Surprising Winner At Strong Keres Memorial, Or Not?

Surprising Winner At Strong Keres Memorial, Or Not?

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Jan 11, 2016, 3:40 AM |
10 | Chess Event Coverage

Not Peter SvidlerBoris Gelfand, nor Pavel Eljanov. The winner of the Keres Memorial rapid tournament, held last weekend in Tallinn, was won by Igor Kovalenko.

The Keres Memorial was held 8-10 January in the Park Inn by Radisson Meriton Conference & Spa Hotel Tallinn. It was organized by the Estonian Sports Association Kalev in cooperation with the Estonian Chess Federation and the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP).

The Keres Memorial took place on the occasion of Paul Keres's 100th birthday on 7 January. And the Estonians did much more to commemorate their great player: a 2-Euro coin was issued with Keres's face, and a stamp as well.

The coin started circulating on Friday and is valid as legal tender throughout the euro area. The coin was designed by Riho Luuse. 500,000 coins will be minted; 5000 with a high-quality finish intended for collectors and priced at 10 euros each.

The same designer also created a stamp; here on the First Day Cover.

You can read more about the coin and stamp here. A nice article about “the gentleman GM” and “the greatest player never to challenge for the world title,” can be found herewritten by Ian Rogers.

Back to the tournament, which was quite a strong rapid event. It was an 11-round Swiss held over three days, with four rounds on Friday, four on Saturday and three on Sunday. The time control was 15 minutes plus 10 seconds increment.

With -22 Celsius it was decent weather to play chess in Tallinn. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

Some big names participated, such as Peter Svidler, Boris Gelfand, Pavel Eljanov and David Howell. However, it was someone else who won: Igor Kovalenko of Ukraine, but playing for Latvia.

At first sight this is a surprising result, but Kovalenko was in fact the second seeded player. He is the world 29 in the January FIDE Rapid Rating list. One place above him, on #28, is Peter Svidler — the top seed in Tallinn.

Kovalenko had a decent but not very special first half, scoring 4.5/6 (which included a loss to 2371 rated Vladimir Sveshnikov in round three). But his finish was excellent: wins against Aleksandr Volodin, Alexander Motylev, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Peter Svidler and a draw with Boris Gelfand.

The finish of his game with Motylev was spectacular:


The top fight between Kovalenko and Svidler was absolutely crucial for the tournament obviously. It was played in the penultimate round, when the two were tied for first place together with Boris Gelfand; all had scored 7.5/9.

Boris Gelfand visiting the Keres Museum in Tallinn, where the
tournament was officially opened. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

Kovalenko played a good, positional game and ended up with an extra pawn. The endgame deserves a deeper analysis; for now it's only clear that Svidler erred and blew away the draw in the rook endgame.

In the final round Gelfand didn't get anything out of the opening as white against Kovalenko
and a draw was agreed as early as move 19. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

Earlier in the tournament, in round 2, the great Israeli player had become the victim of a brilliant combination. Can you find it?

Boris Gelfand, here playing against Kamil Miton. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

Kovalenko finished on 9.0/11. Gelfand had to be satisfied with a shared second place; he scored 8.5 points just like Surya Ganguly of India and David Howell of England. The latter played a fine combination himself in round 8. Here it is, again as a puzzle:


Top seed Peter Svidler finished in shared fifth place as Kamil Miton of Poland held a draw in the final round. Apparently there was a win somewhere following a funny computer line at the end (really something completely unhuman) that ended in a minor promotion.

The total prize fund was 15,000 Euros (US $16,380) and Kovalenko won 2,000 Euros ($2184). He does seem to be some kind of a rapid specialist.

The tournament winner: Igor Kovalenko. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.

2016 Keres Memorial Rapid | Final Standings (Top 30)

Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2
1 2 GM Kovalenko Igor LAT 2734 9 73,5 67,5
2 10 GM Howell David W L ENG 2646 8,5 73,5 67,5
3 3 GM Gelfand Boris ISR 2733 8,5 73 67,5
4 11 GM Ganguly Surya Shekhar IND 2615 8,5 71 65
5 14 GM Duda Jan-Krzysztof POL 2603 8 76 70
6 12 GM Georgiev Kiril BUL 2612 8 76 69,5
7 1 GM Svidler Peter RUS 2736 8 75,5 69
8 6 GM Berkes Ferenc HUN 2685 8 73 67
9 9 GM Motylev Alexander RUS 2651 8 72,5 67
10 27 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra RUS 2514 8 71 65,5
11 20 GM Tregubov Pavel V. RUS 2566 8 71 65
12 16 GM Miton Kamil POL 2597 8 69 63,5
13 19 GM Neiksans Arturs LAT 2579 8 69 63
14 8 GM Vitiugov Nikita RUS 2665 7,5 73,5 67
15 18 GM Mikhalevski Victor ISR 2590 7,5 73 67
16 5 GM Matlakov Maxim RUS 2686 7,5 73 66,5
17 35 GM Yevseev Denis RUS 2442 7,5 71 65,5
18 17 GM Jumabayev Rinat KAZ 2590 7,5 70,5 64,5
19 26 GM Romanov Evgeny RUS 2529 7,5 70,5 64,5
20 4 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2688 7,5 69,5 63,5
21 13 GM Sutovsky Emil ISR 2604 7,5 68,5 62,5
22 21 GM Rakhmanov Aleksandr RUS 2564 7,5 67 61,5
23 7 GM Eljanov Pavel UKR 2683 7,5 64,5 59
24 38 GM Balashov Yuri S RUS 2423 7 72 66,5
25 22 GM Lintchevski Daniil RUS 2549 7 70 64
26 24 GM Goganov Aleksey RUS 2545 7 69,5 64
27 29 IM Sveshnikov Vladimir LAT 2467 7 68 62,5
28 44 IM Kashtanov Ruslan RUS 2379 7 67,5 62,5
29 45   Putka Verners LAT 2366 7 67,5 62,5
30 28 GM Kulaots Kaido EST 2484 7 67 61,5

(Full final standings here.)

All prize winners together. | Photo Vladimir Barsky.
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