Karpov Poikovsky: Jakovenko takes the title

by Aditya Pai
6/6/2018 – Having taken sole lead in the seventh round, Dmitry Jakovenko inched slowly but steadily towards the towards the title. Securing short and safe draws against Vladislav Kovalev and Ian Nepomniachtchi in rounds eight and nine, he finished clear first with a score of 6½/9. In the interim, Vidit Gujrathi, Boris Gelfand and Victor Bologan also scored some fine wins. An illustrated report with games and analysis. | Photo: ruchess.ru

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Jakovenko cruises to victory in Round 8 & 9

The Karpov Poikovsky International came to a close on Tuesday with Dmitry Jakovenko clinching the title. In the last two rounds, Jakovenko hardly had to break a sweat. He cruised to victory with two tepid draws. Meanwhile, Gelfand scored a fine win in the penultimate round against Victor Bologan to step up a spot on the leaderboard and join Nepomniachtchi in the second place.

One can also say Nepomniachtchi himself missed his chance of catching up with the leader after Jakovenko drew his game. But the way his eighth round game had gone against Artemiev, he could have considered himself to be fortunate for having wriggled out with a draw.

In the final round, there was a face-off between Jakovenko and Nepomniachtchi. If Nepo had managed to beat Jakovenko the title prize would have been his. But Nepo played it safe and agreed to a quick draw. Perhaps, it was the horror of the previous round that made him find comfort in a safe second place.  

Round 8

Kovalev’s choice of the Classical King’s Indian Defence against Jakovenko set the stage for an exciting game in what was one of the most important games of the penultimate round. Perhaps, Kovalev was hoping for a full-blooded fight. But before Black could conduct the characteristic kingside attack of the King’s Indian, the game fizzled out into a draw. Nothing much came out of the opening and all it took was a mere 26 moves for the game to end peacefully.

Dmitry Jakovenko during his penultimate round game against Vladislav Kovalev at the Karpov Poikovsky International

Jakovenko kept his half point lead with a quick draw against Kovalev | Photo: Vasily Papin


In the other big matchup of the round, Ian Nepomniachtchi surely desired to catch up with the leader by winning his game. But the plain reality was that he was struggling even to keep his second place spot. A couple of moves before reaching the first time control, he was completely busted against Vladislav Artemiev. 


Here, Artemiev had a couple of minutes to consider his options here before making his final move of the time control. 40.Qh5 would have been crushing here. After 40...Qg7 white has 41.Rd6 and now if the rook is taken white's passed pawn becomes overwhelming and if it isn't, the white rook penetrates with decisive effect via d7.

But Artemiev went with 40.g4. This was still winning but it wasn't as easy anymore. And Nepo seized the opportunity to create complication. 


Here, White is about to crash in with Rb3 or Rxb7. Black is desperately in need of counterplay but there is hardly any. Nepomniachtchi decided to give up an exchange here with 46...f5. After 47.Bxe8 Qxe8 Artemiev cracked with 48.gxf5  allowing 48...Qe3+  that eventually led to perpetual checks.

Nepomniachtchi and Artemiev during their penultimate round game in Karpov Poikovsky International

Nepomniachtchi eluded defeat by generating tactical complications against Artemiev | Photo: Vasily Papin


With Nepomniachtchi's game drawn, Boris Gelfand got a chance to catch up for the second place and had the perfect opportunity to achieve this. He was pitted against Victor Bologan, who has lost all of his games in Poikovsky except his second round game where he drew Korobov. 

In the game, however, Gelfand had to content himself with only a slight edge out of a closed Catalan. After a few ups and downs, on the final move of the first time control, Bologan gave away a pawn and, with it, the advantage to his opponent.


Bologan played 40...f6 here, allowing 41.Bxe6 fxg5 42.hxg5 and went on to lose in about a dozen moves. An interesting moment came towards the end of the game where he could have offered better resistance on move 52:


Here, Bologan could have played 52...Qc2, pinning the f-pawn. White is still better but would not have won as easily as he did in the game. In the game, Bologan played 52...Qd3 and after 53.f4+ Kh5 54.g4+ he lost quite easily.

Boris Gelfand and Victor Bologan during their eighth round game at the Karpov Poikovsky International

Gelfand missed a few opportunities but managed to pull out a win in the end against Bologan | Photo: Vasily Papin


Vidit Gujrathi also won a game in round 8 after seven straight draws. This win placed him clear third on the leaderboard, half point behind Gelfand and Nepomniachtchi and a point behind Jakovenko. But despite this, the Indian GM did not even have a mathematical chance of having a shot at the title. Since Jakovenko and Nepomniachtchi played each other in the finale, even if Vidit did win his final game, taking clear second was the best he could have achieved.

IM Sagar Shah analyzes Vidit's game while also giving an intro to the recently released engine Komodo 12 | ChessBase India Youtube


Round 9

Dmitry Jakovenko and Ian Nepomniachtchi at the Poikovsky International

In the grand finale, Ian Nepomniachtchi had the white pieces against the tournament leader, Dmitry Jakovenko. If he could manage to carve out a victory in this game, he would overtake Jakovenko as the tournament leader and clinch the title. But the Russian GM accepted a tame draw in merely 27 moves.

For much of the tournament Nepomniachtchi had been very ambitious, trying hard to win not only with white but also the black pieces. But something went wrong quite badly towards the end. Perhaps, his draw against Artemiev from the previous round had taken a toll on his attitude, perhaps he just wanted to play it safe and was happy with second place; it's hard to tell. One thing is certain, though, that this was really uncharacteristic of him.


Most other games were also drawn and, with his draw, Jakovenko had won the 19th Karpov Poikovsky International. But there was still one more surprise remaining. Victor Bologan finished the tournament on a high note scoring his first win of the tournament against GM Emil Sutovsky!

Sutovsky, for some reason, had his crazy hat on in the final round. With the black pieces, he went all out for an attack in a Two Knights game but fell on his face quite soon.


Sutovsky had been extremely aggressive since the start of the gam, including at this point. In fact, his previous move 14...Qh4 was also suspect. But here, he played 15...g3 which just took it too far. After 16.hxg3, there followed 16...Qxe4 and 17.Rf4, and now where does her majesty go? Sutovsky limped on for a few more moves but the result of the game was never in doubt after this. Bologan converted without much trouble.

Victor Bologan playing against Emil Sutovsky in the final round of Karpov Poikovsky international

Bologan leaves with his head held high | Photo: ruchess.ru


Final standings


All games



Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He holds a Master's in English Literature and used to work as an advertising copywriter before joining the ChessBase India team.


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