Kulaots Surprises, Inspires As Aeroflot Open Winner
Kaido Kulaots is the surprise winner of the Aeroflot Open. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili/Russian Chess Federation.

Kulaots Surprises, Inspires As Aeroflot Open Winner

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

A day before his 43rd birthday, the Estonian grandmaster Kaido Kulaots surprised (and inspired!) by winning this year's Aeroflot Open in Moscow, Russia. He got praise from many colleagues, including the world champion Magnus Carlsen.

Last week we covered the Aeroflot Open because of a bomb threat, and the first round being cancelled because of it. Luckily this "phone terrorism" didn't get a followup. The tournament was resumed with a quicker time control so that rounds four and five could be played on the same day, and the schedule was back to normal after that.

When those five rounds were played, one participant was still on a perfect score: Krishnan Sasikiran of India. The 38-year-old GM from Chennai defeated Anton Korobov of Ukraine on Saturday evening in the second game of the day, using a quiet line against the Najdorf that he plays more often. Korobov played a typical exchange sacrifice on c3, which didn't work this time.

Krishnan Sasikiran Aeroflot Open 2019
Early leader Krishnan Sasikiran. | Photo: David Llada.

Sasikiran couldn't keep it going, and ended with three draws and a loss. The eventual tournament winner was the 42-year-old and 62nd-seeded Kulaots, who edged out another non-favorite on tiebreak (both reaching seven points): the 18-year-old GM Haik Martirosyan of Armenia.

The first prize of 18,000 euros and the second prize of 10,000 euros were divided according to the "Hort system," where half of the money was distributed equally, and the other half according to standings. Thus, Kulaots received 7,000 + 9,000 = 16,000 euros and Martirosyan got 7,000 + 5,000 = 12,000 euros.

Before discussing the winner, here's Martirosyan's nice final-round victory:

Kulaots, who is celebrating his 43rd birthday today, remained undefeated with four draws and five wins, four of which were scored with the black pieces. His first two wins were scored as Black in a Sicilian against two of Iran's major talents: Parham Maghsoodloo and Alireza Firouzja. Here's the latter game:

Alireza Firouzja Aeroflot Open 2019
Alireza Firouzja. | Photo: David Llada.

Continously alternating half-points as White and full points as Black, the Estonian GM then beat two more famous youngesters: Daniil Dubov of Russia and the top seed of the tournament, Wei Yi of China. To survive against, let alone beat Wei Yi with the black pieces, is quite an achievement.

Kaido Kulaots Aeroflot Open 2019
Kaido Kulaots. | Photo: David Llada.

In the last round Kulaots finally won a game as White, and a great one it was. The middlegame was quite spectacular, but eventually it was all decided deep down in the queen endgame.

"This is a shock! For everyone, including me," said Kulaots in an interview with Eteri Kublashvili of the Russian Chess Federation. "Were there anyone telling me before the tournament that I would win four games as Black, I would never have believed him."

The eight-time Estonian champion Kulaots has qualified for this year's Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dortmund (July 12-23). That tournament has a special relationship with Aeroflot and always invites the winner.

Congratulations to Kulaots came in quickly, and among the senders was Magnus Carlsen.

The aforementioned Wei Yi grabbed the spotlight once (or rather, twice) again with some nice, sharp and tactical games as White. For example, here's his round-two game which involved a positional queen sacrifice that even the engines immediately approve of:

Wei Yi Aeroflot Open 2019
Wei Yi. | Photo: David Llada.

And here's Wei's last-round game, this time from 1.d4:

2019 Aeroflot Open | Final Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2
1 62 GM Kulaots, Kaido 2542 7,0 5 2647
2 28 GM Martirosyan, Haik 2616 7,0 4 2563
3 11 GM Sasikiran, Krishnan 2678 6,5 4 2607
4 3 GM Wang Hao 2714 6,0 5 2600
5 1 GM Wei Yi 2733 6,0 4 2589
6 30 GM Chigaev, Maksim 2613 6,0 4 2586
7 7 GM Inarkiev, Ernesto 2692 6,0 4 2580
8 21 GM Sarana, Alexey 2630 6,0 4 2573
9 15 GM Anton, Guijarro David 2642 6,0 4 2557
10 43 GM Tabatabaei, Amin 2590 5,5 5 2613
11 9 GM Korobov, Anton 2687 5,5 5 2585
12 47 GM Vaibhav, Suri 2575 5,5 5 2577
13 13 GM Sjugirov, Sanan 2663 5,5 5 2558
14 23 GM Paravyan, David 2627 5,5 5 2536
15 60 GM Hakobyan, Aram 2545 5,5 5 2536
16 25 GM Khismatullin, Denis 2621 5,5 5 2526
17 35 GM Deac, Bogdan-Daniel 2603 5,5 4 2647
18 32 GM Lupulescu, Constantin 2610 5,5 4 2640
19 61 IM Sychev, Klementy 2545 5,5 4 2609
20 29 GM Zhou Jianchao 2615 5,5 4 2601

(Full final standing here.)

Games via TWIC.

Previous report:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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