25 May 2018

Peter Svidler: A More Balanced Tournament in the Absence of Crocodiles

A team leader sharing the story of Bronze Horseman’s success with Vladimir Barsky 

– Please accept my congratulations on the victory! What number is it for Bronze Horseman now?

– This anticipated question still catches me unprepared now that you ask it. It may well be a third or a fourth one. This is at least true for the team bearing this name. Speaking about my victories in the Russian team championships, they are by far more numerous. I have been around too long doing this job, after all. 

All in all, the information is available with the new website http://clubvsadnik.ru that Vladimir Vladimirovich Bykov has just launched. Moreover, I have even read up on the statistics recently, but still find myself unsure. 

– What can you say about this championship? How is it different from its predecessors? 

– The lineup was somewhat softer, objectively speaking. Truth be told, the absence of real “crocodiles” from Siberia/Globus makes for a more balanced tournament in terms of lineup, let us put it this way.  As for our team, we had everything going our way right from the start. However, this is not true for the Sima-Land guys, our opponents from the ultimate round. We are slightly higher rated at the top boards, but vice versa at the bottom ones. Theoretically, this is an absolutely level match, and it kept being entirely unclear up until a couple of their boards collapsed in time trouble. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong for them. 

– Beginning with round one?

– Yes. I am not aware of the reasons and do not feel like delivering any statements. As opposed to this, our team had everything going its way. We definitely had some extreme nailbiters, their fate depending on one or two games. Thus, a key matchup with Moscow was being decided in the Fedoseev-Najer encounter; for a long time the situation was extremely bad for us, and the game ended in time trouble in Volodya's favor, when Evgeny had very little time left. 

It was undoubtedly a pivotal game that delivered us a narrow-margin victory. This said, it was a win from a position the evaluation of which for Vladimir was -3 at a certain moment. It stands to reason that it was not about a technical conversion of -3, when, say, a couple of passers has an easy paved road to the queening squares. It was about delivering a checkmate in a sharp position full of tactics, and there was little doubt about checkmates in such positions. Meanwhile, the tables turned so that the hunter became the hunted, which proved absolutely monumental for the fate of the entire event. 


Fedoseev – Najer


Winning was 32...g4!, e.g.: 33.Rc3 (33. hxg4 Bf2+; 33. Kg1 Bg5 34. Rc3 Bf4) 33... Bg5 34. Kg1 Bf4. 

33. Qe4 Qf6

Certain winning chances remain after 33...Bg3+ 34.Kg1 f3! 35.Bxf3 Qf6 36.Rf1 Bf4. 

34.cxb5 Bg3+ 35.Kg1 


This is a decisive mistake. After 35...Rxc1+ 36.Rxc1 Rxh3 37.Bxe5 Rh1+! 38.Qxh1 (there is no capturing with the king in view of a checkmate in several moves after 38…..Qh6+) 38…Qxe5 39.Qh5 Qe3+ 40.Kg2 Bh4 41.Qg6+ the game ends in a draw by perpetual 

36. Bd3 Bh2+ 37. Kh1 Rh4 38. Bxe5 Qh6 39. Bd4 f3 

39...Bg3 40.Rxc8+ Bxc8+ 41.Kg1 does not help either. 

40. Rxc8+ Bxc8 41. Qe8+ Black resigns. 

– The tournament distance had each player, even me, win at least one crucial game. Even though I won as many as one game only (the tournament, in general, is not something to add to your asset, needless to mention), it happened in a matchup against a near-Moscow team and brought us a +1 victory). Nikita succeeded only once, but it was the most important victory over Evgeny Alekseev, known to be an extremely hard nut to crack. 


Vitiugov – Alekseev

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 g6 4. c4 c6 5. b3 Bg7 6. Bb2 0-0 7. 0-0 Nbd7 8. d4 Ne4 9. Nbd2 Ndf6 10. Ne5 Bf5 11. e3 Qa5 12. Nxe4 Nxe4 13. f3 Nf6 14. Qe2 Nd7 

15. e4 Nxe5 16. exf5 Nd7 17. fxg6 hxg6 18. Qxe7 Qd2 19. Qxd7 Qxb2 20. cxd5 Rae8 21. Rae1 Qxd4+ 22. Kh1 Rxe1 23. Rxe1 Qxd5 24. Qxb7 Qd2 25. Rf1 Re8 

26. f4 Bd4 27. f5 Re1 28. fxg6 fxg6 29. Qxc6 Kg7 30. Qb7+ Kh6 31. Qf3 Kg7 32. Qf8+ Kh7 33. Be4 Bg7 34. Qf3 Rxf1+ 35. Qxf1 Qxa2 36. Qh3+ Bh6 37. Qe6 Qa1+ 38. Kg2 Qb2+ 39. Kf3 Qg7 

40. h4 Qg8 41. Qxg8+ Kxg8 42. Bxg6 Kg7 43. Be8 Bd2 44. Ke2 Bb4 45. g4 Kf6 46. g5+ Black resigns. 

– Nikita pulled a victory out of thin air. The feeling was such that the opening ended in an entirely equal position, but he kept pressing until it became clear that it was no longer equal, never giving his opponent a chance to escape in the technical phase. 

Meanwhile, beginning with board three the folks ended up scoring many games. We know Volodya Fedoseev and Maxim Matlakov as very strong players. Nevertheless, a separate mention should be made of Kirill Alekseenko. 

– Is it his debut for the team?

– Yes, this is his first event as part of our team. He started off by going down twice, and in a quite sad fashion at that. In his shoes many a player would have taken a gloomy stance; I, for one, might have plunged into the abyss of self-accusation to never make it out of there. Meanwhile, he scored a number of crucial games at the homestretch as Black, including a strategically complex last-round duel from Sergey Rublevsky. I cannot say how sound it was from the tactical point of view, but strategically-wise is was a very interesting game, well-played by both opponents (at least up to the point of time trouble), in which Kirill took a committal decision to not shy from a complex type of fight and ended up superior as a result. 


Rublevsky – Alekseenko

21. Nf5 Rd8 22. g4 Kh8 23. N1g3 Bxe3 24. Nxe3 Nc5 25. g5 Ng8 26. Bg4 

26… f6 27. Bxe6 Nxe6 28. Nd5 Qa7 29. gxf6 Rf8 30. Re3 Qf7 31. Ne2 Ng5 32. Nb6 Rad8 33. f4 

33…Nxf6 34. fxg5 Ng4 35. hxg4 Qf2+ 36. Kh1 Qxe3 37. Nc4 Qh3+ 38. Kg1 Qxg4+ 39. Kh1 Rf2 White resigns. 

– This is how Alekseenko turned the tide from -2 to +2 . He is clearly a gifted young man. Him being a trainee of Andrei Mikhailovich Lukin only adds to the overall pleasure. It testifies to a certain continuity of generations. 

Maxim Matlakov, Nikita Vitiugov, Kirill Alekseenko, Vladimir Bykov, Aleksey Goganov, Peter Svidler, Maxim Rodshtein and Vladimir Fedoseev 

– Was your lineup more or less ideal?

– If we mean the St. Petersburg-related players, then yes. We view Dominguez as a native by now, but he has not made it here this time around. We keep in touch, and he may yet perform for our club sometime in future. We are on good terms with him, but certain events in his personal life resulted in his not playing in the previous event, while this time we had a team of seven players put together already. Our team looks close-knit, and we get along pretty well. 

– You did without a second reserve player, right?

– We did. 

– As a cost-saving measure?

– Partly for cost reasons, no doubt. However, this is not my element, and I do not feel like discussing it now.  

– Was there anything worthy of attention going on in the Premier League? Are there any games that branded on your memory, any players that you liked? You are known to walk a lot, watching other pairs’ games in the meanwhile. 

