Aeroflot Open R04-05: Evgeniy Najer on a roll!

by Sagar Shah
2/26/2017 – There is something about Aeroflot Open that brings out the best in Evgeniy Najer. In 2016 he went on to win the tournament ahead of Boris Gelfand. In 2017 he is already the sole leader with 4.5/5. Najer played some exquisite games to beat players like Jobava and Bluebaum. In this report we have the analysis along with some excellent pictures.

Photos by Eteri Kublashvili

The Aeroflot Open 2017 is an extremely strong tournament. Last year when I was present at the venue I could literally sense the difficulty of scoring even a single victory in the A category. Suffice it to say that when someone scores two consecutive victories in such a field, it is a big achievement. As mentioned in our previous report, after three rounds there were absolutely no players with a 100% score. Six players were on 2.5/3. Five rounds have ended now and one player who has clearly leapfrogged others and moved into sole lead is last year's winner Evgeniy Najer.

There is something about the Aeroflot Open that brings out the best in Evgeniy Najer. In the fourth round he defeated Matthias Bluebaum and in the fifth he got the better of Baadur Jobava

Bluebaum vs Najer, Round 4

Black is already better, but Najer finished off the game in a hurry. Can you find the killer blow for Black?

[Event "Aeroflot Open A 2017"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2017.02.24"] [Round "4.3"] [White "Bluebaum, Matthias"] [Black "Najer, Evgeniy"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A07"] [WhiteElo "2632"] [BlackElo "2659"] [Annotator "Sagar,Shah"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2017.02.21"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Bg4 3. Bg2 c6 4. O-O Nf6 5. h3 Bxf3 $5 {I like Najer's decision. The light squared bishop doesn't fit into the scheme of things for Black and hence he exchanges it for the f3 knight.} 6. Bxf3 e5 7. d3 a5 $5 { Once again a very interesting move. Black would want to gain more space with a5-a4. Black is happy if White plays a4 because then he gets the c5 square.} 8. a4 Bc5 9. Nd2 O-O 10. e4 Re8 11. c3 Nbd7 12. Bg2 Ba7 13. exd5 cxd5 14. Nb1 { Does White have the time and the luxury to go for a manoeuvre like Nd2-b1-a3-b5 where he loses so much time? Apparently, yes!} e4 15. d4 h6 16. Na3 Bb8 17. Be3 Ra6 18. b4 (18. b3 {With the idea of c4 would have weakened Black's centre to some extent and was the right way to go.}) 18... axb4 19. cxb4 Nf8 20. Qb3 h5 $1 {Looking to create some role for the b8 bishop with h5-h4.} 21. Bg5 N8h7 22. Bd2 h4 $1 23. g4 $2 {This is asking for trouble. The queen now comes to d6 and enters h2.} Qd6 24. Rfc1 Qh2+ 25. Kf1 Bg3 $1 { A powerful blow!} 26. g5 (26. fxg3 e3 $1 27. Bxe3 Nxg4 28. hxg4 Rf6+ $19) 26... Bxf2 27. Kxf2 e3+ $1 28. Bxe3 Nxg5 $1 29. Kf1 (29. Bxg5 Ne4+ $19) 29... Nh5 30. Ra2 Ng3+ 31. Ke1 Qg1+ {A great game by Najer.} 0-1

The talented German youngster Matthias Bluebaum was beaten soundly by the experienced Najer

The next challenge for Najer awaited in the form of Baadur Jobava

Baadur played the Philidor defense with the black pieces and equalized with ease. In fact at a certain moment I would have even preferred Black's position. However, Baadur took too many risks and badly mangled up his pieces near Black's king. What looked like a superb attack, turned into a failed mission. Najer counter-attacked well and finished off the game swiftly.

