Kovalev, Surprise Winner Of Aeroflot, Qualifies For Dortmund
Vladislav Kovalev wins Aeroflot. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili/Russian Chess Federation.

Kovalev, Surprise Winner Of Aeroflot, Qualifies For Dortmund

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Mar 1, 2018, 2:00 AM |
14 | Chess Event Coverage

The winner of the 2018 Aeroflot Open, and thus the qualifier for this year's super-tournament in Dortmund, is Vladislav Kovalev. The 24-year-old grandmaster from Belarus left players such as Vladimir Fedoseev, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and Dmitry Andreikin behind.

The annual open tournament sponsored by Russian airline Aeroflot was held for the 16th time this year. The festival took place February 20-28 in Hotel Cosmos in the Alexeyevsky district in northern Moscow.

The A group, for players rated 2549 or higher, had a first prize of €18,000 ($22,000). The value is even higher since the winner is always invited to Dortmund later in the year!

None of the favorites managed to clinch it. It was 16th-seeded Kovalev who took over the 2017 title from Fedoseev, as the only player to score 7/9. Last year the same score was also good for clear first; back then Kovalev had finished on 6.5/9 but his performance rating was exactly the same this year: 2791.

The Belarusian grandmaster scored a stunning 5/5 with the white pieces and 4/4 as Black (that is, holding all four to a draw!). That's what you call perfection!

A big win was his round-six game vs Vladislav Artemiev, who grabbed just enough Elo points in Moscow to break the 2700 barrier. In this game, however, he got into a passive position in an endgame and was duly outplayed: 

2018 Aeroflot Open playing hall

You could see similarities with an airplane in this Aeroflot playing hall. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili/Russian Chess Federation.

Kovalev's fifth White win was scored in a sideline of the French. This 3.Bd3 move might be more venomous than it looks at first sight—isn't Black just going to win at least one tempo attacking that bishop with a knight? Yes, he is, but on f3 that bishop is very strong in fact and trying to win another tempo against White's other bishop is a dubious idea that several players have fallen for.


Kovalev's opponent Tabatabaei had scored a spectacular win over last year's winner Fedoseev in round six. Something had gone terribly wrong with Fedoseev's preparation as he was dead lost out of the opening. With the brilliant-looking 17...Re2!!?? his opponent allowed him back into the game but eventually White's king didn't manage to get into safety.

Kovalev vs Tabatabaei, Aeroflot Open 2018

A key game for the tournament: Kovalev vs Tabatabaei. | Boris Dolmatovsky/Russian Chess Federation.

There was a nice "mirror" of Tabatabaei's rook move by Fedoseev himself the very next day. His 26...Rd2+!! deserved more—the move equalized the game, but Fedoseev slipped soon after.

Vladislav Kovalev speech Aeroflot Open 2018Kovalev giving a speech at the closing ceremony, in between S.P. Sethuraman (left, second place) and Dmitry Gordievsky (third place). | Photo: Vladimir Barsky/Russian Chess Federation.

2018 Aeroflot Open | Group A Final Standings (Top 20)

# SNo Fed Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 Rp rtg+/-
1 16 Kovalev Vladislav 2641 7 4 2580 2791 16,8
2 15 Sethuraman S.P. 2646 6,5 5 2573 2734 10,6
3 19 Gordievsky Dmitry 2630 6,5 5 2558 2725 11,4
4 54 Xu Xiangyu 2545 6 4 2654 2780 28,5
5 40 Petrosian Tigran L. 2589 6 4 2645 2757 20,4
6 6 Artemiev Vladislav 2697 6 4 2606 2732 3,9
7 24 Lysyj Igor 2618 6 4 2594 2719 12,1
8 10 Sargissian Gabriel 2677 6 4 2573 2699 2,5
9 12 Korobov Anton 2664 6 4 2573 2702 4,5
10 4 Mamedov Rauf 2709 6 4 2555 2676 -3,7
11 32 Paravyan David 2603 5,5 5 2572 2655 6,6
12 9 Kamsky Gata 2677 5,5 5 2568 2645 -3,6
13 29 Alekseenko Kirill 2609 5,5 5 2557 2646 4,7
14 27 Khalifman Alexander 2614 5,5 4 2658 2727 14,1
15 33 Bologan Victor 2600 5,5 4 2635 2707 13,2
16 5 Matlakov Maxim 2709 5,5 4 2599 2639 -7,4
17 46 Tabatabaei M.Amin 2577 5,5 4 2578 2653 9,7
18 18 Mareco Sandro 2632 5,5 4 2524 2606 -2,8
19 20 Zvjaginsev Vadim 2629 5,5 4 2520 2591 -4,1
20 26 Jumabayev Rinat 2614 5,5 4 2499 2590 -2,3

(Full final standings here.)

Games via TWIC.

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