– I do like to walk, indeed, but I feel as if my mind would give me a kind of blur of the events seen while doing so. Even if I saw something interesting going on, it would be unclear as to how this interesting was going to translate into the points gained. As for new names... Well, I cannot say I have been keeping a close eye on his progress over the past few years, but I am aware of the existence of a young man named David Paravyan. 

– He performed for Gogol-Mogol last year.

– Indeed. Some 2-3 years ago he defeated Evgeniy Najer in the Higher League as Black in an extremely strange and rare offshoot of the Grünfeld Defence, resorting to a line that I had demonstrated in one of my videos. The line was so little-known and marginal, that I even Twittered, highlighting how nice it felt about young people studying my video materials.  And then I met him here in Sochi at the Russian Team Championship. I literally ran up to him on the stairs to ask, “David, have you watched the video?  Confess.” He asks again, “Which one?”  “Well, you made this particular move against Najer.” David replies, “Well, I had it shown to me by the engine, Peter Veniaminovich.” 

This year he has also had an extremely exciting game against Ernesto Inarkiev, and completely to my video at that.  I couldn’t but ask him same question once again:  “Well, you have watched the video this time, haven’t you?” He was taken aback: “Is there one? Gosh!  Here I am missing it yet again!”  In general, we have only a nodding acquaintance, but there is this joke that we share, which we would throw in from time to time as a way of entertainment.  

There is no doubt about his achievements being worthy of praising.  He took first on board two, having scored a lot of points and playing interesting and good chess peppered with fresh ideas. 

Thus, the young generation players are growing up. After all, let us not forget about Andrey Esipenko. It’s less interesting to talk about him now that everyone seems to know him.  He has become a sort of constant value by now, well-known in the chess world.  I have also been watching his performance here – the youngster is obviously on the rise and his games are a pleasure to look at.  Again, Pavel Ponkratov has drummed up +3 on board one. To score +3 on the top board in such a tournament is an extremely tough challenge and is, of course, a very significant achievement in itself.  

The tournament is interesting and is always a pleasure to be part of. However, I have absolutely nothing to pat myself on the back about.   I’ll perhaps come back with a livelier performance in Europe.  

– Will the team be somehow reinforced for the upcoming European Club Cup?

We need to ask Vladimir Vladimirovich about the selective decisions, and again, he knows more about the financial aspect than we do.  We will give it a think. In general, we have a combative line-up at the moment. Meanwhile, having only one reserve makes the choice easier, as opposed to having many options to choose from and costing you hours to have looked into from various angles.  We never manage to run our team meetings any shorter anyway, but having two reserves is only likely to end up making them endless!  

– The third place in the Premier League has been taken by a new team named Molodezhka…

– …Once you mentioned it, let me add that its leader Vladimir Potkin has come up with an extremely vivid display here. Of course, he does no longer qualify as a young and promising player, but we have known him for ages, and Vladimir was obviously thirsty to draw his opponents’ blood! 

– Molodezhka, as well as some other Premier League teams (not to mention some from the Higher League), was functioning on a voluntary basis. Is it a norm nowadays?

– I knew nothing of that, but will readily take your word for it. It depends on what we imply into the notion “norm.” 

– Does it mean the amateurish is taking over in the sports nowadays?

– I am not sure if we want to touch upon such fundamental and comprehensive things in this conversation. More likely than not, it does not testify to a certain trend in chess towards amateurism. It is rather a minor device signaling the state of financing in the Russian chess. However, if we still get together such interesting teams that play so well, no matter what ... It's nice to see a ball of enthusiasm rolling, but I am not inclined to think of it as a conscious move towards the amateur approach. We have had seven years of plenty, now we are in for an equal time of relative famine. Chess goes on, and this is good news. This said, I do not think it is worth going any deeper into the subject in an attempt to find some philosophical background. 

– I see. Are there any other chess episodes that have stayed with you or that you talked about with your colleagues?

– It is only natural that "I and all my comrades" -- as popular expression goes -- have before our eyes the game of Mark Vladimirovich with his minor pieces for the opponent’s pair of queens. 


