Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is up 20 rating points to world no. 7 after his three wins in three for Siberia-Sirius propelled the Russian Team Championship favourites to the only 100% score after four rounds. It looks unlikely anyone can catch them after they beat their main rivals in Rounds 3 and 4, but there are plenty more storylines. 22-year-old Vladimir Fedoseev has crossed 2700 for the first time after beating Andreikin and Kovalenko, while 65-year-old 12th World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov had Peter Svidler on the ropes!
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov simply can’t stop winning after his victory in Shamkir, and he’s doing it with any colour and in various styles. In our last report we noted he beat Russian Champion Alexander Riazantsev with the black pieces. He followed that up by beating Nikita Vitiugov with White in a tricky knight and pawns ending. Shak has just played 54.Kf4:
Here 54…Nd6! and taking the pawn on c4 seems to have been a relatively straightforward draw for Vitiugov, but with his clock ticking Nikita played 54…exf5?! and after 55.Nd4! it was much trickier. Just a couple of moves later after 55…Nd6 56.Ne6+ Ke7? (56…Kg8! seems still to hold, but involves some very sharp lines) Black was lost.
The next game against Evgeniy Najer was more like the vintage attacking Mamedyarov we know and love. Najer has a similar love of sharp calculation and tried to punish Mamedyarov for a kingside attack, but it was White who got blown away:
23…Nxf3! 24.Bxf3 Be5! 25.Rh1 Qg3+ 26.Kf1 Bd3+ 27.Be2
It seems White is just about holding on, but no - 27…Rxb2! started a new wave of the attack. Najer’s play from the start of the attack to the end of the game can’t be criticised, but Mamedyarov didn’t put a foot wrong converting a winning position into a vital point for his team.
His rating rise has been relentless:
Neither Anish Giri nor Vladimir Kramnik can be especially pleased with three draws so far in Sochi for Siberia, but the team’s strength in depth can be seen in Alexander Grischuk having scored three wins and a draw on boards 3-5.
In Round 3 he toppled Maxim Rodshtein’s Berlin wall:
33.Ne6! Re7 34.Nxf8 Kxf8 35.e6! was game over, though as it was a team event Maxim played on and allowed Grischuk to demonstrate he knows how to create and push passed pawns.
Then in Round 4 he pounced on a mistake by Boris Grachev, who has just played 33…Rb1:
34.Rb5! doesn’t immediately win material, but after 34…Rxa1 35.Rxb8 Kf7 36.Qg3 Qd7 37.e5! Black’s position was impossible to hold.
This has been the year of 22-year-old Vladimir Fedoseev. The young Russian won the Aeroflot Open and will play Dortmund in July, where he’ll take on the likes of Kramnik and MVL. He came within a last-round draw of winning the St. Louis Winter Classic, was leading the GRENKE Chess Open until losing to eventual winner Vitiugov in the penultimate round and now, after seeming to hit a plateau for the last three years, he’s risen 42 points since January to finally cross the 2700 mark.
He’s been the bright spark of the tournament so far for reigning champions Bronze Horseman, with his 3.5/4 including consecutive wins over Dmitry Andreikin, who could never solve the problem of White’s passed c-pawn, and Igor Kovalenko, who let his pieces get tangled up before Fedoseev unleashed a fine break:
43…f4! 44.Qb1 The fearless computer gives up a whole rook with 44.exf4 e3 45.fxe3! Bxc2 46.Qc1 Bb3 47.Qxc3! Bxa2 48.e4 but even then it prefers Black.
Kovalenko went down fast, resigning after 44…fxg3 45.fxg3 Rf6 46.Bxe4 Qd6!
47.Kg2 runs into 47…Rf3! and White’s days are numbered.
The other youngster who deserves a mention is Vladislav Artemiev, who at 19 is Russia’s top junior and only ranked behind China’s Wei Yi and Poland’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda worldwide. He’s the reigning Russian Blitz Champion, finished runner-up in the 2016 World Junior Championship and won the fiercely strong Russian Championship Higher League in 2015, but he’s yet to have a break-out event that would establish him on the world stage.
