Kramnik Back On The Board As Levitov Chess Week Starts In Amsterdam
Levitov Chess Week is underway in the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Amsterdam. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Kramnik Back On The Board As Levitov Chess Week Starts In Amsterdam

| 52 | Chess Event Coverage

Vladimir Kramnik is one of the participants in Levitov Chess Week, a small, private, top tournament held in the heart of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Together with Vishy Anand, Kramnik won the opening blitz tournament.

"Private" is probably the best adjective for a tournament that is not announced, has no spectators except for invited guests and does not relay its games live on the internet. Levitov Chess Week is . . .  different.

The event is the brainchild of, and financed by, an old friend of the chess world: Ilya Levitov. The Russian businessman is back as an organizer for the first time since he was chairman of the Russian Chess Federation’s management board in 2011-2014.

Readers might also remember his name as a co-author, together with Russian GM Evgeny Bareev, of From London To Elista, a gripping book about three of Kramnik's world championship matches in the years 2000-2006.

Ilya Levitov Chess Week 2019
Ilya Levitov, standing next to his wife Adele, and Giri (on the right) watch Svidler and Gelfand analyze. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Bareev is among the participants and so is Kramnik, who retired from classical chess in January but still plays an occasional exhibition event. 

2019 Levitov Chess Week | Participants

# Rank Fed Name Rating* Born
1 7 Grischuk, Alexander 2788 1983
2 12 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2773 1990
3 18 Anand, Viswanathan 2757 1969
4 19 Kramnik, Vladimir 2756 1975
5 26 Giri, Anish 2730 1994
6 29 Svidler, Peter 2727 1976
7 49 Gelfand, Boris 2702 1968
8 81 Bareev, Evgeny 2664 1966

* August 2019 FIDE rapid ratings.

For his event, Levitov has been inspired by the Amber tournament that was held between 1992 and 2011 in Monaco and Nice, France. When Levitov visited 15 years ago, it was the first chess event he  attended. In that sense the tournament in Amsterdam is also a tribute to the great patron Joop van Oosterom (1937-2016), the man behind Amber and numerous other chess events.

The similarities are evident. For starters, the luxurious location: The tournament is held in the five-star Waldorf Astoria hotel on the Herengracht in Amsterdam, a stone’s throw to the Rembrandt Square.

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam Levitov Chess Week 2019
The Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam is the location for Levitov Chess Week. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The atmosphere is also similar. While half of the field is playing (only two games take place at the same time so each round has two sessions), the others can be found mingling with guests, discussing the games in progress, or just catching up with friends.

On the first day, they were entertained by none other than Jan Timman, who showed some of his endgame studies, including one that he had composed that very morning.

Jan Timman Study Levitov Chess Week 2019
Timman shows his latest study. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Other guests included GMs Hans Ree, Genna Sosonko, Judit Polgar, former top arbiter Geurt Gijssen, former chess sponsor and organizer Bessel Kok and even GM Jeroen Piket, who once worked for Van Oosterom and lived in Monaco but has recently moved back to the Netherlands.

Timman also showed this study, one of his best, which he entered in the endgame study tournament to mark Pal Benko's 90th birthday. It was also published in the latest New in Chess magazine. It's White to play and win.

So what about this slightly odd aspect of not having the games available live online? That is because Levitov doesn’t like that at the end of a chess game the two players know less about it than the rest of the world and, as a result, it’s difficult to have a normal chat about it. He explains in the tournament booklet:

“Any tenderfoot chess lover these days joyfully shouts ‘Blunder!’ when seeing a sharp spike in the computer’s assessment after a grandmaster has made a move. Meanwhile, a chess player of any level is obliged to voice a reservation when assessing a position without checking the computer.

“I don’t expect to turn back time; neither do I wish to delve deep into nostalgia. I’m simply sure that the joy of common creativity should be appreciated and supported, especially in the times we are living in.”

Kramnik Smoking Levitov Chess Week 2019
Levitov (right) chats with Kramnik during a smoke. A camera crew is filming everywhere and everything, as the tournament also serves as the topic for a chess documentary. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

On Saturday night a blitz tournament was held to determine the pairing numbers for the main event. The time control was three minutes plus a two-second increment. Both Anand and Kramnik scored 5/7.

Below you can replay all games. Don't miss the offbeat opening by Kramnik to win versus Giri and Anand's strong game against Nepomniachtchi, who played the Modern but was always a bit worse against his opponent's strong center.

2019 Levitov Chess Week Blitz | All games

2019 Levitov Chess Week Blitz | Final standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Kramnik,Vladimir 2748 2906 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 1 1 5.0/7 17
2 Anand,Viswanathan 2730 2909 0 1 1 1 ½ ½ 1 5.0/7 16
3 Grischuk,Alexander 2733 2851 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 1 4.5/7
4 Svidler,Peter 2805 2790 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 4.0/7
5 Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2815 2738 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 3.5/7
6 Bareev,Evgeny 2678 2599 1 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 2.0/7 9.25
7 Gelfand,Boris 2700 2596 0 ½ 0 0 0 1 ½ 2.0/7 5.5
8 Giri,Anish 2772 2585 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 2.0/7 4.75

On Monday the first two rounds of the main tournament were played. The time control is 25 minutes plus a 10-second increment. Anand, Gelfand, Kramnik and Nepomniachtchi all started with 1.5/2.

Bareev, the only player who lost both games, allowed a magnet combination that dragged his king into the open. There was no direct checkmate, but Kramnik's prosaic solution was good enough:

Kramnik Levitov Chess Week 2019
Kramnik clearly hasn't forgotten how to play chess. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Anand's win against the same opponent is quite nice. The opening and early middlegame is reminiscent of some wins by Anatoly Karpov.

Kramnik had Giri on the ropes but let him escape:

2019 Levitov Chess Week Rapid | Round 2 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2773 2948 1 ½ 1.5/2 0.75
2 Gelfand,Boris 2702 2948 ½ 1 1.5/2 0.75
3 Anand,Viswanathan 2757 2887 ½ 1 1.5/2 0.5
4 Kramnik,Vladimir 2756 2887 ½ 1 1.5/2 0.5
5 Giri,Anish 2730 2756 ½ ½ 1.0/2
6 Grischuk,Alexander 2788 2547 0 ½ 0.5/2 0.75
7 Svidler,Peter 2727 2547 ½ 0 0.5/2 0.75
8 Bareev,Evgeny 2664 1957 0 0 0.0/2

On Monday rounds three, four and five will be played. Rounds six and seven will be on Tuesday. 

2019 Levitov Chess Week Rapid | Games rounds 1-2

Gelfand Svidler Levitov Chess Week 2019
Svidler and Gelfand engage in an old-fashioned post-mortem... | Photo: Peter Doggers/
Giri Anand Levitov Chess Week 2019
...while Giri prefers to check his computer after drawing with Anand. | Photo: Peter Doggers/
Levitov Chess Week 2019 film crew
Others relax, but the camera crew is always present. | Photo: Peter Doggers/
Levitov Chess Week photos
A selection of old photos of the players is on display near the entrance of the playing hall. | Photo: Peter Doggers/
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