Russian Team Ch: Karjakin stars as Tomsk claim gold

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Tomsk-400 have won the Russian Team Championship for a fifth time, with Sergey Karjakin posting the tournament’s best performance. Their rivals could only draw against each other in the final round, giving St. Petersburg silver and ShSM-64 bronze. Karjakin comments on his team’s victory, and don’t miss a longer interview with Peter Svidler at the end of this report!

Karjakin interviewed after leading Tomsk-400 to victory | Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (more here)

EventRussian Team Championship | PGN via TWIC
DatesApril 9-15, 2012
LocationLoo, Sochi, Russia
System7-round Swiss, teams
Players

The strongest participants are Caruana (2767), Karjakin (2766), Morozevich (2765), Svidler (2744), Tomashevsky (2736), Wang Hao (2733), Dominguez (2730), Jakovenko (2729), Ponomariov (2727),Leko (2720), Nepomniachtchi (2718), Giri (2717), Riazantsev (2710), Vitiugov (2709), Moiseenko (2706), Grachev (2705), Malakhov (2705), Eljanov (2704), Movsesian (2702 and Shirov (2701)

Rate of play90 minutes for 40 moves + 30 minutes to finish the game + 30 seconds increment from move 1

Gold medals for Tomsk-400

There were fears before the Russian Championship began that the new 7-round Swiss format might result in an accidental winner, but in the end nothing could have been further from the truth. On their path to victory Tomsk-400 played the top six teams apart from themselves, and the top five places were taken by the top five seeds. What is true, however, is that the short format left the ultimate medal allocation balanced on a knife edge. It all came down to a nail-biting final round.

Day Seven

The St. Petersburg Chess Federation were leading by a single match point going into the last day, but knew that only a win was likely to give them the title. It was the same story for their opponents, ShSM-64, though the team from Moscow knew that even a narrow win might not be enough. In the end, however, they cancelled each other out:

3 St. Petersburg Chess Fed.3.0 - 3.0ShSM-64, Moscow 1
12744Svidler, Peter0.5 - 0.5Caruana, Fabiano27671
32730Dominguez Perez, Leinier0.5 - 0.5Wang, Hao27332
42702Movsesian, Sergei1 - 0Leko, Peter27203
52695Efimenko, Zahar0.5 - 0.5Riazantsev, Alexander27105
62683Zvjaginsev, Vadim0.5 - 0.5Grachev, Boris27056
72632Matlakov, Maxim0 - 1Najer, Evgeniy26408

Peter Leko had been having a wonderful tournament (3 wins, 2 draws) but he met his match against an inspired Sergei Movsesian, who won his fourth game in a row after demolishing Leko’s Berlin Wall. Don’t believe anyone who tells you the Berlin is a quiet opening!

[Event "19th TCh-RUS 2012"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2012.04.15"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Movsesian, Sergei"]
[Black "Leko, Peter"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C67"]
[WhiteElo "2702"]
[BlackElo "2720"]
[PlyCount "71"]
[EventDate "2012.04.09"]
[WhiteTeam "St. Petersburg Chess Fed."]
[BlackTeam "ShSM-64, Moscow"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5
8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nc3 Bd7 10. h3 b6 11. b3 Kc8 12. Bb2 h5 13. Rad1 Be7 14. Bc1 {
The first new move.} a5 15. Bg5 Bb4 16. Ne2 a4 17. c3 Be7 $6 {In hindsight
this looks to be where things started to slip for Leko.} (17... Ba3 {is safer - in the game the dark-squared bishop suffers a
miserable fate.}) 18. Nf4 axb3 ({It wasn't too late to return to} 18... Ba3)
19. axb3 f6 $6 {It's hard to suggest an alternative, but Leko appears to do
little wrong in the tactical sequence that follows.} 20. Ng6 $1 Rg8 21. g4 $1
hxg4 22. hxg4 Bd8 23. Rxd7 $1 Kxd7 24. gxf5 fxg5 25. e6+ Kc8 26. e7 Kb7 27. Re1
Re8 28. exd8=N+ $1 {Without this underpromotion Black would equalise.} Rexd8
29. Re7 Rd5 30. Nfe5 Ra1+ 31. Kg2 Re1 32. c4 Rdd1 33. Rxg7 g4 $6 {This doesn't
work, but good alternatives were again thin on the ground.} 34. Nxg4 Rg1+ 35.
Kf3 Rd3+ 36. Ne3 {The f-pawn can't be stopped.} 1-0

