Chigorin Memorial in St. Petersburg
By Misha Savinov
Once against St. Petersburg hosts a major open tournament! Not as spectacular
as the Russian Higher League (took place in May), in which one could meet Khalifman,
Dreev, Sakaev, Epishin and other notable players, but quite strong nevertheless.
35 Grandmasters (excluding 2582-rated Andrey Kornev, who has no international
title despite his dozen of IM and GM norms) and 31 International Masters represented
mostly former USSR countries with only two exceptions: Spanish amateur De Luna
(1938) and USA IM Rashid Ziatdinov (2464). The latter, however, is also a former
Autumn in St. Petersburg
I wonder why there are so few players from other countries! Moscow "Aeroflot
open" attracts incomparably more foreign participants. Is that only because
of prize fund? OK, $2000 the first prize in such a strong event doesn't sound
too promising. But what about good training? Meeting serious opposition? Opportunity
to make norms? Opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful European cities,
after all? Well, perhaps if St. Petersburg organizers fix the prize fund part,
Russia's Nordic Capital would become more important part of the European chess
travel map. There are rumors that they are planning to organize a really good
event next year...
An independent tournament with rich history by itself, this year's Chigorin
Memorial was also a qualification for Russian Cup Final (a round-robin taking
place in December) with top five advancing. As a member of ACP Tour, it also
provided the most successful players with some ACP rating points. As you probably
know, ACP plans to organize Masters tournament based on these points, and there
is a pretty high chance that its winner will challenge Mr. Kramnik. That makes
Chigorin's Memorial an integral part of world championship cycle, too!
Onstage in the Chigorin's Club
I am not going to discuss the tournament struggle in every detail. For some
reason most readers are ready to observe every ply of a 19-move draw if it
bears "Linares" tag on it, but reluctant to spend their time on dramatic
course of a good open tournament. Well, maybe this is my fault as well as my
colleagues', other chess journalists. A strong open provides its smart spectator
with great intrigue, real emotions, time-trouble tragedies, unexplainable blunders
and sensational results. A great director like Milos Forman could film an exciting
movie at such event – a unique plot, number of distinct characters, extreme
tension, love and hate, culmination... and, if you like, the cycle starts over
in another country in a couple of days. Chess is greatly undervalued entertainment!
But we are too lazy to dig into it, to advertise its excitement. In some sense
it is easier and safer to position chess as esoteric game for esoteric people.
And it is obviously much more advantageous to switch to more prestigious occasion,
where one could easily condemn the no-risk strategy, call someone a "drawnik",
suggest three points for a win or another equally unacceptable solution to
a short draw problem, and send out habitually angry reports on perennial dull
WGM Maria Kursova and one of the youngest spectators. The event location is
Chigorin's Chess Club – one of the strongest chess schools in city,
and this boy is one of its pupils
The quality of play... Well, those who enjoys football (or soccer for some
Western Hemisphere people) like I do, probably can't wait for next Tuesday
and Wednesday to turn on a TV for the League of Champions. These titanic struggles
produce high quality of play, but would we abandon watching our local championship
and local team because it is not of AC Milan caliber? And in chess the situation
is quite different to football, because while we have decent local matches,
chess version of AC Milan – Internazionale too often ends on 17th minute
by mutual agreement.
Only 29% of the games at the Chigorin Memorial were drawn, 3.4% were short
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying there were no short draws in Chigorin's
Memorial. There were some. Like 3.4% of total number of games ended peacefully
before move 20. In open tournament you play for a win, or you don't get your
money and norms. And Grandmasters seeking win generate interesting games. Not
necessarily of good quality, but it is a really uncompromising chess.
Grandmaster Leonid Yurtaev – not a very good result, but surely several
Sorry for a long introduction, but after this year's Linares, Dortmund and
Brissago it very much seems like chess as professional sport is going nowhere,
and I honestly don't believe the situation being that desperate.