Still, he’s now up to 2690.9 on the live rating list after drawing against Giri and Shirov with Black and winning his two white games in Sochi. He’ll have more chances to increase his rating before the event ends.
Last year Peter Svidler led his team Bronze Horseman to victory in the Russian Team Championship. This year it’s already all but impossible for them to retain the title, but Peter’s personal +1 unbeaten score has been highly respectable. It’s also been the result of blood, sweat and tears…
1. Svidler 1/2-1/2 Kramnik
Wins for Mamedyarov and Grischuk gave Siberia a 3.5:2.5 over Bronze Horseman in Round 3, but it could have been worse for the team from St. Petersburg. Kramnik beat Svidler with the black pieces in the same event in 2016 in a game where tactics began with White capturing a piece on c6. In 2017 Svidler should have done the same:
25.Nxc6 would most likely have ended in an uneventful draw, but instead 25.Rxa5!? let Kramnik demonstrate 25…Bxe4 26.Bxe4 Rxa5 27.Qxa5 Nxe4 and the knight is immune due to a rook check on c1 picking up the white queen. The players had both seen this, of course, and blitzed out further with 28.Kh2 Nc3 29.Rc1!? (29.Ra1 may have been simpler):
Kramnik spent 9 minutes confirming another trick worked: 29…Qxd4! 30.Qxc7 Qf4+ 31.g3! (temporarily giving up another pawn to force a defendable ending) 31…Qxf2+ 32.Kh1 Ne2 33.Qxf7+! Qxf7 34.Nxf7 Nxc1 35.Nd8 e5
Kramnik isn’t high among the people you’d choose to defend this position against, but Svidler held with some ease and a nice final touch.
2. Karpov 1/2-1/2 Svidler
That was just the warm-up, though, since Peter’s opponent in Round 4 was none other than 65-year-old Anatoly Karpov! Unlike most of his contemporaries, or even youngsters like Garry Kasparov, Anatoly has remained active, playing the occasional game in the German League. In fact, he drew an interesting encounter with Viktor Laznicka just the day before the Russian Team Championship started. His game for Malakhit against Svidler was an important one for both teams, and Anatoly went on to show it was no mistake for the lowest-rated player to be playing on the top board:
Svidler played the Grünfeld Defence against Karpov, recalling the one game he’d lost to Karpov over the course of his career. If you haven’t seen it, check out The Glory Days of 1999, where Svidler tells the sometimes hilarious tale of how he lost to Kasparov, Karpov and Anand in the space of only a few months.
Anyone who’s also watched Svidler’s full Grünfeld video series knows that the 7-time Russian Champion is happy to give up a pawn for activity, but Anatoly Karpov managed to convert what looked like only a token extra pawn (isolated and doubled) into real winning chances:
24.c6!? bxc6 25.Nxc6! exploited the weak knight on c4. Soon White was a healthy, if blockaded, pawn up, and the players agreed that Black would have been in real trouble if Karpov hadn’t acquiesced in the exchange of the light-squared bishops. As it was, Svidler played accurately in time trouble and the black pieces broke into the white camp and were able to force a draw by repetition.
That leaves Siberia two points clear of Legacy Square Capital and four points clear of the other strong teams with only three rounds to go. The following crosstable will update each round, and you can click on a result to go to the top game in that match:
On Friday Natalia Zhukova celebrated her birthday, with Svidler and Karpov among those enjoying an Odessan feast.
On Saturday there was the one general rest day for all tournaments, though that didn’t stop another being organised – the Russian Bughouse Championship. In that event for teams of two you pass pieces and pawns you capture to your colleague, who can choose to place one of them on the board instead of making a move. With a fast time control and prestige at stake the game gets very intense. This was the final clash:
The winners were young GMs Kirill Alekseenko and Daniil Yuffa: