Favourites top the standings in Russian Team Championships

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/9/2021 – The Russian Team Championships are being played on May 1-10 at the Hotel Zhemchuzhina in Sochi. Besides the Premier League, a 9-team round robin, the Women’s League and the Higher League are taking place as Swiss tournaments. Both in the Premier League and the Women’s Tournament, the clear favourites have managed to win all of their matches — the Mednyi Vsadnik (Iron Horsemen) led by Nikita Vitiugov and the Moscow Chess Team led by Kateryna Lagno. | Pictured: Aleksandra Goryachkina | Photo: Vladimir Barsky

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Perfect scores

As reported by Vladimir Barsky in his initial report for the Chess Federation of Russia website, chess players are happy to return to the physical boards in a large event like the Russian Team Championship. Although some sanitary measures are in place, only arbiters are required to wear masks at all times, while players are free to choose whether they want to wear them or not. Except for the plexiglass walls on each board, the pictures from the venue show a rather familiar scenery, of the kind we were used to seeing before the pandemic.

The effect of the crisis, however, is noticeable once we see the number of teams participating in the Premier League. Strong squads that used to register, like Malachite and Siberia-Sirius are nowhere to be found, while other teams have made major efforts to get sponsorships that have allowed them to participate. In addition, the first-timer Gogolevsky, 14 has put together a competitive lineup, headed by Alexander Motylev and Aleksandra Goryachkina, the only woman who is playing in the open section.

After seven rounds, the rating favourites in the main events are leading the standings with perfect scores. In the open section, the Mednyi Vsadnik from Saint Petersburg has scored wins in all six of their matches (since nine teams are playing the Premier League, the teams have a bye round), remarkably losing only one individual game out of 36 so far. Among the women, the Moscow Chess Team is also perfect. In both cases, the leaders are 3 match points ahead from their closest pursuers, so a win in the eighth round will secure them overall victory.

Dmitry Andreikin, Daniil Dubov

A usual sight — Dmitry Andreikin (KPRF) playing black against Daniil Dubov (Molodezhka) in round 7 | Photo: Vladimir Barsky

Esipenko and Fedoseev shine for Mednyi Vsadnik

The team led by Nikita Vitiugov has two heavy hitters in Andrey Esipenko (4½/5) and Vladimir Fedoseev (5½/6). In round 6, Esipenko nicely rerouted his pieces to beat Mikhail Kobalia.

 

Black is a whole piece up, but note how most of his army is sitting passively on the queenside. Understandably, Kobalia captured on c3, trading pieces, but instead of recapturing immediately Esipenko rerouted his rook with 29.Rf3. Black needed to acknowledge White’s strong threats with 29...g4 at that point, but saved his (second) extra piece with 29...Be1 instead.

White quickly showed the refutation.

 

30.Qf7+ Kh8, and not 31.Rh3+ Bh4 of course, but 31.e7. Kobalia resigned after 31...Qd6 32.e8Q+. This was one of four wins scored by the team from Saint Petersburg against Gogolevsky, 14.

Mednyi Vsadnik, Gogolevsky 14

Mednyi Vsadnik versus Gogolevsky, 14 in round 6 | Photo: Vladimir Barsky


Standings after round 7

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Mednyi Vsadnik 12
2 Moscow Chess Team 9
3 Gogolevsky, 14  8
4 Wildberries Molodezhka 7
5 Ladya 5
6 Mikhail Botvinnik School 5
7 KPRF 5
8 SShOR 3
9 Kimmeria 2

Find more info at Chess-Results


All games

 

Lagno and Kosteniuk lead the Moscow Chess Team

Not only does the Moscow Chess Team has two of the strongest and most experienced Russian players in its lineup — Kateryna Lagno and Alexandra Kosteniuk — but also 20-year-old rising star Polina Shuvalova, who had a remarkable performance at last year’s Russian Championship.

Lagno (4½/5), Shuvalova (4½/6) and Kosteniuk (5/6) are all undefeated. In round 5, Lagno defeated former women’s world champion Anna Ushenina.

 

Ushenina’s 22...g5 was far too ambitious (22...Rae8 was called for), as Lagno now had 23.Qg2 gxf4 24.Be2

 

The knight is pinned along the file and the diagonal. There followed 24...f3 25.Bxf3 Rxf3 26.Re4

 

Making the most of the pin. Here Black found nothing better than 26...Qh2+ 27.Qxh2 Nxh2 28.Kxg2, giving up a piece. Resignation came shortly after.

Kateryna Lagno

Kateryna Lagno | Photo: Vladimir Barsky


Standings after round 7 (top 8)

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Moscow Chess Team 14
2 Southern Ural-1 11
3 Ugra 9
4 Kimmeria 9
5 SShOR-1 8
6 Amazonki ADDA 8
7 SShOR-2 8
8 Ladya 7

Find more info at Chess-Results


All games

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.

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