Miedny Vsadnik leads Russian Team Champs

by Alex Yermolinsky
5/6/2018 – The Russian Team Championship has long been one of the strongest team events of the year, often with elite players from abroad mixed with local talents. This year, due to economic difficulties, many times were forced to forego on big names, but as pointed out by author ALEX YERMOLINSKY, this is almost a blessing in disguise as many talented local masters and grandmasters find themselves invited to play. Enjoy this illustrated report with various commented games. | Photo: Russian Chess Federation

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A mid-point report (rounds 1-5)

Lacking big names this time the Russian Team Championship is again held at the “Zhemchuzhina” Hotel in Sochi, a famous Black Sea resort that hosted Olympic Winter Games in 2014.

Among the ten teams that contest for the title and four qualifying spots for the European Club Championship, there were some familiar names. However, many of them are almost unrecognizable when you look at their lineups.

Take “Sibir” (Siberia), the team that won the title in 2015 and 2017. Last year's lineup read: Kramnik, Mamedyarov, Giri, Nepo, Grischuk, etc. — a squad notably stronger than the Russian National team. This year they are all gone. The team is now lead by Denis Khismatullin, who was the second alternate player in 2017. The rest are just young guys, but they are actually from Siberia, the team’s name. Sibir is in 4th place now, having lost only one match in the first five rounds.

Team Siberia is filled with Siberian players | Photo: Russian Chess Federation

It is no surprise that the two teams that managed to keep their lineups more or less intact are doing well. Mednyy Vsadnik is led by Peter Svidler and boasts three more 2700+ players: Vitiugov, Fedoseev and Matlakov — all homegrown talent. The Sankt-Peterburgers won four matches and tied one. Their nine team points total sets course to winning the title.

Legacy Square from Moscow has a solid lineup with the average rating of 2664. Daniil Dubov, who was on Board Four last year, is now the leader of the team.

The match Vsadnik-Legacy took place in Round Two, with “Northern Capitol” prevailing over “State Capitol” by the smallest of margins. As the following game shows, it could have gone either way.

Vladimir Fedoseev 1-0 Evgeny Najer

[Event "TCh-RUS Premier 2018"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2018.05.02"] [Round "2.3"] [White "Fedoseev, Vladimir3"] [Black "Najer, Evgeniy"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B23"] [WhiteElo "2706"] [BlackElo "2667"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2018.05.01"] [WhiteTeam "The Bronze Horseman St. Petersburg"] [BlackTeam "Legacy Square Capital Москва"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4 Nc6 5. Qd2 {Well, Fedoseev was in Shamkir and he saw Carlsen playing this line.} Nf6 6. b3 e5 $6 {No matter how much you love your Sicilian Najdorf and how badly you want to stick to familiar patterns, this move, now coming without hitting that knight on d4, looks suspect to me.} ({I still prefer} 6... e6 {as played by Wojtaszek in that stem game. I think I know where Rado went wrong later on.}) 7. Bb2 Be7 { [#]} 8. g3 $5 {The fianchettoed bishops will deter Black from the d6-d5 pawn break in the center. Other than that it is slow and unconvincing.} ({My vote would go for the generally healthy English Attack setup with} 8. O-O-O O-O 9. f3 {That's what Magnus would have done, isn't it?}) 8... O-O 9. Bg2 Nd4 $5 { Getting rid of Nc6 is a good idea. Black needs to develop some play on the c-file, the sooner the better,} 10. Nge2 Nxe2 ({First I thought Evgeniy's idea was the fancy tactic} 10... Bh3 {but does Black really want to trade light-squared bishops in this situation? Not with that gaping hole on d5, I don't think.}) 11. Qxe2 Bg4 12. Qd3 Rc8 13. O-O Qc7 14. a4 Qc5 15. Rfc1 Rfd8 16. a5 a6 {[#]} 17. Qd2 ({It was the right moment to relocate that knight to greener pastures,} 17. Nd1 $5 {as Black may be reluctant to make good on his strategic threat:} d5 18. exd5 Nxd5 19. Qe4 Be6 20. c4 Nb4 21. Ne3 b5 22. axb6 Qxb6 $14) 17... Qc6 18. h3 Bd7 19. Kh2 h5 20. f4 $5 {I love Vladimir's ultra-ambitious chess, but he's still learning to control it.} (20. Nd5 Nxd5 21. exd5 Qc7 22. c4 $14) 20... b5 21. Nd5 Nxd5 22. exd5 Qc7 {[#]} 23. Qe2 $2 { Was this move necessary or even useful to any degree?} ({The direct} 23. c4 bxc4 24. bxc4 {seemed logical enough. The threat of c4-c5 is quite serious and may prompt Black to defend with the ugly f7-f6 move.}) 23... h4 $1 24. gxh4 Re8 {Now Najer gets counterplay best measured in tons.} 25. Qf2 Qd8 26. Be4 f5 27. Bf3 Bxh4 28. Qg2 {[#]} g5 $5 {In the immortal words of the late GM Igor Ivanov, we Russians never go back!} 29. fxe5 dxe5 30. Bh5 Re7 31. c4 Rh7 32. Be2 f4 $2 {Missing a big shot.} ({First the g-pawn,} 32... g4 $1 {then the rest will play itself:} 33. Kg1 (33. Bxe5 Bf6) (33. Rc3 b4 34. Rf3 e4) 33... Qg5 {etc.}) 33. Qe4 Qf6 34. cxb5 {[#]} Bg3+ ({Instead,} 34... Bf2 $1 {would weave a mating net, even in case of a queen trade, as in} 35. Rxc8+ Bxc8 36. Qxe5 Qxe5 37. Bxe5 Bxh3 38. Bd3 Rh4) 35. Kg1 Bxh3 $2 {Some inaccuracies in what I presume, was heavy time trouble, still wouldn't have cost Evgeniy the game had he captured the pawn wirth the right piece.} (35... Rxh3 $1 36. Bxe5 Bh2+ $1 ( 36... Re8 37. Bxf6 Rxe4 38. Ra2 Bh2+ 39. Kh1 f3 40. Bf1 {holds by the smallest of margins.}) 37. Kf1 Re8 38. Bxf6 Rxe4 39. bxa6 f3) 36. Bd3 Bh2+ 37. Kh1 Rh4 38. Bxe5 Qh6 39. Bd4 $1 {The white king hides in the shadows of the black bishops, which are unable to deliver another blow.} f3 (39... Rf8 40. Rc6) 40. Rxc8+ Bxc8 41. Qe8+ 1-0