That blow struck for St. Petersburg (who’d previously beaten key rivals Tomsk-400 and Economist), was matched by Evgeny Najer’s convincing win against Maxim Matlakov. Najer’s ultra-aggressive opening eventually gave him a huge strategic advantage, and Matlakov’s desperate attempts to generate counterplay were easily refuted:

[Event "19th TCh-RUS 2012"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2012.04.15"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Najer, Evgeniy"]
[Black "Matlakov, Maxim"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B12"]
[WhiteElo "2640"]
[BlackElo "2632"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "2012.04.09"]
[WhiteTeam "ShSM-64, Moscow"]
[BlackTeam "St. Petersburg Chess Fed."]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nc3 e6 5. g4 Bg6 6. Nge2 f6 7. h4 Nd7 8. f4 Bf7
9. Qd3 Nh6 10. g5 Nf5 11. Bh3 Nxh4 12. Bxe6 Bxe6 13. Rxh4 f5 14. Qh3 h6 15. Qh1
Qb6 16. gxh6 gxh6 17. b3 O-O-O 18. Bb2 Qa5 19. O-O-O Bg7 20. Qf3 Rdg8 21. Ng3
Rf8 22. Rh5 Rf7 23. Qd3 Rhf8 24. Kb1 Kb8 25. a4 a6 26. Ba3 c5 27. dxc5 d4 28.
Qxd4 Nxe5 29. Qd6+ Ka8 30. b4 1-0

ShSM-64 team captain and "64" editor-in-chief Mark Glukhovsky looks on as the tension mounts

With the other games drawn it all came down to Zvjaginsev – Grachev, which would be a game to skip apart from its huge sporting significance. Vadim Zvjaginsev got the better of an innocuous rook ending, and reached move 88 trying to promote his passed pawn:

[Event "19th TCh-RUS 2012"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2012.04.15"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Zvjaginsev, Vadim"]
[Black "Grachev, Boris"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C07"]
[WhiteElo "2683"]
[BlackElo "2705"]
[PlyCount "175"]
[EventDate "2012.04.09"]
[WhiteTeam "St. Petersburg Chess Fed."]
[BlackTeam "ShSM-64, Moscow"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. Ngf3 cxd4 5. exd5 Qxd5 6. Bc4 Qd8 7. O-O Nf6 8.
Nb3 Nc6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Be7 11. Bf4 O-O 12. c3 Nd5 13. Bg3 Bd6 14. Bxd6
Qxd6 15. Nf5 exf5 16. Bxd5 Be6 17. Bxe6 Qxe6 18. Re1 Qc6 19. Qf3 Qb5 20. b3
Rae8 21. c4 Qa5 22. Rxe8 Rxe8 23. g3 b6 24. Kg2 g6 25. a3 Qc5 26. a4 Qe5 27.
Rd1 Re7 28. Qd5 Qxd5+ 29. Rxd5 Kg7 30. a5 bxa5 31. Rxa5 Rb7 32. Ra3 Kf6 33. Kf3
Ke5 34. Ke3 Kd6 35. Kd4 Kc7 36. b4 Kb8 37. b5 Rd7+ 38. Kc5 Kb7 39. Ra6 h5 40.
h4 Rc7+ 41. Kb4 Re7 42. Rf6 Kb8 43. Kc5 Kc7 44. f4 Kc8 45. Kd5 Rb7 46. Rc6+ Kd8
47. Ra6 Kc8 48. c5 Rxb5 49. Rxa7 Rb3 50. Kc6 Kd8 51. Rxf7 Rxg3 52. Rd7+ Kc8 53.
Rg7 Kd8 54. Rd7+ Kc8 55. Ra7 Kd8 56. Ra8+ Ke7 57. Ra6 $6 {This is an ending that requires
serious analysis, but from here on the draw never looked in doubt.} (57. Kc7
$1 {is a better try, with the c-pawn advancing.}) 57... Rc3 58. Ra4 Kd8 59.
Rd4+ Kc8 60. Kd6 Rh3 61. Ra4 Rd3+ 62. Kc6 Kb8 63. Rb4+ Kc8 64. Kb6 Rd1 65. Ra4
Kb8 66. Ra2 Rd4 67. Rf2 Kc8 68. Kc6 Kb8 69. Rf1 Kc8 70. Rf2 Kd8 71. Rf3 Kc8 72.
Rg3 Rxf4 73. Rxg6 Kd8 74. Rg5 Rxh4 75. Rxf5 Rh1 76. Rg5 Ke7 77. Kb7 Kf6 78. Rd5
Ke6 79. Rg5 Kf6 80. Rd5 Ke6 81. Rd6+ Kf5 82. Rb6 Rc1 83. c6 h4 84. c7 Rxc7+ 85.
Kxc7 h3 86. Kd6 h2 87. Rb1 Kf4 88. Kd5 1/2-1/2

