Impressions of the Super Final – Part three

12/10/2004 – The Russian Championship has been over for some time now. We all know the result and, of course, Garry Kasparov's remarkable +5 victory. "He utilized his pit-stops better than his opponents, he changed his tires early on," writes Misha Savinov, who was in Moscow and sent us this illustrated report.

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Russian Superfinal Report, Part Three

On Rounds 8–9, by Misha Savinov

In almost ten days after the last round of the Russian Superfinal it might be difficult to find a chess enthusiast not yet familiar with its results. Garry Kasparov scored remarkable 7½ points, +5, and finished clear first, 1½ ahead of Alexander Grischuk. Alexey Dreev occupied a third spot. The style of Kasparov's win could be compared to such of Michael Schumacher a couple of years ago. In those rare cases when the Red Baron did not acquire a lead from the very start, he utilized to a maximum his (as well as opponents') pit stops. Garry Kasparov "changed his tires" early on, and developed a devilish speed exactly when his main rival Grischuk had a scheduled stop in boxes. Let me remind you how the things proceeded in the four concluding rounds.

Round Eight

A key game of the round was Kasparov-Svidler. Peter Svidler could help his good friend Grischuk to remain on shared 1st spot only by beating Kasparov with Black. Bearing in mind that there would be a Grischuk-Kasparov encounter in the final round, even a small lead by Kasparov could be acceptable for Alexander. However, the situation followed a screenplay written by 13th world champion. The only surprise waited for Garry on move one. Svidler answered White's 1.d4 with the most classical symmetrical response – and it happened for the first time in his known career.

"Are you being serious?" Kasparov stared at Svidler, who tried his best to keep a poker face. No doubt White had something in mind against the Gruenfeld Defense, but we'll never know for sure. And remembering the Slav was an easy task. Garry obtained a comfortable advantage, and slowly converted it into a win. His play was not flawless, as the post mortem analysis revealed, but was better than Svidler's – and this is where it counts. Kasparov developed a healthy one point lead over Grischuk and Dreev.

This was a day of opening surprises – Morozevich showed that after the ritual 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 b6 5.Nge2 Bb7 6.a3 even d6 is a good square for a bishop! It is important to catch Bareev unprepared for a specific line, as he usually prefers the safest reaction. A draw was a logical conclusion of the game, although Black's position looked rather shaky at some point. Alexey Korotylev outsmarted Timofeev, provoking an unnecessary and damaging activity by his younger opponent. Alexander Motylev won his second, recovering after a terrible start. The game Motylev-Tseshkovsky is very interesting to study. Both are real chess grandmasters with their own fine understanding of the game. The veteran does magic to create counterplay in any position, and on that day Black's activity forced Motylev to give up an exchange for a pawn and agree to repeat moves. The game could have been drawn according to the FIDE rules, but Tseshkovsky was probably too hungry for playing against strong opponents. He declined the opportunity, although sharing the point could be the best outcome for him in that position, and eventually lost. Vladimir Epishin sacrificed a pawn for dark squares, but the compensation was insufficient. This was a moment of truth for Dreev, who could jump to clear second place in case of a victory, but played a bit slow, allowing Epishin back into the game. A draw was agreed in a position where Black had to give the perpetual, or else...

Round Nine

Have I mentioned a nice warm atmosphere at the tournament? No scandals, no insults, and only conflicts accepted were those on a board. And even disappointments that often happen during games did not destroy a spirit of friendliness. Neither Svidler nor Bareev were happy about their games of the previous day, as well as the tournament performances. And do they look grim?

(I remember a funny comment by one Russian journalist about the Kasparov-Svidler game: "Following Bareev, another Kramnik helper goes down at Kasparov's hands". Feel free to add Tseshkovsky, who was Kramnik's early trainer. I only wonder why Kasparov was so brutal to poor Dreev and Timofeev? Maybe he has something personal against Kazan?)

Artyom Timofeev, despite his youth, is already an experienced player. He has wins against such strong grandmasters as Viorel Bologan and Andrei Kharlov (the latter came to the Superfinal as Timofeev's trainer). Still, meeting world's number one is always special.

Artyom had to await his illustrious opponents for a couple of minutes. Garry arrived fully concentrated, and we witnessed his usual ritual.

After correcting all Black pieces and pawns, he loosened a tie, took his watch off, and energetically executed an automatic 1...c5 to set up the Sicilian.

However, after Timofeev's third move Kasparov's concentration disappeared. The more than harmless attempt to duck the main theory with 3.Bc4 called for different approach, and Garry did not miss a chance to let the opponent know how relieved he is.

The 19-year-old grandmaster quickly appeared in clearly inferior position after Kasparov's surgically precise play in the opening. Black gained space on the queenside (at the press conference after the tournament Kasparov expressed his satisfaction regarding this plan), forcing Timofeev into a defense. Defending against Gazza is tough, and yet Timofeev did the best he could in that position, exchanging most pieces and almost all queenside pawns between 20th and 30th move. Nevertheless Black maintained a certain advantage, and by the time control mark had increased it to a winning one, utilizing his opponent's inaccuracies. A good game by Kasparov, and it put him into a good mood.