“Molodezhka” (The Youth) is a new name for the team that advanced to the Premier League by winning the Higher League last year. Back then, it was called “Ivan Bukavshin's Friends” in tribute to their fallen comrade. They're doing quite well, in 3rd place now and poised to qualify for the Euro Clubs. Their player on board five, Mikhail Antipov, leads the whole field with the individual score of 4½ out of 5.

The female team "Bukavushki" another team created in tribute to Ivan Bukavushkin, the talented young grandmaster, who died of a stroke during a chess training camp in 2016 | Photo: Russian Chess Federation

One team that was supposed to be doing much better is “Sima-Lend” from Ekatirenburg. Formerly called “Malahit”, the team from the largest city in the Ural Region has long enjoyed generous support from both local sponsors and their Honorary Captain, Anatoly Karpov himself. Their lineup of Gelfand, Tomashevsky, Shirov, Malakhov, Riazantrsev, Rublevsky, Bologan, Lysyj looks pretty good on paper, but so far only their last alternate, 2014 Russian Champion, Igor Lysyj, has a positive score. The veterans are just not looking that good anymore. Changing of the guard, anyone?

Boris Gefland enjoy a display at the venue

See this one and tell me what you think:

Andrey Esipenko 1-0 Alexei Shirov

[Event "TCh-RUS Premier 2018"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2018.05.03"] [Round "3.2"] [White "Esipenko, Andrey"] [Black "Shirov, Alexei"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D47"] [WhiteElo "2587"] [BlackElo "2652"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2018.05.01"] [WhiteTeam "Moskovskaya Oblast"] [BlackTeam "Sima-Land Sverdlovskaya"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. O-O a6 10. e4 c5 11. d5 Qc7 12. dxe6 fxe6 {[#] Throughout the three decades of his illustrous career Alexei has more than held his own in the sharp Meran variation, while facing the best of the best. It's getting tougher though, as the new generation of players brings new ideas into the mix, with their silicon companions by their side.} 13. Ne2 $5 {A fresh idea, introduced by another promising youngster a few years back.} Bd6 14. a4 Nxe4 ({Perhaps, some attention will now be given to} 14... O-O) 15. Bxe4 $3 {A paradoxical solution.} (15. axb5 axb5 16. Rxa8+ Bxa8 17. Bxb5 O-O 18. Bc4 Ne5 19. Nxe5 Bxe5 20. Ng3 (20. f4) 20... Nxg3 21. Bxe6+ Kh8 22. fxg3 Bd4+ {was good enough to equalize in Oparin-Shirov, 2014.}) 15... Bxe4 16. Nc3 {[#] So, White has parted with a valuable bishop to return his knight to c3, how big a deal can that be?} Bb7 (16... Bf5 {would be a sad admission of guilt. After} 17. axb5 O-O 18. Rxa6 Rxa6 19. bxa6 {White just stands better, as the thematic} Ne5 20. Nxe5 Bxe5 {runs into} 21. Qe2 $1 Bxh2+ 22. Kh1 Bd6 23. Nb5 {etc. I guess, Bf5 is misdirected and that robs Black's counterattack of its steam.