Impressions of the Super Final

11/25/2004 – The Russian Championship is almost over, the games have been exciting and hard-fought. After initial problems with the organisation things have been running well, with spectators and journalists having a great time. Misha Savinov, who has been observing the players and the games in Moscow, sends us an extensive illustrated report.

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Russian Superfinal Report, Part Two

On Rounds 3–7, by Misha Savinov

I am happy to inform you that initial ticket problem that worried so many Russian media representatives is finally resolved. The tickets are there since Round Three, as well as people willing to pay 500 roubles for a single round of live chess. The organizers have also installed a demonstration screen at the Moscow chess Mecca – Central Chess Club.

Only hopelessly conservative pundits would now criticize the organization of the championship – those who remember the chess fever and crowds storming the entrances to the gorgeous Palaces of Soviet era. But the times they are a changing. Journalists are finally into discussing chess.

The party is exclusive – Nikitin, Dokhoyan, Sveshnikov, Kharlov, Bykhovsky, Dolmatov (in random order)... Role of Mikhail Botvinnik is played by Sergey Shipov. Famous internet commentator stays at home and posts his live commentary in the web, which is in my opinion an improved version of Botvinnik talking to the press via phone.

The most active of titled players here is undoubtedly a grandmaster, Dmitry Jakovenko. The number four in Tomsk Qualifier, which could have made him a candidate for participating here (as well as St. Petersburg number four Alexander Khalifman), Jakovenko constantly analyzes games carefully using Fritz. And shares his conclusions with all willing. The engine helps him going through complications effortlessly, and does not mislead him in endgames, in which Jakovenko is quite skilled.

It must be also an unusual feeling to be able to correct Kasparov commenting on his just finished game: “No, Garry Kimovich, you could simply capture another pawn due to such and such (shown by computer)”. And Kasparov nods and modestly accepts the conclusion. Jakovenko, considered to be one of the most talented players of a generation by Morozevich, told me that he becomes more serious about chess, and is willing to pursue his professional career despite temptations to work as economist in Moscow – far more profitable occupation.

Alexander Grischuk (left) visits the press center

The press center is also a place where players are being either prosecuted for short draws or praised for winning their games. Every day one or two players are invited to speak. Grischuk was called to explain his 10-move draw with Dreev. Alexander did not spend as much energy defending his surprising Gruenfeld as defending his decision to accept a draw. Actually, the game was far from uneventful – Grischuk played an unusual (for him) opening, Dreev went to a rare line, and both players consumed about two hours to find their way through the initial stage. Dreev did not see clear way to recapture a sacrificed pawn without compromising his position, and therefore offered a draw. Grischuk did not have reasons to decline. “We could play on for a dozen moves to justify our decision in eyes of spectators, but it was clearly equal”, – was a mutual conclusion.

Round Three saw three big upsets. All three Russian champions, Svidler, Morozevich and Motylev were defeated by lower-rated opponents. Peter Svidler avoided main lines of Sveshnikov as White and struggled to equalize against 19-year-old Timofeev. Morozevich broke under consistent positional pressure of Vitaly Tseshkovsky. These players have somewhat similar styles – they avoid well-trodden paths, play creatively and like the initiative. Therefore early exchange of Queens in their game was surprising, but it proved a wise opening choice by the veteran... And Motylev’s mistake was losing the sense of danger. He got the initiative in a Sicilian endgame and developed it correctly, but allowed his opponent dangerous counterplay by not meeting his 22...f5 with 23.f4! After additionally weakening 25.h3 Korotylev became unstoppable. All results were “expected” according to one of TV-channels – perhaps a typing error? Bookmakers probably made a lot of money on such “expected” results.

Round Four opened with IM Ilya Odessky, who writes here for one of Russian web sites, presented his book on provocative 1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6. His publisher is on a left. The author assured that Black is not lost after these two moves. None of the participants dared to play it to date, though. Maybe when more fashionable lines become overexploited, they should turn to it?

