Svidler Wins Historic 8th Russian Championship Title
GM Peter Svidler and WGM Aleksandra Goryachkina are the winners of the 2017 Russian Championship's Superfinals, which finished on Thursday in St. Petersburg. Both players won a rapid playoff held after the final round. Svidler won the title for the eighth time.
Chess.com's interview with Peter Svidler.
Since 2012, the Russian Championship's Superfinal is part of the Chess in Museums project, supported by the Russian Chess Federation and the Timchenko Charitable Foundation. This year the competition took place in the State Museum of Political History of Russia in St. Petersburg.
The building of the museum has a fascinating history. It was built between 1904 and 1906 for ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska, a mistress of the future Tsar Nicholas II prior to his marriage, and later the wife of his cousin Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich.
Photos of Mathilde Kschessinska in the museum. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
She and her son had to leave the house in haste during the February Revolution in 1917, after which it was occupied by the Bolsheviks. It was on one of the balconies of this building where, exactly one century ago, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) gave multiple speeches to the Russian people.
A painting in the museum of Lenin giving a speech... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
...from the balcony of his office. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The two playing halls, one for the 70th Russian Championship and one for the 67th Russian Women's Championship, are the museum's exhibition halls of the Russian Revolution. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
At the opening ceremony, Peter Svidler, a resident of St. Petersburg, said: "It is always pleasant and exciting to play at home; let's see if it will help me or not. As many citizens of metropolises, I go to museums when abroad or in some other city, and I don't do it quite often being in my hometown because I think I will always have time to do it. That's why I am glad that while 'working' I will manage to visit one of many museums of my city."
Almost two weeks later, the intro paragraph of the seven-time Russian champion's Wikipedia page needed an update. In his own city, with his family close by, he became Russian champion for the eighth time. He's also back in the world's top 10. Svidler won the first prize of one million rubles (€14,420/$17,000) and also a Renault Captur.
A Renault Captur for the winner. | Image: Renault.
"I did not expect [this] to happen this year," Svidler told Chess.com. "I always am extremely ambitious about these events but midway through I felt like I am not playing well enough and other people are definitely playing well enough to be way ahead of me."
He was mostly referring to Vladimir Fedoseev, who had a brilliant start of 4.5/5. However, the winner of the Aeroflot Open then suddenly lost two in a row. After a draw and a win, he faced Svidler and was in control for almost the whole game. Almost.
Fedoseev-Svidler, where the full point was "a gift" to the winner. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
"If the game against Vladimir ends how it's supposed to end out of this position, I have no real shot at anything," said Svidler. "But I was gifted this opportunity. It is a gift. You don't really win positions like this against anybody, let alone a player of Vladimir's strength. Suddenly I found myself in this huge tie for first and in a situation where it was sort of in my hands once again."
With one round to go Svidler was sharing first with Fedoseev but also Nikita Vitiugov and Vladimir Malakhov, and was paired against the latter in the final round.
Svidler won a good game. "I think I played well in the classical portion today," he said. "I had very little to work with; the Four Knights is not an opening which will refute chess. Eventually I managed to win a position in which I was very proud I even managed to create any problems whatsoever."
Svidler avoiding the Berlin with the Four Knights: "I had very little to work with." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Vitiugov had quickly won his game and was the only other player to finish on 7/11. Svidler then won both rapid games (15 minutes plus 10 seconds, Armageddon in case of 1-1).
"In the first game I was, at some point I think, struggling," Svidler said. "Then I equalized again, misplayed it again and equalized again. "On very limited time, I guess he hallucinated he can play 47.Qd8+, that would be my guess."
Vitiugov played the Trompowsky and was better out of the opening. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
"The second game...there is not much to talk about. It was more or less decided on move five when he felt that 5...exf3 was no option considering the match situation. In particular when you have draw odds you're just so comfortable with White. It's such a nice position."
In a hopeless middlegame position Vitiugov decides to put an end to his misery. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Svidler said he isn't paying too much attention to records: "I think either Tal or Botvinnik has seven. With eight I am probably ahead of the pack now. It means a great deal to me but not because I am ahead of those guys. It means a great deal to me because I won it eight times. The historical context is a sub story.
"For me, these are the tournaments I treasure," said Svidler. "Winning one of those again at my ripe old age of...whatever it is, I am not gonna say. [Laughs.] Everybody knows. It's a good feeling. It's been a while since I felt this contented with life. It will go away by tomorrow but today I am very, very happy with this."
2017 Russian Championship Superfinal | Final Standings
*Wins after playoff
The women's championship was won by the 19-year-old WGM Aleksandra Goryachkina. She was never Russian champion among girls, but did win the overall championship once before, in 2015. "Media were already calling me multiple Russian champion, but actually only today this is true," she told Chess.com.
Like Svidler, Goryachkina not only won the trophy and a money prize (500,000 rubles, which equals €7,200/$8,490), but also a car. "This changed the tension a lot," she said. "Now the difference between second and first is quite big. Everybody was nervous and wanted to be first."
Goryachkina said doesn't have a driver's license yet. "I didn't think about this yet; I might get the license one day. My father doesn't drive either but my mother does!"
Like Svidler, Goryachkina didn't think she had much of a chance after the first half. And, like Svidler, she won a crucial game in the penultimate round from a drawn position:
Goryachkina won a crucial game in round 10. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
"After the 10th round I suddenly saw that I was one of the tournament leaders," she said. The other was WGM Natalija Pogonina. After both players drew their last game, they also had to play a playoff.
"In the first tiebreak game I was very nervous but I liked my position so that helped," said Goryachkina.
Natalija Pogonina in her playoff with Goryachkina. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
This meant that Pogonina also had the thankless task of winning on demand as Black. She did better than Vitiugov, and managed to make it a wild game, but Goryachkina kept her cool and eventually won on time. "I didn't even realize I won when she congratulated me. I was still in the middle of calculating how not to be checkmated in one."
With the clock showing "0.00" Pogonina congratulates her opponent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
2017 Russian Women's Championship Superfinal | Final Standings
*Wins after playoff
This dramatic finale of the women's tournament was watched in the commentary hall by a few dozen spectators and almost all participants of the two tournaments, who were awaiting the closing ceremony. Svidler, after discussing his tournament, hadn't left his seat next to GM Sergey Shipov yet.
The first thing that the Russian champion did after winning his eighth title was the one thing he might love more about chess than playing: giving commentary.
Olga Girya, Valentina Gunina and Alina Kashlinskaya at the closing ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
The two winners holding their trophies and Renault certificates. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.