Russian Men's Superfinal - Nepomniachtchi is champion!

by ChessBase
12/23/2010 – What could have been one of the dreariest championships in recent history, with over 71% draws, will instead go down as one of the most exciting. Karjakin took sole lead in round ten, but then lost tragically in the last, and had to decide first with Nepomniachtchi in a rapid tiebreaker. It finally all came down to just eleven minutes. Here is the final report with a video of the Armageddon blitz.

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The Russian Men's championship Superfinal is being held from December 11-22 at the Central Club of Chess in Moscow, Russia. It is an 11-round round-robin event with a 3.5 Million ruble prizefund (~USD 115,000).

The time control is 40 moves in 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, and a 30-second increment as of move one.

The 63rd Russian Championship was easily one of the most memorable in some time, no disrespect meant to previous champions. In spite of a final tally of over 71% draws, which by most measures would be synonymous of many a yawn, it also bore one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the event.

After nine rounds, Karjakin, who had just caught up with Svidler at the top of the leaderboard, in the previous round, was joined by none other than Nepomniachtchi who beat Peter in an incredibly important crunch game. With this, both 20 year-olds now shared first place followed by Svidler and Grischuk. In round ten, Sergey took the sole lead by beating Tomashevsky, and was now a favorite to win the title as a draw in the next round would mean Ian would need a win.

The last round started badly for the Russian-born talent, as Nepomniachtchi was unable to overcome Vitiugov and had to settle for a draw. In the meantime, Karjakin faced Malakhov, who was a bit below 50% and having a fairly indifferent tournament.

Sergey Karjakin

Malakhov,Vladimir (2712) - Karjakin,Sergey (2760) [E32]
63rd ch-RUS Moscow RUS (11), 22.12.2010

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 d5 7.Bg5 c5 8.dxc5 d4 9.Qc2 e5 10.e3. 10.Nf3 Re8 11.e3 h6 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.Bd3 Nd7 14.0-0 Nxc5 15.exd4 exd4 16.b4 Nxd3 17.Qxd3 Rd8 18.Qe4 Bf5 19.Qxb7 Rab8 20.Qxa7 Be4 21.Nd2 Bxg2 22.Kxg2 Qg5+ 23.Kh1 Qxd2 24.c5 Qf4 25.f3 Re8 26.Qa6 d3 27.Rad1 Re2 28.Qd6 Qxd6 1/2-1/2 Morozevich,A (2771)-Anand,V (2791)/Nice 2009/CBM 129 Extra 10...h6 11.Bh4 Re8 12.0-0-0 Nc6 13.Nf3

13...b6. Black didn't need to give up the pawn as the c5 pawn is as good as dead unless White has a self-destructive desire to give his king lots of breathing room. 13...Bg4 developing the bishop, and freeing the c8 square for either queen or rook was better. 14.Be2 Bh5 with the idea of Bg6. If 15.Nxd4 exd4 16.Bxh5 g5 17.Bxg5 hxg5 18.Bf3 Qd7 and Black is ok. 14.exd4 exd4 15.cxb6 axb6 16.Bd3 Qd6 17.Kb1 Bg4 18.h3 Bxf3 19.gxf3 Ne5 20.Bg3 Qc6 21.Be4 Nxe4 22.Qxe4 Qxe4+ 23.fxe4 Nxc4 24.Rxd4 Rxe4 25.Rhd1 Rxd4. 25...Rae8 26.a4 f5 27.b3 Na5 28.Kb2 And Sergey has a very difficult endgame ahead of him, though surely this was better than ejecting his piece as he chooses to do? 26.Rxd4

26...Nxa3+? It is hard to explain this desperado move, other than last-round nerves. 27.bxa3 Rxa3 28.h4 Rf3 29.Kc2 Rf5 30.Kd3 b5 31.Ke4 Rc5 32.Rd5 Rc4+ 33.Kd3 Rb4 34.Kc3 Rb1 35.Kc2 Rb4 36.Rf5 f6 37.Kc3 Rb1 38.Rf4 Kf7 39.Rb4 Rc1+ 40.Kd4 Rd1+ 41.Ke4 Ra1 42.Rxb5 Ra4+ 43.Kd5 Ra6 44.Rb7+ Kg8 45.Ke4 Ra5 46.Rd7 Kh7 47.Rd5 Ra4+ 48.Kf3 Kg6 49.h5+ Kf7 50.Rd7+ Kg8 51.Bf4 Kh7 52.Rc7 Ra5 53.Kg4 Ra2 54.Be3 Ra4+ 55.f4 Ra1 56.Bd4 Ra6 57.Bc5 Kg8 58.Kf5 Ra2 59.Rc8+ Kh7 60.Bf8 Kg8 61.Be7+ Kh7 62.Ke6 Ra4 63.Kf7 Ra7 64.Rc2 Ra4 65.Rg2 Rxf4 66.Rxg7+ Kh8 67.Rg6 1-0. [Click to Replay]