Evgeny Bareev and Alexey Dreev protest their innocence

Once again two players received charges for their quick draw, but proved their innocence before the jurymen. Bareev was in peaceful mood and tried to offer a draw silently offering exchanges and move repetitions, but it completely escaped Dreev’s mind, as his understanding was that tricky Evgeny plays for a win. During the public post-mortem (sorry, it must sound horrifying!) Bareev said: “I was sure this position is a draw, but didn’t know how to make a draw”. Dreev responded immediately: “Just offer, Evgeny”. Everybody laughed. Don’t ban draws – peaceful result is the only way to see both opponents happy afterwards. And reasons for positive emotions should definitely be preserved.

By the way, Alexey Dreev is very attentive reader of all internet recourses writing about him and his play. He did not waste time after the discussion and briefly pointed at some misconceptions he found regarding Dreev – Grischuk game.

Mopo3ebny vs Cbnanep? Morozevich vs Svidler!

In Round Four Morozevich started to duck in the opening. Where’s his decisive 1.e4? Peter Svidler was definitely surprised to see 1.g3, and reacted not in a best way. Morozevich sacrificed a pawn, but Black’s defensive recourses proved sufficient. Svidler forced exchanging most of the material at once, and the players agreed a draw without bothering to reach a deadly drawn rook ending.

Alexander Motylev, who shook up Garry Kasparov by escaping with a draw

The most experienced, or simply the oldest participants of the event both committed chess suicides approaching the end of their games. 60-year-old Tseshkovsky easily equalized as Black with 1...d6 against a 2700-player, but created problems for himself later, and resigned immediately following Grischuk’s simple but elegant return exchange sacrifice. And Kasparov did not manage to convert completely winning endgame against Motylev. It was very frustrating for Garry also because he conducted the game with great precision until Motylev came up with last-chance exchange sacrifice. After that Kasparov lost his concentration completely – he did not find winning moves in several critical positions, and some of them were very easy to play even in time trouble. In retrospect, maybe Garry Kimovich just needed this kind of an emotional shake-up to start winning?

The Kosteniuk sisters at the press center during round 4

In Round Five I witnessed a small incident onstage. Alexey Dreev came to the table and looked at his clock. Instead of the regular 1:40 it showed –1:41.

Alexey asked one of the arbiters to correct it. Then he started to write on a scoresheet and noticed that numbering begins with move 61! Good thing is that it happened before the round actually started – everything was fixed in no time and without troubling anybody.

After Dreev imperiously solved all around-the-board problems, he had no choice but to show his superiority at the board. His fine positional victory against Korotylev became one of the clearest wins at the tournament so far.

Unlike Dreev, Evgeny Bareev simply collected what was offered by Tseshkovsky. If I need to praise any Bareev’s effort in this game, I’d gladly praise his impeccable home preparation. It felt Tseshkovsky couldn’t believe that his attack is ineffective and he must strive for a draw so early in the game.

Vitaly Tseshkovsky commenting on his game against Bareev

Vitaly Valeryevich declined equality, and soon lost his knight, which was en price for 11 moves. White’s mating threats proved illusive, and Bareev conducted his mating attack quickly and effectively.

After signing the scoresheets both grandmasters moved to the pressroom and enlightened the spectators (left to right: including GMs Sveshnikov, Zagrebelny, Matveeva and Kosteniuk)

Alexander Morozevich

Alex Morozevich changed his dress completely after yesterday’s draw, but once again did not avoid such an unfavorable result. However, this time his game attracted everybody’s attention for much longer. Playing defiantly illogical on the Black side of Ruy Lopez, Alexander nevertheless managed to distract his opponent from decisive Q-side actions, and acquired the initiative. Soon after time control it transposed to winning rook endgame, but Morozevich chose a wrong way to convince, and Timofeev escaped.

Vladimir Epishin

A dynamic struggle between Epishin and Kasparov is still awaits serious analysis. Both players were sure during the game that White stood better, and Black barely managed to equalize, but some analytics insisted that it was Kasparov who had winning chances, and blew it with suspicious knight maneuver Nd5-b4-d3. Yuri Dokhoyan was also questioned about this game, but he diplomatically avoided any definite conclusions.

