2015 Russian Higher League: Sapere Aude!

by Eteri Kublashvili
6/30/2015 – The Russian Higher League is underway, bringing many of the strongest players in Russia to not only fight for a part of the five million Ruble prizefund (USD 90 thousand), but also one of the five coveted spots in the Russian Superfinal. The tournament is being held in Kaliningrad, home to Immanuel Kant, where Eteri Kublashvii has been providing lovely pictures and impressions.

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"Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own intelligence!" - Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

The competition brings all the biggest names in Russian chess who are not yet qualified for the SuperFinal, and is held over nine rounds played at 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game with a 30-second increment as of move one. The zero tolerance rule has been waived and there is a 15-minute window for players arriving late. Also, to promote over-the-board fighting, draw offers are not allowed before 40 moves have been played. There are two events held, the women’s and the men’s.

In the men’s section, at the top of the starting list are Vladimir Malakhov (2699), Maxim Matlakov (2696), Ernesto Inarkiev (2668), winner of the Moscow Open, Evgeny Najer, the 2015 European Champion, and juniors Vladimir Fedoseev, Daniil Dubov, Sana Sjugirov, and Vladislav Artemiev to name but a few.

Alexander Shimanov and Vladimir Fedoseyev

Maxim Chigaev and Vladislav Artemiev

Olga Girya, already qualified for the Russian Women's Superfinal, plays in the men's Higher League

In general, participating in the Higher League helps expand horizons, since this tournament is always held in very interesting cities that are far from Russia’s center. Whereas last year's participants played in the eastern most part of the country, now we moved due west.

In Kaliningrad the tournament brought several positive innovations: for example, the prize fund was significantly increased and there was also the international "Chess in museums" program, which the RCF implemented jointly with the Elena and Gennady Timchenko Charity Foundation. In fact, this also formed the basis of the opening ceremony, which was highly original, and certainly must have taken considerable effort to set up. It took place in the fortifications of "Fort number 5", which is a museum of the Great Patriotic War. 

Fort number 5

This was more than a historic location to visit, it was the location of the opening ceremony

The old fort is now a site for visitors to reminisce and understand the past

The visitors were served by an army field kitchen, very much in the spirit of the location

Guests had the opportunity to explore the tournament exposition "Chess in the war years. 
1941-1945 ', brought from the Moscow Museum of Chess.

Candles in memory of the fallen heroes

On stage, the master of ceremonies, Alexander Tkachev, Oleg Kosenkov and Maria Morozova

Though it was not immediately obvious from the previous image, the stage was erected in the open

It wouldn't be an opening ceremony without a show, and the talents in uniform gave them one

After it was over, there was a Generations Tournament, pitting war veterans against young players

It is worth commenting on the very locale of the Higher League, since Kaliningrad is so different from other Russian cities. For one thing, the home of famed philosopher Immanuel Kant is not so expansive as other cities, and makes it quite possible to gradually acquaint oneself with the ancient city first founded in 1255.

Königsberg Castle tower and Emperor William's Monument, Kaliningrad,
Russia before World War I. (photo: Library of Congress PD)

The ruins of the castle, still standing in spite of two wars, was ordered razed by Brezhnev to
make place for the House of Soviets above

It should be noted that each "sortie"  led to increasingly positive impressions helped greatly by the exceedingly open-armed and polite residents of Kaliningrad, most of whom not only know the history of their city but are more than willing to share it. 

Not all was lost though. Here is the Konigsberg Cathedral, which was destroyed during the
war and completely rebuilt at the beginning of the new millennium

The chess players were all housed in the hotel "Baltica" located on the banks of the picturesque
lake. The center of town was about fifteen minutes away.

The first four rounds of the men’s section were marked by the early lead by GM Ivan Popov (right)
who was the sole leader after four rounds with 3.5/4. It was no coincidence either as he played
strong and consistent chess.

Watch how he converted his advantage against Aleksandr Rakhmanov in round three:

[Event "68th ch-RUS HL 2015"] [Site "Kaliningrad RUS"] [Date "2015.06.24"] [Round "3.1"] [White "Popov, Ivan RUS"] [Black "Rakhmanov, Aleksandr"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C10"] [WhiteElo "2647"] [BlackElo "2623"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r1r1k2/1p2np2/p1p1pnpp/P1N1R3/1PPP1PP1/2K2B2/4R2P/8 w - - 0 44"] [PlyCount "33"] [EventDate "2015.06.22"] {White's advantage is clear: he has a significant space advantage, his pieces are well placed, and all that remains is how to finish his opponent off.} 44. f5 $1 {And one! Reminiscent of hedgehog ideas with dual breaks.} gxf5 45. gxf5 Nxf5 46. d5 $1 {And two!} cxd5 47. cxd5 {d5 is attacked three times and only defended twice, yet is untouchable.} Ng7 ({If} 47... Nxd5+ 48. Bxd5 Rxd5 49. Rxd5 exd5 {White has the last word with} 50. Nd7+) 48. dxe6 Nxe6 49. Rxe6 fxe6 50. Nxe6+ Ke7 51. Nxd8+ Kxd8 52. Re6 Ng8 53. h4 Kc7 54. Rg6 Ne7 55. Rxh6 Rf8 56. Be4 Rf4 57. Kd3 Kd7 58. Ke3 Rf7 59. Rb6 Kd8 60. Rxb7 1-0

Ernesto Inarkiev won the Moscow Open in supreme fashion in February

In round five, however, 2014 European Champion Alexander Motylev joined the lead with an
impressive victory over top seed Vladimir Malakhov, forcing his resignation by move 27, and
then took it for his own by round seven with 5.5/7

Watch how Motylev demolishes Black's position with a couple of laser precision shots:

