Aeroflot Open R9: Kovalev wins the title

by Niklesh Kumar Jain
3/1/2018 – In the final round of the Aeroflot Open, Belarusian GM Vladislav Kovalev secured a comfortable draw against GM Gabriel Sargissian to clinch the title prize. With his full point lead over the rest of the field, it was no surprise that Kovalev settled for peace just 15 moves into the game. Decisive games were seen on boards four and five where SP Sethuraman and Dmitry Gordievsky defeated Victor Bologan and Amin Tabatabaei respectively. Both were tied for second with a score of 6½ / 9 but Sethuraman, due to a better tiebreak, took the higher spot on the leaderboard. | Pictured: Top three finishers in Group A: (L to R) SP Sethuraman, Vladislav Kovalev & Dmitry Gordievsky | Photo: Niklesh Jain

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A comfortable draw earns Kovalev first place

Before the players crossed swords for one last time, I was thinking about the importance of the final round in any event. In chess tournaments, especially, it could be extremely exciting and can produce really shocking results. Unlike in the knock-out format, the tournament leader isn't guaranteed a second place if he loses while players slightly lower down the leaderboard can jump back to the top all in the course of one round. This is what, perhaps, makes these tournaments so exciting. Nevertheless, there were a few things that were very clear before the final round began. Kovalev, the tournament leader, only needed a draw to secure the title prize. But if he lost, anyone of the 11 players who were a point behind him could have had a shot at the title.

A brief look at the happenings of round 9 | ChessBase India YouTube

Let's begin by looking at the final round games of the top three finishers.

Kovalev vs Sargissian

In an anti-King's Indian Defence system, Kovalev managed to build up a strong position for himself. For Sargissian, getting to agree to a draw was a stroke of fortune in a way while for Kovalev, winning the title prize took precedence over winning the game.


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Vladislav Kovalev during his final round game at the Aeroflot Open 2018

Kovalev managed to build up a strong position within just 15 moves | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Bologan vs Sethuraman

Sethuraman had a chance of finishing among the top three if he won. The same condition applied to Bologan as well. In the previous round, Bologan had scored a splendid win Evgeny Najer and must have been bustling with confidence. But with the white pieces in an Italian Opening, the Moldovan GM made a few errors and allowed his opponent put his position under pressure. In the ensuing rook endgame, Bologan lost a pawn and wasn't able to hold his position together for too long.

Final moments of the game | ChessBase India YouTube

Victor Bologan and SP Sethuraman during their ninth round game at the Aeroflot Open 2018

Victor Bologan's opening errors cost him a full point against SP Sethuraman | Photo: Niklesh Jain


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Interview with Sethuraman | ChessBase India YouTube

Tabatabaei vs Gordievsky

Amin Tabatabaei, who had played splendidly after his first-round loss to Eesha Karavade, had to taste a bitter defeat in the final round at the hands of Dmitry Gordievsky. In a Queen's Gambit, the Iranian IM underestimated the danger on his king and this simply spelt doom for him. The position did look equal until a certain point in the game but a few bad moves with his knight by Tabatabaei led to his downfall pretty soon. With this win, Gordievsky caught up with Sethuraman for the second place but due to an inferior tiebreak, finished third. 


Amin Tabatabaei and Dmitry Gordievsky in their final round game

Amin Tabatabaei started and finished with a loss but played extremely well in the other seven games | Photo: Niklesh Jain

19-year-old Vladislav Artemiev, who had performed sensationally throughout the event, was unable to win his game against compatriot, Igor Lysyj and finished with a 25-move draw.


Vladislav Artemiev during his ninth round game at the Aeroflot Open 2018

Vladislav Artemiev drew against his compatriot Igor Lysyj in just 25 moves | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The board two encounter between Tigran Petrosian and Anton Korobov also ended in a draw. Both players had performed extremely well throughout the event did not risk too much in their final game which began with a Queen's Indian Defence and lasted 42 moves.


