Star-Studded Siberia Wins Russian Team Championship

Star-Studded Siberia Wins Russian Team Championship

| 10 | Chess Event Coverage

With GM Vladimir Kramnik and GM Levon Aronian on top boards, Siberia of Novosibirsk won the Russian Team Championship on Thursday.

All photos Vladimir Barsky courtesy of the Russian Chess Federation.

After the second Anand-Carlsen match in November last year it was announced that Sochi would be hosting more chess events. This month several events are packed together in the city in the Krasnodar region: a children's event, a regional championship, rapid and blitz, and the national league.

The Russian Team Championship was held May 1-7 in the legendary Pearl Hotel, where many chess events took place during Soviet times, such as the Chigorin Memorial.

The Pearl Hotel in Sochi.

The championship was a round robin of eight teams and played over six boards. The time control was 90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the remainder, with a 30-second increment from the start. Draw offers before move 40 were not allowed.

The big favorite was Siberia, a new, star-studded team from Novosibirsk that entered the competition with two chess giants: GM Vladimir Kramnik on board one, and GM Levon Aronian on board two. 

Aronian and Kramnik playing for the same Siberian team.

Especially Kramnik's participation was remarkable. In fact, the 14th world champion made his debut in the Russian league! It was Edward Taran, the president of team sponsor RATM Group and a big chess fan, who made it possible.

The team also played with GMs Dmitry Jakovenko, Wang Yue, Anton Korobov, Dmitry Kokarev and Dmitry Bocharov. Interestingly, instead of Wang Yue the team initially was supposed to play with Chinese #1 Ding Liren, but due to visa problems he couldn't get to Sochi, as Vladimir Barsky reported.

The league, arguably the strongest team championship in the world, saw many more famous players. Here's the full line-up of all teams:

2015 Russian League | Teams

1. Malachite (Sverdlovsk) 5. Bronze Horseman (St Petersburg)
1 GM Grischuk Alexander 2780 RUS 1 GM Svidler Peter 2734 RUS
2 GM Shirov Alexei 2696 LAT 2 GM Vitiugov Nikita 2736 RUS
3 GM Motylev Alexander 2648 RUS 3 GM Dominguez Perez Leinier 2734 CUB
4 GM Malakhov Vladimir 2702 RUS 4 GM Matlakov Maxim 2694 RUS
5 GM Lysyj Igor 2677 RUS 5 GM Rodshtein Maxim 2682 ISR
6 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2671 RUS 6 GM Khairullin Ildar 2649 RUS
7 GM Khismatullin Denis 2666 RUS 7 GM Fedoseev Vladimir 2683 RUS
8 GM Bologan Viktor 2605 MDA 8 GM Saric Ivan 2641 CRO
2. Zhiguli (Samara) 6. SHSM Our Inheritance (Moscow)
1 GM Sjugirov Sanan 2670 RUS 1 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2728 RUS
2 GM Bukavshin Ivan 2648 RUS 2 GM Inarkiev Ernesto 2664 RUS
3 GM Frolyanov Dmitry 2569 RUS 3 GM Zvjaginsev Vadim 2660 RUS
4 Predke Alexandr 2533 RUS 4 GM Najer Evgeniy 2663 RUS
5 GM Brodsky Michail 2555 UKR 5 GM Grachev Boris 2666 RUS
6 GM Yakovich Yuri 2515 RUS 6 GM Dubov Daniil 2659 RUS
7 GM Geller Jakov 2474 RUS 7 GM Popov Ivan 2648 RUS
8 IM Mokshanov Alexey 2469 RUS 8 GM Potkin Vladimir 2599 RUS
3. University (Belorechensk) 7. Rook Kazan)
1 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw 2746 POL 1 GM Kamsky Gata 2673 USA
2 GM Andreikin Dmitry 2723 RUS 2 GM Artemiev Vladislav 2671 RUS
3 GM Jobava Baadur 2699 GEO 3 GM Timofeev Artyom 2534 RUS
4 GM Rublevsky Sergei 2698 RUS 4 FM Makhmutov Rail 2462 RUS
5 GM Alekseev Evgeny 2653 RUS 5 GM Yandemirov Valeri 2394 RUS
6 GM Landa Konstantin 2634 RUS 6 IM Sharafiev Azat 2415 RUS
7 GM Tregubov Pavel V. 2571 RUS 7 GM Ibragimov Ildar 2543 USA
8 GM Aleksandrov Aleksej 2605 BLR 8 FM Murtazin Bulat 2342 RUS
4. Yamal (Yamalo-Nenets) 8. Siberia (Novosibirsk)
1 IM Potapov Pavel 2477 RUS 1 GM Kramnik Vladimir 2777 RUS
2 IM Belyakov Bogdan 2478 RUS 2 GM Aronian Levon 2776 ARM
3 WGM Goryachkina Aleksandra 2474 RUS 3 GM Jakovenko Dmitry 2738 RUS
4 FM Sergeyev Alexander 2380 RUS 4 GM Wang Yue 2724 CHN
5 FM Savitskiy Sergey 2330 RUS 5 GM Korobov Anton 2708 UKR
6 GM Potapov Alexander 2394 RUS 6 GM Kokarev Dmitry 2635 RUS
7 FM Goriatchkin Jouri 2318 RUS 7 GM Bocharov Dmitry 2577 RUS
8 FM Gafner Evgeny J. 2244 RUS 8 GM Maletin Pavel 2587 RUS

