The traditional Russian Team Chess Championship (both men’s and women’s divisions) was held from April 8th to 16th in the Loo district of the resort city Sochi on the coast of the Black sea. From 2005 to 2011 I have been playing in the women’s tournament, but this year decided to try to compete among men. The reason for this was prosaic: the club I am playing for, AVS, has decided to skip the event this year and go straight for the Eurocup (we are the reigning Eurocup champions, so we don’t need to qualify there from the Russian Championship). Also, the ECU rules forbid players from competing for two clubs simultaneously in the same league. However, the men’s division is different. As a result, I joined the friendly and mostly young team “Rakita”. Our line-up looked like this: 1. GM Ivan Popov, 2605; 2. GM Boris Savchenko, 2580; 3. GM Alexandr Danin, 2539, 4. GM Alexandr Ivanov, 2433; 5. IM Grigory Oparin, 2487, 6. IM Mikhail Antipov, 2435; 7. WGM Natalia Pogonina 2449; 8. Vitaly Babynin 2021. In each match 6 players took part, while two took a rest. Our team was seeded 11th. The tournament itself was a Swiss event with 18 teams participating.
Previously nearly all the world’s top players have been competing in the Russian League, but lately the financial crisis has taken its toll, and some of the big names were missing. Nonetheless, about half the world’s top-rated grandmasters showed up. The rating favorite and reigning champion, SHSM-64 was equipped with six 2700+ grandmasters and led by the world’s #7 player Fabiano Caruana. Economist-SGSU had 5 2700+ players and was headed by the inimitable Alexander Morozevich. World Cup Champion Peter Svidler, Russia’s #1 young hope Sergei Karjakin, and European Champion Dmitry Jakovenko were the leaders of the teams Saint Petersburg Chess Federation, Tomsk-400. and Ugra respectively. The full team compositions can be viewed here. It is worth noting that the St-Petersburg team is the reigning champion of the Eurocup, so this time we had 5 qualifying spots instead of the usual 4. The top-5 teams mentioned above were vastly superior as compared to the others, although the short 7-round distance offered the underdogs certain chances to qualify, or at least affect the final standings.
In the very first round my team Rakita had to face the super club Economist-SGSU which hails from my home city Saratov. The guys are my friends, and I have always been rooting for them. This case was an exception. The match was hard-fought, and we were quite close to drawing it. However, in the end our opponents clinched the victory: 4-2.
Economist SGSU vs Rakita. Photo by Mariya Fominykh, chesspro.ru
In the first round all the five super clubs won their matches. Especially merciless was Tomsk-400, which wiped out Zhiguli with a perfect 6-0 score.
Now that some of you are probably bored from reading about other players’ feats, I would like you to actually work on your own chess and solve a few nice puzzles from the 1st round’s games. First try to find the solution yourself, and then check out the annotations, by clicking on "move list":
In the second round two of the favorites clashed: Saratov-SGSU vs Ugra. ShSM-64 had to face the #6 club Polytechnik. The guys from Nizhni Tagil usually have a strong and interesting team, but so far they haven’t achieved anything significant. This year they were in contention for the qualifying spots. Nonetheless, SHSM-64 won with an impressive 4.5-1.5 score. In the main confrontation of the day Economist defeated Ugra: Morozevich beat Jakovenko and Eljanov scored against Malakhov. Alexander Morozevich is a true fighter! In round 1 he blundered terribly against our player Ivan Popov and lost, but in round two he came back and basically crushed the reigning European Champion Dmitry Jakovenko.
Economist-SGSU vs Ugra. Photo by Mariya Fominykh, chesspro.ru
The second round didn’t bring any real upsets as well. Our club drew the Kemerovo team. Before the round Alexandr Danin had been telling me stories about how two of his teammates drew their games against Kemerovo last year while both being a piece down. He even showed me the games. After the match we had a good laugh at the team meeting: I also drew Cheremnova being a piece down. As a result, Alexandr was asked to provide me with winning examples next time.
Here are three more challenges for you to try to deal with:
To be continued…