An astonishing result. If the tournament were to use the Sonnebornberger as a tiebreak he would still lift the winner’s cup, but the rules dictated a rapid playoff with two games of 25 minutes with a 10 second increment per move. The tiebreak was to be played one hour after the end of the game, so little time to rest, and no time to recover from the emotional turmoil caused by the unexpected loss. Karjakin was no doubt kicking himself for letting this happen, and while outside analysis would say it was probably last-round nerves, this also meant that if he was nervous before, imagine now, when it was all on the line at a much faster and volatile time-control.

Ian Nepomniachtchi

The pieces were set up and Karjakin was white. The game was a lively affair, in a slightly offbeat Sicilian Najdorf though no decisive result. No sooner was it over, the pieces were set up once again, and game two was underway.

Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2720) - Karjakin,Sergey (2760) [C45]
63rd ch-RUS Playoff Moscow RUS (2), 22.12.2010

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6 9.b3 Bb7 10.Bb2 g6 11.Nd2 Bg7 12.Ne4. 12.0-0-0 0-0-0 13.f4 c5 14.Ne4 d6 15.Qg4+ Kb8 16.Qg5 Qf8 17.Nf6 dxe5 18.Be2 Rd6 19.Bxe5 h6 20.Qh4 Ka8 21.Nd5 Nxd5 22.cxd5 g5 23.Qg3 Rg8 24.f5 Bxe5 25.Qxe5 Qe8 26.Qxe8+ Rxe8 0-1 Ivanchuk,V (2709)-Adams,M (2715)/Frankfurt 2000/CBM 076 ext (44) 12...0-0-0 13.f4 Rhe8 14.0-0-0

The players have both castled queenside, and Black has a slight edge due to the superior development, since all his pieces are developed, while White still has a bit of work to do. 14...d5 15.Nd2 c5 16.cxd5 Nxd5 17.g3 f6 18.Nc4 fxe5 19.Nxe5 Bxe5 20.Bxe5 Nc3 21.Bxc3

Ian certainly likes to keep things punchy. 21...Bxh1 22.Bh3+ Kb8 23.Rxd8+ Qxd8 24.Qb5+ Ka8 25.Bd7 Re7?! 25...Re3! 26.Kb2 Bb7 And there is no perpetual now to let White off the hook. 27.Bc6 Bxc6 28.Qxc6+ Kb8 29.Qb5+ Kc8 30.Qa6+ Kd7 31.Qb5+ c6 32.Qc4 Qe8 26.Bc6+ Bxc6 27.Qxc6+ Kb8 28.Qb5+ Kc8 29.Qa6+ Kb8 1/2-1/2. [Click to Replay]

The two games having been draw, the dreaded moment for both came up: the Armageddon blitz. White would have six minutes and Black five, though a draw being a victory for Black. A coin toss would determine who would get which color, though the winner invariably takes Black as the odds are clearly in his favor. Nepomniachtchi won the toss, and the game proceeded as below. See it for yourself. Eugene Potemkin recorded it, and the quality is very good, with both the board and clocks completely recognizable.

The Armageddon decider for the title of 2010 Russian Champion (video by Eugene Potemkin)

A heartbreaking moment for Sergey, who was visibly distraught, and an amazing comeback from Ian who played throughout with a will to win that few could compare with. This marks their last tournament of the year, and what a year it has been for both.

Karjakin had started the year at a slight low of 2720, having made no visible gains since 2008. He then married and this seemed to bring about the stability he needed as this year has been up-up-up. He was the top-scorer for Russia-1 in the Olympiad, and then came equal first at the Tal Memorial, where also played a fantastic game against Kramnik, beating him in great style. In the next rating list he will probably be in the world top five with a hefty 2775.

Ian Nepomniachtchi has also had a whirlwind rise to the top. Whereas last year he was a strong, though nothing-to-write-home-about, 2626, this year was his big breakthrough year. At the very beginning of 2010, he was fighting for first place at the premier Aeroflot Open, but lost in the last round to Liem Le Quang. He bounced back with an outright win at the super-strong European Championship in which he guaranteed sole first with precisely a last-round win, showing that he was capable of doling them out as well as the next man. He was allowed to represent Russia-2 as first board, and his score was good enough for third best board one performance, but his desire for the Russian title was eminently clear after he took part in the semifinal, an event with some fifty players rated 2500 and up, and took sole first. Now, Russian Champion, with this final feather in his cap, he will have concluded the year in enviable fashion, and his rating will also have gained some 100 Elo throughout the year.

Pictures by Yana Melnikova

Final standings


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