Anton Korobov and Tigran Petrosian L during their final round game at the Aeroflot Open 2018

Neither Petrosian nor Korobov wanted to risk too much in their final round game | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Gata Kamsky and Alexander Khalifman in their final round game at the Aeroflot Open 2018

The game between former FIDE World Champion Alexander Khalifman and Gata Kamsky was a simple draw | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Board 6 encounter between Rauf Mamedyarov and Aravindh Chithambaram in round 9 of the Aeroflot Open 2018

Rauf Mamedov breached top 10 on the leaderboard with his final round win against Aravindh Chithambaram | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Final round game between Aleksey Aleksandrov and Vidit Gujrathi at the Aeroflot Open 2018

Second seed of the tournament, Vidit Gujrathi failed to win yet another game and scored his eighth draw of the tournament against Aleksey Aleksandrov | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Vidit Gujrathi, who had finally broken his spell of seven straight draws in the previous round, went back to drawing in the final round. In round 9, he drew against Aleksey Aleksandrov. The tournament was a disaster for the Indian number three. Although he did not lose a single game, his performance of 2581 was way below his 2723 rating. He will be losing around 16 points in Aeroflot.


IM R Praggnanandhaa in his final round game against GM Wen Yang at the Aeroflot Open 2018

IM R Praggnanandhaa missed his chance at scoring a GM norm after being held to a draw by GM Wen Yang in the final round | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Top three finishers of Group B of the Aeroflot Open 2018: Mikhail Mozharov, Alexander Moskalenko, Dorian Rogozenco

Top three finishers of Group B: (L to R) Mikhail Mozharov, Alexander Moskalenko and Dorian Rogozenco | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Final standings (Group A)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Kovalev Vladislav 7,0 4
2 Sethuraman S.P. 6,5 5
3 Gordievsky Dmitry 6,5 5
4 Xu Xiangyu 6,0 4
5 Petrosian Tigran L. 6,0 4
6 Artemiev Vladislav 6,0 4
7 Lysyj Igor 6,0 4
8 Sargissian Gabriel 6,0 4
  Korobov Anton 6,0 4
10 Mamedov Rauf 6,0 4
11 Paravyan David 5,5 5
12 Kamsky Gata 5,5 5
13 Alekseenko Kirill 5,5 5
14 Khalifman Alexander 5,5 4
15 Bologan Victor 5,5 4
16 Matlakov Maxim 5,5 4
17 Tabatabaei M.Amin 5,5 4
18 Mareco Sandro 5,5 4
19 Zvjaginsev Vadim 5,5 4
20 Jumabayev Rinat 5,5 4
21 Hakobyan Aram 5,0 5
22 Andreikin Dmitry 5,0 5
23 Inarkiev Ernesto 5,0 5
24 Piorun Kacper 5,0 5
25 Sasikiran Krishnan 5,0 5

Final standings (Group B)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Mozharov Mikhail 7,5 4
2 Moskalenko Alexander 7,0 5
3 Rogozenco Dorian 7,0 5
4 Kotanjian Tigran 6,5 5
5 Kunte Abhijit 6,5 5
6 Dzhumaev Marat 6,5 5
7 Potapov Pavel 6,5 4
8 Bazeev German 6,5 4
9 Flom Gabriel 6,5 4
10 Faizrakhmanov Ramil 6,5 4
11 Dai Changren 6,5 4
12 Asadli Vugar 6,0 5
13 Zakhartsov Vladimir 6,0 4
14 Kozionov Kirill 6,0 4
15 Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh 6,0 4
16 Papin Vasily 6,0 4
17 Tran Minh Thang 6,0 4
18 Mirzoyan David 6,0 4
19 Afanasiev Nikita 5,5 5
20 Gorbatov Alexej 5,5 5
21 Seliverstov Vladimir 5,5 5
22 Gasanov Eldar 5,5 5
23 Shuvalova Polina 5,5 5
24 Mitrabha Guha 5,5 4
25 Padmini Rout 5,5 4


FIDE Instructor Niklesh Kumar Jain Jain is an international chess player who has participated in tournaments in almost in 20 different countries, winning the international tournament in Sri Lanka in 2010. He also worked for a television network as an anchor and news writer for two years and reported in Hindi during World Chess Championship 2013 and 2014.


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