Russian Team Championship - Shak carries his team

by ChessBase
5/6/2017 – Alex Yermolinsky's first report on the Premier League of the Russian Team Championship starts with "One look at the lineup of Siberia-Sirius makes me think some kind of rating restriction rule has to be established for club competitions. Kramnik, Mamedyarov, Giri, Nepo, Grischuk, Andreikin, are you kidding me? Korobov and Khismatullin as .... 'alternates'?" Even Karpov is playing. Enjoy this report with great games and analyses by Alex Yermolinsky, and exclusive high-res photos by Eugeny Atarov.

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Russian Team Championship Premier League

Report and analysis by Alex Yermolinksy / photos by Eugeny Atarov (click for high-res)

One look at the lineup of Siberia-Sirius makes me think some kind of rating restriction rule has to be established for club competitions. Kramnik, Mamedyarov, Giri, Nepo, Grischuk, Andreikin, are you kidding me? Korobov and Khismatullin as .... alternates? Seriously?

Khismatullin as an alternate, and players such as Grischuk, Giri and more make for a ridiculously overpowered team

Anish Giri is one of the big guns at the Russian Team Championship

Vladimir Kramnik is the top rating in the competition. However, he is not the only former world champion there.

Anatoly Karpov, the 12th World Champion, is also playing, and faced Peter Svidler in round four. They drew.

There wasn't much room for suspense. Siberia won all of their matches against their closest competitors, and for the rest of the tournament will be facing much weaker opposition. Another title is in the bag, no surprises there. The real test will come in the fall at the Euro Club Championship.

Let's see how them stars fare individually. Kramnik and Giri made three draws each. Nepo did even worse, he's on 1.0/3. Not much better is Andreikin who has also lost a game. The points and winning margins came courtesy of three players: Korobov, Grischuk and Mamedyarov.

Ian Nepomniachtchi was another big name, but ran into an in-form Sergei Rublevsky who beat him in round two

Anton Korobov is a warrior who travels from one tournament to another. He may do better or worse here and there, but his overall level of 2700 guarantees he'd make a plus score on lower boards.

Lysyj vs Korobov

[Event "XXIV RUS-chT Premier 2017"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2017.05.02"] [Round "2"] [White "Lysyj, Igor"] [Black "Korobov, Anton"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D11"] [WhiteElo "2643"] [BlackElo "2695"] [PlyCount "46"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Qxf3 e6 7. a3 Nbd7 8. Nc3 Bd6 9. g4 g6 10. g5 Nh5 11. e4 e5 12. exd5 exd4 13. Ne4 Ne5 14. Qb3 O-O 15. Bg2 cxd5 16. cxd5 Nd7 17. O-O Nc5 18. Nxc5 Bxc5 19. Qxb7 Re8 20. Qb5 Bd6 21. Qc4 Rc8 22. Qb3 Re2 23. h4 Rcc2 0-1

We haven't seen Alexander Grischuk in action for some time, so it's good to see him back and playing well

Grischuk vs Rodshtein

[Event "XXIV RUS-chT Premier 2017"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2017.05.04"] [Round "3"] [White "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Black "Rodshtein, Maxim"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2750"] [BlackElo "2701"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. h3 Ke8 10. Nc3 h5 11. Ne2 Be7 12. Bg5 Be6 13. Nf4 Bd5 14. Nxd5 cxd5 15. Rad1 c6 16. Rd3 Rd8 17. a4 h4 18. Kh2 Rh5 19. Bxe7 Kxe7 20. Rfd1 Rhh8 21. a5 Rd7 22. Re1 Rc7 23. g4 hxg3+ 24. fxg3 b6 25. a6 g6 26. Rf1 c5 27. g4 Nd4 28. Ng5 Rf8 29. Nh7 Rd8 30. Ng5 Rf8 31. h4 Nxc2 32. Rdf3 Ke8 33. Ne6 Re7 34. Nxf8 Kxf8 {[#]} 35. e6 $1 f5 36. gxf5 Nd4 37. fxg6+ Nxf3+ 38. Rxf3+ Kg8 39. Rf7 Rxe6 40. Rxa7 b5 (40... Rxg6 41. Rb7 b5 42. a7 $18) 41. h5 1-0

I will concentrate on Shakhriyar's games, because currently he's the hottest player on the circuit, having just won the Gashimov Memorial.

Mamedyarov is in sizzling form, having not only won the Gashimov Memorial, but right after started the Russian Team Championship with three wins, all against strong opposition

It started in round two when he beat Riazantsev with black. The game was somehow reminiscent of Kramnik-Mamedyarov in the way it unfolded.