Kasparov second Yuri Dokhoyan preparing for a sessions with Russian TV

Evgeny Bareev turns 38

Evgeny Bareev is full of mystery even for his friends. Peter Svidler, Bareev’ colleague in coaching Vladimir Kramnik, was not aware that Evgeny celebrates his birthday until the chief arbiter Vladimir Dvorkovich announced it loud before starting the 6th Round. Needless to say, Bareev, playing White, was not in a fighting mood, and the encounter ended indecisively to mutual satisfaction.

A key match of the day was, without a doubt, Kasparov-Dreev. Dreev led the tournament together with Grischuk, but playing Black against Kasparov did not promise an easy life. And indeed, Garry restored his once-habitual confidence, quickly executing opening moves and quickly obtaining a threatening position. Dreev reacted with principled rook sacrifice, Kasparov had to return piece to avoid mate, and the players reached highly complicated position. White had extra exchange, but Black’s pieces were pointed at White King’s residence, and everything could explode not in his favor. It seems Dreev rushed with his 18...Nxe5, allowing Kasparov to simplify the position and transpose into an endgame evaluated as “probably a winning” by Jakovenko. Despite Black having formal material compensation for a piece, White had good winning chances. The only factor favored Black was that White had to be very careful not to allow exchanging all his remaining pawns (both of them, to be precise).

Kasparov slipped with his time control move, allowing Dreev a miraculous save, which Alexey didn’t see. To find it one had to wholeheartedly believe in Black’s defensive resources... or to be Kasparov! Garry said he saw that problem-like continuation leading to stalemate, and he showed it to his opponent after the game.

Another decisive game was Motylev-Epishin. Vladimir faced a strong novelty (discovered by Motylev’s second, GM Vokarev), did not find the way out of opponent’s web, and had to resign on move 55. No less interesting were draws Grischuk-Timofeev and especially Korotylev-Tseshkovsky. Vitaly Tseshkovsky is without a doubt the most entertaining contributor so far. He never dries positions out, always allowing his opponents to have their own play, creates sufficient counterplay and loses mostly because of capital blunders. The Volga Gambit in veteran’s hands equalized and possibly more, but in the queen ending an adjacent passed a-pawn secured a draw for White. And in Grischuk-Timofeev White sacrificed a pawn, offered after 50-minute thought a knight sacrifice, followed it with rook offer and forced a draw by perpetual. Afterwards both players entertained journalists with lively discussion about their game.

Artyom Timofeev and Alexander Grischuk discuss their 6th round game

Well, what you gonna do – it is a draw

Grischuk,A (2704) - Timofeev,Arty (2611) [E60]
57th ch-RUS Moscow RUS (6), 21.11.2004
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Bg2 Nb6 7.Nc3 Nc6 8.e3 0-0 9.0-0 Re8 10.d5 Na5 11.Nd4 Bd7 12.e4 c6 13.Re1 cxd5 14.exd5 Rc8 15.Bf4 h6 16.Be5 Bxe5 17.Rxe5 Nbc4 18.Re1 Nxb2 19.Qd2 Qb6 20.Ne6 g5 21.Re5 fxe6 22.Rxg5+ hxg5 23.Qxg5+ Kf7 24.Qh5+ Kg7 25.Qg5+ Kf7 26.Qf4+ Kg7 27.Qg5+ ½-½

Waiting for Kasparov – Vitaly Tseshkovsky in round seven

In rounds 6-7 Kasparov made a big leap from +1 to +3, the result that could be sufficient to tie for the first. Fortune more than compensated Garry for his missed win against Motylev – Vitaly Tseshkovsky had excellent chances to break Kasparov’s defense with fine sacrificial attack. However, he played spectacular, but not convincing, allowing Kasparov to avoid immediate disaster. Then ‘Tsesh’ sacrificed an exchange for domination on light-squares, and draw could be a fair result of this tight game – but he never accepts draws! And neither Kasparov.