Local grandmaster Evgeny Alekseev and Ernesto Inarkiev from Elista were the
top rated participants with 2604. For those considering 2600 "weak"
I should spice it up adding that Inarkiev arrived from European Club championship
in Turkey with a 4th board performance of 2794! Unfortunately, Ernesto (his
parents named him after Che Guevara) looked very tired after the Turkish event,
and suffered three losses in St. Petersburg.
IM Novikov (left) vs. GM Grigoriants (Harley)
Grandmasters won most of their games in 1st and 2nd round, which is natural
for the Swiss, so I would just focus on some upsets. Denis Khismatullin (2552)
lost to WIM Irina Vasilevich (2277), who splendidly conducted a lethal anti-Sicilian
attack. Igor Yagupov (2509) lost with Black to candidate master Alexey Bryndin
(2215). Bryndin was down by two pawns on 13th move (obviously there was a compensation),
played well in the middlegame, and exploited grandmaster's blunder on 39th
move trapping his knight in the endgame. Poor Yagupov did not recover from
this defeat, and went down against other under 2300 players twice, but kept
playing (his fighting spirit should be praised, because two other GMs dropped
out after losing prize-winning chances) and finished with more or less decent
"+ 1". The young Ukrainian Andrey Vovk (2243) mated his fellow countryman
Alexander Areshchenko (2580). Vovk brothers, Andrey and Yury, were very successful
with their ultra-aggressive chess at the early stages of the tournament (note
that "Vovk" means "wolf" in Ukrainian), but only tied for
51st-85th in the end.
IM Konstantin Maslak, well-known internet blitz player and teacher. Konstantin
turned a winning position into a loss in the last round in his opponent's time
trouble – a huge blunder.
After three rounds there were five players with 100% score: Efimenko, Bocharov,
Kokarev, Gavliov and Ziyatdinov. Zakhar Efimenko and Dmitry Bocharov were among
top ten rated players, so naturally they were considered to be early favorites.
However, they failed to confirm their good form in the 4th round, as both quickly
reached (although defended) inferior positions against IMs.
Vladimir Belov is reading a bulletin
Round 5 was a turnaround for Inarkiev, who suffered first of his three defeats.
His victor, GM Vladimir Belov, took the lead together with Efimenko, Bocharov
and Sergey Ivanov. Sergey Ivanov, St. Petersburg grandmaster (need to mention
that because there was another Sergey Ivanov, solid 2061 player, who finished
with 2S points) drew with yet another Ivanov, Alexey (2281), in the first round,
and won four following games. Don't get confused with Ivanovs...
Sergey Ivanov meditates under Chigorin's portrait
Round 6 was a good round to break out of pelothon, as draws were agreed on
9 out of 10 tables onstage. Some of them were extremely bloody draws, like
one between Belov and Bocharov. The only decisive game was a blow for Efimenko – he blundered simple tactics and lost his queen to Ivanov.
Ivanov,S (2553) – Efimenko,Z (2594) [E55]
Chigorin Memorial St. Petersburg, 21.10.2004
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.0-0 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Nbd7
9.Qe2 b6 10.Rd1 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Bb7 12.e4 Bxc3 13.bxc3 Qe7 14.f3 Rfc8 15.a4 Ne5
16.Ba3 Qc7 17.Bb3 Nc4?? 18.Nb5 Qc6 19.Bxc4 Qxc4 20.Rd8+ Rxd8 21.Qxc4 Rac8 22.Qe2
Uncompromising Dmitry Bocharov had a chance to catch Ivanov in the next round,
but his attack wasn't well planned – the initiative evaporated, and Black
slowly converted two extra pawns. Sergey Ivanov won his 6th consecutive game!
It should be said that such a strike is quite rare in chess, especially if
you last name is not Morozevich, but nevertheless possible – in case
you are not feared to death by other participants. Sergey Ivanov is a solid
GM, good theoretician, he possesses deep endgame knowledge, but is considered
to be, you know, "old". 43-year-old Ivanov definitely represents
another generation of chess players compared to the majority of participants.
