2012 Russian championship – Going through the motions
It is the strongest national championship in the world. More than any other in the world, the title on a player’s resumé speaks volumes of their ability and competitiveness. And if that is not enough, aside from financial incentives and bragging rights, there is a potential spot on the national team at stake.
The start of the hostilities
The field is also far from boring, even if one might regret the absence of Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Morozevich, but even with this ‘weakened’ field, six of the ten players are members of the 2700 club, notably top-seed Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler, 2012 European champion Dmitry Jakovenko, Dmitry Andreikin, and Nikita Vitiugov. Rounding it off are qualifiers Evgeny Alekseev, 2011 European champion Vladimir Potkin, 19-year-old Sanan Sjugirov and of course the star of the recent qualifiers, 16-year-old Daniil Dubov, the lowest rated with 2594. All in all, it would seem a recipe for exciting chess.
16-year-old Daniil Dubov is playing his first Russian final
Instead, it is the strangest thing, with a spell of lethargy and lack of fighting spirit cast over the field. The statistics alone speak louder than words, with five rounds played and 80 percent draws. That’s right: eighty. But for those who might argue about top-level chess preparation, or probabilistic flukes, sorry, they do not apply here. Far too many games are barely fought out and even the ones that drag out for several dozen moves seem to be more about pointing to fifty moves played than trying to actually find a way to trick the opponent.
Sanan Sjugirov and Vladimir Potkin analyze their game
Vladimir Barsky interviews leader Evgeny Alekseev
Still, there is a leader after five rounds, and that would be Evgeny Alekseev with 3.5/5. As to young Daniil Dubov, his primary goal is no doubt to show to himself and others that he can hold his own against the best, and in that he has been quite successful, including two draws with black against both Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler.
Daniil Dubov was tested by Peter Svidler to see what he and his trainer, Sergey Shipov,
had up their sleeves.
Note that his prestigious opponents did not simply let him off the hook, and made sure the rising talent earned his half-point.
Natalia Pogonina goes over her game with Eteri Kublashvili
Thank goodness for the women though, whose tournament may lack the Elo power their male counterparts bear, but whose competitiveness should serve as an example. If the men are going through the motions of a tournament with 80% draws, the women have an incisive 60% win-rate. The leader at the midway point is Natalia Pogonina with a great 4.0/5 start. Trailing by half a point are Olga Girya and Alisa Galliamova with 3.5/5.
Photos by Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili
Men's standings after five rounds
Women's standings after five rounds