Interviews May 23, 2018 | 8:51 AMby Colin McGourty

Svidler on winning the Russian Team Championship

Peter Svidler’s Bronze Horseman team recently won the Russian Team Championship for a 3rd time after scoring eight wins and one draw. It wasn’t easy, though, since they were pushed all the way by their Moscow rivals led by Daniil Dubov and had to beat the 2nd seeds led by Boris Gelfand in the final round to clinch the title. Peter talks about how the tournament went and about the players and games that stood out.

Peter Svidler's 7 draws and 1 win on top board wasn't spectacular, but it helped his team to overall victory | photo: Barksy/Vashenyak, Russian Team Championship

8-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler will soon be back on our screens again – he may take part in the big Bundesliga playoff that’s happening in Baden-Baden tomorrow and is likely to involve a lot of star players…

…and he’s going to be commentating live with Jan Gustafsson on the Altibox Norway Chess supertournament that starts with a blitz opener on Sunday:

Note their commentary will be Premium only, as it was for last year’s Norway Chess, while the commentary on the official site will be open to all. By agreement with the organisers Jan and Peter will once again be able to show video of the players.

Before that, though, Peter’s last big chess achievement was a team one. His Miedny Vsadnik (= Bronze Horseman, a statue of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg that was immortalised in a poem by Alexander Pushkin) team won the Russian Team Championship in Sochi. We reported on the event after six rounds, so check that out for details on the key early games. We then delayed a final report in the hope, frankly, that there would be an interview with Peter Svidler, and though the wait turned out to be a long one it was worth it!

Vladimir Barsky talked to Peter Svidler for the Russian Chess Federation website, and we’ve translated most of the interview below:      

Vladimir Barsky: Congratulations on the win! How many is that for Bronze Horseman?

Peter Svidler: I thought I’d be asked about that, and I realised I don’t know the answer to the question. Perhaps the fourth, or the third. At least for the team with its current name. If you’re talking about my wins in the Russian Team Championship then there are significantly more of them, but I’ve been doing this job for a long time now.

Svidler's team took the Premier League gold, while the Yugra team of Pogonina, Ushenina, Girya, Nechaeva and Kovanova won the women's event | photo: Barksy/Vashenyak, Russian Team Championship

In general, Vladimir Vladimirovich Bykov recently launched a new site and everything’s covered there. Moreover, I even looked at the stats relatively recently, but for some reason I’m all at sea on this question.

What can you say about the current Championship? How did it differ from previous ones?

Objectively, the line-ups were weaker. You have to admit that the absence of the true “crocodiles” from the Siberia/Globus team made the tournament much more agreeable, let’s say, in terms of line-ups. And somehow it all went well for us from the start, in contrast, for instance, to the guys from Sima-Land, who we played in the last round. We’re slightly superior to them in rating on the top boards, but we’re inferior on the bottom boards. On paper that was a totally even match; it also looked completely unclear until in time trouble everything fell apart for them on a couple of boards. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for them.

Click on a result to open that game with computer analysis

From the first round?

Yes. I don’t know why it went like that – I won’t try and judge. For us, on the contrary, everything went well. There were extremely nerve-wracking matches which were decided in one or two games. For example, the crunch match against Moscow was decided in the game Fedoseev-Najer; for a long time the position was extremely bad for us, but it ended with a victory for Vladimir in time trouble, when Evgeniy had very little time left.

Of course that was a crucial game, because we won that match by the smallest of margins, and we won thanks to a win in a position where the evaluation for Vladimir at some point was roughly -3. Of course it wasn’t a technical -3 when, to put it crudely, there are two extra pawns that queen on their own. It was a sharp, tactical position in which you had to give mate, but it was clear that there was a mate; and the fact that in the end mate was given “in the wrong goal” played a very important role in the outcome of the tournament.

Over the course of the tournament all of us, even myself, won at least one important game. I won only once (and overall I can’t, of course, consider the tournament a success), but nevertheless I managed to score a win in the match against the Moscow team, which we won +1. Nikita won one, but a critical game against Evgeny Alekseev, which in principle was extremely tough to win.

Nikita won “out of nothing”. I had the impression that the position from the outset was completely equal, but he maintained the tension and at some point it became clear that it was no longer equal, and after that Nikita didn’t let go. 

A celebratory tweet after victory - only Peter is missing!

From board three onwards guys were already winning a lot of games. Vladimir Fedoseev, Maxim Matlakov – we all know how good those people are as chess players. Well, and a special word, of course, has to be said about Kirill Alekseenko.

The newcomer to the team?

Yes, that was his first tournament for our team. And he started by getting caught out in the first two games, and in a pretty depressing way. In his place many would have cracked – I’d definitely have plunged into an abyss of self-reproach, and I might not have managed to crawl out of it. But he won a series of critical games in a row with Black at the end, including a strategically complex game against Sergey Rublevsky in the last round. I don’t know how correct it all was tactically, but it was seemingly a very interesting and well-played (at least for time trouble) game by both players, in which Kirill consciously went for a complex struggle and turned out to be stronger in that complex struggle.

