Russian Higher League kicks off in Sochi

by Klaus Besenthal
10/10/2020 – The Russian city of Sochi will host the “Higher League” until October 17. Thanks to the large number of strong grandmasters in the country, this qualifying tournament to the Superfinal is heavily contested, so much so that it equals the level of the national championship in almost any other country in the world. Rating favourite Vladislav Artemiev (2716) already gave up a half point in the first two rounds. In the women’s tournament, Valentina Gunina is the rating favourite. | Photos: Eteri Kublashvili

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The Russian Higher League

Russia was the first country to keep a major chess tournament  going during the pandemic. As is well known, extensive measures were taken during the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg to isolate the players from contact with the outside world in March. The tournament had to be abandoned at half-time, not because of a Covid-19 fall among the players, but because of the incipient lockdown in Russia: in the end, all participants were afraid that they would not be able to return home after the tournament. “Made it to Paris”, twitted a relieved Maxime Vachier-Lagrave safe at home.

And Russia has so far not really attracted attention with its scandalous handling of the pandemic, even if the vaccine already presented would not receive approval in Germany due to the omission of an important test phase. Of course, people in Russia know what they are doing, and if there can be a national championship in Germany, why not have this tournament in Russia as well? You have to hope that everything will go well in the end.

Nine rounds will be played according to the Swiss system in the Open and Women’s categories. The venue is the Grand Hotel Zhemchuzhina in Sochi, near the Black Sea. The best five players in each group will qualify to the Superfinals, the concluding events of the Russian Championships.

The prize fund of 5 million Roubles corresponds to approximately 55,000 Euros. The time control is 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game; there is a 30-second increment per move from the start.

October 13 is a rest day. The rounds are played daily starting at 14:00 CEST.

Shaking hands — Aleksandra Goryachkina and Pavel Ponkratov

In the following game from the first round between well-known grandmaster Denis Khismatullin and FM Dmitrij Rodin, we can see why it is not a good idea to play too cautiously against a stronger opponent. Or, if you decide on that strategy, you should stick to it:


Standings after Round 2 - Open

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Rakhmanov Aleksandr 2,0 2,0
  Goganov Aleksey 2,0 2,0
3 Antipov Mikhail Al. 2,0 1,0
4 Chigaev Maksim 2,0 1,0
5 Ponkratov Pavel 1,5 2,5
  Goryachkina Aleksandra 1,5 2,5
  Samusenko Maksim 1,5 2,5
8 Esipenko Andrey 1,5 2,0
  Sjugirov Sanan 1,5 2,0
  Lysyj Igor 1,5 2,0
  Rozum Ivan 1,5 2,0
  Iljiushenok Ilia 1,5 2,0
13 Artemiev Vladislav 1,5 2,0
14 Khismatullin Denis 1,5 1,5
  Sakaev Konstantin 1,5 1,5

...51 players

Standings after Round 2 - Women

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Gunina Valentina 2,0 1,5
2 Shafigullina Zarina 2,0 1,0
  Grigorieva Yulia 2,0 1,0
  Nasyrova Ekaterina 2,0 1,0
5 Belenkaya Dina 2,0 1,0
6 Gritsayeva Oksana 1,5 2,0
  Potapova Margarita 1,5 2,0
8 Guseva Marina 1,5 1,5
  Vasilevich Tatjana 1,5 1,5
  Solozhenkina Elizaveta 1,5 1,5
11 Semenova Elena 1,5 1,0
12 Voit Daria 1,0 3,0
  Kovanova Baira 1,0 3,0
  Schepetkova Margarita 1,0 3,0
15 Yakimova Mariya 1,0 2,5

...37 players

All available games - Open


All available games - Women’s



Klaus Besenthal is computer scientist, has followed and still follows the chess scene avidly since 1972 and since then has also regularly played in tournaments.


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