}) 17. Re1 { There goes e6.} O-O 18. Rxe6 Ne5 $5 {One can't blame Shirov for not trying} ( 18... Rxf3 19. Qxd6 Qxd6 20. Rxd6 Rf7 21. axb5 axb5 22. Rxa8+ Bxa8 23. Nxb5 { is what it is: up a pawn for White.}) 19. Qxd6 Nxf3+ 20. gxf3 Qf7 21. Re3 b4 ({ On} 21... Rad8 22. Qe6 {saves the day and more.}) 22. Ne4 Rad8 23. Qg3 Rd1+ 24. Kg2 {[#] White just holds his K-side together while aiming at Nd6. Should Black parry that, the simple b2-b3, followed by Bb2 would do.} b3 (24... c4 25. Nd6) 25. Rc3 c4 26. Nd6 Qe7 27. Nxb7 Qe2 28. Kh3 $1 Rf5 29. Re3 Qf1+ 30. Kh4 { No magic tricks this time. White is winning.} Rxc1 31. Re8+ 1-0

The Semi-Slav

The Semi-Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6) can arise via various move orders, has decided World Championships, and is one of Black's most fascinating replies to 1 d4. Magnus Carlsen's second, Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen explains in detail what this opening is all about.


In the same round, “Molodezhka” brutally crushed Sima-Lend, 4-2 , despite giving up about a hundred rating points on every board. The key win belongs to The Youth's playing captain, Russian Team Coach, and former European Champion, Vladimir Potkin.

Vladimir Potkin 1-0 Boris Gelfand

[Event "TCh-RUS Premier 2018"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2018.05.02"] [Round "2.1"] [White "Potkin, Vladimir"] [Black "Gelfand, Boris"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A04"] [WhiteElo "2574"] [BlackElo "2695"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "b1r2r2/p1q1npk1/1p2p1p1/4N2p/2PP1Q1P/3B4/P4PP1/3RR1K1 w - - 0 25"] [PlyCount "27"] [EventDate "2018.05.01"] [WhiteTeam "Molodezhka Tyumen"] [BlackTeam "Sima-Land Sverdlovskaya"] {[#] Coach Potkin teaches by example.} 25. d5 {The mother of all thematic breakthroughs!} exd5 26. cxd5 Bxd5 $2 ({Against all odds,} 26... Nxd5 27. Qg5 Qe7 28. Qg3 Qd6 {holds the balance.}) 27. Ba6 $1 {The idea is to chase away the defender of the queen.} Bxa2 ({On} 27... Rcd8 28. Nxg6 Qxf4 29. Nxf4 { is crude but effective.}) 28. Bxc8 Rxc8 29. Rd7 Qc3 30. Re3 Qa1+ 31. Kh2 Nf5 32. Qg5 $1 Nxe3 33. Qxg6+ Kh8 34. Qxh5+ Kg8 35. fxe3 $18 Qf1 36. Qg5+ Kh8 37. Qh6+ Kg8 38. Ng6 1-0

This is the elegant playing hall in which the competition takes place | Photo: Russian Chess Federation

The team from Tatarstan is called “The Rook”. Last year they finished 7th out of eight teams competing and barely avoided relegation, saved only thanks to the expanded format of this year's edition. With the budding star on Board One, Vladislav Artemiev, followed by the old reliable hand, Gata Kamsky, the Kazan team could have been doing better this year, if it weren't for their disaster on Board Six, IM Faizrakhmanov, who has score only one draw and four losses. Why not give his a rest, you might ask. Well, the Rook only brought six players, and no alternates. At least, Gata has 4.0/5.

