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14th Chigorin Memorial in St. Petersburg

11/6/2006 – The traditional Chigorin Memorial was, officially, the 14th Memorial, mainly to avoid the ‘unlucky’ 13. This duality in numbering probably affected the whole event, which was both typical and unusual, depending on how you looked at it. It was also unjustly ignored by the chess press. Big pictorial report by Misha Savinov.
 

14th Chigorin Memorial in St. Petersburg

Report by Misha Savinov

For the first time the main tournament moved from the famous Chigorin Club to the Hotel Karelia, located on outskirts of the city. At the same time the U-2300 event was played in the Chigorin Club, a few steps away from main tourist attractions of the Northern Capital. This was done for convenience of the participants, as the organizers put it – since most titled players including local residents lived in the Karelia. However, it was disappointing news for international players. Simen Agdestein, who arrived to St. Pete with his pupils, said that he’d consider taking part in the Memorial if the venue was in the downtown venue. "St. Petersburg is such a beautiful city," said the Norwegian GM, "and I enjoy exploring it." I shall add that Simen wasn’t staying at the Karelia.


The venue in the Karelia Hotel


...and the late autumn atmosphere outside

Getting to the venue from the city center took about half an hour for me, using public transportation. The hotel is located in an industrial area of St. Petersburg, and is rather cheap. In addition, the city chess federation usually obtains discounts, because late October is not exactly the most attractive season for tourists. The playing hall was arranged on the first floor of a billiard club connected to the hotel.

A big hall (normally used as restaurant) was not especially decorated, but the lighting was way better than in old Chigorin Club.


GM Pavel Smirnov from Mezhdurechensk

As usual, the tournament was attended by a number of strong players, many of them having rather deflated Elo ratings. Quoting Agdestein: "There are so many strong players we know nothing about!" There was just one over-2600 player, grandmaster Pavel Smirnov from Mezhdurechensk. He started well, but in rounds 6-8 suffered three defeats in a row, which removed him from contention. Winning in the final round surprisingly gave him and the others finishing at +2 a share of the last prize. Of course it wasn’t satisfactory for Smirnov, who arrived to St. Petersburg directly from Austria bearing a proud title of European Club champion.


Vladimir Belov


Alexander Lastin

Two other high-rated players, Vladimir Belov and Alexander Lastin, showed their skill in blitz and rapid tournaments that preceded the main one. However, their fates in the main event were completely different. Lastin failed to catch up with the leaders and lost his interest in the chess content of the festival, while Belov regularly played at top tables and in the end shared the second place with three other players. Maybe the reason is that Vladimir is currently unable to attend any events abroad – a bureaucratic mistake processing his passport – so he puts in the maximum effort in rare events on the Russian soil…


Boris Savchenko


Sergey Sergienko

While some grandmasters were relaxing, some IMs were setting the tournament alight. Boris Savchenko, a young, tall, stylish Moscow-based master, became the sole leader before the final round, with 6.5 points. He played positionally sound chess and kept a sharp eye for tactical opportunities. The experienced and patient Sergey Sergienko was only half a point behind, despite losing their individual encounter.


Young sharks eager to sink their teeth in the oldsters


14-year-old WFM Anastasia Bodnaruk


Anastasia on the way to beating GM Petr Tishin

The Chigorin Memorials are often seen as ideal ground for young players to sharpen their skill against rock-solid oldsters. The task is indeed tough, and by the end of the tournament the last tables were full of young challengers. However, some of them, like WFM Anastasia Bodnaruk, were more successful. The 14-year-old girl made a WIM norm, beating grandmaster Tishin in process.


Suspicious? A boy playing computer games outside the playing hall.

Overall, the atmosphere was typically enjoyable. Nobody tried initiating a witch-hunt, in spite of the fact that there was a boy using a laptop every day just outside the playing hall. He actually played computer games, sometimes attracting the attention of the chess players.


The main recreation: analysing the games they have just finished

One could buy coffee and snacks, and analyze games, of course. I heard rumors about parties, saunas, etc, and I find them not unlikely. Strong tension requires equally strong means of relaxation – chess players like quoting this saying often used by Ian Ehlvest…

However, let us return to the last round situation. There were other players competing for the first prize (60,000 roubles, about $2,200). Apart from Savchenko and Sergienko it was Dmitry Bocharov (19), Andrey Rytchagov (22) and Anton Shomoev (23), all having six points. Belov (18) had 5.5 and White against Sergienko. Savchenko had White against Bocharov at the first table, while Rytchagov and Shomoev were to meet at the second table.


Quick draw between Zontakh and Shigalko

One should mention that the Memorial was also a qualification for the Russian Cup, an annual knock-out tournament with decent prizes. So no wonder that games between Rytchagov and Shomoev and Zontakh-S. Zhigalko quickly ended in draws. The players not only secured a noticeable amount of prize money, but also qualified for the Cup.

