25 June 2018

Uncompromising Finish

The Viktor Kupreichik Memorial finale in Minsk. Report by Eteri Kublashvili

On June 23, the Palace of Sports in Minsk saw final battles of a three-day Memorial of Viktor Kupreichik. 

An hour and a half before the start of the round, the future winner of the round robin of Viktor Kupreichik’s friends and colleagues, Vladimir Tukmakov, gave a presentation of his book "Chess Stars and Constellations. Trainer and Captain's Notes,” recently published by the library of the Russian Chess Federation. An encounter with a famous Ukrainian chess player and coach drew attention of many adults and children. The grandmaster, who is currently coaching the national team of Belarus, gave a very entertaining talk about his work in the broad and narrow sense of the word, without touching on the details though. Then they started asking various questions, beginning with a childish “How to become a strong chess player?” to the journalistic and professional "Which goals does the Belorussian national team set for the upcoming Olympiad?” 

Vladimir Borisovich displayed a strong will to win, finishing by scoring four games in a row. With 8 points under his belt, the Ukrainian grandmaster took clear first, edging out the Russian Valery Chekhov by additional tiebreakers. Finishing third with 7.5 was Nukhim Rashkovsky. 

To make the above said more visual, let me give you a snippet of the last round duel. 


Tukmakov – Balashov


White has just placed his queen on d2, piling up on the a5-pawn and eyeballing to pin the d5-knight. 


This is the only way to keep the pawn alive. 

22. Bxc6! Nf6?

Tougher was 22... bxc6 23. Nxc6 Qd7 24. Nxd8 Rxd8 25. Qxa5 f5 26. Qc5, and Black is up against the onslaught of the white passers, but he is up a piece at least. 

Meanwhile, after 23. Rb6White triumphed shortly after, capitalizing upon the pin along the d-file.   

I asked the winner to share his impressions of the tournament, its organization and his own performance: 

– Let us begin with the obvious. The organization was superb, like everything that Anastasia Sorokina undertakes. Everything was excellent, be it tournament conditions or the overall atmosphere of warm-heartedness. I am very grateful to have been part of this event for having met again my old colleagues and friends, some of whom I have not seen for many decades already. Yuri Balashov is one of them. This is not to mention that out previous duels now belong to the era gone by.  

As for the performance, I prefer not to mention it. This is because I view this tournament as a rendezvous of veterans, and I do not tend to take the veteran chess seriously. This is why I stay away from the veteran chess. I have joined this tournament only because it was dedicated to a good man and a wonderful chess player Viktor Kupreichik, and because I am now very closely connected with the Belorussian chess.  

– You say you do not treat it seriously, but you finished off by scoring four in a row.

– My last game day performance was especially good. However, the notion of good is very conditional in our case.  It makes no sense to talk seriously about the quality of this tournament’s games.  

– As for your coaching the Belorussian team, you are most likely going to have training sessions before the Olympiad...

– Yes, it is so. 

What can you say about the Belorussian team members in general?

– They work well, I'm pleased with them. I am also happy that the Olympiad is to be prefaced by three training sessions, and not by just my accompanying the team to the Olympiad... 

Where you would have met them for the first time if things were to run like this

– Indeed. All in all, three sessions ten days each is, in principle, more or less enough to get to know them both as chess players and individuals. This job appeals to me from the professional point of view. Whether it is going to it tell on the final result is difficult to say now because the team is objectively neither extremely strong nor very young. It is hard to build any forecasts for that matter. Let us hope for the best and be as it may. 


A clear winner of the open section is Rauf Mamedov (Azerbaijan), who has negotiated the entire distance without any defeats and ended up scoring 9.5 out of 11. The second-third places are shared by Anton Korobov and Dmitry Andreikin, who finished one point behind Mamedov. Korobov took second by additional tiebreakers.  

Rauf Mamedov, who won three uncompromising victories on the final day, also commented on his performance: 

– It is always a pleasure for me to come to Minsk, and this is my second victory here. My first victory happened 2.5 years ago at the European blitz championship. Besides, I have many friends in Minsk.  

As for the games, I did not expect such a bright opposition from Maxim Notkin. And one of the decisive games was against Anton Korobov, in which I was rather in the defensive until he committed a blunder, upon which I took over and won the game. I can say that day three proved very important.  

As for my games, below is what I liked most: 


Mamedov – Meshkovs


I am happy to have found 24. e5!. It seems like an interesting strategic idea to me. I am not confident that this sacrifice is in Kupreichik’s style, but I'm sure that Viktor Davidovich would have thought highly of the continuation 24…Nxe5 25. b5 cxb5 26. Ne4.  

– It is known that you are in for a joyous event (Rauf marries the Ukrainian chess player Nataliya Buksa - ed.). Congratulations! Is your marriage planned before or after the Olympiad?  

- Thank you.  Natasha and I got engaged back in May, and the wedding is planned for after the Olympiad. I want to add that my first tournament after the engagement turned out to be extremely successful, and now I pass the baton of success over to her (smiling). 

– Does the Azeri team aim at the highest Olympiad awards? What about the training sessions?

– We plan to arrive there earlier to run a training session. We are the reigning European champions, and I think there should be no more than one replacement in the lineup. As you know, since last year our captain doubles as an active player. Back then it was Eltaj Safarli, this year’s nominee is to be announced yet. We will not do without preparation, of course. I do pin my hopes on this Olympiad since we are many-time European champions, and we need to do it here once again. With this "terrible" American team participating, I am no longer confident whether Russia is even going to be a rating favorite. Let us not forget about the team China. However, the main goal of the Azeri team is to compete for gold. 


At the closing ceremony Anastasia Sorokina thanked participants for the wonderful tournament and invited everyone to come again August next year.  

Many additional prizes and gifts were given in different nominations besides the main ones. The awards were handed out by Anastasia Sorokina, as well as by Viktor Kupreichik’s daughter Ustina and sister Olga Davidovna. 

The tournament has really passed in an atmosphere of extreme warm-heartedness and will bring back only the warmest of memories. We wish more organizational successes to our colleagues from the Belorussian Chess Federation, especially now that Minsk has applied for the 2022 Chess Olympiad.