28 July 2016

Rapid at the Homeland of New Challenger Fans

Grand Prix Cycle Stage in Barnaul in the review of Dmitry Kryakvin.

A series of classical chess cups and rapid Grand Prix series tournaments are currently underway in Russia. While at present the Far East hosts one of the scheduled competition, the rapid chess stage bearing the Governor's Cup title has just finished in Barnaul. Barnaul is well-known to be a new spot on the Russian chess map, and a rapidly developing one at that. The region is not without certain chess traditions of its own as, for example, born here and taking his first steps in the game was Yuri Dokhoian - a famous grandmaster and brilliant coach, who had worked with Garry Kasparov and is now busy preparing Sergey Karjakin for the match of his life against the Norwegian thunderer. 

By the way, the first Yuri Dokhoian's chess coach Yurii Razgovorov is still in the line and, despite his advanced age, demonstrates high competitive results, regularly taking points from the visiting heavyweights. Two years ago Razgovorov drew his game against the current winner Alexander Riazantsev, whereas this year I happened to be the one to appreciate his power play. Despite being alerted by the Russian women's team coach and playing twice as careful, your correspondent prevailed deep in the ending only thanks to the time trouble error committed by the Barnaul veteran...

However, chess situation at the Altai Krai used to be not so favorable some five years ago, save for some scrappy recollection of the former Soviet chess school grandeur still lingering in people's minds. Two friends, Artem Polomoshnov and Maxim Gerasimyuk. made up their minds to combat this status quo. Having organized an expedition to Moscow, guests from Barnaul made it into the RCF, which gave them a warm welcome and a guide to action - the regional federation of the Altai Krai was formed before long. And then one thing led to another. Barnaul became the host of Grand Prix stages, chess development program was developed and approved, regional chess club was opened, and numerous local tournaments were taking place. There grew up a generation of young athletes, headed by the junior Alexei Sorokin, well-known to our readers. At present, Artem and Maxim's dream is already about nascence of the first Altai grandmaster. 

I happened to visit the tournament four years ago. Needless to say, a lot has changed in Barnaul over time for the better, let alone the fact that the city is nowadays actively involved in the work conducted by the RCF grandmaster center "Siberian" and hosts many of its sessions. Other than that, the progress can be seen in many aspects: one could only envy the level of grandmaster reception as the competition was held in the city center building sporting rich combination of glass and metal, while a team of local referees was operating quite professionally. By the way, the management itself has recently enjoyed personal growth: the Altai Federation President Artem Polomoshnov has joined the ranks of the Supervisory Board of the Russian Chess Federation, while his deputy Maxim Gerasimyuk has been appointed Minister of Press and Information of the Altai Krai. 

Triumvirate of master minds of the RCF grandmaster center "Siberian": Maxim Ivakhin, Pavel Maletin and Artem Polomoshnov

This version of the competition featured the coach of "the golden girls" and 2005 Russian Champion Sergey Rublevsky, the 2016 Superfinal participant Aleksandr Riazantsev, the Russian champion and  2014 Rapid Cup winner Pavel Maletin, the fifth medalist of the World Chess Rapid Cup Dmitry Bocharov, grandmasters Sergei Yudin / Andrei Belozerov / Vladimir Nevostrujev and a very strong generation of Siberian rapid game specialists. Indeed, the Siberian Cup stages have embraced very interesting and robust guys, which have previously been virtually unknown of outside of the region: the famous grandmaster's namesake Ivan Bocharov, Jan Dzhumagaliev, Valery Sviridov, Dmitry Anikonov, Egor Pakhomov – the recognized chess luminaries have had all-out battles against them. By the way, Ivan and Valery passed this year's qualification screening into the Russian Championship Higher League and performed quite decently in this demanding competition. 

The chess competition was opened by cultural events. Riazantsev and Rublevsky gave simuls, while the RCF correspondent delivered a narrative lecture dedicated to the Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Karjakin confrontation in which he described the history of encounters between Magnus and Sergey, their way of life and the current resources that the grandmasters approach the New York match with. The audience was numerous and they hanged on every word and asked questions, the enthusiasm being fueled, among other things, by that evening's upcoming game Carlsen - Karjakin in Bilbao. The end of the lecture saw the Barnaul chess fans, all to a man, rushing to watch the broadcast.  Afterwards they insisted on conveying a message to Karjakin that he was expected to come back with a convincing revenge in round two. 

