Mednyi Vsadnik lead Russian Team Championship

by Antonio Pereira
5/4/2019 – The current Russian and European champions from Saint Petersburg, Mednyi Vsadnik (Bronze Horsemen), are atop the standings of the 2019 Russian Team Championship after three rounds. Led by Nikita Vitiugov and Leinier Dominguez, they are the only team on six out of six match points. The Women's Championship, on the other hand, has Yugra and SShOR tied on a perfect score, with both teams scheduled to face each other in round four. | Pictured: Alexander Motylev | Photo: Yevgeny Vashenyak

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Evenly matched

Starting last year, the Russian Team Championships suffered a budget cut, which meant that big international names (Mamedyarov, Giri, etc.) would not be able to take part any more. In a way, though, this was a blessing in disguise, as the top teams now have more evenly matched line-ups. This year, five out of the ten squads in the Premier League have a rating average of 2600+ points, but none of them surpass the 2700 mark (the current leaders from Saint Petersburg average 2699).  

After three rounds, only two teams are undefeated, with the big surprise being the fact that Legacy Square Capital are in seventh place, after tying with Sima-Land and losing heavily against the defending champions in the first two rounds:

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 «Mednyi Vsadnik» (г. Санкт-Петербург) 6
2 «ШК «Sima-Land» (Свердловская область) 5
3 «Strazhi Pravoporyadka» (г. Санкт-Петербур 4
4 «Molodezhka» (Тюменская область) 4
5 «Ladya» (Республика Татарстан) 3
  «Sibir» (Новосибирская область) 3
7 «ШСМ Legacy Square Capital» (г. Москва) 3
8 «SShOR по шахматам и шашкам» (г. Санкт-Пе 2
9 «Muzhskoe Dvizhenie» (г. Санкт-Петербург) 0
10 «Moskovskaya Oblast» (Московская область 0

The tournament is a nine-round single round-robin, with each match-up played on six boards — each team consists of eight players. The Grand Hotel Zhemchuzhina in Sochi is hosting the event once again. The first round was played on May 1st, and the championships will conclude on May 10th, with the only rest day scheduled for Monday, after round five.

The highest rated players in the field are Ladya's Vladislav Artemiev (2754) and Bronze Horsemen's Leinier Dominguez (2750) and Nikita Vitiugov (2734). The starting line-ups have Anatoly Karpov as the first board for Sima-Land, but the former world champion has yet to make his debut in this year's event.

Vladislav Artemiev

Artemiev is having a great year so far | Photo: Yevgeny Vashenyak 

Valiant Horsemen

The Mednyi Svadnik have Peter Svidler as their long-time leader, but he was busy facing the world elite at the GRENKE Chess Classic last week. The 2018 Russian and European champions have brought back Leinier Dominguez, however, who is now representing the United States. 

A big win for the team from Saint Petersburg came in round two, when they took down Legacy Square Capital by a massive 5½:½ score. Vitiugov and Dominguez delivered on top boards, while Maxim Matlakov needed only 25 moves to defeat Alexey Dreev:

 

Try your own variations on the diagram above

Dreev spent 28 minutes before playing the incorrect 14...exd4, as White forcefully opened up the position and was well placed to attack the black king's position — 15.fxd4 e5 16.f5 c5 17.eg3 f8.

 

Now White can steamroll with his pawns: 18.f4 g6 19.e5 d7 20.h5 c7 21.e6. Four moves later, Dreev gave up the point.

Leinier Dominguez, Alexey Dreev

The big clash of round two | Photo: Yevgeny Vashenyak

Surprisingly, however, the Horsemen barely defeated Moskovskaya Oblast in the following round, after Maxim Rodshtein (2689) was upset by Jakov Geller (2518) on board three. Wins by Dominguez and Pavel Ponkratov were enough to get the 3½:2½ team victory, nonetheless.

All games

 

Yugra beat Legacy Square Capital in key women's match-up

Two teams are the clear favourites rating-wise in the women's section, Yugra and Legacy Square Capital. The top squads faced each other in round three, with Yugra convincingly taking down their main opponents 3½:½ (four boards are played per match). Natalija Pogonina beat Polina Shuvalova and Olga Girya took down Ekaterina Kovalevskaya on boards two and three, while Alexandra Kosteniuk (Legacy Square Capital) missed a big chance against Anna Ushenina on top board:

 

Black can threaten to take her queen to the extremely dangerous h1-a8 diagonal. Kosteniuk thus played 30...e6, but after 31.d1 White defends everything on the light squares. Instead, the Russian could have chosen 30...♛h5!, when Black cannot continue 31.♕d1 as the bishop is lost after 31...♝xb4 — the rook cannot leave the third rank due to mate with the queen from f3.

Later on, the tables were turned and Ushenina ended up getting a 67-move win from a technical endgame an exchange up. This was the final position:

 

Black resigned.

Alexandra Kosteniuk

Former women's world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk | Photo: Yevgeny Vashenyak

Yugra will now face the only other team that won their first three matches, the SShOR, led by Anastasia Bodnaruk and Evgeija Ovod.

Standings after Round 3

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 «Yugra» (ХМАО – Югра) 6
2 «SShOR по шахматам и шашкам» (г. Санкт-Пе 6
3 «Мoskovskaya Oblast» (Московская область 4
4 «Ladya» (Республика Татарстан) 4
5 «ШСМ Legacy Square Capital» (г. Москва) 4
6 «Bukavushki» (Самарская область) 3
7 «Altaisky Krai» (Алтайский край) 2
8 Istra-a.lv (Истра-а.лв) (г. Москва) 2
  «Ekspromt» (г. Москва) 2
  «Yuzhny Ural» (Челябинская область) 2
  «FShNO» (Нижегородская область) 2
12 СК «Тоlpar» (Республика Башкортостан) 1
13 «Devyataya Gorizontal» (г. Москва) 1

All games    

 

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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