That draw meant the goal was wide open for Tomsk-400, who had what should nominally have been an easy match against Polytechnik:

4 Tomsk - 4004.0 - 2.0Polytechnik, Nizhniy Tagil 6
12766Karjakin, Sergey1 - 0Kokarev, Dmitry26371
22727Ponomariov, Ruslan0.5 - 0.5Bocharov, Dmitry26092
42683Motylev, Alexander0.5 - 0.5Smirnov, Pavel25993
62656Khismatullin, Denis0.5 - 0.5Maletin, Pavel25864
72688Areshchenko, Alexander0.5 - 0.5Kryakvin, Dmitry25665
82657Kurnosov, Igor1 - 0Ovetchkin, Roman24996

Tomsk were missing Viorel Bologan (3 wins, 3 draws) who left a day early, but ultimately the wins came from the other likely sources, Sergey Karjakin (4 wins, 3 draws) and Igor Kurnosov (3 wins, 2 draws). The middle of the Tomsk-400 line-up was perhaps less impressive, though Ruslan Ponomariov’s solid display on board 2 (1 win, 4 draws) was just as useful as it has been previously for Ukraine, when Vassily Ivanchuk would dominate on board 1. Karjakin performed the Ivanchuk role perfectly, though his final round win had looked unlikely at one stage (he began by sacrificing no less than three pawns in a Najdorf), and ultimately came down to a dramatic blunder in a theoretically drawn ending:

[Event "19th TCh-RUS 2012"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2012.04.15"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Black "Kokarev, Dmitry"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B97"]
[WhiteElo "2766"]
[BlackElo "2637"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/5nrk/1R6/5K2/8/8/R7 b - - 0 65"]
[PlyCount "2"]
[EventDate "2012.04.09"]
[WhiteTeam "Tomsk - 400"]
[BlackTeam "Polytechnik, Nizhniy Tagil"]

65... Nh5+ $4 66. Rxh5+ $1 1-0

Dmitry Kokarev shouldn’t be too downhearted, however, as knight and rook v. two rooks is far from a trivial draw. As Sergey Shipov pointed out, Evgeny Bareev once lost the same ending to Garry Kasparov:

[Event "It (cat.19)"]
[Site "Novgorod (Russia)"]
[Date "1997"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Garry Kasparov"]
[Black "Evgeny Bareev"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C11"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/8/3K3k/7n/1r6/8/7R/7R b - - 0 58"]
[PlyCount "30"]
[EventDate "1997.??.??"]

