St. Petersburg Wins Russian Championship In Sochi Where Putin Opens "Sirius"

St. Petersburg Wins Russian Championship In Sochi Where Putin Opens "Sirius"

| 44 | Chess Event Coverage

“The Bronze Horsemen” from St. Petersburg took clear first place at the Russian Team Championship in Sochi. In the same city, Sergey Karjakin met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who opened an educative center for talented children.

Halfway through the tournament, a double round robin with five teams, Moscow's SHSM Legacy Square Capital, led by Ian Nepomniachtchi and Sergey Karjakin, topped the standings at the Russian Team Championship. This report covers the second half, which started with the second big clash between Russia's two main cities.

It was the higher-rated St. Petersburg who defeated Moscow 3.5-2.5. In this match the winners played with four 2700 players against only two for Moscow.

Peter Svidler scored only 50 percent overall but won an important game in this match on board one against Sergey Karjakin. The latter played only three games and drew the other two to leave the tournament with a minus-one score.

For 15 moves Karjakin and Svidler followed a game they played two years ago at the Russian championship in Kazan. 

Bu Xiangzhi, who defeated Vadim Zvjaginsev in this match, ended the tournament as St. Petersburg's top scorer with 5.5/8. Ian Nepomniachtchi scored the only win for Moscow, a day after his excellent win against Sanan Sjugirov, which was covered in the previous report.

Nepomniachtchi continued a theoretical battle with Cuba's number-one grandmaster Leinier Dominguez in a 6.Be3 Najdorf. A highly complicated game, it only went wrong for White shortly before the time control.

And it didn't stop here. Besides four draws, Nepomniachtchi won three games in total and three games straight actually. In round seven he also beat Alexander Grischuk in yet another spectacular encounter. This time with the white pieces in a Najdorf Nepomniachtchi went for the 6.h3 line, but also here there was opposite castling. The finish was spectacular.

Three straight wins for Ian Nepomniachtchi. | Photo: Vladimir Barsky.

Another player who did very well in Sochi was Vladimir Kramnik. The 14th world champion, who won 11.1 Elo points to reach a career high of 2812 (the last published rating of Garry Kasparov!), could have done even better if he had beaten Karjakin in round seven. There was more than one opportunity:

Two big K's of Russian chess: Kramnik vs Karjakin. | Photo: Vladimir Barsky.

Whereas Karjakin got away, Sanan Sjugirov did not. Kramnik won that game in round eight as Black, starting with 4...d6 against White's 4.d3 Berlin. The move 16.g4, in an attempt to control the light squares, didn't have the desired effect and by move 21 Black had equalized. Kramnik then slowly but surely outplayed his opponent in the endgame (but not without making one mistake).

As Vladimir Barsky wrote in his report, a relaxed Kramnik was often seen in the hotel bar or the saltwater pool, and came to this game wearing a T-shirt. | Photo: Vladimir Barsky.

Let's finish with a flashy win by the reigning European champion.

On the last day of the tournament, at the other end of Sochi — the Olympiad Park — a brand new educational center for talented children was opened. “Sirius,” as it's called, will be hosting 600 children who are meant to be Russia's future in science, art and sports. Head of the chess center will be none other than Vladimir Kramnik; permanent coaches are Mikhail Shereshevsky (author of the famous book Endgame Strategy) and Konstantin Sakaev.

Since Sirius was the brainchild of Vladimir Putin himself, the president of the Russian Federation was present at the official opening on Tuesday.

Putin looking at a mini version of the Sirius complex... | Photo

...and having a chat with Karjakin, who openly supported him during the Crimea crisis. | Photo

The Russian Team Championships were held May 1-10 in the Grand Hotel Pearl in Sochi, Russia. Besides a Premier League and a Higher League there were separate groups for women, veterans, juniors and girls. It was all classical chess (90 min. / 40 + 30 min. + 30 sec. increment); later in the year Sochi will also host the national rapid and blitz competitions.

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