Riazantsev vs Mamedyarov (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "XXIV RUS-chT Premier 2017"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2017.05.02"] [Round "2"] [White "Riazantsev, Alexander"] [Black "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D85"] [WhiteElo "2661"] [BlackElo "2772"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Qa4+ { A modestly popular sideline. White aims to interfere with Black's usual procedure of ...c5, ...Nc6, ...Bg4 etc.} Qd7 ({Also possible is} 7... Nd7 { Riazantsev-Nepo, 2015 saw} 8. Nf3 c5 9. Be2 O-O 10. O-O a6 11. Qa3 Qc7 12. e5 { White seems to be doing the right thing, except for keeping his Queen out of play.} b6 13. Bg5 Re8 14. h4 Bb7 15. h5 b5 {0-1(48)}) 8. Qxd7+ {Trading queens this early is kind of lame.} ({Some 12 years ago Swiss GM Vadim Milov introduced} 8. Qb3 {and it is still intriguing:} O-O 9. Nf3 c5 10. d5 e6 { I don't see what this move is going to accomplish, except for making White's d5-pawn into a passer.} ({I'd try} 10... Qc7 11. Be2 Nd7 12. O-O Ne5 {aiming for c5-c4.}) 11. Be3 exd5 12. exd5 b6 13. Bb5 Qd6 14. O-O Bd7 15. a4 $14 { Nakamura-Vachier Lagrave, Blitz 2016}) 8... Nxd7 (8... Bxd7 9. Rb1 ( 9. Ba3 {has been known as harmless since Korchnoi-Alterman, 1992:} b6 10. Rc1 c5 $1) 9... b6 10. Nf3 c5 11. Be3 O-O 12. Bd3 Nc6 13. O-O { Mastrovasilis-Istratescu, 2016. White may have a little bit of something here, as Bd7 is out of position.}) 9. Be3 (9. Bc4 c5 10. Ne2 {can be tried next time. I like the flexibility of Ne2, and White can use his f-pawn to influence the center.}) 9... O-O 10. Rc1 Rd8 11. Nf3 b6 12. Bd3 Bb7 13. Ke2 e5 14. Rhd1 Rac8 {[#] Some standard moves have been played, and White is looking for a plan of campaign.} 15. d5 $6 {That is certainly not it.} (15. h3 $5 c5 $2 16. d5 { would be a different story, as Black no longer has any counterplay.}) 15... c6 $1 16. c4 Bf8 $1 17. Kf1 $2 {This would be a perfect moment for White to strike with f2-f4, but his pieces are not positioned for that. Still, the king retreat is incredibly passive.} (17. g4 $5 {and try for something.}) ({Else, White could consider} 17. a4 f6 18. a5) 17... f6 18. Be2 Nc5 19. Nd2 Na4 20. Nb1 f5 $1 {Shak is not going to sit there idly.} 21. Bg5 (21. f3 Bb4 22. Kg1 Ba6 ({Now White is ready for} 22... Nb2 23. Rf1) 23. Rc2 cxd5 24. exd5 Rc7 25. a3 Bd6 $15) ({Best was} 21. Nc3 $1 Nb2 ({in case of} 21... Nxc3 22. Rxc3 fxe4 { White has the energetic} 23. d6 $1 Rxd6 24. Rxd6 Bxd6 25. c5 {leaving the opponent with a collection of weak pawns, albeit two of those are extra pawns!} ) 22. Rd2 cxd5 23. Rxb2 Ba3 (23... d4 {leads to about the same thing.}) 24. Rbb1 d4 25. Bg5 Bxc1 26. Rxc1 dxc3 27. Bxd8 Rxd8 28. exf5 gxf5 29. Rxc3 { The actrive rook on the 3rd rank, and a possibility of c4-c5 help White maintain balance.}) 21... Rd7 22. dxc6 $2 {Surrendering the center is a depressing choice.} (22. exf5 gxf5 23. g4 $1 {represented Riazantsev's last chance to fight on equal terms.}) 22... Rxd1+ 23. Bxd1 Bxc6 24. exf5 gxf5 25. Nc3 Nxc3 26. Rxc3 Bd5 27. Be2 b5 $1 {Mamedyarov is in his element: crank up the pressure on every move.} 28. Re3 (28. Bf6 b4 29. Rc2 e4 30. Bd4 a5 $15) 28... e4 29. g4 bxc4 30. gxf5 c3 31. Rg3 c2 32. Bc1+ Kf7 33. Bh5+ Kf6 34. Bb2+ Ke7 35. f6+ Kd7 36. Bg4+ {This reminds me of Kramnik-Mamedyarov from Shamkir just a week ago: White's desperate attempt at counterplay produces some fireworks, but ultimately fizzles out, as Black's passer is just too strong.} Be6 37. Bc1 Rb8 $1 {Accurately calculated.} 38. Bxe6+ Kxe6 39. Rc3 (39. Rb3 Rxb3 40. axb3 Kxf6 {leaves White no hope as the king cannot approach the c2-pawn.}) 39... Rb1 40. Rxc2 Ba3 41. Rc6+ Kd7 42. Kg2 Rxc1 0-1

In round three, Shakriyar showed what a valuable team player he was as he fought til the bitter end. The fate of the match was riding on this game, as the score was 2.5-2.5. Throughout the whole game Vitiugov had defended accurately, but Mamedyarov was not ready to give up yet.