58... Rb5 59. Ra2 Kg6 60. Ra6 Nf4 61. Ke7+ Kg5 62. Rg1+ Kh4 63. Ra4 Rf5 64. Rg8
Kh3 65. Ra3+ Kh2 66. Ra2+ Kh3 67. Rd2 Re5+ 68. Kf6 Re3 69. Kf5 Ne2 70. Rb2 Kh2
71. Rg7 Re8 72. Rg6 Re3 $4 73. Re6 $1 {and the knight is lost.} 1-0

Sergey Karjakin, back up to no. 6 in the world, at the centre of attention

Karjakin summed up the event for Eteri Kublashvili of the Russian Chess Federation website:

The tournament went perfectly: we managed to finish first in the overall standings, and I was first on my board. Of course luck was involved, but on the other hand when you’ve got a short tournament of only seven rounds it’s pretty difficult to win without luck. I think my best game in Loo was the win with the black pieces against Dmitry Jakovenko, which meant our team won a crucial match. Of course it would be better if there were more rounds as that would be a more objective format. With nine to eleven rounds the best team will always win, while here it was a lottery until the very last moment.

Economist entered the final round with their fate no longer in their hands, but knowing a win by a large margin would boost their medal chances. They seemed to go for it, but it nearly ended in a fiasco, with Ian Nepomniachtchi in particular playing a disastrous opening. The team eventually won by the narrowest of margins:

7 University, Belorechensk2.5 - 3.5Economist-SGSEU, Saratov 2
12599Tregubov, Pavel V.0 - 1Morozevich, Alexander27651
22645Landa, Konstantin0 - 1Tomashevsky, Evgeny27362
32558Brodsky, Michail1 - 0Nepomniachtchi, Ian27183
42592Burmakin, Vladimir0 - 1Moiseenko, Alexander27065
52523Panarin, Mikhail0.5 - 0.5Alekseev, Evgeny26737
62505Poluljahov, Aleksandr1 - 0Roiz, Michael26528

As it happened, though, even a 6:0 win wouldn’t have helped. Fourth place was a disappointment for Economist, but Alexander Morozevich proved he was a worthy team leader, brushing off a first round loss to finish with a 2810 rating performance. In the final round he beat Pavel Tregubov, despite living very dangerously:

[Event "19th TCh-RUS 2012"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2012.04.15"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Tregubov, Pavel V"]
[Black "Morozevich, Alexander"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E47"]
[WhiteElo "2599"]
[BlackElo "2765"]
[PlyCount "121"]
[EventDate "2012.04.09"]
[WhiteTeam "University, Belorechensk"]
[BlackTeam "Economist-SGSEU, Saratov"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 b6 6. Nge2 d5 7. a3 Be7 8. cxd5
exd5 9. b4 Bb7 10. O-O Re8 11. f3 Bf8 12. Qb3 Nc6 13. Kh1 Qd7 14. Bd2 a6 15.
Rad1 Nd8 16. Bc1 c5 17. dxc5 bxc5 18. Be4 Nxe4 19. fxe4 cxb4 20. Nxd5 Bxd5 21.
exd5 a5 22. axb4 Bxb4 23. Ng3 Ra6 24. Bb2 Bf8 25. Nf5 a4 26. Qd3 Rg6 27. e4 f6
28. h3 Nf7 29. d6 Qb7 30. Ba3 Rxe4 31. Qd5 $2 {This queen exchange throws away
all White's advantage. The problem was perhaps an over-abundance of options,
with 31.Rf3, 31.Qf3, 31.Rd2 and 31.Qc2 all worth considering. There was also the
amusing} (31. d7 Rd4 $1 {The threat is mate on g2!} 32. Qc2 Rxd7 33. Rxd7 Qxd7
34. Bxf8 Kxf8 35. Rd1 Qb7 36. Qc5+ Kg8 37. Qd5 Qxd5 38. Ne7+ Kf8 39. Nxg6+ hxg6
40. Rxd5 {All of this is close to forced, and it's not an ending White's going to
lose.}) 31... Qxd5 32. Rxd5 Rg5 $1 {Perhaps this is what White
missed. Morozevich has equalised, and things go downhill fast for Tregubov,
who ends up a pawn down in a rook ending.} 33. Rd2 (33. Ne7+ $2 Bxe7 34. Rxg5
Bxd6 $1) 33... g6 34. Ne7+ Kg7 35. Nd5 Bxd6 36. Bxd6 Nxd6 37. Nxf6 Rf5 38. Rfd1
Rxf6 39. Rxd6 Rxd6 40. Rxd6 a3 41. Ra6 Re3 42. h4 Kf7 43. Kh2 Ke7 44. g3 Re2+
45. Kh3 a2 46. Kg4 h6 47. Kf3 Rh2 48. g4 Kd7 49. Kg3 Rb2 50. Kf4 Kc7 51. h5 Kb7
52. Ra3 gxh5 53. gxh5 Kc6 54. Kf5 Rg2 55. Ra8 Kc5 56. Ke4 Kc4 57. Kf3 Rh2 58.
Kg3 Rd2 59. Kf4 Kb3 60. Kf5 Kb2 61. Ke5 0-1

