or I lose in three moves. I didn’t really want to lose in three moves, especially after I met with b4 in the opening. After b4 really the percentage that I’m losing by force was slightly more than, let’s say, 80.

Fresh from providing English commentary on the World Championship match in Sochi the players decided to do the same in Kazan, with Peter remarking: “Just like the good old times - finally doing what we're supposed to do!”

It was great fun, and can be replayed from around 01:40:00 in the video above. Svidler explained his tournament situation (“I'm currently on -1, having lost a position against Alexander Morozevich that under normal circumstances out of ten games you win five, you draw five”), how he’d been confused by the speed of his opponent’s play and introduced the mysterious phrase: “The worm is so long and life is so short”.

So after five rounds it’s all very symmetrical:

1. Lysyj, 3.5/5
2-3. Jakovenko, Nepomniachtchi, 3/5
4-7. Zvjaginsev, Vitiugov, Khismatullin, Morozevich, 2.5/5
8-9. Svidler, Grachev, 2/5
10. Karjakin, 1.5/5

Sergey Karjakin, meanwhile, was keeping up his spirits and solved one of the mysteries of this year’s Championship – where was Russian no. 1 Alexander Grischuk?

Karjakin: “In order to somehow recover I decided to watch the children’s programme “Perekrestok” (“Crossroads”). I was amazed to see Grischuk and his daughter there

And indeed – Grischuk and his daughter are among the "red team's supporters", with his daughter correctly answering one question about a road sign...

Goryachkina checks out the competition | photo: Eteri Kublashvili, Russian Chess Federation

In the women’s tournament, meanwhile, we had seen three draws in 20 games before Round 5. And after Round 5? Three draws in 25 games! Reigning Champion Valentina Gunina has raced back with three wins after she started with two defeats, but so far the plaudits go to 16-year-old Aleksandra Goryachkina, who took the sole lead on 4/5. It might seem odd to say about someone who’s only played decisive games in Kazan, but after her win over Anastasia Bodnaruk, Sergey Shipov noted that she stands out from the crowd:

Once again you can admire Aleksandra Goryachkina, who’s demonstrating very adult chess. You can say of her that she plays with an unwomanlike solidity, despite her young age.

In an interview where Igor Lysyj lamented the state of chess in his region, noting that the youngest grandmaster was 26, he added:

If you don’t count the brilliant Aleksandra Goryachkina, but she’s a woman’s grandmaster.

We can safely assume she’ll soon be a men’s grandmaster, and that producing such a player isn’t too bad for any region!      

You can watch Round 8 of the Qatar Masters live and also check out all the games in the other events at the links below:

You can also see every game in our free mobile apps:


See also:

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