Peter Svidler thought he was joking when he said half the field led the men’s Russian Championship after Round 5, but it was a statement of fact. Wins for defending champion Evgeny Tomashevsky and top seed Alexander Grischuk meant the tournament is anyone’s to win with five rounds to go, with Svidler himself missing great chances to take the sole lead. In the women’s event Natalija Pogonina beat Alexandra Kosteniuk in Round 5 and won again in Round 6 to catch her rival in the lead.
You can play through all the Russian Men’s Championship Superfinal games using the selector below, or hover over a player’s name to see his results so far:
During this event we’ve had privileged access to Peter Svidler, who has been sharing his thoughts from his hotel room in Novosibirsk almost the moment he returns from each round – giving a real insight into how a top player actually thinks before, during (and after!) a game. Click below to see the latest updates:
A win in either of those games would have taken Peter into the sole lead, but it wasn’t to be. After the second he summed up:
Perhaps this is the most dissatisfied I’ve been in this tournament, for some reason, even though I was probably close to completely winning yesterday, and my advantage today was not as clear cut. But yesterday I feel like my winning chances were a fluke. My opponent just played way too safely in a position where he could have done almost anything and had a very pleasant edge, whereas today for the first 15 moves I was playing with a very clear concept of what I was trying to do in mind and I was, I think, doing a decent job of it, and then I just let it slip completely and frankly some of the decisions I took later in the game right now feel barely comprehensible to me. Not my proudest moment.
Let’s start with the Round 5 game. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but although it was gratifying for Svidler that his opponent told him afterwards that he’d in part modelled his very solid white repertoire on Svidler’s, that was problematic during the game. Dmitry Kokarev was well-prepared for the Breyer variation of the Ruy Lopez and dismayed Peter by spending just 28 seconds in this position:
20.Bxc5! Peter described this as “the modern way of approaching this position and it’s very unpleasant for Black”, since although the powerful bishop is gone it’s now “incredibly hard to find counterplay”. But although the 7-time Russian Champion felt he was balancing on the edge of the abyss, when Kokarev exchanged off all the rooks the pendulum swung the other way, until after 38.f4 he had a great chance to take home a full point:
38…Nf7!! 39.Ng2 exf4 40.gxf4 was when Svidler stopped his calculations, missing the blockbuster 40…Ne5!
With the knight landing on d3 White’s days would have been numbered, though in the game Peter still got another chance to take home the full point. It wasn’t quite to be, and one miscalculation led to a draw on move 55.
After that encounter Svidler explained his approach for the next round:
It’s an important game, before the rest day with the white pieces. I should probably try and pose more problems to my opponents than I have in my last two white games.
Up to a point the plan worked out. Peter was willing to take some risks in the opening (slightly more than he bargained on, since he admitted to some miscalculations) to get both sides thinking on their own early on. After 17 moves it had worked out almost to perfection:
As Svidler explained:
In this position, now that I look at it calmly, sitting in my room, it’s incredibly difficult for me to understand how I did not castle. Just playing 18.0-0-0 looks like absolutely the most natural thing in the world. You connect the rooks, you create ideas of taking on g6, doubling on the h-file. You safeguard your king. It really boggles the mind that I haven’t done this.
Instead he switched to what he called a “meh kind of approach”, and after 18.hxg6 hxg6 19.Rh4?! Ne6 20.Qc3?! Nxc5 21.Qxc5 Qd6 22.Qa5 Be6 23.Rc1? (“the moment you release the piece and press the clock you realise you’ve made a horrible mistake”) 23…Rh8! our hero had to scramble not to actually lose.
Fortunately, perhaps, no-one else managed to surpass Svidler, though some big guns did make their move in Round 5 after starting with four draws. Defending Champion Evgeny Tomashevsky inflicted a third defeat on Ernesto Inarkiev, outplaying the European Champion in a tricky ending. Top seed Alexander Grischuk also got off the mark by winning what he described as, “definitely not anything resembling a brilliant game” against co-leader Grigoriy Oparin. Afterwards Grischuk showed how his opponent had cracked under the pressure of defending a difficult position out of the opening:
The other player to win was Dmitry Jakovenko, who easily thwarted Dmitry Bocharov’s kingside attack and went up to pick up material. Jakovenko also came very close to winning a third game in a row and taking the sole lead in Round 6, but let Oparin pull off one of his many incredible escapes in Novosibirsk:
The most practical option here for Jakovenko was perhaps 36…Ng4, threatening mate-in-1 and forcing White to go on the defensive (giving a single check first changes nothing). Instead Jakovenko took the b and then a-pawns, but in the meantime Oparin was able to play 37.h3, 38.g4 and 41.g5!, when the position was suddenly a draw.
The only decisive result in Round 6 saw Inarkiev beat Bocharov to leapfrog above him off the bottom of the table, which looks as follows:
Once again the women’s event has been much more lively, with only four draws in the last 12 games. The big move has been made by 2012 Champion Natalia Pogonina, who beat the runaway leader Alexandra Kosteniuk in Round 5 in a game where she found a way to win a pawn in what seemed an innocuous position.
Alexandra, with Black, put up a great fight, but Natalija had calculated the endgame race:
66.h8=Q! b1=Q 67.Qa8+ Kb2 68.Qb8+ Ka1 69.Qxb1+ Kxb1 and though they played to move 80 Kosteniuk had to concede that she couldn’t stop the knight shielding the white queen that would soon appear on g8.
That round also saw young Aleksandra Goryachkina inflict a crushing third defeat in Novosibirsk on Valentina Gunina:
It was already a hopeless position without allowing 24…Qxd4!, with a knight fork on e2 next move.
Kosteniuk still led the tournament alone, but was caught when she failed to consolidate a position with two rooks and a knight versus a queen against Olga Girya and could only draw. Pogonina joined her on 4.5/6 by beating an out-of-sorts Alisa Galliamova. The most amusing finish of the round, meanwhile, came in the game between Anastasia Bodnaruk and Daria Charochkina. All hail the desperado rook!
So we have two leaders in the women’s tournament with five rounds to go:
Saturday is a rest day, and then on Sunday Svidler has Black against top seed Grischuk.
Peter commented, “we tend to play very exciting games every now and again, and this tournament needs excitement,” before adding:
The tournament has been reasonably quiet so far, but I think as people potentially get tired and also as the aforementioned jockeying for positions intensifies towards the business end of the tournament, so to speak, it should liven up - and I hope to play my part in that!