That completed an unfortunate treble for Tregubov, who stood equal or better at around move 30 against all three top-10 players at the event – Karjakin, Caruana and Morozevich – but contrived to lose each game.

Pavel Tregubov

So the top half of the men’s standings ultimately looked as follows (the “Total” column gives the crucial game points – the first tiebreaker):

PlaceSNo.TeamFed.LocalMatch PointsTotalvs+WinsB.1
14Tomsk - 400RUS270811.027.013;7;5;2;6;55.5
23St. Petersburg Chess Fed.RUS271111.025.512;8;4;2;9;54.0
31ShSM-64, MoscowRUS272510.028.010;6;7;8;45.0
42Economist-SGSEU, SaratovRUS272010.024.511;5;9;1;7;54.5
55Ugra, Khanty-MansiyskRUS27009.024.515;3;12;9;43.5
68Chigorin Chess Club, St. PetersburgRUS25539.020.017;14;15;10;42.5
76Polytechnik, Nizhniy TagilRUS25838.022.514;13;11;10;42.5
89Navigator, MoscowRUS25517.023.018;10;6;33.5
97University, BelorechenskRUS25707.022.516;17;11;33.5
1016Orienta, MoscowRUS24017.020.518;17;12;32.0

Gold medals for Ladya: Natalia Zhukova, Nadezhda Kosintseva, Daria Charochkina, Valentina Gunina and Alisa Galliamova

Favourites Ladya had already sealed victory in the penultimate round of the women’s event, and they celebrated in style by beating Udmurtia 4:0 in their last match. As second-placed Ugra had a bye in the final round the only remaining intrigue was whether ShSM-RGSU could claim silver. They needed a 3.5:0.5 victory against the bottom team, Polytechnik, but couldn’t quite make it:

5 Polytechnik, Nizhniy Tagil1.0 - 3.0ShSM-RGSU, Moscow 3
12268Timofeeva, Ekaterina0 - 1Kosteniuk, Alexandra24481
22050Rassokhina, Ekaterina0.5 - 0.5Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina24192
31920Zasypkina, Evgenia0 - 1Kashlinskaya, Alina23773
42060Trubitsyna, Yulia0.5 - 0.5Savina, Anastasia23254

In fact, it could easily have been worse, as Alexandra Kosteniuk beat Ekaterina Timofeeva in an extraordinary game. First Kosteniuk, then Timofeeva, overlooked spectacular tactics, only for the former World Champion to eventually win a drawn ending:

