Aeroflot Open to kick off with Wei Yi as favourite

by Antonio Pereira
2/16/2019 – The Cosmos Hotel, located in north-central Moscow, will host the 17th edition of the Aeroflot Open. Group A currently counts 39 registered players rated 2600 or above, with 19-year-old Wei Yi as the top seed. The event is a great chance for players that are vying to get a place in the elite to prove themselves against formidable opposition. Nine rounds will be played starting Monday, with no rest days in between. | Photo: Amruta Mokal (archive)

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A ticket to the top

Besides the prize fund of 140,000 Euros, the Aeroflot Open provides a ticket to the Dortmund supertournament later this year. The 2018 edition saw Vladislav Kovalev comfortably taking clear first place, which was followed by shared second place in Dortmund. These remarkable performances got him an invitation to this year’s Tata Steel “B group”, which he won convincingly, getting an invitation to the 2020 Tata Steel Masters. The Byelorussian patiently climbed the ladder from Aeroflot to Wijk aan Zee’s main event.

The Open is tough, however, and it would be rather surprising to see Kovalev repeat last year’s feat. After all, he will arrive in Moscow as the fourth seed — curiously, two other participants share his 2703 rating.

Kovalev next to Korobov during last year's edition | Photo: Niklesh Jain 

The favourite rating-wise is 19-year-old Wei Yi. The youngster won the Chinese Championship three years in a row, between 2015 and 2017, and has already faced world-class opposition in tournaments like the Bilbao Masters and the Tata Steel Masters. Before Ding Liren’s rise in the world ranking, Wei Yi was considered the biggest hope for Chinese chess to get a World Championship contender. Of late, he has not participated as frequently in top events —nonetheless, he got first place in his last classical tournament, the Asian Continental Championship.

Second seed is Vladimir Fedoseev, who won the 2017 edition, when he was ‘barely’ the 18th seed. The Russian’s last tournament was the Tata Steel Masters, where he finished on a disappointing 5/13 — he defeated Shankland and Radjabov, and missed a big chance to take down world champion Magnus Carlsen. Back in 2017, he got a fine win over Maxim Matlakov, a game that was analysed by Alex Yermolinsky for Chessbase:

 

Another Chinese star is placed third in the starting rank list — Harbin-born Wang Hao. The 29-year-old took a shot at elite chess roughly between 2010 and 2014, with his best performance achieved at the 2012 Biel Chess Festival, where he got clear first place ahead of Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri and Hikaru Nakamura. He started well in the latest World Rapid Championship but could not keep up the pace and finished on 9½/15.

Tied with Kovalev and Rauf Mamedov with a 2703 rating is Daniil Dubov. The 22-year-old Russian recently got the biggest achievement of his career when he took clear first place at the aforementioned World Rapid Championship. During his great performance in Saint Petersburg, it was widely revealed — although some people already knew — that he had helped Magnus Carlsen during his preparation for last year’s London match against Fabiano Caruana.

The current rapid world champion, Daniil Dubov | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Besides the usual strong 2600-players — Inarkiev, Nabaty, Korobov, etc. — a group of future stars will be looking for their big break. Parham Maghsoodloo is the current world junior champion; Alexey Sarana already participated in a Russian Superfinal; Alireza Firouzja will try to continue his accelerated rise; and Andrey Esipenko will arrive in Moscow after a strong performance at the Tata Steel Challengers. And these are only a few…

In addition to the 9-round Swiss classical open, a blitz tournament will be organised on February 28th, with a prize fund of 20,000 Euros — the winner will take home 5,000 Euros. It will be a double nine-round Swiss event with a time control of 3 minutes for the whole game and 2-second increments from move one.

Esipenko finished shared second in Wijk aan Zee's "B group" — surely he wanted more | Photo: Alina l'Ami

Registered players (top 30)

No.   Name FideID FED Rtg
1 GM Wei Yi 8603405 CHN 2733
2 GM Fedoseev Vladimir 24130737 RUS 2715
3 GM Wang Hao 8602883 CHN 2714
4 GM Dubov Daniil 24126055 RUS 2703
5 GM Kovalev Vladislav 13504398 BLR 2703
6 GM Mamedov Rauf 13401653 AZE 2703
7 GM Inarkiev Ernesto 4162722 RUS 2692
8 GM Nabaty Tamir 2809052 ISR 2688
9 GM Korobov Anton 14105730 UKR 2687
10 GM Safarli Eltaj 13402129 AZE 2681
11 GM Sasikiran Krishnan 5004985 IND 2678
12 GM Maghsoodloo Parham 12539929 IRI 2666
13 GM Sjugirov Sanan 4189302 RUS 2663
14 GM Sethuraman S.P. 5021596 IND 2651
15 GM Anton Guijarro David 2285525 ESP 2642
16 GM Zvjaginsev Vadim 4113403 RUS 2642
17 GM Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo 3901211 VEN 2640
18 GM Ganguly Surya Shekhar 5002150 IND 2636
19 GM Alekseenko Kirill 4135539 RUS 2634
20 GM Indjic Aleksandar 911925 SRB 2630
21 GM Sarana Alexey 24133795 RUS 2630
22 GM Kobalia Mikhail 4119150 RUS 2627
23 GM Paravyan David 4194985 RUS 2627
24 GM Grachev Boris 4129199 RUS 2626
25 GM Khismatullin Denis 4142578 RUS 2621
26 GM Firouzja Alireza 12573981 IRI 2618
27 GM Van Foreest Jorden 1039784 NED 2618
28 GM Martirosyan Haik M. 13306553 ARM 2616
29 GM Zhou Jianchao 8603537 CHN 2615
30 GM Chigaev Maksim 4108116 RUS 2613

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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