Aeroflot Open: Early highlights

by Macauley Peterson
2/22/2018 – The Aeroflot open sports a strong field of 60 GMs, 27 IMs, two WGMs and three FMs. In such a tournament the favourites are not likely to have an easy time. For instance, Dmitry Andreikin had a long fight for his draw against Andrey Esipenko in the first round. Another top seed, Rauf Mamedov, actually lost. The second round, however, contained fewer surprises. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

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Six remain perfect through two rounds

In open tournaments, the first round pairings typically pit the upper half of the draw against the players of the lower half. This results in some charming encounters of nominally weaker players against the top players on the ranking list. Most of the time, the favorites prevail, but not always. Occasionally, the supposedly simple hurdles are higher than expected. And sometimes even those with hefty Elos make mistakes. 

The Aeroflot Open is a bit different. The chess class here is so deep that there are hardly any "weaker" players. Even the slightly lesser players are dangerous opponents for everyone at the top: they may be strong youth, or maybe players who have played few international tournaments so far, and on paper are below the level of their practical skills. Those who wish to develop tournament toughness could do worse than running the gauntlet at the Aeroflot Open.

The 16th edition of the Aeroflot Open started on Tuesday in Moscow, Russia, and runs through March 1st

After Russia, India is the largest contingent of this edition. Fully 16 players are registered including the number two seed, Vidit Gujrathi, and the weakest player by rating in the A-group, IM Eesha Karavade, coming in at number 92.

The Indian group

The Indian group | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Of course, the two Indian prodigies Nihal Sarin, now thirteen years old, and Praggnanandhaa (twelve and six months) are back. They hardly miss a tournament and are rising up the elite ladder at a good clip. Currently, the slightly older Nihal Sarin has his nose in front, at 2532 Elo. Praggnanandhaa is rated 2507, and unfortunately is now almost certainly not going to break Sergey Karjakin's record as the youngest GM ever.

Nihal Sarin | Photo: Niklesh Jain

In the first round, Sarin, in the lower half of the draw, got paired against one of the better grandmasters, his countryman Sasikiran, the number four in the Indian rankings, behind Anand, Harikrishna and Vidit. With the black pieces, Sasikiran achieved a better position in the Fianchetto variation of the Grunfeld defense. But his young counterpart held his own for a long time as Sasikiran found no promising ideas. Finally, he reached an endgame with a queenside passer, which offered opportunities.


Black took on c1, after which he does not have much anymore. The computer recommends 56... Kf7 with advantage. The game soon ended in a draw.

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

Praggnanandhaa | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The match between Romanov and Praggnanandhaa was more lively. The Russian GM opened with an English and Praggnanandhaa then followed in the footsteps of Fabiano Caruana:


However, getting only a slightly better endgame, it did not yield more than a draw for Romanov.

Another Indian derby was played at table two. There, Vidit Gujrathi played against S. Naryanan. The two Indian GMs are the same age, born in 1994, but Vidit, perhaps also thanks to his collaboration with Anish Giri, has achieved a dominant position. Still, there was not more than half a point in store for the nominal favorite, just as on the neighboring tables.

Vidit on his first round ChessBase India YouTube

On top board, Fedoseev started with a draw against the surprise winner of last year's European Rapid Championship, Maksim Vavulin. Afterwards, the defending Aeroflot champ also checked in with our reporter Niklesh Jain.

"It's a tradition for me to play [as] the first event of the year" | ChessBase India YouTube

The theme "youth versus not quite young anymore" was also on display at table three. Here, Dmitry Andreikin, naturally third in the seedling list, had to settle for a draw as well with Andrey Esipenko. Esipenko is reigning Under-16 World Champion and attracted attention with a beautiful combination at the World Rapid Championship against Karjakin (Qb3 !!). Andreikin with the black pieces in a Semi-Tarrasch had lost two pawns and he had to fight for the draw in the rook endgame.


White played 51.Rg3. More promising is Rdxg7 or Rg6, with the idea of ​​advancing the e-pawn. Andreikin got away with only a black eye. You will surely hear a lot more from Esipenko.

Matthias Blübaum and Rasmus Svane, the German representatives in Moscow, also received half a point each. Blubaum had black against Daniil Yuffa, a 20-year-old grandmaster from the Siberian city of Tyumen. In addition to being a strong grandmaster, it turns out he's a talented pianist, and recently stunned Russian TV audiences with a virtuoso performance featuring both skills.

In Russian, but easy to follow, and breathtaking!

In a theoretical duel in the French Defence, Yuffa had no great ambition and went for 3.Bd3:


The French Defence for the Tournament Player

This French Defence DVD is a complete attacking opening repertoire for black after 1.e4 e6. GM Nick Pert has played the French defence his whole life and provides all his la test and most up to date analysis crammed into 1 DVD.


Fourth seed, Azerbaijani GM Rauf Mamedov lost against Armenian GM Manuel Petrosyan, after losing control right out of the opening. 


Memedov's choice on move 19 caused him a shocking loss 

Mamedov and Petrosyan

Manuel Petrosyan scored a very clean victory | Photos: Niklesh Jain


Another big upset of day was the loss of one of the legendary players from the USA, GM Gata Kamasky, who went down to Ukrainian youngster Kirill Shevchenko.