Duzhakov – Glukhovsky

Comments by Mark Glukhovsky

From now on the game starts to be interesting. I prefaced it with a lousy play, but neither my opponent was in a hurry to bring his huge advantage home! 

30.Nc6 Rxe4 31.Qxe4 Bf5 32.Qf3 Bg4 33.Qf4 Be2 34.Rfe1 Bxc4 35.b7 


I saw that 35...Qxb7 36.Na5 Qxd5 37.Nxc4 Qxc4 was quite playable for Black, but wanted to keep the game alive with as many pieces on the board as possible. 

36.b8Q gxh2+ 37.Kh1 Bxd5+ 38.f3 Rh4

38...Rxb8 39.Nxb8 Qh3 or 39...Qc8 was also decent for Black. 

39.Qg3 Qxc6

I should have opted for 39...Rh3 40.Qbxd6 Qxd6 41.Qxh3 Qxc6. 

40.Ra3 Rh5

Although the text loses, it is move forty, in the first place, and there would have been no excitement otherwise. )) 

41.Qbxd6 Qc2 


White did not spot the correct 42.Qgf4 Rf5 43.Qxh2, and if 43…Bxf3+, then 44.Rxf3. He was understandably unwilling to run into Rf5. 


It staggers belief that from now on it is Black who is playing for the win. White is up a queen, and he is after queening a third one. Saving the game now requires a lot of precision from the opponent.



I was well aware of the strength of Black’s position. I thought the text was superior to 43…Bc3 as keeping my bishop from trading and getting me ready to execute my only but very potent threat of pushing the d-pawn. However, my position fails to opponent’s very nice counter blow. 

Bc3 was my initial plan, but then I thought again, apprehensive of White’s trading his rook for my bishop. This said, the bishops are clearly superior in this situation! The following line demonstrates the amount of difficulties that White would have been up against had I made the right choice: 43...Bc3 44.Rxc3 Qxc3 45.Rd1 d2 46.Kg2 Qc2 

And now the only continuation leading to a draw is to give up the queen with a check. Losing is 47.Qd4+? Kh7 or 47.Qfe5+? Kh7 48.Qxh5+ gxh5 49.Qxd5 h1Q+. White needs to come up with 47.Qde5+ Rxe5 48.Qxe5+ Kg8 49.Qb8+ Kg7= or 47.Qdf6+ Kh7 48.Qxf7+ Bxf7 49.Qxf7+ Kh6 50.Qf8+ Kh7=. 


This is a very nice geometry indeed! White at last finds use to his useless queens: now 44...Qxd3 runs into 45.Qxf7+ Bxf7 (45...Kxf7 46.Re7+ Kf8 47.Qd8#) 46.Qxd3. 


I could resign then and there, but decided to hang on for one more move, feeling sorry to say farewell to this game. In a post-mortem that lasted for about an hour, my opponent and I failed to find a save for White after 43…Bc3. Even if the engine shows us a draw, White needs to start this search by believing that he is the one fighting for a draw despite being up a whole queen. 

45.Qg3 Black resigns. 

* * * 

– As for our tournament ... Well, the brightest stuff always comes last, as usual. I had a very interesting game with Boris Gelfand. It is hard to be given as a model one for the host of mistakes it teems with. It was an extremely interesting experience in terms of playing and, perhaps, even in terms of watching it, but when you ask our little iron friend what was going on, you start scratching your head in disbelief at the amount of totally inexplicable, unjustified, and gross blunders. Fatigue must have taken its toll after all. This type of games requires so much calculation that you feel exhausted by the time you find yourself in time trouble. I wish it had fewer misjudgments, though. A draw should be recognized as an objective outcome, but it had to be reached in a completely different manner, other than through this trade of second-rate solutions. Otherwise, the game is an interesting one. It goes without saying that I refer to my games not because they are brighter than any other games, but simply because they are closer to me and easier to recall for that matter. 

– Thank you, Peter, and let me wrap up by congratulating you one more time!