Nutcracker: Princes Beat Kings Despite Equal Score
Nigel Short playing blitz at the closing, with Emil Sutovsky and Arkady Dvorkovich behind. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nutcracker: Princes Beat Kings Despite Equal Score

| 15 | Chess Event Coverage

The traditional Nutcracker tournament between experienced grandmasters (the "Kings") and rising stars (the "Princes") finished with a tied score of 32-32, but the Princes were declared the winners based on their results in the classical games.

This year's Nutcracker Match of the Generations tournament, organised by the Russian Chess Federation, the Chess Creativity Support Foundation and sponsored by entrepreneur Oleg Skvortsov, took place December 17-22 in the Central Chess Club in Moscow.

Playing hall Nutcracker 2018The playing hall, with Gelfand vs Sarana in the front. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The format remained the same: a Scheveningen tournament in which each member of the Kings team faced each of the Princes, both in classical chess (four rounds) and in rapid (eight rounds). These were the participants in this year's edition:

2018 Nutcracker | Participants

Kings Fed Title Name Rtg   Princes Fed Title Name Rtg
1 GM Nigel Short 2646   1 GM Alexey Sarana 2618
2 GM Boris Gelfand 2673   2 GM Andrey Esipenko 2593
3 GM Evgeniy Najer 2670   3 IM Semyon Lomasov 2553
4 GM Peter Leko 2669   4 GM David Paravyan 2634

After the first four days, the Princes had taken a small, 17-15 lead in the classical segment of the tournament. The best performer at that point was 18-year-old Alexey Sarana, who had scored 3/4 against the Kings with two draws, and wins against Evgeniy Najer and Boris Gelfand.

You might remember the name Sarana, who was Russian champion under eight, for his victory at the Russian Championship Higher League earlier this year. He recently won the U-18 Rapid World Championship and was also the winner of the Eurasia Open this summer in Yekaterinburg, ahead of Vladislav Artemiev. Furthermore, he played successfully for the Australian Kangaroos in the PRO Chess League 2018.

Alexey Sarana Nutcracker 2018Alexey Sarana. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Sarana started right away with a win against his compatriot, who tried an interesting, positional queen sacrifice (or did he miss the intermediate move 14...Qb6 perhaps?). Still, it looks like White was close to a draw for a long time.

Najer wasn't exactly fortunate at the start. In the second round, he was about to beat 16-year-old Semyon Lomasov until he suddenly let his opponent escape. The only choice that was left was to allow either perpetual or stalemate. For the public, he chose the latter:

Lomasov, by the way, is the only player who still waits for his GM norm but his rating has already passed 2550. He lives in Moscow and studies at the Tigran Petrosian chess school there. His achievements so far include world U14 champion in 2016, Olympic U16 champion in 2017 and first place at the Moscow Open in 2018.

Nutcracker 2018Semyon Lomasov, who bears the same first name as the famous grandmaster and trainer Semyon Furman (1920-1978). | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Sarana's game against Gelfand followed the sharp Anti-Moscow, with the former world championship challenger being well prepared. However, one careless developing move in the early middlegame suddenly lost material. Ironically, a developing move was not the way to solve the problem of the black king in the center:

Boris Gelfand Nutcracker 2018Boris Gelfand. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Over the classical games, Nigel Short was the only King who managed to end on a plus score. In the third round he beat 20-year-old David Paravyan, who was born from an Armenian family in Moscow and also studied at the Petrosian chess school. 

In 2014, Paravyan became Russian champion U-14. He won Chigorin Memorial blitz tournament in 2016, and this year the Moscow blitz championship (with the same score as Daniil Dubov and Dmitry Gordievsky, but better tiebreaks). Just a week ago, Paravyan reached the final of the Russian Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk where he lost to Kirill Alekseenko.

David Paravyan Nutcracker 2018David Paravyan. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Short's game was one with the theme of domination, first with bishop over knight, and later with the black queen being completely out of the game:

On the first day of the rapid, the Kings and Princes tied 8-8 and so the score was 25-23 in favor of the Princes. One "King" wasn't too happy with his play after scoring 0.5/4.

Nigel Short Nutcracker 2018Nigel Short. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

One one of the three losses was completely unnecessary, against 16-year-old Andrey Esipenko. Born in Rostov-on-Don, he moved to Moscow oblast last year to start working with the famous coach Sergey Shipov. He took the spotlights when he defeated Sergey Karjakin in rapid last year (and Alexander Grischuk, Vassily Ivanchuk and Rauf Mamedov in blitz). He was the European U-14 champion in 2016, and the world U-16 champion in 2017.

Espineko vs Najer Nutcracker 2018Andrey Esipenko, here in one of his games with Najer. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

However, on the last day the score was 9-7 which set the final, overall score on 32-32. Because the classical games were valued more, the Princes were still chosen as the winners, to which Short joked at the closing ceremony: "Why did they win, while we won more games?"

The best performer in the rapid was Peter Leko, who scored 6/8, followed by Gelfand with 5/8. Leko had an easy win against Lomasov in the second round of the rapid, because chess amateurs would have found his Nxf7 as well:

Peter Leko Nutcracker 2018Peter Leko, who will travel to St. Petersburg after the tournament where he will give commentary, together with Evgeny Miroshnichenko, on the World Rapid & Blitz which starts Wednesday. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Leko's win in the very last round was impressive as well. The way he opened lines and diagonals against the black king was instructive:

Games via TWIC.

Nutcracker 2018The traditional Christmas tree with the Nutcracker inside the playing hall. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

New round Nutcracker 2018A new rounds starts. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Short chatting with Lomasov Nutcracker 2018Short chatting with Lomasov in the rest area. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Princes Nutcracker 2018The Princes arrive for a new round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Dvorkovich Nikitin Nutcracker 2018FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich was present on the final day, and plays some blitz here with Alexander Nikitin, the former trainer of Garry Kasparov. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Dvorkovich trophy Princes Nutcracker 2018Dvorkovich awarding the trophy to the Princes. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Dvorkovich signing book father Short Nutcracker 2018Dvorkovich signing a book written by his father Vladimir Dvorkovich... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Dvorkovich signing book father Short Nutcracker 2018with a special message for recipient Nigel Short. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Short meets Dvoretsky junior Nutcracker 2018Short meeting with the son of the late Mark Dvoretsky—the similarity is striking. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Girls Boys Nutcracker 2018Alongside the main event, a Girls (16-18 years) vs Boys (11-12 years) tournament was held as well, also following a Scheveningen format. The overall score there was 35.5 vs 28.5 in favor of the boys. The girls team consisted of Kamaliya Bulatova (2007), Alexandra Obolentseva (2353), Aleksandra Dimitrova (2233) and Ekaterina Goltseva (2153); the boys were Volodar Murzin (2336), Aleksey Grebnev (2040), Ilya Makoveev (2257) and Robert Safin (2121). | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Short Murzin Nutcracker 2018Short posing with Murzin, the strongest member of the boys team... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Short Murzin Sutovsky Dvorkovich Nutcracker 2018...and a powerful opponent in the casual blitz game as well. Interestingly, Short had just posted the photo below on his Twitter profile in the same week! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

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