[Event "68th ch-RUS HL 2015"] [Site "Kaliningrad RUS"] [Date "2015.06.28"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Motylev, Alexander"] [Black "Malakhov, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2643"] [BlackElo "2699"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r2r1k1/2p1bpp1/p1n4p/1pqbP3/7B/2PBR2P/P1QN1PP1/4R1K1 w - - 0 23"] [PlyCount "9"] [EventDate "2015.06.22"] {Black just played 22...Be7. It probably never occured to him that White's bishop would stop one square short of the exchange with...} 23. Bf6 $3 Bf8 24. Rg3 Rb6 {[#] How does White continue the attack?} 25. Qd1 $3 {Superb and strong. White's queen takes the backdoor entrance to the kingside with deadly effect.} Ne7 26. Qh5 g6 27. e6 $1 {and it is over. The black bishop on d5 is pinned.} 1-0

Tournament Director Alexander Tkachev watching the games

Standings after seven rounds

Rk SNo Ti. Name Rtg Pts  TB 
1 16 GM Motylev Alexander 2643 5.5 27.5
2 19 GM Kobalia Mikhail 2623 5.0 31.5
3 11 GM Khairullin Ildar 2653 5.0 29.5
4 6 GM Dubov Daniil 2661 5.0 28.5
5 27 GM Frolyanov Dmitry 2566 5.0 28.0
6 15 GM Popov Ivan 2647 5.0 28.0
7 8 GM Artemiev Vladislav 2660 5.0 27.5
8 14 GM Bukavshin Ivan 2647 5.0 27.5
9 13 GM Zvjaginsev Vadim 2648 5.0 26.0
10 3 GM Fedoseev Vladimir 2674 4.5 30.0
11 5 GM Sjugirov Sanan 2662 4.5 24.0
  9 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2658 4.5 24.0
13 12 GM Alekseev Evgeny 2651 4.0 29.5
14 26 GM Bocharov Dmitry 2580 4.0 28.5
15 30 GM Pridorozhni Aleksei 2556 4.0 26.5
16 38 FM Gordievsky Dmitry 2491 4.0 26.0
17 41 IM Chekhov Sergei 2476 4.0 25.5
18 1 GM Malakhov Vladimir 2699 4.0 25.5
19 4 GM Inarkiev Ernesto 2668 4.0 25.0
20 31   Predke Alexandr 2543 4.0 24.5

Click for complete standings

Bair Kovanova, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya and Anastasia Savina are some of the top seeds
in the Women's competition

Alina Kashlinskaya

Marina Guseva against Alina Kashlinskaya in round five

The women’s championship has also seen a large number of turnarounds from the leaders. The early leader was Alina Kashlinskaya, also one of the top seeds, who stormed to 5.0/6, but round seven cost her the lead after a nasty blunder in a dynamic position.

[Event "65th ch-RUS HL w 2015"] [Site "Kaliningrad RUS"] [Date "2015.06.29"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Savina, Anastasia"] [Black "Kashlinskaya, Alina"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A17"] [WhiteElo "2422"] [BlackElo "2432"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2kr4/pppb1R2/4p3/q6r/2Q2B2/5P2/4P2P/2R2K2 b - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "14"] [EventDate "2015.06.22"] 24... e5 $2 {A blunder that costs Black the game.} (24... c6 {was fine for Black.}) 25. Rxd7 $1 c6 ({The point is that after} 25... Rxd7 26. Qg8+ Rd8 27. Qg4+ {White wins the rook.} Kb8 28. Qxh5 {The bishop cannot be captured as the pawn is pinned to protect the queen on a5.}) 26. Rxb7 Rd6 27. Rcb1 Qd5 28. Qa6 Kd8 29. Qxa7 Rd7 30. Rxd7+ Qxd7 31. Rb8+ 1-0

As a result, after seven rounds, Anastasia Savina and Marina Guseva have the sole lead with 5.5/7, followed by a pack of five others with 5.0/7. Nothing is decided, and the five qualifying spots are up for grabs to be decided in the last two rounds.

Sixteen-year-old Irina Drogovoz has been the surprise so far, and in spite of a very modest 2187
rating, has scored 5.0/7

Women's standings after seven rounds

1 4 IM Savina Anastasia 2422 5.5 33.0
2 5 IM Guseva Marina 2410 5.5 27.5
3 2 IM Kashlinskaya Alina 2432 5.0 32.0
4 3 IM Bodnaruk Anastasia 2428 5.0 27.5
5 23   Drogovoz Irina 2187 5.0 26.5
6 9 IM Matveeva Svetlana 2366 5.0 25.5
7 16 WIM Balaian Alina 2261 5.0 22.5
8 11 FM Pustovoitova Daria 2351 4.5 31.5
9 8 WGM Kovanova Baira 2388 4.5 30.5
10 19 WIM Styazhkina Anna 2214 4.5 27.0
11 13 WFM Gritsayeva Oksana 2321 4.5 24.5
12 10 WIM Bivol Alina 2354 4.0 29.0
13 14 IM Ovod Evgenija 2313 4.0 28.5
14 1 IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina 2461 4.0 26.5
15 21 WFM Belenkaya Dina 2213 4.0 24.5
16 12 WIM Tomilova Elena 2329 3.5 26.5
17 31   Maltsevskaya Aleksandra 2129 3.5 26.0
18 35 WFM Protopopova Anastasiya 2100 3.5 24.5
19 30   Chkhan Viktoria 2148 3.5 24.5
20 18 WFM Rodionova Daria 2223 3.5 24.0

Click for complete standings

Photos by Eteri Kublashvili
Report by Eteri Kublashvili and Albert Silver


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Eteri Kublashvili is a chessplayer and reports and photographs from all official tournaments for the Russian Chess Federation.


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