Maxim Gerasimyuk is introducing Alexander Riazantsev and Sergey Rublevsky

In the simul battles against top tournament seeds the chess fans managed to make two draws - both against Rublevsky at that. The lineup of opponents of the 2005 Russian champion cannot be described as being superior, it is rather that Volodar Murzin was missing from the duel against Riazantsev as he was heading for Barnaul with her sister from yet another tournament. Sergey noted that both his opponents to have achieved draws performed very decently, as you could see yourself by having a look at the pictures. However, when it came to the rapid competition itself, the young Volodar gave hard time to strong masters!

The following day a spectacular opening broke out - the guests were welcomed by the deputy governor Daniil Bessarabov and a whole regiment of semi-naked beauties. In general, I should say that our colleagues from hockey, boxing, basketball and many other sports have long since come to the conclusion that the only way to attract the audience (besides the richness of a match or encounter itself) is to invite the so-called cheerleaders. It is high time we adopted a similar approach in chess as well. Let us assume that underway is a Superfinal. While several energetic rounds take turns with a rather dull one, the commentators, headed by Sergei Shipov, put forth all their mastery and lung-force for a few hours in a row with a sole purpose of not losing the audience. What measures are most likely to remedy a situation like this? It is not going to happen unless the respected grandmasters are temporarily replaced by girls in swimsuits! Chess players are not alien to anything human. 

One of my neighbors noted: "Why is it that certain organizers associate chess tournament opening ceremonies with harp playing?"

The main sensation of the tournament was the 6 out of 6 start of my old friend and fellow junior player, the 2003 Russian U20 champion Vitaly Bachin, native of the Far East. Vitaly abandoned chess relatively early (even though he was long considered a rising star, together with yet another hero of the Far East Dmitry Batsanin), while traveling to tournaments was burdensome owing to his geographical location being so remote. Bachin got married, his kid is 11 years of age now. However, after a while the Russian junior champion started experiencing problems in the main job, forcing him and his family move to Biysk - the second largest city of the Altai Krai. I do hope that Artem Polomoshnov and Maxim Gerasimyuk will help Bachin find a decent job and join the local chess activities. 

Vitaly Bachin is back on stream

His first step towards this goal hit other players like a ton of bricks - on day one Vitaly Bachin defeated Bocharov, Riazantsev and Yudin, as well as three other players of a weaker caliber. However, next day the leader's play was given a proper evaluation and he finished only eleventh. However, he added 50 points to his current rating. Despite his defeat, Riazantsev managed to pull together, winning three games in a row and drawing his last encounters, which gave him the tiebreaker edge out of chain of shared places in the final standings. 

Second place went to Dmitry Bocharov, who also followed up his failure against Bachin with demonstration of volitional qualities, habitual to a Siberian, scoring a series of victories to finish "+6". Placing third was Egor Pakhomov, which came as a surprise. At the closing ceremony Egor was carrying himself in a somewhat unusual manner, trying at all cost to sheer away from the photographing ceremony as though hiding from intelligence agencies. However, there is no pulling off similar tricks with Artem Polomoshnov, who lined Pakhomov up to the limelight of the correspondents' cameras.

Dmitry Bocharov, Alexander Riazantsev and Egor Pakhomov

The only festival's shortcoming was the missing online connection that would for some reason fail to function in the heart of the "Plaza" building (seven interactive chess boards were provided by the organizers), depriving our review of its chess component. On top of all that, the Barnaul chess fans were taking extreme enthusiasm in the progress of top player games, which made Maxim Ivakhin, chief tournament arbiter, enforce "curfew" around the leaders playhall - the tables were cordoned off and none was allowed nearby. Therefore, all brightest game moments escaped me. 

Nevertheless, as was noted by President of the Altai Krai Federation Artem Polomoshnov during our mutual radio broadcasting, there is always something to strive for and there is always some room for improvement. I hope next festival in the hospitable Barnaul is going to be on friendly terms with online, while Alexei Sorokin and Vitaly Bachin, together with the maturing chess generation of the Krai, will have gained new medals and titles by that time already!

Final standings: 1. Alexander Riazantsev, 2. Dmitry Bocharov, 3. Egor Pakhomov - with 8.5 out of 11. Half a point behind are: 4. Pavel Maletin, 5. Sergey Yudin, 6. Dmitry Kryakvin, 7. Ivan Bocharov, 8. Yan Dzhumagaliev, 9. Dmitry Anikonov and 10. Alexey Beletsky.