St Petersburg wrap-up – part 2

6/5/2004 – The last two rounds of the preliminaries for the Russian Championship in St Petersburg decided it all. Of special importance was the question: who would get a ticket to the super-final with Kasparov and Kramnik, planned for November? Misha Savinov tells us in part two of his pictorial report.

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St Petersburg wrap-up – part 2

By Misha Savinov

Round 8

After the capricious clocks were replaced during the first part of the tournament, nothing distracted the participants from their primary duty – playing chess. The credit goes to organizers and firm group of arbiters that worked at the event.


Three St. Petersburg arbiters with VIP guest Vladimir Dvorkovich (right)

News of the day: 18-year old Grandmaster from Petersburg Evgeny Alekseev has been included into the upcoming FIDE world championship in Libya. Let's spare our opinion about the event, but such invitation is definitely a recognition of the progress made by Evgeny in recent years. "Good luck! But beware – they might arrest you at the airport", – an inspiring farewell by Sergey Ivanov. Despite his youth, Alekseev has already visited one Middle East country, which is not the most popular in Libya...


Khalifman, Shaposhnikov: discussing news about the FIDE championship

After yesterday's shock Najer was paired to have a second White in a row, this time against Dreev. The Caro-Kann occurred, and Dreev showed the depth of his preparation, surprising Najer with the new 12th move. Evgeny did not find any promising continuations and took a draw, which secured Dreev's promotion to the superfinal, and almost guaranteed him the first prize. [Replay game]


Dreev and Najer in the postgame analysis

Later both players analyzed the final position for about an hour, and found that White's only attempt to play for a win was risky exchange sacrifice.

Vladimir Epishin slammed like a bulldozer through the defense of Pavel Tregubov. White created serious threats, forcing Black to give up material, and the endgame was lost for Tregubov. Epishin caught up with Tseshkovsky before the final round. [Replay game]


A powerful effort by Epishin

Ian Nepomniashchy won another game with Black and returned to the 50% group. Unlike other youngsters at the tournament, Ian played in highly combative style, aiming at complicated positions with rich tactical content. The optimistic young IM often overestimated his chances, but the objectivity of positional evaluation is not very frequent when you're 13! [Replay game]


13-year-old IM Ian Nepomniashchy

It is possible that the FIDE invitation broke the concentration of Evgeny Alekseev. Known for his good technique, Evgeny badly misplayed a better endgame, wasted a couple of tempi with his rook, and finally missed a typical pawn break. His opponent Valery Popov advanced to "+2" group, with certain chances of finishing among the top three. [Replay game]

When all games of the day had finished, only Tseshkovsky and Ivanov remained onstage. For the third time Ivanov defended his pet line in French defense. Tseshkovsky could easily shake hands in the middlegame, with all heavy pieces and opposite colored bishops on board, but he played for a win. The veteran exchanged his rook for a bishop and two pawns, and although the position remained approximately equal, White did not risk anything. Ivanov made a weak move, and the players entered the Endgame. The Endgame with a capital letter, truly a position of the week.


"The Endgame" in Tseshkovsky vs Ivanov

From first glance it appeared easily won for White, however, Black had several drawing ideas, based on stalemate and various fortress positions. Both sides made mysterious maneuvers during the last time control. Tseshkovsky was unable to breach the defense, and a draw was agreed on 72nd move. [Replay game]

After the game, as well as on the next day, many participants attempted to analyze it, but came to different conclusions. Sergey Ivanov said that he found a draw in every line, while, for example, Valery Popov was much more optimistic about White's chances. This analysis went on even during the closing ceremony, with GMs Popov, Ionov and Dreev at the table...

Round 9

It took 15 minutes for Alexey Dreev to draw his game with Sergey Ivanov and secure the first place (in case of Epishin's or Tseshkovsky's last round victory Dreev would nevertheless win on superior tie-break). Ivanov's "+2" and his tie for 4th-10th in this very strong event is also one of the highlight achievements for the St. Petersburg's Grandmaster.

Valery Popov had a surprising chance to burst into the top three if he would defeat Vitaly Tseshkovsky. Both players surprised each other in the opening. Neither of them regularly employs the Sicilian Dragon, so playing it required creativity and chess understanding rather than memory skills. Tseshkovsky sacrificed a pawn on move 14. Popov took the gift, but Black had sufficient compensation, as White's kingside was seriously compromised. The risk of continuing to play was too high for the professionals to bear. They shook hands on 21st move, and immediately started the post-mortem analysis. [Replay game]


"Hey, will you two shut up there!" With Popov and Tseshkovsky analysing in the background, Vladimir Epishin protests. The players moved their discussions to the skittles room.

After Khalifman offered an early draw to Najer, essentially retiring from the race, it became clear that a draw against Zvjaginsev would give Vladimir Epishin a ticket to the superfinal. Epishin gave up two bishops for two knights, but simplified the position, and the draw became inevitable. [Replay game]


Alexander Riazantsev

As there were 20 prizes for 34 participants, the intrigue did not die completely after the leaders finished their games. Winning in the last round substantially improved the money share for Konstantin Sakaev and Alexander Riazantsev, who joined Khalifman, Najer, Ivanov, Zvjaginsev and Popov at 5,5/9. Konstantin Sakaev outplayed Yevseev, whose Slav defense attempts are yet failing to impress. Muscovite Riazantsev defeated Volkov, who blundered a neat tactics in the opening and had to part with the pawn.


Whiling away the time with shuffle chess blitz

There were a couple of hours before the closing ceremony. Most of the players left to their hotel rooms, while St. Petersburg grandmasters Loginov, Shaposhnikov and Alekseev entertained themselves with shuffle chess blitz. The players determined the initial position by starting the clocks and putting their pieces on board by turns. Shaposhnikov won most of the games, but Alekseev knocked him out in the end, and it was already time to go to the closing ceremony.

Three winners, Alexey Dreev, Vitaly Tseshkovsky (2nd on tie-break) and Vladimir Epishin received diplomas, and Dreev improvised a warm speech. Among other things, the winner pointed out that in his opinion Alexander Khalifman (took 4th thanks to his Buchholz) deserves to be invited to the superfinal. According to the recent information, it might be scheduled in November.


Dreev's speech, with Vladimir Dvorkovich listening attentively


Vitaly Tseshkovsky at the closing ceremony


"I know the secret!" Valery Popov (sunglasses) scored 4/5 in the second part of the tournament. Left Ivanov, right Ionov.


The famous white nights of St. Petersburg – look at the clock! Actually the sun does set, but an extended twilight keeps the sky lit up until almost midnight.


This picture of the military headquarters was shot at 11 p.m.

Final standings: Dreev – 6.5, Tseshkovsky and Epishin – 6, Ivanov, Khalifman, Najer, Popov, Riazantsev, Sakaev and Zvjaginsev – 5.5, Andreikin, Landa, Romanov, Tregubov and Yakovich – 5, Alekseev, Belov, Ionov, Nikolenko, Shaposhnikov, Volkov and Yevseev – 4.5, Burmakin, Danin, Dolmatov, Kurnosov, Kuzmin, Loginov and Nepomniashchy – 4, Dobrov and Solovjov – 3.5, Gleizerov – 2.5, Silivanov and Shapovalenko – 1.

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