Siberia's new star didn't play well in Shamkir, and his first-ever league game ended in a loss as well. Kramnik's opponent? GM Alexei Shirov, who played first board for Malachite during the first two rounds.

The two first played each other in 1992 and many times after, but not in 2013-2015 and only one game in both 2011 and 2012. In this game, Shirov once again showed that, besides a tactical genius, he is also a fantastic endgame player.

Shirov beats Kramnik deep in the endgame.

Right besides these two gentlemen, GM Levon Aronian showed that he knows his endgames as well. The Armenian GM, who came straight from the World Teams in his native country, defeated GM Alexander Motylev with excellent play:

GM Levon Aronian.

Siberia won this match 2.5-3.5, and faced one of its main rivals the next day: Bronze Horseman of St Petersburg. Yes, that meant GM Vladimir Kramnik vs GM Peter Svidler on top board! This time Vladimir Borisovich was warmed up, and punished somewhat reluctant play from his opponent:

Kramnik vs Svidler on board one.

After he skipped the third round, Kramnik won another nice game with the white pieces. His opponent, Moscow's GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, probably saw the exchange sacrifice coming, which turned out to be even stronger than it looked.

The start of the match Novosibirsk vs Moscow.

In the same match GM Dmitry Jakovenko played a nice game against GM Vadim Zvjaginsev. Who would have combined that kingside attack with such a weakening move as b2-b4? Chess is all about breaking rules at the right moment.

The fifth round was crucial. Siberia played University, and the teams came into the match on equal terms: eight match points, and 15 board points. 

Kramnik was under pressure but escaped with a draw against GM Radek Wojtaszek, and boards four, five and six were drawn as well. Aronian won another good ending against GM Dmitry Andreikin, but a 3-3 tie was still possible.

After the following happened, GM Baduur Jobava reportedly ran to the smoking area and said: “Give me a cigarette, quickly. I just blundered a rook!”

The following game was a great fight between GM Alexei Shirov and GM Nikita Vitiugov, from the match Malachite-Bronze Horseman:

Siberia ended up winning all its matches to become the convincing winner in Sochi. In the final round Bronze Horseman and University played six quick draws to secure a spot in the European Club Cup, where four Russian teams are allowed to enter.

SHSM (Moscow) was the last team to qualify thanks to a 3.5-2.5 win over Zhiguli (Samara). GM Ian Nepomniachtchi played a wonderful final move after a textbook Sicilian attack:

2015 Russian League | Final Standings

# Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 MP BP
1 Siberia (Novosibirsk) phpfCo1l0.png 4 14 28.0
2 University (Belorechensk) 2 phpfCo1l0.png 3 4 4 11 24.5
3 Bronze Horseman (St Petersburg) 3 phpfCo1l0.png 4 6 9 25.0
4 SHSM Our Inheritance (Moscow) phpfCo1l0.png 8 20.5
5 Malachite (Sverdlovsk) phpfCo1l0.png 4 4 6 21.5
6 Zhiguli (Samara Region) 2 2 phpfCo1l0.png 4 4 19.0
7 Rook (Kazan) 2 2 2 phpfCo1l0.png 3 3 16.5
8 Yamal (Yamalo-Nenets) 0 2 3 phpfCo1l0.png 1 13.0


The women's section was won by SHSM Our Inheritance (Moscow), who played with Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina, Olga Girya, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya and Alina Kashlinskaya.

Another lady, WGM Aleksandra Goryachkina, played in the open section (for Yamal) and did very well: she scored 3.5 points against seven strong grandmasters.

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