<[Event "Aeroflot Open A 2017"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2017.02.25"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Najer, Evgeniy"] [Black "Jobava, Baadur"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C41"] [WhiteElo "2659"] [BlackElo "2701"] [Annotator "Sagar,Shah"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2017.02.21"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 {Baadur Jobava is a firm adherent of the Philidor. So much so that he likes to play it even from the white side.} 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. a4 a5 {c6 is the main move here. a5 is the second most popular.} 8. Qe2 c6 9. Rd1 Qc7 10. Ba2 Nb8 {Just like Bluebaum did against Najer, Baadur too reroutes his knight from d7-b8-a6-b4.} 11. h3 Na6 12. Be3 Nd7 13. Re1 exd4 14. Bxd4 Ndc5 15. Bc4 Re8 {Black seems to have a decent position out of the opening. But as is usual in the Philidor this is complex with chances for both sides.} 16. Rad1 h6 (16... Be6 $5) 17. Nd2 Bf8 18. Qh5 Nb4 19. Bxc5 dxc5 20. Rc1 Be6 21. Bxe6 Rxe6 {Baadur must have been very happy with the position on the board. He has active pieces and absolutely no problems.} 22. Nc4 Rd8 23. Qg4 Be7 (23... Rd4 $5 24. Ne3 Bd6 $11 {f4 is no longer possible.}) 24. f4 Rd4 25. b3 Rg6 26. Qf3 Bh4 27. Re3 Rg3 28. Qf2 Rxh3 {Black wins a pawn but gets his pieces in some very uncomfortable positions.} 29. g3 $1 Qc8 $6 ( 29... Be7 $11) 30. Kg2 $1 Bd8 31. Ne2 Rh5 32. Nxd4 {Najer is confident and calculates that there is no harm to his king.} cxd4 (32... Qh3+ 33. Kf3 cxd4 34. Ree1 $18) 33. Ree1 b5 34. Ne5 $6 (34. Nd6 $1 Qh3+ 35. Kf3 $16) 34... bxa4 ( 34... Bc7 $1 35. Nd3 (35. Qxd4 Bxe5 36. fxe5 bxa4 37. bxa4 Qe6 $13 {And the position is much less clear than what happened in the game.}) 35... bxa4 36. bxa4 Qh3+ 37. Kf3 f5 {Black has some compensation here.}) 35. Qxd4 axb3 36. cxb3 Qh3+ 37. Kf3 Bh4 38. Rg1 Bf6 39. Rh1 $1 Qxh1+ 40. Rxh1 Rxh1 41. Qd6 Bxe5 42. Qxe5 Nd3 43. Qe8+ Kh7 44. Kg2 {The middlegame complications were quite difficult to handle, but Najer kept his cool and emerged as the winner.} 1-0

Vladimir Fedoseev is on 4.0/5. It is true that the Russian youngster has not faced any 2600+ players, but he has shown solid chess and had beaten strong opponents like Huzman, Kraemer and Narayanan. He now faces Najer in the sixth round. Check out this report of 2016 where Fedoseev tried the original 1.e4 c6 2.Be2!? against Najer.

The future Olympiad team of Russia! Seen in the picture are Fedoseev, Antipov, Dubov and Matlakov

Ernesto Inarkiev is a strong contender for the top spot. After five rounds he is on 4.0/5. Have a look at this game where he blows away his opponent in a queenless middlegame.

[Event "Aeroflot Open A 2017"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2017.02.25"] [Round "5.2"] [White "Inarkiev, Ernesto"] [Black "Cordova, Emilio"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C10"] [WhiteElo "2723"] [BlackElo "2655"] [Annotator "Sagar,Shah"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2017.02.21"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Nf3 Ngf6 6. Bg5 h6 7. Nxf6+ Nxf6 8. Be3 Bd6 9. Bd3 b6 10. Ne5 O-O 11. Qe2 Bb7 12. O-O-O c5 13. f4 Qc7 14. Rhe1 Rfd8 15. dxc5 Bxc5 16. Bxc5 Qxc5 17. g4 Qb4 18. Rf1 Nd5 19. c4 Qc5 20. g5 Qe3+ 21. Rd2 Qxe2 22. Rxe2 Nb4 23. Bb1 Rac8 {We are all used to seeing how an attack succeeds with queens on board. In this position the queens are off and there is hardly much happening. But White simply blows his opponent off the board with a serious of powerful moves.} 24. gxh6 gxh6 (24... f6 25. h7+ $18) ( 24... g6 {could have been a better idea. Even though after} 25. b3 $16 { White is clearly for choice.}) 25. f5 $1 {White chips on Black's structure.} exf5 $2 (25... Nc6 {was the only way to survive. It also looks pretty grim after} 26. Nxf7 $1 Kxf7 27. fxe6+ Ke7 28. Rf7+ Kd6 29. Rxb7 $16) 26. Rg1+ Kf8 27. Bxf5 Nxa2+ 28. Kb1 Nb4 29. Bh7 {The attack is just crushing.} f5 30. Rg8+ Ke7 31. Nc6+ {Game over! A fine one by Inarkiev.} 1-0

Denis Khismatullin is a dangerous opponent. He proved it by beating the top seed Yu Yangyi in a completely crazy closed Sicilian encounter.

Yu Yangyi vs Khismatullin, Round four 

Although Khismatullin won this position by playing ...Bxh1, he had a much stronger move at his disposal. Can you find it?

