Kings Keep Crown, Edge Princes At Nutcracker

Kings Keep Crown, Edge Princes At Nutcracker

Chalk one up for experience over speed.

A team of four former world greats squeezed by a quartet of up-and-comers at the Nutcracker Match of the Generations in Moscow on Christmas Day.

GM Peter Leko, once only a draw away from becoming the world champion, clinched the event for the senior statesmen with a late win in the rapids section.

After remaining knotted 16-16 in the classical chess, the "Kings" group of GMs Peter Leko, Alexei Shirov, Alexander Morozevich and Alexey Dreev earned 16.5 points in the rapid, one more than the "Princes" group of GMs Daniil Dubov, Vladimir Fedoseev, Grigoriy Oparin and Vladislav Artemiev.

The Kings group averaged a touch below 40 years old; the Princes group averaged only 17.5 years old and none had hit 20.

GM Vladimir Fedoseev (left) and GM Peter Leko played in the last round with everything on the line. (All photos courtesy Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili.)

The Scheveningan format (where two groups play each other but not within their own group) awarded one point for a draw and two points for a win in the classical (essentially making those games count double).

In the rapids (time control 15+10), games were worth the traditional one point for a win and one-half for a draw, but the grandmasters played their counterparts four times each instead of twice, so each time control was worth the same (32 points).

The rapids were split over two days. After day one, the Kings fell in a hole early and went to sleep behind by a single point.

The first round of the rapids saw Dubov win as Black and the beginning of a great run by Fedoseev. After scoring the most Prince points in the classical, he scored the most points of any player in the rapids (6.0/8.0) and raised his rapid rating more than 50 points! All told, Fedoseev has buffered his rating nearly 200 points in two years and is knocking on 2700.

GM Vladimir Fedoseev, the sensation of the event, scored more than a third of his teams points (11.0/31.5).

He opened by dispatching Leko in the quiet 4. d3 Berlin (shades of Carlsen!). The pawn structure turned into the even more benign Exchange French, but eventually Black's d-pawn proved weaker than White's.

All games courtesy TWIC.

Only Dreev's win kept the Kings from falling too far behind early. Dreev, 45, was the oldest player in the field.

Three-time Olympiad gold medalist GM Alexey Dreev led the Kings in the rapids (5.5/8.0).

In round two, Fedoseev doubled the lead for the youngsters. In a great battle, both kings hid on opposite corners before Fedoseev broke through against Morozevich with a queen sacrifice on move 38.

The rout looked to be uncontrollable as Dubov demolished Morozevich and gave him his second straight loss in round three.

Only Leko's triumph as Black over Artemiev in the in-vogue Larsen Opening kept things close.

In round four, Dubov fell into a simple tactic against Dreev, so the veterans halved the difference and awoke on Christmas with a smaller amount of coal (-1) than could have happened.

The winning Kings team (middle four, left to right): Morozevich, Leko, Shirov, Dreev.

The experience prevailed right away as they drew level in round five. Dreev beat Dubov again despite seemingly having the more exposed king.

Fedoseev won again (what's new?), this time over Shirov, but Morozevich evened the overall match by beating Artemiev.

Although the teenager avoided getting mated, the tactics weren't over. If 32. Nxa8, Morozevich's creative spark would likely have produced 32...Nxh2+! 33. Ke2 Rc2+ 34. Rd2 Rxd2+ 35. Kxd2 Nf3+ 36. Ke2 Nxe1 37. Kf1 (or Kxe1) h2 and amazingly the pawn can't be stopped!


Fedoseev impressed once again in round six, as his minor pieces ran roughshod over Dreev's rooks.

Morozevich then proved that triple-isolated pawns on a half-open file are as bad as they sound.

An electric round seven produced four winners, two from each side, which kept the match tied.

Maybe the only tournament in the world with a Christmas tree adding to the ambiance!?  (Russian Orthodox practitioners celebrate Christmas on January 7.)

For the Kings, Dreev kept leading his team, and was joined by Leko in the winner's circle. The Princes enjoyed wins from Fedoseev, naturally, and Artemiev. The 16-year-old GM, who once beat GM Dmitry Andreikin in a rapid event, blistered Shirov as Black by using every piece at his disposal.

That left everything hinging on round eight. Three games ended drawn, allowing Leko to play the hero. Fittingly, he had to derail Fedoseev to push the Kings through. Until this point, the World Junior Championship bronze medalist had earned six points from seven games.

The final score was thus 32.5-31.5, proving that the Russian Chess Federation knew how to build an equal format and invite the right players. According to organizers, the plan is to make the event recur around the same time each year.

The name "Nutcracker" also proved apropos for Dubov. He won the best game prize and was awarded two tickets to the ballet of the same name at the famous Bolshoi Theater.

Fedoseev, who nearly single-handedly led the teenagers to a win, won the prize for best overall performance.

Table courtesy Russian Chess Federation. "Glasses" refers to "games."



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