No less important is that his primary occupation is not chess – grandmaster,
graduated from Economics faculty, works as a chief of marketing department
at one of local factories. His chess background surely helps business. Normally,
modern young professional tends to overestimate their chances against "old
amateurs", but only those able to remain objective do well in chess.
Touch move is not in effect yet – Spartak Vysochin
Spartak Vysochin from Ukraine interrupted Ivanov's strike, taking a draw in
the round 8. Former St. Petersburg champion lead the field by a full point,
so draw was acceptable for him, and Vysochin improved his prize-winning chances.
Of other contenders, only GM Alexey Bezgodov won the 8th round game. He trailed
Ivanov by half a point. Everything had to be decided in their personal encounter,
Bezgodov playing White.
Last-round Bezgodov – breaking the Magino line?
Both players are strong theoreticians, and this time the opening duel went
in Bezgodov's favor. Ivanov decided to go into the line that was considered
to equalize easily, but in reality it turned to give Black inferior ending
without counterplay. However, in difficult situation Ivanov shoved great awareness
and patience to hold, and after 4 1/2 hours of play White lost his last passing
pawn – draw due to insufficient material. This result made Sergey Ivanov
a sole winner of the event, and brought Bezgodov to the second place ($ 1500).
Vitiugov vs Areshchenko, last round game.
17-year-old candidate master Nikita Vitiugov (2458) surprisingly tied for
2nd-3rd, defeating 18-year-old grandmaster Alex Areshchenko with White in the
final round. Vitiugov is refreshingly sharp player, his games are full of original
strategic decisions, and he has obvious tactical talent. It is possible that
Vitiugov lacks wide chess education, but this time he was able to compensate
it with imagination and fighting spirit.
There were 20 main prizes: 1 Ivanov (2553) – 7S; 2 Bezgodov (2546),
and 3 Vitiugov (2458) – 7,
4 Efimenko (2594), 5 Vysochin (2582), 6 Bocharov (2574), 7 Belov (2552), 8
Lutsko (2520), 9 Kokarev (2495), 10 Alekseev (2604), 11 Vorobiov (2524), 12
Smikovski (2503), 13 Ovetchkin (2473), 14 Kruppa (2547), 15 Silivanov (2295
– 1st prize under 2300), 16 Khismatullin (2552), and 17 Tunik (2476)
– all 6S,
18 Popov (2583), 19 Kuzubov (2530), 20 Geller (2489)... – 6, etc. 14-year-old
Russian IM Ildar Khairullin took junior prize. WGM Irina Slavina won women's
prize. [Full results
One of tournament sponsors offered $500 for a brilliancy prize. I would like
to point out that this added a great deal of motivation for many players that
could otherwise put little effort in the last round(s) because of earlier failures.
The jury did not decide upon the one and only best game, and decided to divide
the prize between IM Roman Ovetchkin and Julia Gromova (2156, finished 131st-146th).
Ovetchkin sacrificed two minor pieces and crushed violently the kingside of
grandmaster Shaposhnikov, while 16-year-old Gromova smothered 2415-rated IM
Kurenkov in pure positional style. Roman's last round game is not available
at the moment, but I hope you will enjoy lady's effort from round 4.
Two beauty prize winners: Roman Ovetchkin and Julia Gromova
Gromova,I (2156) – Kurenkov,N (2415) [A40]
Chigorin Memorial St. Petersburg, 19.10.2004
1.d4 Nc6 2.c4 e5 3.d5 Nce7 4.Nc3 Ng6 5.Nf3 Bb4. Quite a normal
opening for Kurenkov, who does not like mainstream theory. 6.Qb3 a5
(already a novelty) 7.a3 Bc5 8.Ne4 Be7.
9.d6. A key move that shaped the course of events.
9...cxd6. Knowing the outcome, one could suggest 9...Bxd6 –
Black had huge problems with his dark-squared bishop in the game. 10.Be3!
