Young Stars at the Russian Super Final

12/12/2006 – The players who did not qualify could make up a sterling tournament. This year's Super Final is full of bright young players, many unknown to chess fans in the West. Like Ian Nepomniachtchi, who may soon be challenging Karjakin and Carlsen. Meanwhile Jakovenko is in the lead in Moscow. Report my Misha Savinov.

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Standings after eight rounds


Young Stars at the Russian Super Final

By Misha Savinov

Organizing first Superfinal of the Russian chess championship was a milestone for the new chess federation back in 2004. A long-awaited classic all-play-all tournament in Moscow attracted a lot of media attention, but, most importantly, showed that the new federation means business. After years of obscurity, chess was once again becoming a popular and financially attractive sport. Other events were organized too, for instance, the Russian team championship became arguably the strongest team competition in the chess world, quite matching the European championship, but the Superfinal remained a summit desirable for any Russian chess player. Powerful qualifiers called the Higher League were attended by almost everyone.


Moscow residents Sergey Grigoriants and Ernesto Inarkiev

Having said that, I now have to explain why every Superfinal saw some top grandmasters declining their invitations. Karpov shocked everybody quitting a day before the start in 2004. But that was Karpov, you know… In 2005, Alexander Grischuk dropped out because the first prize was lowered from $50,000 to $40,000, the amount being added to the remaining prizes. By the way, doesn’t it tell that about the improved standard of life of an ‘average’ elite chess player? In 2006 Alexander Morozevich simply decided against playing in the Superfinal. Was he depressed because of his poor showing in the Tal Memorial or what? Likely.


Unlucky Evgeny Najer

Without Morozevich, the current Superfinal has extremely youthful lineup. Maybe this makes it a bit difficult for the Westerners to follow it. The general public knows Svidler, Rublevsky, possibly Jakovenko, maybe Najer and Inarkiev – but who are these other guys? How can this thing be called ‘Super’ with three IMs? Phew!


Ian Nepomniachtchi and Sergey Shipov


Peter Svidler analysing with youngster Ian Nepomniachtchi

Well, you better learn their names! Even the most complicated one… Ian Nepomn… Nepomniachtchi (‘chtch’ is a single letter in Cyrillic) is probably yet another genius of the 1990 generation. Sergey Dolmatov, trainer of the national team, considers Ian to be capable of catching up with Karjakin and Carlsen. Morozevich and Shipov give him valuable tutoring. The new hope of Russian chess is quite a character, but this basically confirms his talent, doesn’t it?


Creative young player Nikita Vitiugov has gained more experience than points so far

The benefit of a round-robin format is that it reveals the personalities of the players. How do they endure the distance? How they respond to defeats? How well can they prepare to particular opposition? Are they afraid of the stronger guys? How they deal with media attention? And so on, and so forth.


Chess according to Evgueni Tomashevsky: bring the queen out early

Naturally, when I arrived in Moscow after first four rounds, I was well-aware of the names, and eager to get to know the people. And I am glad that meeting them all in person made me feel good for the Russian chess. These people do have style. Each one of them.


Evgeny Alekseev analyzes his game

After all, they all qualified, and it was a tough call. Among those left behind, one can name (in random order) Khalifman, Zvjaginsev, Dreev, Motylev, Kobalia, Bareev, Timofeev, Sakaev… These players could form another fantastic tournament all by itself. The young players proved stronger, even if on that particular place and occasion. A boring, dull, undistinguished player could not have done it by definition.


Ukraine star Kateryna Lahno meets GM Vladimir Barsky

Don’t consider this tournament uninteresting just because Moro turned it down and the lineup seems under-aged. Look into the games, and I’m sure you’ll find something appealing. Take a look and Ernesto Inarkiev’s epic win over Denis Khismatullin, especially if you are a King’s Indian fan. Enjoy Sergey Grigoriants’s fine handling of the Najdorf against Evgeny Najer. Get impressed by Ian Nepomniachtchi’s (jperhaps ‘Nepo’ to make it short?) incredible fighting spirit, which cost him the game against Dmitry Jakovenko but was rewarded against the Big Denis. Look at the unusual way of entering the fight of Evgeny Tomashevsky, the person really striving for new paths.

Back to the tournament plot, it looks like there can be two winners, Svidler and Jakovenko. Two other people at +2, Alekseev and Khairullin, have fewer Whites to begin with, and do not yet have such authority among the other participants.


A determined Peter Svidler

Maybe Svidler is not in best shape, but he does a lot of work to compensate for it. He is really digging into every game, sometimes refusing drawing continuations at the expense of his position, only to continue fighting. I think such attitude must be rewarded by chess gods (or demons? Who rules chess anyway?); in other words, occasional brilliances from Svidler can become more consistent, and then he will be unstoppable.


In the lead: Dmitry Jakovenko, 2671

Jakovenko was the 2004 Superfinal official commentator, and now he rapidly rises to the 2700 merry land. This man clearly has ambitions, and his iron will (somewhat resembling of Bareev’s) is quite a factor in this race. Apart from that, Jakovenko is widely recognized as one of the world’s top endgame players, shining in both technical and ‘creative’ endings. Another facet of his talent is ability to defend, and… luck. Or maybe we should call it well-developed intuition. From time to time Dmitry surprises people, winning (or drawing almost lost positions) games by selecting a number of ideal moves without bothering to find real justifications for them. Not Smyslov, but his hand knows where to place his pieces, too.


"It's called a cell-phone, Dmitry" – Jakovenko with visitor Elisabeth Pähtz

Right now Jakovenko is a sole leader, but I am kind of worried about him getting tired. His loss against Khairullin was a collapse, but it didn’t just happen without reason – the day before Jakovenko played a very long and tiring game against Nepomniachtchi. Today (in the Round 8) he struck back, winning against Najer, but this was a typical character victory, slowly built up from a drawn position. Dmitry seems to be losing the momentum. However, the day off may help him recharging.


Watch this man – top seed Peter Svidler

As a Buddhist saying goes, all events are connected. This unusually youthful Superfinal takes place in what is probably the all-time-warmest Moscow’s winter (no snow at all, and like +8° C every day). The times, they are a-changing, you know. By accepting and following the changes, we remain in the present. Otherwise one risks remaining in the past.

P.S. As I promised guys, no photos from Ernesto Inarkiev’s birthday party! Ernesto, thank you again, it was awesome!

Misha Savinov, from Moscow

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