[Event "Aeroflot Open A 2017"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2017.02.24"] [Round "4.4"] [White "Yu, Yangyi"] [Black "Khismatullin, Denis"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B23"] [WhiteElo "2738"] [BlackElo "2639"] [Annotator "Sagar,Shah"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2017.02.21"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 {Yu Yangyi goes for the closed Sicilian.} a6 3. g3 b5 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. d3 e6 6. Nh3 b4 7. Ne2 d5 {Black has been essentially playing with his pawns, but he has gained space.} 8. e5 Nc6 9. f4 Nh6 10. Nf2 Nf5 11. O-O (11. g4 Nh4 $17) 11... Qb6 12. c3 Be7 13. g4 $6 {This move is asking for trouble as it let's Black play Nh4 followed by h5.} (13. a3 {might have been better to continue with queenside play. But I already feel that Black has a very comfortable position.}) 13... Nh4 14. Bh1 h5 $1 15. g5 {Now the knight has the f5 square permanently, but Khismatullin is ambitious.} f6 $5 (15... g6 { Followed by 0-0 and a5 and playing on the queenside was also a good idea.}) 16. exf6 gxf6 17. Ng3 fxg5 18. fxg5 O-O-O 19. Qe2 (19. Nxh5 {Taking this pawn seems really dangerous.} Rdf8 20. Qg4 Nf3+ $1 21. Bxf3 Ne5 $19) 19... e5 20. Nxh5 Kb8 21. Qg4 Ng6 22. Nf6 e4 $1 {This frees the e5 square and also opens up the h2-b8 diagonal.} 23. dxe4 Nce5 24. Qg3 Bd6 {This is an extremely difficult position for White to play.} 25. h3 Qc7 26. Rd1 Nd7 $1 27. Qf3 Nxf6 28. gxf6 dxe4 29. Qg4 (29. Nxe4 Bxe4 30. Qxe4 Bh2+ 31. Kf2 Bg3+ 32. Ke3 Rde8 $19) 29... Rhg8 30. Kf1 Nf4 31. Qf5 e3 $1 {Very sharp tactical awareness shown by Khismatullin.} 32. Bxe3 Bxh1 ({It's a pity that Denis missed this blow.} 32... Rg1+ $3 33. Kxg1 Ne2+ $1 34. Kf1 Ng3+ $19) 33. f7 $2 (33. Rxd6 $1 Bg2+ 34. Ke1 Qxd6 35. Bxf4 Rge8+ 36. Ne4 Rxe4+ 37. Qxe4 Bxe4 38. Bxd6+ Rxd6 $17 {This should win in the long run, but some effort is surely required.}) 33... Bg2+ 34. Ke1 (34. Kg1 Ne2#) 34... Qe7 $1 35. Ng4 (35. Kd2 Rg5 $19) 35... Rxg4 { An excellent win for Khismatullin who played brave and enterprising chess to beat the top seed.} 0-1

Daniil Dubov is on 3.5/5. He is playing some highly exciting games. Have a look at the final position against Alexander Predke:

Dubov vs Predke. Who needs pieces when you have pawns!

"That's not what I taught him!" Elder brother Andrey looks at the game of Sergey with great concern. The Zhigalko brothers are the strongest chess siblings in the world. (Photo: Vasily Papin)

He writes reports for ChessBase, commentates for CCSCL, and poses for photographs between the games, but Alejandro Ramirez has clearly not lost his elite touch. He was able to beat the in-form Adhiban Baskaran in the fourth round.

Last year Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja was clearly struggling at the Aeroflot A 2016. This year he has clearly done his homework and has already beaten three grandmasters. They were Alexander Donchenko, Falko Bindrich and Maxim Vavulin. (Vasily Papin)

World's youngest IM R. Praggnanandhaa is not having the best of tournaments. He drew against three grandmasters and lost to two. Today he faces a talented young Armenian by the name Haik Martirosyan.

On 2.0/5 is FM Nodirbek Abdusattorov from Uzbekistan

Years of experience: Chief Arbiter Andrzej Fillipowicz

Will Evgeny Najer walk away this year with the winner's trophy? Time will tell. Four more exciting rounds to go. (Photo: Vasily Papin)

These reports would not have been possible without the photographs of Eteri Kublashvili and...

...Vasily Papin (right). Checkout more of Papin's pictures on his personal blog

Check the ChessBase India Report with master analysis and games from B-group


Rank after Round 5


Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Najer Evgeniy 4,5 2
2 Fedoseev Vladimir 4,0 3
3 Inarkiev Ernesto 4,0 2
4 Smirin Ilia 3,5 3
5 Vitiugov Nikita 3,5 3
6 Lysyj Igor 3,5 3
7 Kamsky Gata 3,5 3
8 Dubov Daniil 3,5 3
9 Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan 3,5 2
10 Matlakov Maxim 3,5 2

Pairings of Round 6 on 2017/02/26 at 15:00

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Fedoseev Vladimir 4   Najer Evgeniy
Vitiugov Nikita   4 Inarkiev Ernesto
Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo   Matlakov Maxim
Lysyj Igor   Mamedov Rauf
Smirin Ilia   Gupta Abhijeet
Kamsky Gata   Khismatullin Denis
Dubov Daniil   Kovalev Vladislav
Yu Yangyi 3   Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan
Jobava Baadur 3   3 Kobalia Mikhail
Korobov Anton 3   3 Oparin Grigoriy

Complete pairings
Download games
Official website

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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