Here Alekseenko played 33...Nxf6!! 34.fxg5? Ng4!! and was completely winning

Ultimately Alekseenko ended the tournament on +2 after starting with -2. You can see, of course, that the young man is very talented, and it’s also particularly pleasant for me because he’s a student of Andrey Mikhailovich Lukin (the coach Svidler credits most for his own development). So there’s a certain continuity between the generations.

Your line-up was almost ideal?

If you mean in terms of Petersburg players, then yes. We already consider Dominguez a native, but he didn’t make it to the tournament. We’re still in touch with him and it’s possible he’ll play for our club again. We still have a good relationship with him, but certain events in his personal life have meant that in the last season he didn’t play, and there were seven of us. The line-up looks polished, though – everyone has a good relationship with everyone else.

You didn’t have a second reserve?


Because of cost savings?

No doubt part of the reason was economic, but that’s not my topic and I don’t particularly want to discuss it.

What happened of interest in the Premier League? Which games struck you? Which players did you admire? You always walk around a lot, observing other games.

I walk around, yes, but everything blurs together somewhat. At times I see something interesting is going on, but I don’t find out how many points that interesting thing brought. As for new names… I can’t say I’ve been following him actively for many years, but I’m aware of the existence of the young man David Paravyan.  

Last year he played for Gogol-Mogol.

Yes. 2-3 years ago in the Higher League he beat Evgeniy Najer with Black in an extremely strange, rare fork of the Grünfeld Defence, playing a line that I’d shown in one of my videos. 

This is a screen capture of the eBook based on Svidler's video

The line was so secondary, in a little-known variation, that I even wrote about it on Twitter, as if to say, how nice it is that young people are studying my work.

And then I met him here in Sochi at the Russian Team Championship. I literally caught up with him on the stairs and say: “David, you watched the video? Admit it”. He asks: “What video?” “Well, against Najer you played such and such a move”. David replies: “Well, the computer points it out, Peter Veniaminovich”. 

This year he also played an extremely interesting game against Ernesto Inarkiev, and also completely according to my video. 

This time in one of his 6.d3 Spanish videos Peter had given everything up until Inarkiev played 23...Kg6 instead of 23...Kg8

I couldn’t resist and had absolutely the same dialogue with him: “Well, this time you watched the video?” He was embarrassed: “There’s a video? Damn! Again I didn’t watch it!” In general, we’re nodding acquaintances, but nevertheless we have a common joke, with which we periodically entertain each other. No doubt his result should be mentioned. He took first place on second board, scored very many points and played well – interestingly, freshly.

Despite losing in the last round 16-year-old Andrey Esipenko still scored +2 to take his rating just short of 2600 | photo: Anna Burtasova, Russian Chess Federation

So young people are coming up. Again, there’s Andrey Esipenko. It’s less interesting to speak about him, since everyone knows about him anyway. He’s already some kind of known quantity and people have heard his surname. I also looked at what he’s been doing here – it’s clear that the youngster is developing and it’s pleasant to watch. Again, Pavel Ponkratov scored +3 on first board. To score +3 on top board in this tournament is extremely tough, so of course that’s a very significant achievement. 

The tournament is interesting and it’s always pleasant to play in. However, there’s nothing I can particularly boast about myself – nothing at all. Perhaps in return I’ll manage to play more lively chess in the Euro Clubs.

Will the team be reinforced somehow before the European Club Cup?

You need to ask Vladimir Vladimirovich about selection decisions, and again, he has more idea of the financial situation than we do. We’ll think about it. In general, we have a fighting line-up right now, and the presence of only one reserve makes the choice easier – there are far less permutations which you can waste 2.5 hours on. We don’t manage to make our team meetings shorter anyway, but if you imagine we have two reserves then they’ll just never end!

Gelfand-Svidler was a game Peter knew he might need to win, though by the end he could play calmly in the knowledge that even if he lost his team would triumph | photo: Barksy/Vashenyak, Russian Team Championship

As always, the most memorable came at the very end. I played an extremely interesting game against Boris Gelfand, but it’s hard to hold it up as an example, since it was literally stuffed with mistakes. 

A snapshot after 20.Rc1 - Gelfand as White has given up 3 pawns and has a knight trapped on c7, but the position is close to dynamically balanced!

It was incredibly interesting to play and, perhaps, even to watch, but when you ask the silicon monster a little about what went on – you can only scratch your noggin in bemusement: the percentage of totally inexplicable and unjustifiable blunders is off the scale. It’s clear we were both tired. Moreover, in that kind of game there’s so much calculation that by the time control your resources are already somewhat exhausted. It’s still a pity, though, that there were so many flaws. The drawn outcome can be considered objective, overall, but it should have been arrived at by a totally different path, without that exchange of second-rate decisions. The game was interesting, though.

Just a couple of days ago Svidler played and won the Bronze Horseman blitz tournament held in the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg | photo: Egor Karlin

As mentioned in the introduction, stay tuned to catch Peter Svidler either playing in the Bundesliga showdown or commentating on Altibox Norway Chess

See also:

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