The struggle on tables 1 and 3 went on. Sergienko surprised Belov with 5…Bd6 in the Modern Benoni. However, the surprise did not bear any fruits. Belov sacrificed a pawn, hampering Black’s development and creating a powerful attack. Only a huge blunder by White could save Sergienko. Thus the fate of the first prize depended solely on Savchenko-Bocharov game. It was an open Sicilian, White had typical space advantage, and predicting the outcome after the opening was impossible. Savchenko offered a draw, which would make him an ultimate winner of the event, but Bocharov refused in his unique manner. He meets 99% of such offers with swift ‘Declined!’, and keeps thinking.

While the top games proceeded to a third-hour climax (90 minutes + 30 seconds for the whole game make it unavoidable), I took a walk in the playing hall.


Julia Gromova, who had won the beauty prize in one of the earlier Chigorin Memorials, played against a clerical-looking young man – a colorful couple!


Simen Agdestein (right) watching the games of some unfamiliar Russian players. "They maybe don’t know so much theory, but they are excellent fighters!"


Jon Ludwig Hammer, a promising Norwegian FM who used to be a chief rival of Carlsen in junior chess.


Chief Arbiter Mr. Ivanov moved away from the hall with a laptop, which he wanted to turn on without disturbing players.


S. Shamugia from Abkhasia?

I had a political question to him: why does Shavleg Shamugia’s name tag bear the name of a country that does not officially exist – Abkhasia? "This was done at the player’s request," replied the arbiter. "He is Georgian in the official report, of course. But changing the country’s name didn’t help his result much…" True – the man sat at the last, the 47th table.


Savchenko-Bocharov: the key game to decide the event


In the end it was Dmitry Bocharov who won the game and the tournament

Meanwhile, Belov proceeded to a clearly won position, and the resignation of his opponent became a matter of time. Savchenko brought his pieces to the kingside, forcing Black to give away a pawn. However, Bocharov obtained some compensation for it. The position was highly complex, and somewhere White lost track. He ended up in a rook ending without a pawn – a disheartening turn of events! It is possible that White could save it, but he was too disappointed. Bocharov won quite smoothly, and celebrated a sole victory in the Memorial.

Final standings

  1.    6  Bocharov, Dmitry   7.0  2577 2720 +1.51
  2.   13  Savchenko, Boris   6.5  2551 2676 +1.46
        7  Rychagov, Andrey   6.5  2572 2655 +1.01
       23  Shomoev, Anton     6.5  2528 2673 +1.73
        3  Belov, Vladimir    6.5  2589 2646 +0.65
  6.   47  Sergienko, Sergey  6.0  2441 2645 +2.49
       38  Maiorov, Nikita    6.0  2481 2626 +1.77
       31  Zhigalko, Sergei   6.0  2504 2641 +1.68
       40  Yudin, Sergei      6.0  2470 2656 +2.22
        9  Mamedov, Rauf      6.0  2563 2592 +0.33
       21  Novikov, Stanislav 6.0  2532 2574 +0.51
       18  Deviatkin, Andrei  6.0  2537 2591 +0.60
        5  Kornev, Alexei     6.0  2578 2579 -0.03
        8  Zontakh, Andrey    6.0  2569 2581 +0.15
 15.   48  Zarubin, Pavel     5.5  2441 2589 +1.81
       16  Maletin, Pavel     5.5  2538 2531 -0.08
       24  Yandemirov, Valeri 5.5  2528 2518 -0.08
        1  Smirnov, Pavel     5.5  2623 2558 -0.71
       28  Makarov, Marat     5.5  2515 2511 -0.08
       35  Tihonov, Jurij     5.5  2494 2550 +0.73
       33  Romanov, Evgeny    5.5  2500 2536 +0.46
       25  Yemelin, Vasily    5.5  2528 2507 -0.26
       20  Yevseev, Denis     5.5  2534 2497 -0.44
       14  Ovetchkin, Roman   5.5  2543 2523 -0.26
       32  Shinkevich, Vitaly 5.5  2503 2498 -0.08

The closing ceremony was quite short. Grandmaster Alexey Lugovoi, Vice-President of St. Petersburg Chess Federation, congratulated the winners and welcomed everybody back in summer, when St. Petersburg will host White Nights festival. Then he grabbed a stamp and registered various papers for the players, such as norm certificates and official standings.


GM Alexey Lugovoi stamping the norm certificates


Rauf Mamedov and Anna Ushenina satisfied with the result

While waiting for the prize money, a group of participants entertained themselves with Philidor position, R+B vs. R. No clear win was recalled/found, but I think they would win it with White OTB…


GM Shomoev attacks, IM Maslak defends, GMs Kornev and Yandemirov join the analysis of the Philidor position

Unfortunately, the games of the tournament were not available during the event. Neither there was a tournament bulletin. Informational coverage was typically poor, although not as bad as in the case with recent all-play-all in Saratov – St. Petersburg organizers at least provided results, pairings and standings on regular basis.

Nothing in this tournament reminded us of Chigorin (picture) except for the title. Also, it is not very visitor-friendly – some Western Europeans weren’t happy about the Karelia, finding it not very clean and the staff not speaking English. And don’t expect to come and win money. However, if you have enough for staying in St. Petersburg's beautiful center, and either like chess tourism or want to receive some low-cost OTB and post-mortem lessons, this tournament is for you!

All available games (in zipped PGN). We spent considerable time trying to clean them up. Most of the games of the final round are missing.

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