[Event "13th TCh-RUS w 2012"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2012.04.15"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Timofeeva, Ekaterina"]
[Black "Kosteniuk, Alexandra"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A13"]
[WhiteElo "2268"]
[BlackElo "2448"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "4k2r/p4ppp/1q2p3/3rn3/Rb1N4/1P4P1/1B2PP1P/Q4RK1 b k - 0 20"]
[PlyCount "153"]
[EventDate "2012.04.09"]
[WhiteTeam "Polytechnik, Nizhniy Tagil"]
[BlackTeam "ShSM-RGSU, Moscow"]

20... Bc5 $2 {Overlooking a very nice geometrical idea!} 21. Ra6 $1 Qb7 22.
Nxe6 $1 fxe6 23. Rxe6+ Kf7 24. Rxe5 Rxe5 25. Bxe5 Re8 26. Qc3 Qd5 27. Bxg7 Rxe2
28. Qf6+ Ke8 29. Bh6 Bd4 30. Qf4 a5 31. h4 Bc5 32. Qg4 $2 {Most other moves would have kept Timofeeva well on top. Instead she pays a high price for abandoning f2!}
Bxf2+ $3 33. Rxf2 Qd1+ 34. Rf1 Rg2+ 35. Kxg2 Qxg4 {The position is now most
likely drawn, but Kosteniuk wants more...} 36. Rf3 Qe4 37. Bf4 Ke7 38. g4 Ke6
39. Kg3 Qe1+ 40. Kh3 Qh1+ 41. Kg3 Kd5 42. Re3 Kd4 43. h5 Qf1 44. g5 Qg1+ 45.
Kh3 Qd1 46. Kh4 Qb1 47. Kg4 Qc2 48. Kg3 Kc5 49. Kg4 Qd1+ 50. Kh4 Qg1 51. Re5+
Kb4 52. Re3 Qg2 53. Bd6+ Kb5 54. Bf4 Kc5 55. Re5+ Kd4 56. Re3 Kd5 57. Re5+ Kc6
58. Re6+ Kd7 59. Re3 Qd5 60. Kg4 Qd4 61. Kg3 Qd5 62. Kg4 Qf7 63. Rd3+ Ke8 64.
Re3+ Kf8 65. Be5 Qd7+ 66. Kg3 Kf7 67. Bf4 Qd1 68. Kh4 Qf1 69. Kg4 Qh1 70. Rf3
Qd1 71. Kg3 Qg1+ 72. Kh3 Ke6 73. Bg3 Qd1 74. Re3+ Kf7 75. g6+ hxg6 76. hxg6+
Kxg6 77. Re6+ Kf7 78. Re5 Kg6 79. Re6+ Kf7 80. Re5 Qd7+ 81. Kg2 Kf6 82. Kh2 Qd1
83. Kh3 Kf7 84. Kh2 Qa1 85. Kh3 Qa2 86. Re3 Kg6 87. Kg4 Kf7 88. Kh3 Qb2 89. Re5
Qc3 90. Kh2 Kf6 91. Rd5 Ke6 92. Rd6+ Kf5 93. Rb6 Kg4 94. Rg6+ Kf3 95. Kh3 Qc8+
96. Kh4 Qh8+ {Although some sources record this game as a draw, Timofeeva
resigned. The only move (not allowing mate in 1) is Kg5, when the bishop falls.
An entertaining struggle!} 0-1

Alexandra Kosteniuk finds some space to think

The final table of the women’s event looked as follows:

PlaceSNo.TeamFed.LocalMatch PointsTotalvs+WinsB.1
11Ladya, KazanRUS249311.018.52;3;5;6;7;55.0
24Ugra, Khanty-MansiyskRUS23938.015.05;7;2;32.0
33ShSM-RGSU, MoscowRUS23928.014.57;4;5;34.5
46Chigorin Chess Club, St. PetersburgRUS23215.011.05;11.0
52Yamal, YNAORUS23285.010.55;6;22.0
67Udmurtia, IzhevskRUS22063.08.02;14.0
75Polytechnik, Nizhniy TagilRUS21392.06.57;12.5

Finally for this year’s Russian Team Championship, a treat: Peter Svidler interviewed by Eteri Kublashvili for the RCF website. Talking after drawing with Fabiano Caruana but before the match was over, he discusses the event, how it compares to the Bundesliga, and reveals that he’ll be commentating on the upcoming World Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand:

Peter, could you tell us how the tournament went?