Garry Kasparov in his game against Tseshkovsky

At some point Garry executed a move for which he saw a refutation, but gambled as he wasn’t sure if his opponent would be able to find it! Tseshkovsky responded weaker (Rg3 instead of Qg6). Kasparov managed to consolidate, and it appeared that he has strong threats against White King in addition to his extra exchange. The game proceed into the endgame with material advantage but technical difficulties for Black, however, Tseshkovsky made another weak move and had to resign.

Both Kasparov and Tseshkovsky visited press center and discussion of this game was one of the longest of those occurred in this tournament.

It is very curious to observe how differently the players present their games. Dreev is very instructive; he would make a perfect teacher (maybe Dvoretsky’s influence?). Grischuk remains unperturbed, as if he doesn’t care about his performances, but very attentive to observers’ comments and readily accepts challenges. Bareev is very quiet and soft-spoken, and he is always ready to calm down unwanted kibitzers with ironic comments. He disregards most ambitious moves because they are “too aggressive”, and pretends that he only wants to draw each of his games – for sure, believing in it is rather misguiding for his opponents. Kasparov pronounces long variations quickly as usual, makes faces, points out his own mistakes and speaks freely about his psychological experiences. Tseshkovsky is sarcastic about his blunders, but he does not lose the temper because of them. Vitaly seems to enjoy mere participation in this tournament, regardless of his formal result – he is a true knight of romantic chess. In an interview he said that he would be glad to draw only against Kasparov – but in reality Tseshkovsky done all depending on him to avoid it! Svidler is natural actor, similar to Kasparov by talent, but different in role. He is always sincere about his thoughts and feelings during the game. Korotylev is self-ironic and humorous man, but his comments are by no means superficial. Morozevich did not appear in public yet. He doesn’t like crowds, but I hope that reluctance to talk about his games in not a reason for Alexander’s shaky performance...

Alexander Grischuk

Grischuk did not have a chance to play for a win against Morozevich – White skillfully simplified the game and draw became inevitable. Morozevich is either suffering from bad form, or just lost a hope to significantly improve his current score. -2 for tournament #2 is definitely a very poor result. Grischuk, on the other hand, has a good chance to turn this championship into his favor, as he meets Kasparov with White in a final round.

Peter Svidler finally began to play up to the expectations, moving to +1 after a slow open Sicilian (an unusual combination) victory against Korotylev. Svidler got the advantage, but demonstrated marked patience in preparing decisive action, partly due to position requirements and partly to miscalculation. After 50 moves of play Peter finally started to sacrifice, and recorded a full point. Korotylev was deprived of any counterplay during this game. Before final four rounds Svidler stood on +1, but difficult opponents to meet made his overall winning chances rather questionable.

Peter Svidler and Alexander Motylev

Alexey Dreev pressed hard on Motylev’s position, but Black did not lag behind in creativity, so both players reached highly unusual position with strange-looking white pawn chain on K-side and Black pieces dancing around it. Stubbornness and skill shown by both members of Russian national team made draw a logical conclusion – something that Dreev refused to accept for a while. It seems Alexey planned to defeat Alexander to jump to +2. Considering that unlucky Tseshkovsky and Epishin are among Dreev’s remaining opponents (plus Svidler), he has rather easy finish and certain chances for very good result. Draw with Motylev made Dreev’s prospects less obvious.

So, after 7 rounds it seemed that only Kasparov and Grischuk still have chances to win Russian championship. With some luck provided, Dreev might join them, but it is unlikely. As I wrote above, it might happen that the outcome of the championship would decide in personal encounter of two leaders in the last round.

The situation with Kasparov is unique. He is obviously influenced by lack of positive news regarding his match against Kasimdzhanov, but nevertheless performs accordingly to his rating, and numerous inaccuracies show that there is a lot of room for improvement. I am sure that if Kasparov wins this championship, many critics will write that this was not a convincing win, while any other winner would immediately join the ranks of super-grandmasters. If that does not tell that Kasparov is not “over” yet, I have nothing to add...

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