(threatening Be3-b6) 10...Ra6 11.g4! (aimed against f7-f5)
11…Nf6 12.Nxf6+ Bxf6 13.g5 Be7 14.h4 (forcing the black
knight to a passive position) 14...Nf8 15.0-0-0 a4 16.Qc3 Rc6. Kurenkov's
only active plan is to play b7-b5, but White has a defense.
17.Bg2! (now 17...b5 loses exchange to 18.Nd2) 17...Ne6
18.Ne1! It might be easy to play good moves in good position, but
the jury members nevertheless were impressed by energetic and precise play
of St. Petersburg girls-under-16 champion. White knight goes to d5.
18...Ra6 19.Nd3 b6 20.Nb4 Ra5 21.Nd5 Nc5 22.Qb4 Bb7 (indirectly
protecting pawn on b6) 23.Rhg1 (the threat is renewed) 23...Bxd5
24.Bxd5 f5. Black is desperate to create a counterplay at all costs,
but he never gets a chance. 25.Bxc5 dxc5 26.Qc3 Qc7.
27.f4!! Very patient and deadly. 27.g6 allows 27...Bf6, but now g5-g6 is irresistible.
27...Bd6 28.g6 h6 29.Bf7+ Ke7 30.Rd5. Julia obviously foresaw
this position when executing her pawn sacrifice on move 9. Yes, I know I like
reading KingPin, though rarely have a chance...
30...Kd8 31.Rgd1 Bf8 32.Rxd7+ Qxd7 33.Rxd7+ Kxd7 34.Qxe5
and Black resigned 1-0.
17-year-old student Maria Fominykh (2309). She is going to become a journalist
Sergey Ivanov being interviewed by Russian press
Great time between the end of the last game and prize-awarding ceremony. Chess
players suddenly change their appearance. They look like gypsies in Emir Kusturica
movies – friendly, charming, humorous and spontaneous: wholeheartedly
enjoying their special way of life and ready to take off soon...
Representing St. Petersburg: Anna Dushenok and Evgeny Alekseev
Nikita Vitiugov (left) receives 3rd prize from IM Andrey Petelin, vice-president
of St. Petersburg chess federation
Reconstructing the games
The book shop
...and a coffee corner – don't underestimate the coffee factor in chess!
is a journalist, chess columnist,
and PhD student in marine ecology in St. Petersburg
Previous articles by Misha Savinov
nights in St. Petersburg|
The Russian Championship qualifiers are in full swing, with Alexey Dreev
still in the lead. The games are exciting, with some spectacular accidents.
Oh, yes, and it is advisable to have dark glasses at the end of the games,
to protect your eyes from the 10 p.m. sun. Here's Misha Savinov's beautiful
Petersburg wrap-up – part 1|
The preliminaries for the Russian Championship in St Petersburg and Tomsk
are completed. The former was won by Alexei Dreev, ahead of Tseshkovsky
and Epishin. The quality of play was very high, and we return – by popular
demand – to this exciting tournament with a new two-part pictorial
report by Misha Savinov.
Petersburg wrap-up – part 2
The last two rounds of the preliminaries for the Russian Championship
in St Petersburg decided it all. Of special importance was the question:
who would get a ticket to the super-final with Kasparov and Kramnik,
planned for November? Misha Savinov tells us in part two of his pictorial
nights revisited, four hundred years of Tomsk|
The preliminaries for the Russian Championship are under way in St Petersburg
and Tomsk. We have all the results and games, but also some background
on the bright nights in the former Russian capital and on the four-hundred-year
old city of Tomsk. New pictorial
Morozevich wins Moscow Blitz|
Every year there is a Moscow Blitz championship, sponsored by a local
newspaper. The first prize is a beautiful samovar. The legendary Mikhail
Tal took twelve of them home with him to Riga. This year, under the watchful
eyes of some famous player, it was another magician
of the chess board