Alexander Motylev won his second consecutive game, and scored 3,5 out of 4 in the last 4 rounds, but once again he didn't look too proud about it. Yesterday Tseshkovsky could make a draw by just calling an arbiter, and today Svidler blew an advantage with a heavy blunder.

I haven't seen too many examples of someone turning a better game to a lost one by allowing an exchange of queens! Motylev avoided his repertoire Russian/Petroff in favor of the Open Spanish, which he had never played before. It seems meeting the world's top players is a good opportunity to try some new openings!? Svidler's opening knowledge is encyclopedic, even if he calls it 'trivial' sometimes. Peter picked an old-fashioned 13.Bb1 and obtained a small but steady plus due to a better structure. And then – occasional lapse of concentration. You know what happened.

The stubbornness (I don't dare calling it a fighting spirit) of Morozevich, who did not wish to accept an inevitable draw in his game against Korotylev, suddenly paid off deep in the endgame, where Korotylev missed several drawing opportunities, got into a practically worse position (I don't have tablebases to give a definite conclusion, and it doesn't matter at the board anyway). He virtually cut his veins with terrible 62...Qc5??

Morozevich,A (2758) - Korotylev,A (2596) [B56]
57th ch-RUS Moscow RUS (9), 25.11.2004
.
Position after 62.Qc6-d5

Who could predict that the first win by Morozevich would take place in 9th round and only thanks to his opponent's temporary blackout!

Alexander Grischuk, fresh after his day off, annihilated Bareev with a strong novelty in the Panov Caro-Kann: 16.Rd1+! This move optically allows a repetition, but because the black king loses its right to castle, his position loses a lot of its appeal. Even the extra material does not help. Bareev had to return what he gained and more. For the next three hours the only question was whether Grischuk would utilize his material advantage. He did.

Tseshkovsky-Epishin looked rather dull compared to other games. Epishin defended a good Caro-Kann with maybe a microscopic advantage for White. Tseshkovsky managed to pick up a pawn in Rook ending, but at cost of activating Black's King. Piece activity often balances material in this type of endgame – draw on move 56.

Round Ten

Vitaly Tseshkovsky's schedule in this tournament after the third round of two losses followed by a draw repeated twice. In round ten he started yet another cycle by losing to Dreev.

Tseshkovsky got a decent position out of a Philidor's Defense with chances to intercept, but then started to make mistakes, cleverly exploited by Dreev. A good position and a sudden blackout – quite a typical scheme for Tseshkovsky's losses in the superfinal! The player himself suggested an explanation after the tournament.

Vitaly Valeryevich said that he suffers from diabetes, and the reason for all his unexplainable blunders could be the level of sugar decreasing during games. The grandmaster was aware of his health problem. He had a device to measure the sugar level as well as the necessary medicine, but he never used it during the tournament, because simply forgot about it! And Dreev never forgot about the ritual cup of coffee, which led him through the openings of all games he played in Moscow. Was it with or without sugar? I should have asked...

After two consecutive wins Motylev looked rather exhausted, and in tenth round he used the white colour only to check Timofeev's homework in Sveshnikov Sicilian. During the game press center experts discussed it in nervous tone. "I know this line well, I recommend it to my pupils as Black, there are no problems to equalize – but Motylev plays it, so there must be a big novelty somewhere..." No, Motylev did not change the evaluation. Timofeev had studied the opening well, and got a deserved draw. In a similar manner another encounter was drawn, Epishin-Svidler, in which Svidler easily defended with his pet Gruenfeld Defense.

There were three players who more or less regularly arrived a few minutes late – Grischuk (nearly a chronic case), Kasparov and Morozevich. Therefore, it was an intriguing question in Kasparov-Morozevich: who'll arrive first? Who will have to wait? Kasparov came first.

Morozevich appeared in about four minutes after the clocks were started.

Kasparov did not waste time in gaining a big opening plus. Morozevich had to do wonders not just to survive, but to avoid an opening catastrophe. He managed to escape to the endgame with just one pawn less, compensated by opposite color bishops. Garry still had winning chances, even if only practical, but by that time he already knew that even in case of a draw he would become the sole winner of the event. And such knowledge must affect even Kasparov's concentration!

The most exciting game of tenth round was, without a doubt, a tense struggle between Korotylev and Grischuk. It would most likely be annotated in detail in various magazines, so I would just like to say that Korotylev played aggressively, sacrificed a pawn, and after Grischuk's inaccuracy developed a strong attack, which eventually led to a decisive material gains.

World champion Vassily Smyslov was among the spectators.

A beautiful chess sets from Anatoly Karpov's collection, crafted of mammoth's tusk – special prize for a winner.

To be continued...


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