Mamedyarov vs Vitiugov (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "XXIV RUS-chT Premier 2017"] [Site "Sochi"] [Date "2017.05.04"] [Round "3"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Vitiugov, Nikita"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E09"] [WhiteElo "2772"] [BlackElo "2729"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/3n2p1/1pN1pp2/1P4P1/2P2P2/8/7K/8 w - - 0 51"] [PlyCount "37"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 51. g6 $1 {Far advanced pawns constitute some advantage in knight endings.} Kf8 52. Kg3 Nc5 53. f5 Ne4+ {Unnecessary deviation from a reliable defensive setup. } (53... exf5 54. Kf4 Ke8 55. Nb4 Ke7 56. Nd5+ Ke6 57. Nxb6 Nd3+ 58. Ke3 Ne5 { without the king participating the connected pawns cannot queen. Black should be able to snatch the g6-pawn and return with the knight in time.}) 54. Kf4 exf5 ({One would think the idea was} 54... Nd6 55. fxe6 Nxc4 56. Nd4 Nd6 $11 { Indeed, it would have worked.}) 55. Nd4 Nd6 $2 {After some inaccuracies, it's time for a real error.} (55... Nc5 56. Nxf5 Ne6+ 57. Ke4 Ke8 58. Ne3 $14) 56. Ne6+ Ke7 $4 (56... Kg8 {was the right defense, but it's already a close shave for Black.} 57. c5 bxc5 58. b6 c4 59. Ke3 f4+ 60. Nxf4 Kf8 (60... f5 {to clear the f6-square.} 61. Ne6 f4+ 62. Nxf4 Kf8 63. Ne6+ Ke7 64. Nxg7 Kd7 (64... Kf6 65. Ne8+) 65. Ke2 (65. Kd2 Kc6 66. Ne6 Kxb6 67. g7 Ne4+ {in time to stop the pawn.}) 65... Kc6 66. Ne6 Nf5 {and} 67. Nd4+ {doesn't work:} Nxd4+ {Check!}) 61. Ne6+ Ke7 62. Nxg7 Kd7 63. Kd2 Kc6 64. Ne6 Ne8 65. Nc7 Ng7 66. Nd5 {looks downright scary, but Black still holds after} f5 67. Kc3 f4 68. Kxc4 f3 69. Kd3 Nf5 70. Kd2 Kb7 71. Ke1 Kc6 72. Kf2 Kb7 {[#] because the f3-pawn is taboo!} 73. Ne3 Ng7 74. Nc4 Nf5 75. Ke1 Ng7 (75... Kc6 $2 76. b7 Kxb7 77. Nd6+) 76. Kf1 Kc6 77. Kf2 Nf5 {etc.}) 57. Nxg7 Nxc4 58. Nxf5+ Kf8 59. Ke4 Na3 ({in case of} 59... Ne5 {White wins in an instructive fashion:} 60. g7+ Kg8 61. Kd5 Kf7 62. Kd6 Nc4+ 63. Kc6 {Zugzwang!} Kg8 64. Kd5 Ne5 65. Ke6 Ng4 66. Ke7 {capturing the f6-pawn , and then marching back to the Q-side.} Ne5 67. Kxf6 Ng4+ 68. Ke6 Nf2 69. Kd5) 60. Nd6 Kg8 61. Kf4 {A little dance around the f5-square, perhaps to gain time on the clock.} Kf8 62. Kg4 Kg8 63. Kf4 Kf8 64. Kg4 Kg8 {and now} 65. Kf5 Kg7 66. Ne8+ {is decisive.} Kg8 (66... Kf8 67. Kxf6 Nxb5 68. g7+ Kg8 69. Kg6) 67. Nxf6+ Kf8 68. Kg5 Kg7 (68... Nxb5 69. Kh6) 69. Ne8+ 1-0

Kramnik might be the top board, but Mamedyarov has been the biggest bread winner for the team with 3.0/3

In round four, Mamedyarov again won with black, this time against Eugeny Najer. It should be noted that the Russian was very much in form, having played magnificently at the Karpov-Poikovsky event where he turned in a 2900 performance!

Najer vs Mamedyarov (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

Perhaps, the most sensational piece of news is connected with a player who did not make it to Sochi. The Bronze Horseman team of St. Peterburg is missing his regular legionnaire Lenier Dominguez, who according to some Russian chess internet source has applied for political asylum in the United States, and therefore cannot travel until his case is reviewed. Without being privy to personal circumstances of Lenier's decision it is hard to speculate why a well-traveled pro chess player would suddenly “choose freedom” after sixteen years of being Cuba's #1. Perhaps, the allure of filling up Board Four on the US Olympic Team is too hard to resist.

Starring for the short-handed Horsemen is Vladimir Fedoseev. With his 3.5/4 he's knocking on the door of the 2700 club. In fact, in the Live Ratings list, he is already there, but he has yet to secure a permanent berth in next month's FIDE ratings list.

22-year-old Vladimir Fedoseev has scored a fantastic 3.5/4 and broken into the 2700 club

Kovalenko vs Fedoseev

Igor Kovalenko

Alexei Shirov has scored three draws, the first of which was against Vladimir Kramnik in round one

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