St Petersburg wrap-up – part 1

6/2/2004 – The preliminaries for the Russian Championship in St Petersburg and Tomsk are completed. The former was won by Alexei Dreev, ahead of Tseshkovsky and Epishin. The quality of play was very high, and we return – by popular demand – to this exciting tournament with a new two-part pictorial report by Misha Savinov.

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St Petersburg wrap-up

By Misha Savinov

Round 6

An ultimate test for the tournament leader – Alexey Dreev had to play black against the former FIDE world champion Alexander Khalifman. Both players are renowned theoreticians, and the outcome of the opening duel was expected to predetermine the result to a great extent. Khalifman's repertoire is much wider, while Dreev relies on deep knowledge of his favorite set-ups. Specialists predicted either a Caro-Kann or the Moscow Variation of the Semi-Slav, and were of the opinion that the sharp lines of the Caro-Kann would suit Khalifman better. So, Alexander's 1.d4 was a moderate surprise. However, the true bomb exploded on move 6, when Dreev calmly moved his Queen to a5, heading for Cambridge-Springs for the first time in his known career!


Alexei Dreev with his bombshell move in round

Although Khalifman often plays 6.Bg5, allowing the Cambridge-Springs, he faced this system just once – in 2000, making a 23-move draw with Artur Jussupow. It turned out that Dreev was far better prepared for the opening struggle. Khalifman avoided riskier continuations, and both players followed the forced line, in which Black exchanges two pieces for rook and pawn and achieves a very easy game. On move 23 Khalifman offered a draw – only Black could try playing the resulting position for a win. Dreev accepted, and remained on top with just 3 rounds to go. [Replay game]

Vitaly Tseshkovsky employed a healthy strategic plan against Epishin's Sicilian, building up his pieces against the weak a6-pawn. It looked like White has a serious advantage, but Sicilian positions are treacherous. Epishin launched a counterattack, and after lively tactical play this game ended peacefully after the time control. [Replay game]


Vitaly Tseshkovsky (right) working on Vladimir Epishin's Sicilian

Former Russian champion Sergey Volkov had a chance "to put in his place" the young FM Evgeny Romanov. It was a fierce double-edged struggle that attracted the attention of many spectators and fellow participants.


Khalifman kibitzing in the game Volkov-Romanov (R6)

In a very complex game the players were worthy of each other, and a draw was agreed on move 47.

Ian Nepomniashchy defeated GM Igor Kurnosov in a sharp French. In the picture above Aeroflot open organizer and executive director of Russian chess federation Alexander Bakh observes the game. Black's position is already winning. [Replay game]

Vadim Zvjaginsev outplayed his opponent Evgeny Shaposhnikov in the opening, and transposed into a rook endgame with an extra pawn.


Vadim Zvjaginsev in the endgame against Shaposhnikov

It turned out to contain some pitfalls, but Zvjaginsev once again proved his reputation of being an endgame whiz, winning smoothly. Evgeny Shaposhnikov studied it afterwards with Valery Loginov. Although Black could defend more stubbornly, the endgame is objectively winning for White. [Replay game]


Evgeny Shaposhnikov analysing with Valery Loginov

Round 7

The top board encounter between Dreev and Zvjaginsev did not impress the spectators. Ones again Alexey Dreev preferred to rest on his well-deserved four starting wins, making a quick draw [Replay game]. It was up to other contenders to show their fighting spirit. Namely, Vitaly Tseshkovsky and Alexander Khalifman.

As for El Khalif, who got a second consecutive White, he had one of the last chances of catching up with the leaders. And Alexander looked focused, achieving a known Benoni setup (actually, I am still confused about the proper name of this opening, as it often called the Czech Benoni) with an extra tempo. However, Tseshkovsky was comfortable with that type of position, and did not seem to care about the tempi count. Black got the initiative in a complex middlegame with kings castled on opposite flanks.


"El Khalif" in his round seven game against Tseshkovsky

Afterwards Tseshkovsky was of the opinion that he had missed a winning continuation. He sacrificed a bishop approaching the time control, and it took all of Khalifman's defensive skill to save the white king. Returning some material, White transposed into an unbalanced position with Q+N+B against Black's Q+R. Alexander avoided a move repetition, but Black's heavy pieces were very active, making a draw inevitable. [Replay game]


Tseshkovsky's king under perpetual check by Khalifman

There was an interesting opening story in 7th round. Two friends from St. Petersburg, GM Denis Yevseev and IM Sergey Solovjov, prepared the same (unsound?) line of Slav defense against GMs Alekseev and Riazantsev. Black sacrificed a pawn for certain position compensation, unlikely to be adequate. The games deviated on the 14th move. Solovjov lost, while Yevseev caught his opponent on threefold repetition on move 30. Not the most successful experiment in terms of the score, but it was creative play indeed. [Replay games]


GM Denis Yevseev (left) discussing his pawn sac with opponent Alekseev

Ironically Sergey Ivanov, who outplayed Belov with Black in the French Defense yesterday, continued his breakthrough, beating Sergey Volkov's 4...a6 variation of the Semi-Slav. By the way, this system, also called the Chebanenko Variation, was extremely popular in St. Petersburg. The game was approximately even until Volkov blundered and had to part with his knight. The rest was more or less simple technique. [Replay game]


Sergey Ivanov (right) on his way to victory against Sergey Volkov

Evgeny Najer was lucky to win his 7th round game. Najer played well in the opening, and could have got a serious advantage, but made a couple of inaccuracies in complications. Black started to take the upper hand, but then a mutual time trouble came:

Najer,E (2606) – Landa,K (2550) [B43]
57th ch-RUS Qualifier St Petersburg RUS (7), 28.05.2004

Position after 38.Rd4-h4

Here Konstantin Landa made a terrible Fingerfehler in a winning position. Instead of 38...Bxc2+ 39.Kc1 /a1 f4 with a clear win, Landa started with the second move of planned sequence: 38...f4?? 39.Rxh7+ and mate in two. After the game was over, Najer looked upset no less than his opponent.

14-year-old Dmitry Andreikin easily held with Black against former European champion Pavel Tregubov (2418 and 2636 respectively). This youngster is truly a new Ratmir "Central defender" Kholmov – he recorded one win and eight draws against eight GMs and one FM with average Elo 2576! Andreikin's Black opening repertoire makes a refreshing impression, but turned out to be an effective equalizing weapon. [Replay game]


Talented 14-year-old Dmitry Andreikin

To be continued (rounds eight and nine to follow shortly)

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