Alexei Bezgodov 0-1 Gata Kamsky

[Event "TCh-RUS Premier 2018"] [Site "Sochi RUS"] [Date "2018.05.03"] [Round "3.2"] [White "Bezgodov, Alexei"] [Black "Kamsky, Gata"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B32"] [WhiteElo "2460"] [BlackElo "2670"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2018.05.01"] [WhiteTeam "Yuzhny Ural Chelyabinsk"] [BlackTeam "Ladya Tatarstan"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Qb6 $5 {Some readers may recall this line from my notes to Sevian-Yermolinsky, Spice Cup 2017. This time I'll skip the opening theory until we get to a critical juncture.} 5. Nb3 Nf6 6. Nc3 e6 7. Qe2 Bb4 8. Bd2 O-O 9. a3 Be7 10. Be3 Qc7 11. f4 d5 12. e5 Nd7 {[#]} 13. Nb5 {Bezgodov follows the official recommendation.} ({Sam Sevian tried the very interesting} 13. Qg4 {intended to fight against f7-f6.}) 13... Qb8 14. c4 (14. O-O-O f6 $1) 14... dxc4 15. Qxc4 {The position of the white queen is designed to have the same effect - the e6-pawn is kept under observation. However, it failed to make an impression on Gata Kamsky, who played the much-needed break anyway. That's the strategy I recommended. I secretly hope Gata read my article on the Spice Cup, saw that game I mentioned above, and decided to follow the suggestion.} a6 16. Nc3 f6 $5 {[#] Seemingly White is adequately developed to punish Black for his insurgency, but his position is slightly loose with that pawn on f4, while the b3-knight, is... well, as Dr.Tarrasch said, always stands badly.} 17. O-O-O {An interesting concept, somewhat reminiscent of the Kasparov line 5.Nxc6 bc6 6.e5 of the Scotch defense. White sacrifices a central pawn to facilitate the pressure on Black's undeveloped Q-side. In this case, the shaky position of the white king becomes the deciding factor.} ({White can ill afford to spend time on material gains, as} 17. Qxe6+ Kh8 {leaves him struggling to find a decent move in the face of the threat of Ndxe5.}) ({Best was} 17. exf6 Nxf6 18. Be2 Kh8 19. O-O e5 20. Rae1 {where White fights on even terms.}) 17... Kh8 18. g3 fxe5 19. Bg2 exf4 20. Bxf4 e5 21. Be3 Nf6 22. Rhf1 e4 $1 {[#] Textbook play. Gata needed that Bg4 move to gain a tempo for his rook coming to c8.} ({Not the immediate} 22... Bg4 $2 23. Rxf6 $1) 23. Bf4 (23. Nxe4 Bg4 24. Rde1 Rc8 {is already big trouble for White.} ) 23... Qa7 24. Rde1 Bd7 25. Kb1 b5 26. Qe2 b4 {Black insists on giving away his extra pawn.} 27. Nxe4 bxa3 28. Be3 Qb8 {It's surprising how little White gets out of his tempo moves that keep on hitting the black queen, apparently to no particular effect.} 29. Nec5 Bg4 30. Qd2 Rd8 31. Qc3 Nd5 $19 32. Bxd5 Rxd5 33. Na4 Qb5 34. Rf7 Bf5+ 35. Ka1 Re5 36. Nb6 Rd8 37. Rc1 Be6 38. Rxe7 Nxe7 {A very easy win for Kamsky. Who said the Sicilian is dead?} 0-1

The surprising Sicilian - Shock your opponent with an early ...Qb6

The Kveinys Variation : 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Qb6! is surprisingly little-played, yet gives Black excellent chances and on this new ChessBase DVD, Andrew Martin explains how the system works.


One a final note, I would like to forestall the expected talk about Russia's financial troubles having an impact on the chess scene over there. At least, the local talent is given a chance to compete in a nice event, while the “legionnaires” are not invited due to the inability to meet their financial conditions.

Team standings after five rounds

Rank Team BP MP
1 Miedny Vsadnik 18½ 9
2 Legacy Square Capital 17 8
3 Molodezhka 18½ 7
4 Sibir 16½ 6
5 SShOR 16 5
6 Moskovskaya Oblast 16 5
7 Ladya 15 5
8 Yuzhny Ural 13½ 3
9 Sima-Land 13 2
10 Zhiguli 6 0

All games (rounds 1-5)



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.
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