Svidler Clinches 7th Russian Title
Peter Svidler won the Russian Championship Superfinal on Monday in Nizhny Novgorod. The grandmaster from St Petersburg beat Ian Nepomniachtchi 1.5-0.5 in a rapid playoff after both had finished on 6.5/9. It is Svidler's 7th Russian title, after previous victories in 1994, 1995, 1997, 2003, 2008 and 2011. In the last round Nepomniachtchi defeated Vladimir Kramnik, who was hoping to win his first title.
After four rounds, Peter Svidler was the sole leader with 3.5 points (see our first report). The other big favorite, Vladimir Kramnik, had already lost one game. Valentina Gunina and Baira Kovanova were tied for first place in the women's section, also with 3.5 points.
In round 5, Svidler split the point with Aleksey Goganov but he kept his lead because Nikita Vitiugov also drew his game, with Sergey Karjakin. Vladimir Kramnik caught Vitiugov in second place by winning his black game against Alexander Motylev in a Berlin. It looks like Kramnik outcalculated his opponent throughout the game; he allowed the g-file to be opened but that looked more dangerous than it was.
In this round Valentina Gunina won an amazing game.
The next day, tournament leader Peter Svidler won an excellent game against Alexander Motylev. In a Semi-Slav, Moscow variation he somewhat surprisingly pushed both e4-e5 and c4-c5, after which the pawn structure resembled one of the topical lines in the 5.Bf4 QGD. Perhaps Motylev should have continued his waiting strategy instead of trading pawns on move 37; in the endgame the pawn on c6 turned out to be too weak.
Ernesto Inarkiev must have been at least a bit surprised when, after the clock was started, Vladimir Kramnik reached for his king's pawn. The ex-World Champion played 2.b3 against the Sicilian and the queens were traded early on. White had a slightly better development and kept the initiative from the start. On move 23 Inarkiev decided to give an exchange, but it didn't really work out for him. With some fine knight manoeuvres Kramnik reached a winning position.
Dmitry Andreikin played a lovely attacking game against Aleksey Goganov. Don't miss White's 26th move!
In the women's section the two leaders, Valentina Gunina and Baira Kovanova, met at the board on Friday. In this 4.Qc2 Nimzo, Black was fine out of the opening but later on in the game Kovanova lost the thread. Gunina, who won the championship in 2011, was now a full point ahead of Kovanova and Kosteniuk.
On Saturday all games at the top were drawn, but not without a fight! Inarkiev-Svidler was a fascinating Fianchetto Grünfeld where, after an early trade of queens, a long and tactical phase followed. Eventually both sides ended up with the bishop pair (and a rook), and the game ended with a funny perpetual.
Vitiugov-Kramnik was a Symmetrical English where the 14th World Champion took a risky pawn on a2, reminiscent of Bobby Fischer's 29...Bxh2. Wild complications followed, and the bishop would only make one more in the game, but (spoiler-alert)... it wasn't trapped.
In the penultimate round the situation at the top didn't change much, as both Svidler and Kramnik drew their games. Ian Nepomniachtchi caught Kramnik in second place, however, and in the last round these two players would face eachother. But let's first look at round 8.
Svidler and Vitiugov played an old line in the Symmetrical English which was theory for 16 moves — there is a correspondence game from 1975 with that position! The ending turned out to be fairly equal, and as there was no reason to take risks, Svidler repeated on move 20.
Kramnik-Karjakin was a Closed Catalan where White kept a slight initiative from the start, a queen into the enemy's camp and then a passed c-pawn, but because Black's counterplay became too dangerous Kramnik had to give a perpetual right after the time control.
This allowed Ian Nepomniachtchi to catch Kramnik in second place; the 23-year-old Russian GM as with Black against Anton Shomoev using the Modern Defence.
In the last round, Svidler held Sergey Kajakin to a draw in the very theoretical 8.Rb1 line of the Exchange Grünfeld. On move 23, Karjakin deviated from abut game Shulman-Svidler played two years ago but the verdict didn't change: this type of position, with two pawns for the Exchange, is fine for Black.
As Black, Vladimir Kramnik tried hard to beat Ian Nepomniachtchi and eventually went too far. The 14th World Champion was indeed better in the ending, but Nepomniachtchi just refused to go down and then suddenly White was winning.
This meant that Nepomniachtchi and Svidler both ended on 6.5 points, and a rapid playoff had to decide matters. Svidler won the first game convincingly, despite the fact that White had a full tempo less (first e2-e3 and then e3-e4) in a standard Benoni position:
In the second game Nepomniachtchi miscalculated and lost an exchange. In a won position, Svidler graciously accepted his opponent's draw offer to clinch his seventh national title.
Russian Championship Superfinal | Final standings
Valentina Gunina won the women's championship, after she had topped the standings throughout the tournament. In the last round Gunina drew with Alexandra Kosteniuk, who ended on second place.
Natalija Pogonina claimed third place thanks to this last-round win:
Russian Women's Championship | Final standings
The Superfinal of the Russian Championship took place 5-14 October, 2013 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. The venue was the Rukavishnikov Museum.