Aeroflot Open: Sasikiran still supreme

by Alex Yermolinsky
2/24/2019 – Saturday was a double-round in Moscow but that didn't faze Indian veteran GM Krishnan Sasikiran who remains perfect with five out of five and a full point lead! ALEX YERMOLINSKY takes a look at the highlights of a chess-packed day. | Photo: Eldar Mukhametov /

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No rest, no problem

The much-publicized cancellation of round one [due to widespread but apparently spurious bomb threats -Ed.] necessitated some changes in the schedule, and yesterday's gameday became a double-round affair. A lot of moaning and groaning (I heard on the Internet) followed the announcement, which in all honesty made me do nothing but shrug my shoulders. Two games a day has always been a norm in all U.S. Swisses until lately, when the advent of faster time controls, such as Game/90 plus 30-second increment, made it possible for the thriftiest organizers to make it three rounds a day. Yes, Virginia, it's three games on Saturday, starting at 10 AM, 2 PM and 7 PM followed by a 9:30 AM round Sunday, and don't forget to check out of your room before that lest your credit card will be charged for a full day rate! I understand, chess in America isn't serious (unless it's played in St. Louis), but when I played non-stop on that circuit for 20 years it was pretty serious to me. It was played for rent money. I think today's generation of players that is significantly younger and (judging by the looks) much healthier, can handle two games played on the same day. Once.

Sorry for the rant. Before I turned this report into something it wasn't intended to be, let me drag myself kicking and screaming to the subject. Yet, I will mention that some players were absolutely unrecognizable during their second games last night.

I'll start with Round 4 that saw the battle between the surprising leaders. (At least halfway surprising.) Krishnan Sasikiran has been a fixture on India's Olympic team since the year 2000, where I took notice of him as he dismantled my friend in teammate Alexander Shabalov in 20-something moves — in the game Krishnan opened with 1.b3!

My Secret Weapon: 1.b3

Meanwhile, 1.b3 has also found its way into the practice of today's world elite, and now finally a modern top ten player has taken on the subject for ChessBase: none other than Grandmaster Wesley So!

Maksim Chigaev, on the other hand, was virtually unknown until a month ago when he had a great showing at the Tata Steel Challengers.


One can tell, in that encounter, the experience prevailed. Unfazed, both players carried on with the great second game performances. Sasikiran defeated Korobov in a near perfectly played game, while Chigaev bounced back with a good win with Black against Narayanan.


Krishnan Sasikiran is in first place with a perfect record 5/5. I'm not sure anyone had this score in the entire history of Aeroflot tournaments. The rest of the road will be a test of nerves for Krishnan. I hope he passes it.

In the next round, Chigaev is facing another surprising contestant, the Estonian Kaido Kulaots, whose game will be featured below.

What about rating favourites, particularly the young Russian stars? One of them answered the call in a crazy game from the morning round.


The Accelerated Dragon - a sharp weapon against 1.e4

After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6! leads to the so-called "Accelerated Dragon Defense". On this DVD the Russian grandmaster and top women player Nadezhda Kosintseva reveals the secrets of her favourite opening.

A casual viewer who's too dependent on computer evaluations may underestimate the degree of practical difficulty in handling such games. I call it a great win for Daniil, with a word of consolation for his somewhat unfortunate opponent.

Both Fedoseev and Dubov entered the evening round a full point behind the leader and were looking to make a push with the white pieces. The reality proved to be anything but.


I have many times expressed my admiration of Vladimir Fedoseev's fighting spirit. I may very well be his biggest fan on the other side of the Atlantic, but games like this simply drive me nuts. From a meek opening choice to a badly misplayed middlegame all the way to a gross endgame blunder — this is not how a future World Championship contender should play chess. I hope my old buddy Alexander “El Khalif” Khalifman will spare no words (or no rods?) for his pupil.

Danya Dubov didn't do one sight better in his own game.


Kulaots Yeah, this one was so bad, it's hard to credit Kulaots for winning it. Kaido [photo: Alina l'Ami, 2014], however, previously defeated two Iranian young stars and fully deserves to be where he's at. Currently, Kulaots is sitting at 4 points and playing on Board 2.

Aeroflot tournaments are known for their tremendous depth of the field. In my own experience back in 2005, I came out of the starting blocks ranked #90 and managed a +1 score against a 2625 average opposition, which I consider one of my best tournament achievements. The funniest thing was to look around and see all those great players playing next to me and having virtually no impact on top of the standings. The moral of the story is, anybody can have a bad/mediocre tournament at the Aeroflot.

And someone we have never heard of can have a good or even great tournament.

Will it be Klementy Sychev this time?


Standings after Round 5 (top 30)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Sasikiran Krishnan 5,0 2
2 Kulaots Kaido 4,0 3
3 Tabatabaei M.Amin 4,0 3
4 Chigaev Maksim 4,0 2
5 Martirosyan Haik M. 4,0 2
6 Deac Bogdan-Daniel 3,5 3
7 Zhou Jianchao 3,5 3
8 Fier Alexandr 3,5 2
9 Wei Yi 3,5 2
10 Antipov Mikhail Al. 3,5 2
11 Xu Yi 3,0 3
12 Sargsyan Shant 3,0 3
13 Wang Hao 3,0 3
14 Petrosyan Manuel 3,0 3
15 Korobov Anton 3,0 3
16 Sjugirov Sanan 3,0 3
17 Sarana Alexey 3,0 3
18 Anton Guijarro David 3,0 3
19 Paravyan David 3,0 3
  Petrosian Tigran L. 3,0 3
21 Khismatullin Denis 3,0 3
22 Idani Pouya 3,0 3
23 Vaibhav Suri 3,0 3
24 Gordievsky Dmitry 3,0 3
25 Abdusattorov Nodirbek 3,0 2
26 Donchenko Alexander 3,0 2
27 Karthikeyan Murali 3,0 2
28 Lupulescu Constantin 3,0 2
29 Nihal Sarin 3,0 2
  Debashis Das 3,0 2

All available games



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.


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