Gelfand Leads Kings To Victory In Nutcracker Tournament
The "Kings" — led by GM Boris Gelfand —emerged victorious over the "Princes" in the inter-generational match festively titled The Nutcracker. The match, held December 19-26 in Moscow, Russia, was organized by the Russian Chess Federation with sponsorship and support by Oleg Skvortsov, who is also responsible for the Zurich Chess Challenge.
The tournament was driven by two ambitious goals. First, the match provided experience to Russia's next generation of young men and women players; second, the match experimented with a new time control and match format designed to be more engaging for spectators.
The premier match was between the "Kings," who were composed of grandmasters with top-level competition experience, and the "Princes," who featured some of Russia's top young chess talents who are emerging onto the international stage. Concurrently, a match between the Russian boys (ages 12-13) and girls (ages 16-17) teams was organized.
The "Kings" team was composed of familiar grandmasters Boris Gelfand, Peter Leko, Evgeny Najer, and Alexander Morozevich.
The "Kings" — experienced veterans of top-flight chess — Peter Leko, Alexander Morozevich, Evgeny Najer, and Boris Gelfand. All images from the official site.
The "Princes" team fielded the top young Russian grandmasters Vladislav Artemiev, Ivan Bukavshin, Mikhail Antipov, and Grigoriy Oparin. Among the Princes, readers may be most likely to have heard of Artemiev and Bukavshin, who shared first in the Russian Higher League this year. Antipov meanwhile won the World Youth Championship this year.
The "Princes" — the next wave of the Russian elite — Mikhail Antipov, Grigoriy Oparin, Vladislav Artemiev, and Ivan Bukavshin
As is becoming popular, the match was split between classical and rapid. Four games were played at the classical pace of 120 minutes for 40 moves with an addition of 60 minutes at move 40, and a further addition of 15 minutes at move 60. A 30-second increment came into effect at move 60. The time control for the rapid games was 15 minutes plus a 10-second increment.
The classical games were doubly weighted with wins counting two points and draws counting one point.
Rounds one and two were split, despite the consistently promising positions the Kings achieved, as the Princes continually drummed up counterplay in the complications. The most painful counterplay came when Antipov turned around a very bad opening against Morozevich. Once Antipov's bishops began to encroach on Morozevich's king, things flowed smoothly and Antipov soon landed a nice blow.
Leko had a mixed tournament, but when he won, he won convincingly. His round-one victory against Bukavshin left no doubt why Leko was a member of the Kings.
Round three was a breakthrough through for the Kings as Gelfand and Najer both scored full points. Gelfand's was a very convincing affair and indicative of his excellent form in the event.
Gelfand chatting amiably with Skvortsov and enjoying his fine form.
Gelfand continued his winning ways in round four, but the most interesting moment came in Artemiev versus Najer. Artemiev pressed the entire game, but here he offered Najer a lifeline that went unnoticed.
Final Standings | Classical Time Control (Wins Count 2 Points; Draws 1)
Gelfand retained his fine form into the rapid as he scored 5.0/8 here, and he should have scored 6.0/8 if not for a very peculiar "mouseslip" in the following winning position.
Despite Gelfand's good form, the real rapid hero for the Kings was Morozevich who scored 5.5/8. That included the following ludicrous game which pulled the attention of former World Champion Garry Kasparov away from the Qatar Open.
Messy play at the top in the Qatar Open, but don't miss a nice game by Morozevich today in the "Nutcracker" event! https://t.co/UsU1SOBjPF— Garry Kasparov ( @Kasparov63) December 24, 2015
After a rough classical performance, Morozevich found his footing in the rapid.
Morozevich also had some self-made luck in the rapid as he wriggled his way out of the following death trap against Antipov and even managed to win!
Final Standings | Rapid Time Controls
The final score was 35.5 to 28.5 in favor of the Kings. Gelfand had the best individual result with 11.0/16, and in the post match-interview, he confessed to being impressed particularly impressed by Artemiev and Bukavshin's play.
The concurrent watch between the Russian boys and girls team had quite a different flaver. The boys were represented by players aged 12-13 from the national team while the girls were represented by players aged 16-17 from the national team. The girls had the higher individual rating, but as the boys are younger and have less FIDE rated games, they were more likely to be under-rated.
The girls team included Dinara Dordzhieva (2230), Margarita Potapova (2121), Aleksandra Dimitrova (2193), and Olga Mylnikova (2197). The boys team included Dmitry Tsoi (2060), Kirill Shubin (2167), Arseny Nesterov (2102), and Yaroslav Remisov (2093).
The boys and girls teams: Arseniy Nesterov, Dmitry Tsoi, Yaroslav Remizov, Kirill Shubin, Aleksandra Dimitrova, Olga Mylnikova, Margarita Potapova, and Dinara Dordzhieva.
The classical match was a close affair between the boys and girls as the girls eeked out a 17 to 15 victory. Nesterov had the roughest time in the classical format as he lost three games and scored only one victory. However, his victory must have gone a long way towards healing the pain from the losses as he acheived a very nice domination with a clean tactical finish.
Dmitry Tsoi was the youngest participant, but he also had the most awards to his name as he has been both twice a Russian champion and twice a world champion for his age group. Tsoi showed his class early with a classical breakthrough in round two against Mylnikova.
Tsoi displaying youthful determination and concentration.
The boys showed class beyond their years in a couple of victories as in round four, Shubin in particular won a very instructive endgame as he first locked up Potapova's king and then marched his own all the way up the board to queen a pawn and win the game.
Final Standings Group B | Classical Time Controls (Wins Count 2 Points; Draws 1)
Mistakes increased considerably in the rapid time controls, but that in no way made the games less entertaining. Remizov seemed to be putting proper time into his tactics as he found a nice blow against Potapova and a classic one against Mylnikova.
However, Remizov soon let his guard down, and in the following position, Dordzhieva reminded him that no position is safe.
Dordzhieva lead the girls in the rapid with 5.0/8.
Potapova missed the chance to finish Nesterov off in style in the following game. Allowing him to wriggle proved costly as he eventually swam away with a half-point. Can you find the clean finish?
Sadly, Potapova immediately repeated the same mistake against Shubin as she struck first with a very nice tactic, but could not bring home the full point.
In the final round, Mylnikova seemed to win a model game in the French, but analysis shows that Nesterov missed a stunning resource. Can you find it?
Final Standings Group B | Rapid Time Controls
After single-point victories by each team in the classical and rapid time controls, the ultimate match result was a push at 32 to 32.
All of the young players displayed impressive fighting spirit, and one cannot but expect that some of these players will soon become well known to the larger chess world as boys become princes and princes become kings.