Gata Kamsky has some ground to make up | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Top results of round one

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Vavulin Maksim 0 ½ - ½ 0 Fedoseev Vladimir
Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 0 ½ - ½ 0 Narayanan.S.L
Esipenko Andrey 0 ½ - ½ 0 Andreikin Dmitry
Mamedov Rauf 0 0 - 1 0 Petrosyan Manuel
Chigaev Maksim 0 0 - 1 0 Matlakov Maxim
Artemiev Vladislav 0 1 - 0 0 Pichot Alan
Firouzja Alireza 0 ½ - ½ 0 Inarkiev Ernesto
Najer Evgeniy 0 ½ - ½ 0 Xu Xiangyu
Shevchenko Kirill 0 1 - 0 0 Kamsky Gata
Sargissian Gabriel 0 ½ - ½ 0 Xu Yinglun
Nihal Sarin 0 ½ - ½ 0 Sasikiran Krishnan
Korobov Anton 0 1 - 0 0 Lomasov Semen
Triapishko Alexandr 0 0 - 1 0 Piorun Kacper
Sjugirov Sanan 0 1 - 0 0 Kotronias Vasilios
Sychev Klementy 0 0 - 1 0 Sethuraman S.P.
Kovalev Vladislav 0 1 - 0 0 Tran Tuan Minh
Yuffa Daniil 0 ½ - ½ 0 Bluebaum Matthias
Mareco Sandro 0 ½ - ½ 0 Abdusattorov Nodirbek
Repka Christopher 0 ½ - ½ 0 Gordievsky Dmitry
Zvjaginsev Vadim 0 ½ - ½ 0 Sorokin Aleksey
Aryan Chopra 0 ½ - ½ 0 Zhigalko Sergei
Romanov Evgeny 0 ½ - ½ 0 Praggnanandhaa R

...92 players

All games of round one


A World champion's guide to the Petroff

The great popularity of the Petroff Defence at the highest level has attracted general attention as strong players employ this opening with great success and with both colours. Unfortunately, the opinion of the Petroff as a sterile drawish opening seems to be firmly implanted in many minds. The author tries to dispel these myths and examines the most popular lines and provides a large number of ideas that will enable you to play Petroff successfully, with either colour.

Round 2

The top pairing was a very combative and interesting game where Maxim Matlakov was imposing but Parham Maghsoodloo's pluck and ability assured him the draw.


Vidit had the misfortune of facing his second Indian player in a row, the aforementioned lowest ranked A-group player IM Karavade, who held him to a draw. While they played a full game, it's unlikely to be the case that the team travelled all the way to Moscow hoping to get paired against each other! Vidit can't afford to give up too many half points like this (as a massive rating favourite) if he wants to stay near the leaders.

Vidit is on 50%, not the start he wanted

Anton Korobov got his second win of the event, evidently picking up on his winning ways from Wijk aan Zee. Playing black, Korobov snapped Manuel Petrosyan back down to earth, although the Armenian squandard a winning advantage.


32.Re1 gave back most of White's gains, but the counter-intuitive 32.Be3!, destabilising the black knights would have led to a win of a piece: 32...Nxe3 (or 32...Na4 33.Bf4!) 33. fxe3 Bc5 34.Rxh8+ Kxh8 35.Rd1 and black will have to give up his knight for the c-pawn sooner or later.

Among the other back-to-back winners are veterans Alexander Khalifman and Victor Bologan. Khalifman took just 24 moves to put a damper on Kirill Shevchenko's dream start.


Khalifman and Bologan

Khalifman and Bologan have seen many Aeroflot Opens before | Photos: Niklesh Jain

Bologan was the beneficiary of a rook endgame blunder from his young Chinese opponent, 20-year-old IM Yi Xu. 


The straight forward 61...g2 or Rg8 would draw for Xu, but he went the wrong way with his rook, 61...Re1 which led to catastrophe after 62.Ra2!+- Ke4 when black tried to escort the pawn with his king. But the monarch was needed to contain White's more dangerous pawn duo, which won the day; after Bologan sacrificed his rook for the g-pawn, the black king was too far away.

Standings after two rounds (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Artemiev Vladislav 2,0 1
  Korobov Anton 2,0 1
  Sethuraman S.P. 2,0 1
  Khalifman Alexander 2,0 1
  Bologan Victor 2,0 1
  Petrosian Tigran L. 2,0 1
7 Maghsoodloo Parham 1,5 2
8 Matlakov Maxim 1,5 1
  Najer Evgeniy 1,5 1
  Sjugirov Sanan 1,5 1
  Kovalev Vladislav 1,5 1
  Lysyj Igor 1,5 1
  Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. 1,5 1
  Jumabayev Rinat 1,5 1
  Wen Yang 1,5 1
  Paravyan David 1,5 1
  Antipov Mikhail Al. 1,5 1
  Gupta Abhijeet 1,5 1
  Svane Rasmus 1,5 1
  Aryan Chopra 1,5 1
  Golubov Saveliy 1,5 1
  Mikaelyan Arman 1,5 1
  Pavlov Sergey 1,5 1
  Yakubboev Nodirbek 1,5 1
  Karavade Eesha 1,5 1

All available games of round two 


Niklesh Jain and Andre Schulz contributed to this report


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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