For me personally, or for the team?

Both personally and for your team.

Well, it’ll all become clear for the team in the next hour and a half. While for me personally… I can’t say I’m satisfied with everything, and I’d happily have done without that game against Jakovenko, but given I’d taken quite a long break I think my play was decent overall. “Plus one” on first board is never a catastrophe, though I’d have liked more. Of course I'm not going to treasure losing in 20 moves with the white pieces in a crucial match. All things considered, I’d give myself four out of five.

And would you single out any of your wins?

I won two games, but in both of them my opponents played extremely poorly, so I don’t have anything in particular to boast about. Artyom Timofeev got a very tough position against me right out of the opening and, quite frankly, Emil didn’t play the game of his life against me. Therefore there’s nothing in particular to single out: it was a normal tournament, all my opponents were strong and none of the games was a formality.

What was the atmosphere like in your team?

We always have a wonderful atmosphere! That’s one of the reasons why we all keep playing year after year. The line-up barely changes and rotation is kept to a minimum. It’s a pleasure to play for the team! We’ve already established ties in the local area and we’ve got “our people” in the markets of this wonderful region, so our evening meetings are informal. In my first year playing for the St. Petersburg team under the current management I was slightly shocked by what went on at the first meeting. Now, however, the anticipation of those meeting is perhaps one of the main reasons why we play for the team. Seriously though, we played four crucial matches, losing one and winning two. Today’s match has been very tough going. I hope things will work out – we’ll see.

In the end it was silver for the team from St. Petersburg

You also play for Baden-Baden in the Bundesliga. How would you compare those two teams and two leagues?

Baden-Baden has more strength in depth, I’d say. Baden-Baden’s full line-up is stronger than any team in the Russian league, but at the same time the Russian League is of course stronger than the Bundesliga. After all, in the Bundesliga apart from Baden-Baden you’ve basically only got Bremen, whereas a record number of super clubs show up for the Russian League.

In which league is the weight of responsibility greater?

It’s hard to say, as the formats are completely different. The Bundesliga lasts seven months and I played five games in it this year – three in November and two in March – and I was also lucky with the team: it’s hard to compete with us. While in the Russian Team Championship it’s always “Scandals. Intrigues. Investigations” [the catchphrase of a Russian TV program - CV], as nothing’s ever clear until the final round.

Do you like the current format of the Russian League?

It used to be round-robins, but now they’ve simply decided to try something new. I don’t think the small clubs are very happy with the innovation as previously they’d fight for first place in the Higher League. If they were sponsored by a town or region then when they returned home they could boast about victory in the Higher League; and who’s going to get to the bottom of what kind of league that is exactly? And therefore they got support as it was clear they were competing for something. With the current format it’s clear they’re not going to be involved in the fight for prizes, although they get the chance to play against the big players. So that’s the only problem, but otherwise it’s all very dynamic.

Do you prefer playing in team or personal events?

I really like playing for the team, but as the years go by I’ve started to play worse for them. Therefore I can’t say with my hand on my heart that I’m a team player, although around three years ago I was scoring very good results for the team.  

What are your plans for the immediate future?

It seems I’m going to commentate on the Anand – Gelfand match in Moscow, while my schedule starts to get busy from August onwards.

How do you think the World Championship match will go?

I think the match will be more interesting than people think. I don’t consider the current form of the World Champion and the challenger to be a good reflection of reality. Let’s see what happens, as after all we've got two great players competing!

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